Wednesday, 15 July 2009 12:00 AM
The Electoral Reform Society has welcomed the interim report of the Speaker's Conference but bemoaned the lack of vision to make our Parliament more representative of the people it serves.
The report, which focuses almost exclusively on the opportunities created by the departure of 89 sitting MPs at the next election, steers clear of deeper barriers that have consistently held back women and ethnic minorities.
Beatrice Barleon, Women's Officer at the Electoral Reform Society commented:
"We've always supported the motives behind the Speakers Conference. But the recommendations put forward in this interim report are nothing new and in themselves will not achieve the Parliament that the UK deserves. Yes, political parties must do their bit in delivering a more representative House of Commons. But if we focus entirely on the line up for 2010 we will loose an essential opportunity to make temporary improvements permanent.
"Parties clearly have a role to play when it comes to choosing candidates, but the lack of dynamism in our politics, and the sheer lack of churn on the green benches are routed in an antique electoral system. Yes an election will bring new faces to parliament, but a changing of the guard will not change a broken system. The final report would be wise to acknowledge that.
"Many organisations that were called to give evidence told the Conference that a more proportional electoral system would directly support parties' efforts to increase diversity. If we know this is the case, why are politicians so reluctant to act on it?"
"The truth is that genuinely radical reform cannot be left to the parties. We need a more responsive electoral system which not only makes politicians more accountable to the public but also makes it easier for parties to maintain and foster a more inclusive political culture.
"If politicians are serious about giving up the Gentleman's Club they'll give this decision to voters at a referendum.
The Electoral Reform Society is a member of the Vote for a Change campaign, calling for a referendum to change the voting system.
Key supporters from the women's sector include the Fawcett Society and the Centre for Women and Democracy. www.voteforachange.co.uk
For more information contact the Electoral Reform Society on 020 7928 1622 or Ashley Dé 07968791684