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Brown promises electoral reform in UK

Written By: - Date published: 4:35 pm, February 4th, 2010 - 28 comments
Categories: International, uk politics - Tags:

The British PM Gordon Brown has announced he will push through legislation giving citizens the chance to vote on whether to dump First Past the Post (FPP) in favour of Alternative Vote (AV). According to The Guardian:

Brown staked his authority on committing his party not just to a referendum on the alternative vote, but also to making the law introducing the referendum a legislative priority in the remaining six weeks of parliament before the election is called.

A young Gordon Brown contemplates electoral reform

The British people have been denied the full range of political choice for eons. But their proud evolving democratic tradition is slowly catching up (though AV is still nowhere near as proportional as MMP). Brown said:

“I am determined to do everything I can to take on and persuade those who want to deny the people the chance to decide [on a new voting system] at a referendum, and I will build support across the Commons, the Lords and the country.

NZ has had an easier road to proportional democracy than the UK will. NZ’s comparatively egalitarian culture prevented wealthy vested interests from subverting the will of Kiwis. Unfortunately for the UK, where we had ten Peter Shirtcliffes, they have thousands.

The wealthy interests who still are trying to deny Britons a more democratic electoral system is a poignant reminder to all Kiwis. When we are forced defend our democracy in John Key’s 2011 MMP referendum, we must not let Roger Douglas, Peter Shirtcliffe, and Don Brash win this time around.

28 comments on “Brown promises electoral reform in UK ”

  1. gingercrush 1

    I would love to see a form of Alternative Vote applied to electorate seats in this country. It would better serve certain electorates such as Auckland Central, Ohariu-Belmont, West-Coast Tasman, Waimakariri, Nelson, Waitakere, New Plymouth and others.

    • felix 1.1

      What advantages do you see?

      • James Barber 1.1.1

        The advantage with alternative voting in electorates which get representation for parties such as ACT and United Future is that there is little split vote.

        It allows people to vote according to preference and not stick with the old FPP voting for a A**hole so that the Complete A**hole doesn’t get a seat.

  2. tc 2

    he has to do something….he’s as inspiring as John Major was.

    • Michael Foxglove 2.1

      I can’t tell whether you’re insulting Brown or Major.

      Poor Brown. He never had a chance.

      • The Voice of Reason 2.1.1

        Gordon has just given himself a chance. The polls suggest a hung parliament with the Lib Dems holding the balance of power. Who benefits from electoral reform? The Lib Dems. PM Brown, Deputy PM Clegg. In betting terms, its covering the draw. Anything less than an outright Tory win leaves Labour in power.

        That’s a scenario we can all relate too, eh?

        BTW, had to look Clegg up on the interweb. Grey man in a suit. Pleasant ties.

  3. George D 3

    Yet another shameless attempt by NewLabour to take democracy out of the hands of the people. AV is just another way of cementing the two party system, and obviously so.

    No wonder people hate them. Britain will get its democracy eventually, but I very much doubt that Brown will be any part of the process. Their last minute support for a slightly less undemocratic system is transparently self-interested.

    NewLabour. The worst of all worlds.

  4. gingercrush 4

    Well for the left its likely seats such as Auckland Central and other seats (though I’d have to look at the numbers again) would be still held by Labour rather than National. Means those who vote outside Labour and National can possibly have a say in who represents their area. Most advantageous would be Green voters who in some electorates vote rather substainally for the Green candidate. Clearly most such voters would prefer a left-wing politician to represent their area. In a close contest that could push them over what the National candidate receives.

    • felix 4.1

      I suppose I meant why in principle do you think it’s a better system?

      • gingercrush 4.1.1

        Because it would be more democratic and more fairer for all constituents. Rather than the situation we currently have where the vote is split among the left in some electorates allowing a National MP to win an electorate. The same has happened and can happen in other electorates where a Labour MP wins the electorate where it is more like the National candidate is preferred.

        I just think electoral representation is very important in New Zealand despite the fact we have a Westminister Parliament.

        Its also the method I would personally prefer for local body elections.

  5. Mr Magoo 5

    Why are we talking about the UK?

    Haven’t they become a police state already? You mean they STILL have not removed the right to vote yet? Man that party really ARE a lazy, greedy bunch of swine.

    I thought that was what all the cameras, loss of freedom, human rights abuses and the people paying for the duck ponds was all about?

  6. Gooner 6

    This is a strange post.

    Key promises referendum without urgency = bad. Brown promises referendum, ramming it through under urgency = good.

    NACT government “ram” through Super City legislation = bad. Brown rams through legislation on voting reform = good.

    Then you imply the Shirtcliffes “won” the first time round, when they campaigned against MMP, and therefore lost.

    All in all, quite odd.

    • felix 6.1

      Then you imply the Shirtcliffes “won’ the first time round


      Where’s that?

      • Lew 6.1.1

        I think he means the bit where it says NZ’s comparatively egalitarian culture prevented wealthy vested interests from subverting the will of Kiwis.

        Because that word “prevented” clearly implies they were successful.


  7. coge 7

    If Britain has thousands of these “Shirtcliffes” as you imply they must be an ineffectual lot, given that Britain has just endured 12 years of Labour.

  8. Bill 8

    “proud evolving democratic tradition..”

    You really are fucking shitting, right?

    Let’s ignore the FPP nonsense and get down to the fact that no PM of the UK can be ( or at least ever has been) a practising Catholic and talk about evolving democratic tradition…sharia law ….etc

    • Smokie 8.1

      i thought it sounded sarcastic

      • Bill 8.1.1

        Can’t be a Jew either.

        • Alan

          Pardon? Queen Vic’s favourite PM, Benjamin Disraeli, was as Jewish as they come!

          • Bill

            Maybe not the best of sources, but it seems to cover it.

            “Under the Roman Catholic Relief Act of 1829, sect. 17, and the Jews’ Relief Act of 1858, sec 4, no Roman Catholic or Jew may advise the sovereign on ecclesiastical matters. Were the prime minister to be a Roman Catholic or a Jew and alternate system of ecclesiastical appointment would have to be devised.

            All British Prime Ministers to date, at least while in office, have professed Anglican faith. Disraeli, while born into a Jewish family, was baptised into the church of England at age 12 and Tony Blair waited till after he stood down from the post of prime minister to officially convert to Catholicism.”


            • Rich

              Neither Margaret Thatcher or Gordon Brown are Anglicans. I don’t think Lloyd George was either.

              If it became an issue, I suspect that the Anglican Church would either take control of its own appointments, or a senior Cabinet Minister of the Anglican faith would be given the role.

              The Anglican church never really objected to Thatcher taking an activist role in appointments, despite being a Methodist. I guess they are still keen on antidisestablishmentarianism.

              (I had to get that word in when writing on this subject!)

  9. Bill 9

    And then you had better not dare advocate democracy because as the post rightly points out “The wealthy interests ( whether Jewish, Catholic, Muslim, Protestant or atheist and agnostic) who still are trying to deny Britons [democracy] is a poignant reminder to all Kiwis.”

    The poignant reminder being…oh, that we must defend the absence of democracy against ….the absence of democracy… it seems.

    Oh, well.

  10. The Baron 10

    My god, I think this is completely atrocious.

    Say what you will about the NZ reform experience, but at least it was democratic. The public voted on the options, the public voted on a run off, and if national has their way, the public will vote on keeping the change too (cueshock and horror at the last from some here I imagine – well, maybe you, just like Michael and Gordon, will agree that the people have no business in deciding how to run their elections!)

    But this… a desperately unpopular PM pushes through absolutely fundamental changes to the function of their parliamentary democracy in the last weeks of his final parliament? I’m not one to march on the capital, but if that happened here, one would do what one must.

    So, ah, not sure what you’re so happy about here, Michael. Are you having a bit of a political geek moment and getting off on the fact that someone is choosing your preferred methodology? Cos you seem to have completely forgotten that this is a real democracy that is being shat on in the process.

    • The Baron 10.1

      Sorry, I respectfully withdraw some of my comments having now reread the story and see that he is advocating that the public have the choice here.

      Felix, get your rocks off, cos this is a mea culpa.

  11. SPC 11

    Some years ago when my choice was still SM (not MMP as now) back in January 1998, I wrote to Blair and suggested they go with SM (500 general seats and 125 SM – .8% of the vote for each seat) and also have alternate or preferential voting in the general seats.

    Jenkins in his later recommendation agreed on the first, but not on the second. Blair did not agree to any option going to the people. This time Brown is proposing the second and not the first.

    It probably speaks to the party’s perception of advantage – the could easily lose to the Tories on FPP. AV allows those who split the vote by voting LD to decide who wins seats, Labour perceives they will win more LD votes than the Tories (or at least in the right marginal seats).

    MMP would result in the same thing, but with the LD in the Commons in large numbers and holding the balance of power. So guess what Labour do, exploit the LD voters to retain power and then keep their candidates out of the place as much as possible.
    For similar party political reasons those on the right here prefer SM – the same people want to get rid of the Maori seats (a few trinkets now to imply justice has been finally/completely done first).

  12. Jenny 12

    Brown’s government reminds me of the Lange/Douglas administration, and why the pressure for electoral reform grew so strong here.


    In 1990 people voted in a landslide for a National government. The Nats campaigned on a program to the left of Labour, promising to halt privatisation of state assets, remove user pays in tertiary education, repeal the Super sur-charge etc. As a result the electorate voted for National in huge numbers in an effort to escape Rogernomics. Imagine the dismay when the Nats went back on their word and continued the same policies.

    The pressure for electoral reform grew irresistible because the electorate were sick and tired of getting the same tory policies no matter who they voted for.

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