Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The National Democratic Renewal Council - eh?

The title almost gives me nervous hysterics. This body is supposed to be the engine room for driving democratic reform in this country. So, does it include all parties, the church, Women's Institute, Boys Brigade etc etc like the Constitutional Convention which gave birth to the Scottish Assembly?

So what is it then?

Well, it's just a Cabinet sub-committee basically. Downing Street says lists its members and gives other details - or highlights the absence of details - of the council. The members are:

Jack Straw, Harriet Harman, Lord Mandelson, Alistair Darling, David Miliband, Alan Johnson, Hilary Benn, Douglas Alexander, John Denham, Shaun Woodward, Baroness Royall, Jim Murphy, Peter Hain, Michael Wills, Nick Brown and Steve Bassam (the Lords Chief Whip - to attend when Lords issues were discussed).

So, nothing to get excited about. As for voting reform...last night it seemed to be "in" and that the Alternative Vote shambles would be conscribed. Now, after a night's sleep, Brown doesn't seem to be sure whether it will be included and certainly won't suggest a specific system (thank goodness):

On electoral reform, Downing Street played down reports that Mr Brown will propose replacing the first-past-the-post system with an alternative system similar to that used in the London mayoral election, where voters number candidates in order of preference.

A political source at No 10 said the Prime Minister was expected to say only that discussions would form part of the wider debate on renewal of British democracy, but any changes would have to be subject to a referendum.

He is not expected to put his weight behind any particular voting method or make firm proposals for electoral reform at this stage.

So, that could mean anything then. Great.

But we can be a bit hopeful that it is, sort of, on the agenda, at last. One thing's for sure, this is the last chance we have for Westminster voting reform for a good many years. As soon as the Tories get their mits on power they will pull the shutters down and the only "reform" there will be is a complete redrawing of the constituency boundaries to kill off about 50 natural Labour constituencies and keep the Tories in power for a generation.

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