Thursday, 12 May 2011


Peter Facey, director of Unlock Democracy, the successor organisation to Charter 88 and one of the pro-PR organisations that most enthusiastically embraced the "yes" campaign, has an interesting piece here:
Before the election, Unlock Democracy said that for any voting reform to find favour, the voters needed a sense of ownership of it. We suggested a Citizens Convention; what we got was a politician’s compromise. In the years that followed Tony Blair’s failure to deliver his promised referendum on the system proposed in the Jenkins report (alternative vote plus), AV was seen as the only game in town by the political elite and Westminster establishment ... Before the expenses crisis, Labour supporters of electoral reform were wary of proposing anything more radical.

Once Gordon Brown announced that Labour would hold a referendum on AV in 2009, the prospects of any other reform finding support in Westminster melted away. The irony was that AV was always sold to reformers as a system that could unite Labour behind reform. In the end, more than half of Labour MPs opposed it.

In the coalition negotiations AV became the maximum David Cameron would concede; ironic given the dire apocalyptic warnings he has been issuing about AV over the past few months. That decision was made by eight men (and there were no women) sitting in a boardroom in the Cabinet Office. Without an independent process it meant that it looked like the deal that was all about self interest rather than public interest. This is something NO2AV exploited. Combined with Nick Clegg’s unpopularity it became a toxic mix.

If we want to avoid this in future, then any proposed change must come out of a deliberative process which is independent of political parties, involves the public to as great an extent as possible, and which can demonstrate at least some measure of public demand for reform. Such a process would by definition be quite lengthy and its outcome unclear but it is crucial if we are to avoid making future referendums so partisan ...

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