Letters: The dangerous gap in Labour's voting reforms

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The Independent Online
The Labour Party's overwhelming victory at the general election was a popular uprising by means of the ballot box. Voters systematically used their votes to throw out the party that had become corrupted by power. The sheer scale of the victory turned a dull campaign into an epoch-making event. An election that was dominated by a fear of change became an election that opened up the prospect of change in a way few of us had dared imagine. In particular, a fundamental transformation in the way we are governed is now before us. But we should never forget, in the excitement, that despite Labour's huge majority most voters did not vote for the Labour Party.

Many hope that the Queen's speech will set out a clear commitment to democratic reform - that at the very least there would be a statement of intent that, in the future, Britain will be governed differently - in an open, accountable way. Government news managers now suggest otherwise - with only the proposal to devolve power to Scotland and Wales and a White Paper on Freedom of Information likely to appear. This leaves a potentially dangerous gap in Labour's "project" of modernisation.

As Neal Ascherson pointed out last week, Labour won a majority of 179 seats on barely 45 per cent of the popular vote. In Scotland 500,000 Conservative voters have been robbed of the right to be represented, while 380,000 Liberal Democrats have 10 MPs. This is not right, it is not fair, and it is certainly not modern. The voting system that has given us Conservative governments for three-quarters of this century turned on them. But Labour should beware the hubris of power. A rapid commitment to reform of the voting system is an integral part of any attempt to bring this country into the 21st century. A failure to appreciate this could see voters at the next election give Labour the kind of verdict that the Conservatives have just received.

Andrew Puddephatt

Charter 88

London EC1

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