The Electoral Reform Society is a well-funded, well-resourced and influential organisation. It seeks to change the voting system for parliamentary elections in the UK to a model of proportional representation. The favoured model of the Society is the Single Transferable Vote (STV).
The Society is making a great deal of headway in its efforts to lobby the Prime Minister on this subject. This is a matter of real and immediate concern, and cannot be left at the mercy of back-room deals in smoke-filled rooms.
So, as Chairman of the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on First Past the Post (FPTP) – the electoral system currently in place – I have been in touch with the Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society to challenge him to a public debate on electoral reform.
Such a debate is urgently needed, for there is a strong possibility that Gordon Brown, who has no personal mandate from the people of Great Britain, could use the dying months of his administration to engineer a referendum on electoral reform, to take place on the same day as the General Election.
I find it deeply disturbing that people are agitating for such a move when the economic outlook for the country is so bleak and when real political change is so desperately needed. On a daily basis, I am trying to gain speedier operations for my constituents; trying to secure vital medication and drugs; trying to help people with housing problems; issues with their tax credits, Child Support Agency payments, pension credit and a whole plethora of vital issues.
These are the issues that matter to the British people, not some abstract change to the voting system. In the four and a half years as Member of Parliament for Shrewsbury, not a single constituent has written to me or telephoned me or spoken to me about their desire to change the voting system.
Perhaps worse still, I fear that Gordon Brown is seeking to deal the next incoming government, whether Conservative or otherwise, an almost impossibly difficult hand. On top of the economic mess that he will bequeath, this would be a purely political tactic designed to force a new government to change the electoral system.
This is why the time has come to challenge the Electoral Reform Society and to tackle them head on over this critical issue. I would therefore welcome your attendance at this important debate, where I will be joined by my co-chairman of the APPG for FPTP, Mr Brian Donohoe MP (Labour, Central Ayrshire).
Interestingly, Scottish Labour Members make up the largest contingent of APPG attendees. They have witnessed first hand the chaos and instability that proportional representation has brought to government in Scotland. North of the border, a weak minority government has been temporarily held hostage by two Green Party Members of the Scottish Parliament, who threatened to block its budget.
Over the forthcoming decade, the British people will need a strong government with a healthy majority and the will and determination to dig our country out of the economic mess that it is now in and right the many wrongs that now exist in our society. Changing our voting system will do nothing to help us achieve these goals and, if anything, will make them even harder to realise.
I expect the debate to take place in October, and will keep readers informed of developments and exact dates as and when they are finalised.