- Camden Lib Dem Keith Moffitt drew my attention to a statement by his party’s newbie deputy Simon Hughes, in which his blasts Labour candidates for campaigning on having a referendum on the Alternative Vote and then preparing to vote against the ConDem’s electoral reform bill. This, Hughes screeches, is ‘staggering hypocrisy’.
First things first. I notice Hughes hasn’t mentioned the fact that his party are refusing to uncouple the introduction of the Alternative Vote with what can only be described as, to quote Eamon de Valera’s biographer Tim Pat Coogan, “a blatant attempt at gerrymander which no six county unionist could have bettered”.
The ConDems plan to manipulate the way in which boundaries are drawn, so that this is no longer based on the number of people living in a constituency, but instead on the number of voters. This gives the at best patronising, and at worst highly offensive, suggestion that people who do not vote, or are not able to vote, do not deserve representation. As Sarah Hayward identifies, particularly metropolitan MPs are overloaded with asylum casework as it stands, and if those not registered to vote, who lie disproportionately in Labour-held constituencies, this would be even more so. Plus, asylum seekers would be sent the message that they’re not supposed to have representation, as they’d no longer be counted as real people by the Electoral Commission.
So I think that establishes which parties are really acting in ‘shameless self-interest’. But what about No. 2 accusation from Hughes? The ‘staggering hypocrisy’ one. The dep is also keeping quiet about the fact that his party too has changed its policy (it tires me to write this: policy change has become the Lib Dem theme tune) on AV since the election. Simon talks of the system as ‘fairer’ than first past the post, but take this article by Chris Huhne back in February, when Gordon Brown was talking about AV:
AV can be even more disproportional when there are big swings from one side to the other such as in 1997 or 1979… The electoral system would continue to be like an ill-fitting corset attempting to squeeze all the diverse strands of opinion in our society into an inappropriate and deeply uncomfortable shape.
Once again, the Liberals have decided that attack is the best form of defence on realising that it is they who have broken their promises to the electorate. Hughes, Clegg, Huhne and their cronies are simply trying to distract from the fact that they acted in ‘shameless self-interest’ when they voted for the civil partnership of the ‘gruesome twosome’: they were after the glories of ministerial life, although this didn’t work out for poor old Simon. Now as they and the sons of Margaret Thatcher try to fix all future elections, in a manner that would disgrace even a banana republic, perhaps they should keep civil tongues in their heads, or their words will end up worryingly descriptive indeed – of themselves.
And for god’s sake, don’t use the word ‘hypocrisy’!