Voting change would be fitting legacy, say campaigners

By Matthew Tempest
Published January 6th 2003 in The Guardian

Campaigners for proportional representation, one of Lord Jenkins' most cherished causes, today expressed hope that the late peer's dream of a fair voting system for Westminster would come to fruition.

Make Votes Count, a lobby group for PR of which Lord Jenkins was the patron, said the next six months would prove vital for the progress of replacing Westminster's traditional first-past-the-post system.

The body - which has not yet made a decision on a replacement for Lord Jenkins - is considering setting up an annual lecture in memory of the late Labour home secretary.

Nina Temple, director of Make Votes Count, said: "We hope PR will come out of the long grass in the next six months - 2003 will be a crunch year for PR.

"The government is already committed to a review of proportional representation in Edinburgh and Cardiff, both of which go to the polls on May 1st.

"Scotland has also decided to introduce a form of PR for local elections, and there is a consensus that whatever proportion of a reformed Lords is decided upon, those peers will be elected by PR.

"So, ironically, fairer voting could come to Westminster by the back door - isolating the Commons chamber as the last bastion of first-past-the-post!"

Although the passing of the Lord Jenkins as a figurehead for the movement will be both a massive intellectual and publicity loss for the group, Ms Temple said his commission into voting systems would stand a fitting testemonial.

She said: "His report was fantastically readable, amusing and very very strong."

"He was the most heavy-weight person involved in the fair votes campaign, but he was not just a ceremonial figurehead, he was very closely involved over the last two years, even when he had his heart operation and was working on his Churchill biography.

"He was a very inspirational figure."

The constitution unit at University College London is currently preparing the criteria for its own independent review of PR voting for the Scottish parliament, the Welsh assembly, and, if it takes place, the Stormont assembly.