James Forsyth

Brown’s PR dilemma

Brown's PR dilemma
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Gordon Brown is in an odd position when it comes to PR. As a Labour tribalist he hates it. But he knows that it could be very useful to him as he attempts to save his job. There was huge pressure from within the Labour party on Brown announce a referendum on PR for polling day. The tactical aim was to put Cameron on the ‘wrong’ side of reform at a time when faith in politics is at rock-bottom. The strategic goal was to ensure the Tories would find it very hard to win an overall majority again under the new system. But Brown bottled out of that decision; instead saying in his conference speech there would be a manifesto commitment to a vote on electoral reform.

In the Commons following the Queen’s speech, Brown was expected to say, ‘Vote Labour and this will be the last election under first past the post.’ But he didn’t. Now, we read in the Sunday Times that Brown’s own doubts have been magnified by a group of Cabinet ministers led by Ed Balls. If Labour don’t end up making PR a major election  issue, the Tories will be relieved. Constitutional reform rarely catches the public’s imagination. But following the expenses scandal (which admittedly had nothing to do with the current voting system), no politician wants to have to spend too much time defending the status quo.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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