Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Letters for Democracy

Last week the Lord Falconer caused a bit of a stir when he said "I don't think there is a real ground swell for change," to the voting system. The make my vote count blog highlighted the issue on Friday evening. They suggested some possible courses of action for those who feel part of the ground swell the Lord Chancellor seems unable to identify.

I wrote to the Lord Chancellor earlier today to express my own opinion on the subject. If you're interested click on the permalink to read my letter.
(That's unless you came here via a link to the individual post page in which case the letter should already be just under this sentence. Oh, there must be a better way to do expandable posts than this, this is rubbish.)

Secretary of State for Constitutional Affairs
94 Victoria Street

Dear Lord Falconer,

I am writing to you concerning a statement you made on the BBC Radio 4 Today programme on Friday 20th May. You said "I don't think there is a real ground swell for change," with regard to electoral reform. I would like to take issue with that statement. I have heard others express their outrage that an unelected Lord should assume to speak for public opinion in this way. This is not my complaint however. The Independent newspaper now has over 16,500 signatories to their petition for electoral reform. I accept that this is not a reliable reflection of public opinion. A recent poll showed that 62% of people favour electoral reform. As you mentioned in your radio appearance, this same poll also contained contradictory evidence. I accept that this poll could also be considered unreliable. I have read that you are unable to attend the debate in the Lords on Thursday 26th May and have asked your deputy, Baroness Ashton, to reply on your behalf. You have been accused of not taking the issue seriously. This is not my complaint. I understand that you are a very busy man.

What I do not accept is that any member of this government should assume to speak for public opinion on this issue. In 1997 New Labour made a clear manifesto commitment to hold a referendum on electoral reform. It was worded as follows:

"We are committed to a referendum on the voting system for the House of Commons. An independent commission on voting systems will be appointed early to recommend a proportional alternative to the first-past-the-post system."

This was a clear unambiguous pledge. Eight years later it has not been fulfilled. As such, I find it objectionable when any government spokesperson attempts to represent public opinion on this matter. I would like a reply in which you clarify the level of the governments commitment to the pledge quoted above. If the government has decided to break this manifesto commitment then I would like an explanation as to the reasons for this. If not, I would be interested in the projected timetable for the referendum. Eight years does seem rather a long time to wait.


It is possible that the tone of the letter could be considered pompous and patronising but for some reason I just didn't feel the need to rewrite it. I did manage to avoid any mention of the Lord Chancellor's very fetching black tights though. I'm not sure if the Lord Falconer is obliged to reply or not. If you've read all the way down here you'll probably be interested to hear if I do get a reply. I'll keep you posted.

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