Dear Mr Blair: Come clean over vote reform
Kennedy tells PM to stop ducking the issue of PR

By Hon. Charles Kennedy MP
Published May 26th 2005
Rt. Hon. Tony Blair MP,
10 Downing Street,
London, SW1A 2AA

Dear Prime Minister,

Your government was returned to office on what is historically the lowest ever level of public support in modern times. The first-past-the-post voting system delivered your majority of 67 seats with just 35% of the vote. Put simply, it took 26,877 voters to elect a Labour MP, 44,251 to elect a Conservative MP and 96,378 to elect a Liberal Democrat. Therefore, my purpose in writing is to urge you to revisit the overwhelming case for electoral reform.

When you were in opposition, you actively courted my predecessor Paddy Ashdown with promises about reform of the voting system and a switch to proportional representation. In government, you set up a commission under the late Roy Jenkins - then refused to implement its findings. You set up a Joint Consultative Committee, which continued until it became clear that there was to be no serious movement on the matter of fair votes.

Prime Minister, you have failed the electorate over the issue of PR. Under your premiership, the Scottish Parliament and Welsh assembly have been established and, like the elections to the European parliament and the Greater London Assembly, these are conducted under various systems involving PR. Next year in Scotland, local government will be transformed with a switch to a proportional system. Yet there is no movement, or any sign of a serious debate about the principle - let alone a timetable - for the same degree of democracy to be offered for elections to Westminster or to local government in England and Wales.

I have repeatedly made clear that I would welcome constructive engagement with any serious political party about introducing proportional representation. I believe it would strengthen our democracy by making Parliament more directly accountable to individual voters. A government elected by proportional representation would have a clearer and more authoritative mandate. Tactical voting would become a thing of the past.

The May 5 election 2005 is yet another milestone. As the campaign run by 'The Independent' has demonstrated, the PR debate has been re-ignited with real passion. It deserves a proper public response.

We have had promises, reports and committees set up by your government, but nothing has changed. Now, the only possible way forward is a Prime Ministerial statement about your personal position on electoral reform and your Government's intentions. There should be no equivocation and a clear vision.

Surely, the time has come to listen and to engage with the nations of the UK It is time to make a real commitment to resolve this deepening democratic deficit. A decision on PR and a timetable for its introduction would be a fine and enduring legacy to bequeath the British people.