Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Jenkins Commission’

Britain, Europe and the General Election

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 14th April, 2010

Europe is an issue that just hasn’t figured in the UK election so far — other than among the headbangers of UKIP, of course. I can understand why none of the three main party leaders wishes to push the subject to the fore, not least David Cameron. But it was interesting to take time-out from active campaigning this afternoon to attend a Federal Trust seminar, conveniently held at London Metropolitan University (LMU), on Britain, Europe and the General Election. Rather than have political candidates to represent the three main parties, the organisers brought in academics/experts: Maurice Fraser (of LSE) for the Tories, Stephen Haseler (of LMU) for Labour and Richard Laming (of the Federal Union) for the LibDems. Maurice Fraser is a pro-European Tory, but he is not the first pundit I have heard say that David Cameron is trying discreetly to build a more pro-European narrative. Moreover, if Cameron does become Prime Minister, the Foreign and Commonwealth Office and the Cabinet Office will make sure he espouses a more positive line. Stephen Haseler, interestingly, argued that a Labour-LibDem government would be the best outcome of the election and urged the LibDems to grasp the opportunity that an arrangement with Labour should provide for getting fixed-term parliaments and electoral reform (not just AV, but AV Plus, the recommendation of the Jenkins Commission). Richard Laming threw some cold water on the idea of coalitions. But all the speakers were united in the belief tht Britain needs to take a more forceful and engaged role in Europe, whatever the electoral arithmetic.

Link: www.fedtrust.co.uk

Advertisements

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment »

Tweet If You Want STV!

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 20th February, 2010

This morning I was the guest speaker at the AGM of DAGGER, the pressure group within the Liberal Democrats that campaigns for electoral reform, and specifically for the the adoption of the single transferable vote (STV) in multi-member constituencies. It’s interesting how what used to be considered a fringe issue of interest only to a few hardy souls like the late Enid Lakeman has now become maintream in the British political debate. And quite right too. The political system in Britain is ‘broken’ and electoral reform is an essential part of the repair kit. Alas, Gordon Brown has decided that any change should be to the far less proportional Alternative Vote (AV) system in single member constituencies, which is not even as much of a change as the Jenkins Commission recommended back in 1998. However, as I said in my presentation this morning, reformers should take advantage of the debate in the run-up to the proposed referendum to promote the other options, notably STV. But much of my speech concentrated on urging electoral reformers both within the LibDems and beyond to go viral — in other words, to get out there on Twitter and Facebook, and to post comments on political blogs. That is also an excellent way of getting more younger people involved in the campaign.

Link: http://www.flocktogether.org.uk/dagger

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Voting for Change?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 9th February, 2010

The British House of Commons will be voting later today on whether to hold a referendum on changing the country’s first-past-the-post system of electing Westminster MPs with the Alternative Vote (AV), which would give voters a slightly greater say in choosing their representative as they could order the preferences — 1, 2 etc. For most supporters of proportional representation — which includes a majority of Liberal Democrats — AV falls far short of the ideal. The Single Transferable Vote (used in Nothern Ireland, amongst other places) gives a much fairer outcome. Moreover, the AV system being suggested falls short even of AV-Plus (which involves a top-up list to ensure a more proportional outcome) which was recommended by the late Roy Jenkins and his Commission way back in 1998. That Commission was largely a result of Labour’s 1997 Manifesto commitment to consider introducing PR, but of course fairer vtoes then disappeared off the government’s agenda and have only been resuscitated by Gordon Brown in the twilight of the Labour administration in the hope that this might somehow assuage public anger at the MPs’ expenses scandal. Some bloggers argue that AV would be even worse than first-past-the-post, but I hope the vote in the House today does approve a referendum, as this will then open up the whole issue of electoral reform. Those of us who want STV will then have an opportunity to make our case on a matter previously dismissed by the mainstream British media as ‘marginal’. Indeed, I’ll be taking part in a workshop at the Friends Meeting House in London next week aimed at taking the debate further.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Lord Lipsey on Electoral Reform

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 15th October, 2009

Lord LipseyThe Labour peer and former political editor of The Economist, David Lipsey, spoke on electoral reform at the Kettner lunch at the National Liberal Club today. As one might expect, he was largely preaching to the converted. As he was a member of the Jenkins Commission on electoral reform — whose findings have, alas, largely been  ignored by the Labour governments ever since — he was able to blend authority with anecdote. I loved his story about one  meeting of the Commission, at which Roy ordered a bottle of claret for the members, and then a second one just for himself. Despite this, he gave a lucid and brilliant summary of what had been said, ordred a gin and tonic when he got on the train back to London, then promptly fell fast asleep. It’s more than a pity that Lord Jenkins is not still around to weigh into the discussion now, at a time when most of the Brtish public seems to think that politics is broken and that bringing in electoral reform is maybe one part of the solution to mend it. Unfortunately, despite the good efforts of people such as Lord Lipsey, the Labour government has only agreed to put the offer of a referendum on electoral reform in its manifesto for the next general election, which it is most unlikely to win.

I have always been uncomfortable with the Jenkins Commission’s recommendation for the adoption of the AV+ system of voting in general elections for the House of Commons, rather than the more proportional STV (with which the electors of Ireland cope well). But David Lipsey is no fan of STV himself, mainly, he says, because it weakens the link between voter and parliamentarian. Anyway, it looks as if  any future change would be to AV+ (in which voters list candidates in a single-member constituency in order of preference, then the bottom ones successively drop out and have their first preferences redistributed, until one candidate achieves more than 50% and is declared elected. The ‘+’ bit would be a top-up list to ensure that parties come out of the whole elction with an overall share of representation more or less proportional to their total vote). But maybe this discussion still remains academic. As David Lipsey said, the likehood of it happening anytime soon is very slim.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »