Alan Johnson MP, described as Secretary of State for Health, must be in need of medicine himself. Or perhaps he’s been taking something.
He is faced with a situation where voters are losing their jobs, and some are losing their homes and their businesses; where recession is stalking the land; where the current scandal over MPs’ expenses is causing unprecedented anger on the doorstep. And what is his big idea to turn things around? Why, to dig up a ten-year-old plan for proportional representation! He should perhaps go down to the Dog and Duck and see how many ordinary people are talking about the need for electoral reform. In round figures, none. MPs’ expenses, Yes. Electoral reform, No.
Clichéd metaphors about deck chairs and the Titanic spring to mind.
The report on which Mr. Johnson is proposing a referendum (yes, a REFERENDUM!) recommends a system of proportional representation so complicated that purists will reject it, while 99% of the people will fail to understand it. A system which undermines accountability and the direct one-to-one relation between the voter and her representative. A system which is in some ways comparable to the system used in the European parliament, where supporters and detractors alike complain of a democratic deficit.
Mr. Johnson needs to get real. The people don’t want MPs elected under a new system: they just want MPs who are honest and straightforward. The people don’t want electoral reform: they want a General Election. They don’t want a referendum on PR: they want a referendum on the European Constitution. There is little point in debating how we manage Westminster when in reality we are governed from Brussels.
A Parliament of the animals?
Just as we realise that many MPs have lost their moral compass, scientists are keen to tell us about new research showing that “animals know right from wrong”. Perhaps we need a parliament of whales and elephants.