David Blackburn

The Tories in a PR pickle

The Tories in a PR pickle
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Clegg won’t join without proportional representation; Cameron says he won’t countenance such a ‘con’. Indeed, it runs deeper than that. Iain Martin has canvassed Tories from across the party and found that Cameron will get short shrift if he tries to reform the voting system at all.

There is another consideration. This election has the potential to blow traditional party structure out of the water. Labour’s right will be marginalised by the unions’ grip over the party and Liberal Democrats like David Laws and Clegg (up to a point) have more in common with the One Nation Tories than they do with out and out left wingers like Kennedy and Cable. Laws’ education reforms are subtly market orientated; Clegg’s civil liberties agenda is akin to that of David Davis and Dominic Grieve. The Lib Dem wings are united by PR and largely divided on everything else.

Voting reform damages all three parties equally – there was Damascene about Gordon Brown’s conversion to the cause. A new look right and left could emerge if PR were inaugurated. That said the whole issue would evaporate if the Tories confronted their other PR problem, public relations, and expressed their policies coherently. Ten days to go and a Marx Brothers farce over whether or not education reform is funded out of the existing budget has emerged. We’re constantly told that Gove’s reforms are the most radical ever produced, and they are, but it often seems that even Shadow Cabinet haven’t got a clue about what they entails.