Leading article: A table for two at No 10

Share
Related Topics

Our preference was for a coalition based on Labour and the Liberal Democrats, but we accept that the parliamentary arithmetic was against it. Given that we said that electoral reform was the big prize, and that the Liberal-Conservative government promises a referendum on it, this newspaper is happy to give the new administration a fair wind. The policy agenda of the new government is a compromise, from which some good things flow. The cancellation of Labour's third runway at Heathrow is an important step in the green direction supported by
The Independent on Sunday. Other environmental issues are more difficult, which is why we have devoted this special edition to an analysis of whether blue and yellow really do make green.

Other elements of the common programme agreed between the parties are welcome: scrapping ID cards and the national child database; opening up the schools system to new providers; banking reform. Our doubts concern the timing of public spending cuts, on which Vince Cable seems to have capitulated in accepting them this year, and Europe, where we cannot believe that the Conservative Party's self-imposed exile to the Czecho-Polish fringe is in the national interest. But that is part of the give and take of co-operative politics. The one part of the coalition agreement that really does not fit into this rosy view is the proposal for a 55 per cent threshold for a Commons vote to seek a dissolution and an election. (David Cameron has now hinted that this, too, might be subject to compromise before becoming law.)

As much as the policies themselves, we welcome the process by which the common programme was negotiated. For too long, politics and the reporting thereof has been dominated by metaphors of conflict in which the winner takes all. One of the refreshing aspects of the new government is that formerly tribal politicians such as David Cameron, George Osborne and William Hague have suddenly discovered the virtues of compromise and collaboration.

So enthusiastic was Mr Cameron at his joint news conference with Nick Clegg in the garden of No 10 about the joys of parties working together that it invited the question: What, then, is so wrong with PR? A truly proportional voting system would require parties to work together most of the time.

Not that the choice to be offered in the referendum is a proportional system. The alternative vote is likely in practice to be only slightly more proportional than the existing system. The Electoral Reform Society estimates that the Lib Dems would have won 22 more seats under AV than they did on 6 May, most at the expense of the Conservatives. But it is a better system. It would allow voters to express their genuine first preference while also influencing the choice between whichever two candidates emerge as most popular in their constituency. And it would preserve the link between an MP and a single constituency, the main strength of first past the post.

Ultimately, this newspaper might prefer AV plus, as advocated by Roy Jenkins in the dawn of the age of Blair. The Jenkins report proposed, in addition to the alternative vote in single-member constituencies, the election of 20 per cent of added MPs in groups of constituencies, designed to "top up" party representation to match share of the vote more closely. This is not a practical option as yet, but the alternative vote is. As we report today, the referendum on it is eminently winnable. Our ComRes poll suggests it could be carried by a two-to-one margin – although there is first a campaign to be fought. We offer an exclusive preview to that today.

A more co-operative politics should not mean fudge and mudge. It is one of the weaknesses of the coalition that the Prime Minister and his deputy should look and sound so similar. That may have implications for the Labour leadership contest. David Miliband, the early front-runner, is undoubtedly very able. But, despite a comprehensive school education, he does seem to come from the same production line of professional politicians that produced the leaders of the new government. It would be healthy if Yvette Cooper, the former work and pensions secretary, could be persuaded to give the Labour selectorate a wider choice. But that is a story that should be allowed time and space to develop.

Meanwhile, with a green verdict pending, but above all for the prospect of a permanent change to a fairer voting system, the Cameron-Clegg government deserves a cautious welcome.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant- NY- Investment Bank

Not specified: Selby Jennings: VP/SVP Credit Quant Top tier investment bank i...

Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executive- City of London, Old Street

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior Marketing Executiv...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager

£40000 - £43000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: An international organisa...

Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwickshire

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Internal Recruiter -Rugby, Warwicksh...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

I'm just as merry without a drink, thank you

Fiona Sturges
“I just wanted some chicken wings,” Tan Shen told the assembled media. “But once I got in there ... I decided I needed time to think.”  

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Ellen E Jones
War with Isis: The West needs more than a White Knight

The West needs more than a White Knight

Despite billions spent on weapons, the US has not been able to counter Isis's gruesome tactics, says Patrick Cockburn
Return to Helmand: Private Davey Graham recalls the day he was shot by the Taliban

'The day I was shot by the Taliban'

Private Davey Graham was shot five times during an ambush in 2007 - it was the first, controversial photograph to show the dangers our soldiers faced in Helmand province
Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Revealed: the best and worst airlines for delays

Many flyers are failing to claim compensation to which they are entitled, a new survey has found
The stories that defined 2014: From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions

The stories that defined 2014

From the Scottish independence referendum to the Ice Bucket Challenge, our writers voice their opinions
Stoke-on-Trent becomes first British city to be classified as 'disaster resilient' by the United Nations

Disaster looming? Now you know where to head...

Which British city has become the first to be awarded special 'resilience' status by the UN?
Finally, a diet that works: Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced

Finally, a diet that works

Californian pastor's wildly popular Daniel Plan has seen his congregation greatly reduced
Say it with... lyrics: The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches

Say it with... lyrics

The power of song was never greater, according to our internet searches
Professor Danielle George: On a mission to bring back the art of 'thinkering'

The joys of 'thinkering'

Professor Danielle George on why we have to nurture tomorrow's scientists today
Monique Roffey: The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections

Monique Roffey interview

The author on father figures, the nation's narcissism and New Year reflections
Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Introducing my anti-heroes of 2014

Their outrageousness and originality makes the world a bit more interesting, says Ellen E Jones
DJ Taylor: Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

Good taste? It's all a matter of timing...

It has been hard to form generally accepted cultural standards since the middle of the 19th century – and the disintegration is only going to accelerate, says DJ Taylor
Olivia Jacobs & Ben Caplan: 'Ben thought the play was called 'Christian Love'. It was 'Christie in Love' - about a necrophiliac serial killer'

How we met

Olivia Jacobs and Ben Caplan
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef's breakfasts will revitalise you in time for the New Year

Bill Granger's healthy breakfasts

Our chef's healthy recipes are perfect if you've overindulged during the festive season
Transfer guide: From Arsenal to West Ham - what does your club need in the January transfer window?

Who does your club need in the transfer window?

Most Premier League sides are after a striker, but here's a full run down of the ins and outs that could happen over the next month
The Last Word: From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015

Michael Calvin's Last Word

From aliens at FA to yak’s milk in the Tour, here’s to 2015