Will the parties build enough trust to bind themselves in to an agreed reform programme before the election to enable them to work together after the election?I have argued for some six months and more that the Liberal Democrats should be in the forefront of a campaign for voting and constitutional reform and that to enable this to happen a cross-party Convention needs to be established. The aim being to agree a progressive reform programme say by early 2018.
So I am delighted that the SNP, Greens and Welsh nationalists have united to call for an electoral pact with Labour and the Liberal Democrats to agree sweeping changes to the voting system for Westminster elections.
In a letter published in The Independent on Sunday, the leaders of the three left-of-centre parties call for an agreement on electoral reform to be included in each of their manifestos in 2020.
In the letter, the SNP leader in Westminster, the parliamentary leader of Plaid Cymru, and the Green MP Caroline Lucas welcome the talks that seem to be going on between Labour and the Liberal Democrats. Although I have read somewhere that Tim Farron has downplayed them!.
The three MPs write :
“By working together we believe it’s possible to transform British politics – and that a fairer voting system will help deliver a fairer Britain.
“We would like to see Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the parties we represent joining together at the next general election in a joint manifesto pledge to introduce proportional representation for the House of Commons. This would give every voter a say in future elections and provide a mandate for the early introduction of legislation.”
The three MPs pledge to work with other party leaders further “about how this pledge can be achieved”.
But what are the views of the other party leaders?
He has admitted that he is “open” to an electoral pact with other parties to force through electoral reform.
Asked if he would be willing to talk to the Liberal Democrats and other parties about agreeing changes to the voting system, the Labour leader said he “could be”. But pressed whether he was open to it, he replied: “Obviously.”
Well it is reported that Tim’s aides are talking to a Labour MP, someone who is a close ally of Mr Corbyn and who is acting as a conduit between the two leaders. .
A senior Lib Dem source!! Said “Tim has always said electoral reform is a key part of reshaping British politics. He will work with anyone, in all parties and none, to deliver that.”
It is also claimed that the Liberal Democrats are understood to want a respected elder statesman in the Labour Party to take on a formal role as a go-between between the parties.
UkIP also backs electoral reform, but is unlikely to enter into a pact with Labour or the Liberal Democrats.
One senior figure who has raised over recent months the need for a progressive alliance and a cross-party constitutional convention and last week in a post on this blog is David Owen. I found his post constructive as to the way forward.
‘Labour can win the next election in 2020 – but only through a “progressive alliance”. But this demands realistic compromises from Corbyn, the party conference, the National Executive Committee and the PLP. It means creating a constitutional convention in 2017 alongside the SNP (the likeliest next-biggest party), the Liberal Democrats (if they will change their policy on a market in health), Plaid Cymru, the Green Party and any MPs from Northern Ireland. Agreed reforms in their respective manifestos could then be legislated on in the first session of parliament.’
The question now is Will the Wagon roll?!
Two earlier posts on this blog: