Critic owes career to 'first-past-the-post'

Click to follow
Indy Politics

It is no surprise that Lord Corbett of Castle Vale, the Labour veteran who led opposition to electoral reform in the Lords this week, is a strong supporter of the first-past-the-post system. He owes his career to it.

He startled fellow peers on Thursday with the vehemence of his attack on The Independent's Campaign for Democracy, contemptuously dismissing the 28,425 people who had signed up to the campaign. Echoing Lord Falconer of Thoroton, the Lord Chancellor, he insisted there was no evidence of a "great groundswell of interest".

In 1979, Robin Corbett, the Australian-born former journalist, lost his Commons seat of Hemel Hempstead and was forced to cast around for another parliamentary berth. He was selected four years later for Birmingham Erdington, where Labour's traditional control looked vulnerable to Margaret Thatcher's popularity and a surge in support for the SDP-Liberal Alliance. But the anti-Labour vote was split and Mr Corbett scraped in with a majority of 231 and 39.8 per cent of the vote. Four years later, he was re-elected with the support of 45.9 per cent of Erdington's voters. He spent 11 years on the Labour opposition front bench, but was deemed too old for a government job when Tony Blair won power. As a consolation he was handed chairmanship of the Commons Home Affairs Select Committee.

Mr Corbett retired from the Commons shortly before the 2001 general election and was ennobled later that year. Sceptical colleagues watching him perform in the Upper House on Thursday suggested he was still doing the Government's bidding.