Falconer echoes PM: 'There's no mood for electoral reform'

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The Lord Chancellor was facing a backlash last night after he claimed there was no pressure for a change in the voting system.

The Lord Chancellor was facing a backlash last night after he claimed there was no pressure for a change in the voting system.

Lord Falconer of Thoroton ignored calls for reform from Labour MPs, Liberal Democrats and pressure groups following the election. Asked about the unfairness of a system where 36 per cent of the vote could produce a Government with a large majority, he said: "I'm not sure there's widespread discontent with the electoral system. I'm not sure there's pressure for change."

The Department for Constitutional Affairs, which Lord Falconer heads, is reviewing the voting system following elections to the European Parliament, as well as the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly and Greater London Assembly.

But the Lord Chancellor made it clear yesterday that its remit would not be extended to include last week's general election.

Harriet Harman, the Constitutional Affairs minister, was forced on the defensive on BBC1's Question Time over an electoral system that gave Labour 93 more English seats than the Tories, despite receiving fewer votes in England.

She said: "The general election is across Scotland, Wales, England and Northern Ireland, and that is our voting system. It is very easy to find imperfections in it but I think what you want to do if you want to change it is to find something that is actually better."

The stance of ministers in charge of the electoral system brought scathing criticism from advocates of voting reform. Sir Menzies Campbell, the Liberal Democrat deputy leader, said: "Lord Falconer's dismissal of proposals to change the electoral system is hardly surprising given the extent to which Labour unreasonably profited."

A spokesman for Charter 88, the pro-reform pressure group, said: "The Government won the election pledging to carry out a review of the current system. They got 30-odd per cent of the vote. The Lib Dems got 20-odd per cent of the vote on a clear commitment to proportional representation. That means more than 50 per cent voted for a party committed to do something about the electoral system."

MPs have demanded a parliamentary inquiry to examine the case for voting reform and hundreds of readers of The Independent have pledged support for the paper's Campaign for Democracy. Martin Linton, the Labour MP for Battersea and a strong supporter of reform, ridiculed the first-past-the-post voting system as "crazy".

He told Radio 4's Today programme: "The reasonable objective for us at the moment is to get to a system where people can express a preference on the ballot paper. That would completely eliminate the problem of tactical voting."

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