Sunday, June 06, 2010

David Cameron Takes Hands-Off Approach to British Democracy

PM to stay out of electoral reform referendum

No sooner has British Prime Minister David Cameron given responsibility for a referendum on electoral reform to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg than Cameron has announced he'll be keeping his hands out of the matter.

While he will likely work with Clegg to decide the date of said referendum, Cameron has already stated that he won't lead the "no" campaign.

He merely wishes the matter to be debated promptly and constructively.

“I see the case for getting on with this in relatively reasonable order,” Cameron announced. “This is one of the issues where we are going to have a healthy debate.”

Cameron is on record as being a supporter of the current first-past-the-post voting system.

“I will not change my view that the alternative vote is not an improvement to first-past- the-post, so I will make that clear at the time,” he announced.

Underlying all the discussion of this referendum is a disagreement within Britain's two coalition parties over when the coalition should be held. The Liberal Democrats seem to feel that their best opportunity for a "yes" vote would be May 2011. The Conservatives, who seem for the most part to oppose changing the system prefer that the vote would be held later than that.

Many Tories believe that changing the voting system will cost them seats. Others think that the party will be just fine, so long as electoral boundaries are changed accordingly.

Unfortuantely for the latter, Clegg is also in charge of reviewing electoral boundaries.

So Cameron understands fully that he's taking a risk in giving so much power to decide this issue to Clegg -- who has yet to announce whether or not he'll be involved in the "yes" campaign. (It's probably safe to assume he will.)

“This was one of the very important planks of the coalition. It is something the Liberal Democrats are passionately in favour of," Cameron explained. "The Conservatives are more sceptical about it."

But Cameron recognizes that this is just part of the price of keeping his coalition government alive.

“You have to understand things from your coalition partner’s point of view to understand the pressures from the party," Cameron explained. “I try to explain these to him. He tries to explain them to me. Soon we will be able to write essays about these things."

It will be up to David Cameron and his party to decide if the price of keeping Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats happy has been too steep. If Clegg is successful in sculpting political reforms to benefit his party, they may wind up paying through the nose.

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