Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Shadow cabinet to oppose voting reform bill.

One really has to wonder what Nick Clegg has gained from his pact with the Tories when you read this.

The Labour shadow cabinet has decided to vote against a bill introducing reform to the voting system, raising the prospect of a Commons defeat for one of the governing coalition's flagship policies.

The decision, taken last night, followed two lengthy shadow cabinet discussions.

It could herald a backbench Tory-Labour alliance designed to derail the bill either at its second reading or by rejecting the proposal that the referendum be held on the same day as elections in Scotland and parts of England and Wales next May.

A total of 50 Tory MPs are opposing next May as the date for the referendum, and are coming under intense pressure from Tory whips to pull back from that stance.

The shadow cabinet had an earlier discussion at which – on the advice of John Denham, the shadow communities and local government secretary – it proposed abstaining on the bill.

But Denham, a strong advocate of voting reform, backed moves at yesterday's shadow cabinet, led by the justice secretary, Jack Straw, to oppose the bill outright.

Straw argued that the bill introducing the referendum was being coupled unnecessarily with boundary changes which he described as gerrymandering.

The shadow cabinet agreed yesterday that it still supported the referendum the Alternative Vote (AV) system – but, in a new reasoned amendment, will say it is entirely wrong that this reform, on Conservative insistence, is being bound up with plans to reduce the number of MPs and introduce widespread boundary changes.

Labour claims the boundary reforms would benefit the Tories so much that the Labour party would find it impossible to win a general election again.

Of course, the Tories have never wanted a reform in voting so perhaps they have planned to gerrymander the system in order to force Labour to oppose a policy which the Tories don't wish to see brought about.

After all, Clegg has got into bed with a party which will allow a referendum on voting reform whilst reserving the right to campaign against that reform.

So, he now has both Labour and the Tories opposing his party's platform policy.

Maybe he can turn that to his advantage. But the danger is that he has dragged his party so far to the right that the public will utterly reject anything he offers them on the grounds that the Liberal Democrats are now regarded as soiled goods.

Click here for full article.

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