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Thursday, 30 December 2010

Another Prediction for 2011: Voters will Say "No" to Electoral Reform

When Russians went to bed on 31 January 1918, they woke up on February 14: the Bolsheviks had finally brought Russia into line with the rest of the Christian world and abandoned the [inaccurate] Julian calendar in favour of the [more accurate] Gregorian.

It took a Revolution to achieve this technical adjustment. When the changeover was made in undemocratic Britain, in the eighteenth century, there was popular unrest: people thought that a fortnight of their lives was being stolen from them.

I can't see British voters turning out in May to say, Yes, they want Electoral Reform: an end to First Past the Post and the adoption of some system of proportional representation ( it's the Alternative Vote which is on offer).

The depths of British conservatism can always be gauged from the attitudes of Labour Party grandees. Think of Michael Martin as Speaker of the House of Commons, a man so steeped in belief in the Establishment and its traditions, including the britches he wore, as to make Tsar Nicholas of All the Russias look like a positive radical.

The Labour Party grandees are already standing up to announce their opposition to electoral reform. God, the Queen, School Uniform and First Past the Post - it's all part of the seamless Order they have profited from. They will fight in the last ditch.

British voters aren't much better. They aren't really in favour of change. It's usually foreign and new fangled, like the decimal system which took pounds shillings and pence away from them.

The Voters idea of Change is either A Bit More of the Same or, alternatively, A Bit Less of the Same.

Taxes up a bit or down a bit. Benefits up a bit or down a bit.

The trouble with Electoral Reform, as the Referendum will present it to them, is that it asks them to endorse discontinuous change. I can't see them buying that. And unfortunately you can't calibrate First Past the Post into something a Bit More sensitive to the popular will and a Bit Less unfair to minorities. That's not how it works.

So, Tough. Life ain't fair, the voters will say. First Past the Post it will remain. God Save the Queen.

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