Is Pickles trying to hijack the Lib Dems “fair votes” rhetoric?

Is Pickles trying to hijack the Lib Dems “fair votes” rhetoric?

Will this muddy the waters in the electoral reform debate?

It’s surprising that with electoral reform being pushed up the election agenda by Labour, the comments by Tory chairman, Eric Pickles, in his conference speech don’t seemed to have attracted much attention.

For under the banner of the Lib Dem “fair votes” rhetoric Pickles is pressing for the Tory version of electors reform which involves cutting the numbers of seats and having fresh boundary reviews after each general election.

Acknowledging the issue which we discuss so often here, the inbuilt advantage that the system gives to Labour, Pickles described his plans in these terms – “That’s what I call fair votes”.

This seems quite smart – and means that all three main parties will be pushing for “fair voting” but with a very different view of what this actually means. Labour wants the alternative vote, the Lib Dems proportional representation and Tories want to equalise the number of voters in each constituency.

All three, of course, are pressing for the option that they think will be most favourable to them – and why not – they are politicians after all and self-interest always comes first.

Very little of this is understood by most most voters and the Tories seem keen to present themselves as reformers too – a key issue in their effort to “love-bomb” the Lib Dems. It will also take away some of the in-built advantage that Labour enjoys. My guess is that equal sized constituencies is a much easier concept to comprehend than the others.

Add on bringing forward individual voter registration and it’s highly likely that if the Tories do win then future elections could be on a more level playing field – something that could make a Labour return even more challenging. The big reason, though, why the electoral arithmetic seems to favour Labour is that its supporters are less likely to vote in seats where it does not matter.

  • Heading to Manchester. Following my visit to Brighton last week to speak at a Labour fringe event I’m travelling to Manchester for a similar session at the Tory conference. It’s organised by GovNet and is at 9.30pm in the Colony Restaurant at the Midland Hotel. It was good meeting PBers last week and I hope to do the same tonight.
  • Mike Smithson

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