Letter: Alternative route to electoral reform

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The Independent Online
Sir: Your report on Liberal Democrat terms for an alliance with Labour suggests that if the two parties are to form an alliance to fight for electoral reform at the next election, they will have first to agree on the main political issues of the day ('Lib Dems set out terms for pact', 8 April). Since that looks like an impossible task, electoral reform looks like a dead duck - unless an alternative approach can be found that requires the two parties to agree on electoral reform and nothing else. One solution might be an electoral pact along the following lines:

1. For the next election, the two parties would adopt a common programme consisting of only one item, electoral reform of whatever kind they together choose.

2. For this election only, constituencies would be divided between the two parties so as to ensure that in each constituency only a Liberal Democrat candidate or a Labour candidate fought for the common programme, never both. The simplest way to divide the constituencies between the two parties would be according to which party had more votes at the last election.

3. The parties would promise in their joint programme that, if elected, they would form a coalition government that would introduce an electoral reform bill and nothing else; and they would promise that once the electoral reform act was on the statute book, they would ask the Queen to dissolve Parliament.

4. At the resulting election held under the reformed system, the Liberal Democrats and the Labour Party would fight each other, and other parties, in the usual way.

For those who want electoral reform to be seriously considered in this country, a point in favour of this scheme is that it would turn the next election into a close approximation to a referendum on electoral reform.

Yours faithfully,

R. R. NEILD

Trinity College

Cambridge

9 April

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