Vote reform hits snags within UK's Labour (FWD)

Fri Oct 2 22:42:44 PDT 1998

It comes as no surprise that the evil and corrupt minority rule *members of
the ruling Labour Party* in the U.K. are NOW opposing proportional
representation AFTER they have POWER.
Vote reform hits snags within UK's Labour

By Rosemary Bennett

BLACKPOOL, England, Oct 1 (Reuters) - Members of the ruling Labour party told
Prime Minister Tony Blair on Thursday to scrap plans for a new voting system
for general elections that could transform the face of British politics. 

It was an uncomfortable day for Blair at the party's annual conference. 

He was accused of stifling debate on the issue and preventing the conference
from passing a motion rejecting any change from the first-past-the-post system
used to elect members of parliament. 

The government is committed to holding a referendum on adopting a proportional
representation (PR) system for these elections even though Blair has said he
is not persuaded of the case for PR and many cabinet ministers are openly

Party fixers managed to avoid embarrassment for Blair during a debate on the
electoral system by persuading engineering workets' union leader Ken Jackson,
who sponsored a motion highly critical of PR, not to press the issue to a

But another leading trade unionist weighed in to the argument accusing party
managers of pulling cheap tricks. 

``I suspect that one or two arms have been twisted and one or two shabby litte
deals have been done, and a lot of people down there are very suspicious about
it all,'' said John Edmonds, general secretary of the GMB union. 

More than 100 resolutions hostile to PR had been submitted and party officials
acknowledged a vote would have decisively rejected electoral reform, which
would have been a slap in the face for the Labour leadership despite its
lukewarm feelings towards change. 

But Jackson and other activists left the government in no doubt that a shift
to PR would be a reform too many for a party that has backed Blair's sweeping
programme of constitutional change, including a measure of home-rule for
Scotland and Wales and a shake-up of the upper House of Lords. 

Many Labour members favoured PR during the party's 18 years in opposition, but
Blair's landslide victory in the May 1997 election has curbed the appetite for
a system that could reduce the number of Labour members of parliament and
boost the centre-left Liberal Democrats, Britain's third party. 

Jackson said PR would lead to ``a carve up, deals not democracy, chaos not

Blair has appointed Lord Jenkins, a former Labour finance minister who split
from the party in the 1980s, to recommend the best system of PR for Britain. 

Jenkins is due to submit his report at the end of the month amid speculation
that Blair will risk alienating Liberal Democrat leader Paddy Ashdown by
delaying a referendum until after the next general election in order not to
widen Labour's divisions. 

13:49 10-01-98 

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