National Delay, Local Progress
Following are three representative news stories from
the United Kingdom. To keep up-to-date on the British movement for
voting system reform, see the Electoral Reform Society's
Electoral reforms spell introduction of PR
By Alison Hardie
Liberal Democrat chiefs last night
predicted proportional representation would be introduced for all
British elections after Labour agreed in principle to ditch the
traditional system for Scottish council elections.
electoral reform, which could spell the end of Labourís stranglehold
over local authorities in the central belt, is the price the Lib
Dems demanded in return for cementing the Scottish Executive
coalition for the next four years.
Jim Wallace, the Scottish Lib
Dem leader and deputy first minister, said to applause at the
partyís conference in Brighton yesterday: "When we signed the
partnership agreement with the Labour Party in 1999, we promised to
make progress on electoral reform. Well, weíve done that.
pleased to be able to tell you the Scottish Parliament was told of
the Scottish Cabinetís intention, by March next year, to publish a
bill to introduce the single transferable vote for local
Labour activists are furious and have called on the
partyís hierarchy to find a way to shelve the commitment after the
Last night senior Labour sources claimed it was far
from a done deal and pointed out that the bill to introduce PR for
local elections would not even begin its passage through the
Scottish Parliament until next May.
Even then it will have to be
agreed to again by a new Executive and its content could be amended
or even watered-down.
The source said: "I think Labour MSPs could
take a lot yesterday from the fact Jack McConnell arrived at the
parliamentary group meeting to finalise the position with Paul
Martin, the leader of the campaign to maintain the
"We are a long way from changing the
voting system and the Lib Dems know it, but it doesnít do us any
harm to let Jim Wallace announce it at conference."
What was clear
yesterday was that if voting reform is pushed through for council
elections, the Lib Dems can expect little further leeway by Labour
if they join them again in coalition.
Mr McConnell said yesterday:
"It is a fact that there are members of my own party who oppose
electoral reform. Although the published bill will not be introduced
before May 2003, as a matter of democratic principle, I believe that
it is important that the new executive should have the opportunity
to take a decision on this issue."
The First Minister is understood
to have made it clear to Mr Wallace during private discussions that
he will want to pursue a much harder, Labour-led agenda in the next
parliament if Labour is successful again at the ballot box.
yesterday in Brighton, Mr Wallace put aside the caveats to tell
delegates that the Lib Dems had achieved another major concession
from Labour as partners in the Executive coalition.
He said: "Now
that we are in a partnership government, the ideas that we have been
putting forward for years - and in some cases, decades - are finally
being put into practice.
"People know that with Liberal Democrats
in government, what you see is what you get, what we say is what we
Mr Wallace said he was "confident" that a new,
proportional voting system would be introduced in time for the 2007
local council elections.
But he added: "We should not
under-estimate the opposition we will encounter. Those whose power
is vested in the current unrepresentative system will not let it
slip away without a fight."
Charles Kennedy, the Lib Dem leader, is
due to take up the challenge of voting reform throughout the UK
during his keynote speech to the Brighton conference tomorrow .
will call on Blair to honour his promise on PR
September 24, 2002
Kennedy will issue an ultimatum this week to Tony Blair to honour
his commitment to review the introduction of proportional
The Liberal Democrat leader will use his conference
speech to scotch talk that his party has given up on electoral
reform. He will tell Labour to stick by a manifesto promise to
review the voting system after the local elections next year or
jeopardise relations with his party
Mr Kennedy is said to be
worried that Labour is backing down on the issue in the face of
opposition from grassroots activists and the trade unions
close to the leader said Labour was hoping reform would be "swept
under the carpet" and incorporated in a wider review of policy that
would not lead to any concrete proposals or action
Mr Kennedy will
indicate in his speech that his patience over Labour delays on PR
has run out. "He is not going to let Blair off the hook on this,"
sources said. "He is very, very serious about holding the Government
to account over their commitment." Today Labour and the Liberal
Democrats in Scotland are expected to announce a deal on a new
voting system for local government based on proportional
Postcards on the edge to
make PR 'sexy'
Scotsman Evening Statesman
Supporters of voting reform
today launched a new postcard campaign which tries to make
proportional representation sexy.
The cross-party group Fairshare
wants to gets its message across to people in pubs, clubs and
community halls across Scotland.
And it hopes to build up a
momentum for change following Deputy First Minister Jim Wallaceís
confirmation yesterday that a bill will be introduced in the
Scottish Parliament before next yearís elections paving the way for
a single transferable vote system for local government.
One of the
postcards features a large zipped X held by chains along with the
slogan "Release your vote from bondage - Single Transferable Vote
puts you in control".
Another features a variety of coloured sweets
and asks: "Want some different flavours? Single Transferable Vote
responds to everyoneís tastes!"
Fairshare said the postcards were
designed to move the campaign for voting reform for Scottish local
government from party meetings and gatherings of political hacks
into the communities of Scotland.
Co-ordinator Amy Rodger said as
well as getting the cards out to bars, pubs and clubs, Fairshare
supporters would be using freshersí weeks at universities to put
across the message.
"This has been a hugely interesting issue for
politicians and poll watchers, but the whole thing about changing
the voting system is so it is not in the hands of the parties, but
She said the "sexy" postcards were designed to present
the issue in a context in which people had not seen it before. "The
idea of releasing your vote from bondage and giving it the power to
do what itís meant to do is an appropriately strong message."
Scottish Executive yesterday confirmed the widely-trailed deal to
produce a bill on PR for local government by next March - though
First Minister Jack McConnell has stopped short of endorsing the plan.