Labour to dodge row on electoral reform

LABOUR may back the setting up of a Royal Commission into electoral reform, avoiding making any commitment on the issue at the next general election.

The move, which will be seen as a blow to party modernisers, comes as a powerful alliance of trade union leaders threatened to wreck proposals from John Smith, to establish the principle of one-member one-vote in the selection of Labour candidates and the election of the party leader.

With Mr Smith due to respond next month to Labour's Plant commission on electoral reform, a Labour commitment to a Royal Commission is now seen as a compromise likely to satisfy both opponents and proponents of electoral reform. Professor Plant's recommendation for a supplementary vote system has been opposed by some leading Labour reformers but Mr Smith, who is cautious about change, may initially opt to consult on it.

The Parliamentary Labour Party last week postponed its discussions of electoral reform, debating the Bosnian crisis instead, but advocates of proportional representation concede that the mixed reaction to Plant and events in Italy have reduced the electoral reform bandwagon.

Opponents of PR, including the deputy leader, Margaret Beckett, have fought a tough battle both inside and outside the Plant commission.

Critics of a referendum, which was earlier floated as an option likely to be supported by Mr Smith, argue that it would inevitably be turned into a plebiscite on the performance of a Labour Government which would, by then, be about a year into office. A neutral Royal Commission, which would adjudicate on electoral systems, would be at least a necessary precursor to any referendum, they argue.

Meanwhile, two of of the largest unions, the Transport and General Workers, and the GMB general union are lining up to to oppose Mr Smith's reforms of party democracy. Mr Smith's speech at last week's Scottish Trades Union Congress, which stressed his commitment to the principle of one-member one- vote in the selection of Labour candidates, was publicly rebuffed by Jack Adams, deputy general secretary of the transport union. Mr Smith's backers admit that the prospect of his proposals getting through Labour's annual conference hang in the balance.

A number of key, medium-sized unions, such as the National Union of Public Employees, the MSF (Manufacturing, Science, Finance), and the Union of Shop, Distributive and Allied Workers, could determine the fate of one-member one-vote. John Edmonds, GMB general secretary GMB, is said to hope a common position of opposition is decided by the Labour-affiliated unions, possibly at a meeting soon.

The GMB leadership had supported a hybrid 'registered supporters' scheme - which gave the unions a greater say over candidate selection - also backing selection of the party leader by Labour MPs. But with this scheme now looking unlikely to win favour, the GMB feels that it would be deprived even of limited and indirect influence in the choice of leader under one-member one-vote.

Mr Smith is said to be determined to take his reforms to party conference this year, even if he risks defeat. His supporters argue that leaders of the Transport Union and the GMB, both of which hosted 'modernisers' public events linked to the election of President Bill Clinton, now risk casting themselves as dinosaurs.

Gordon Brown, the Shadow Chancellor, yesterday argued that 'despite all their boasts and complacency, the Government know very well that building the underlying strength of the economy - through high investment in skills and industry - is a task still be to tackled'.

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
News
Jamie and Emily Pharro discovering their friend's prank
video
News
i100
News
Tim Vine has won the funniest joke award at the Edinburgh Festival 2014
peopleTim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
News
people
Life and Style
techApp to start sending headlines, TV clips and ads to your phone
Arts and Entertainment
Taylor Swift crawls through the legs of twerking dancers in her 'Shake It Off' music video
musicEarl Sweatshirt thinks so
Life and Style
tech
Arts and Entertainment
Daniel Radcliffe and Zoe Kazan in What If
filmReview: Actor swaps Harry Potter for Cary Grant in What If
News
Our resilience to stress is to a large extent determined by our genes
science
Travel
travel
Sport
sportBesiktas 0 Arsenal 0: Champions League qualifying first-leg match ends in stalemate in Istanbul
News
Pornography is more accessible - and harder to avoid - than ever
news... but they still admit watching it
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Project Manager (App development, SAP, interfacing)

£50000 - £60000 Per Annum + excellent company benefits: Clearwater People Solu...

Systems Developer Technical Lead

£65000 - £70000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client based i...

Energy Engineer

£25000 - £30000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: Job Title: Energy En...

Techincal Accountant-Insurance-Bank-£550/day

£475 - £550 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Technical Accountant-Insuran...

Day In a Page

Ferguson: In the heartlands of America, a descent into madness

A descent into madness in America's heartlands

David Usborne arrived in Ferguson, Missouri to be greeted by a scene more redolent of Gaza and Afghanistan
BBC’s filming of raid at Sir Cliff’s home ‘may be result of corruption’

BBC faces corruption allegation over its Sir Cliff police raid coverage

Reporter’s relationship with police under scrutiny as DG is summoned by MPs to explain extensive live broadcast of swoop on singer’s home
Lauded therapist Harley Mille still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Lauded therapist still in limbo as battle to stay in Britain drags on

Australian Harley Miller is as frustrated by court delays as she is with the idiosyncrasies of immigration law
Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world. But could his predictions of war do the same?

Lewis Fry Richardson's weather forecasts changed the world...

But could his predictions of war do the same?
Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs: 'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

'I want to have contact with the audience, not iPhones'

Kate Bush asks fans not to take photos at her London gigs
Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities, but why?

Young at hort

Under-35s have rated gardening in their top five favourite leisure activities. But why are so many people are swapping sweaty clubs for leafy shrubs?
Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award: 'making a quip as funny as possible is an art'

Beyond a joke

Tim Vine, winner of the Funniest Joke of the Fringe award, has nigh-on 200 in his act. So how are they conceived?
The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

The late Peter O'Toole shines in 'Katherine of Alexandria' despite illness

Sadly though, the Lawrence of Arabia star is not around to lend his own critique
Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire: The joy of camping in a wetland nature reserve and sleeping under the stars

A wild night out

Wicken Fen in Cambridgeshire offers a rare chance to camp in a wetland nature reserve
Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition: It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans

Comic Sans for Cancer exhibition

It’s the font that’s openly ridiculed for its jaunty style, but figures of fun have their fans
Besiktas vs Arsenal: Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie

Besiktas vs Arsenal

Five things we learnt from the Champions League first-leg tie
Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

Rory McIlroy a smash hit on the US talk show circuit

As the Northern Irishman prepares for the Barclays, he finds time to appear on TV in the States, where he’s now such a global superstar that he needs no introduction
Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to Formula One

Boy racer Max Verstappen stays relaxed over step up to F1

The 16-year-old will become the sport’s youngest-ever driver when he makes his debut for Toro Rosso next season
Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

Fear brings the enemies of Isis together at last

But belated attempts to unite will be to no avail if the Sunni caliphate remains strong in Syria, says Patrick Cockburn
Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I would end up killing myself in jail'

Charlie Gilmour: 'I wondered if I'd end up killing myself in jail'

Following last week's report on prison suicides, the former inmate asks how much progress we have made in the 50 years since the abolition of capital punishment