Politics: Electoral reform: Labour is accused of limiting voter choice

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The Independent Online
THE LABOUR Party was accused by its own backbenchers yesterday of limiting voters' choice so it can have greater power over potential troublemakers.

As the Government overturned a Lords defeat over the new proportional representation system of voting for European Parliament elections, MPs said ministers were trying to impose candidates.

Jack Straw, the Home Secretary, said the original "closed list" system, under which electors are able to vote only for a party and not for individual candidates in the regional constituencies, would lead to clarity and fairness.

He said the "open list" system, which peers backed in an amendment to the European Parliamentary Elections Bill, would lead to "eccentricities" in results and anomalies because candidates from the same party effectively competed against themselves.

But Labour backbenchers stressed that a candidate's chances of being elected would depend on the party's voting scores and their positions on the list of runners drawn up by Millbank.

Dr John Marek, (Wrexham) led concerns when he said it was a problem when the choice of the voter was being sacrificed for the "choice of the party, and moreover, the Labour Party centrally".

Llew Smith (Blaenau Gwent) added that candidates would not be elected by one member one vote but by a panel of a dozen people of the party centrally.

The Home Secretary said Labour's selection methods were "not a matter for this House" but he was "aware" of the issue and suggested it was a "matter of personnel management".