Cable sets out 'hauntingly familiar' PR vision

Vince Cable believes the Labour government is to blame for the banking crisis
Vince Cable believes the Labour government is to blame for the banking crisis

By staff

Vince Cable will set out his vision for a proportional representative electoral system today, at an event organisers describe as "hauntingly" reminiscent of the 1970s.

The Liberal Democrat Treasury spokesman will deliver his message to the London School of Economics (LSE) tonight, as the party privately tries to establish red lines for cooperation with others in the event of a hung parliament.

The party rejected an overture from Gordon Brown, who pledged a referendum on the alternative transferable vote system after the election, on the basis that it did not want the debate on electoral reform to be tainted by the perception of a Labour party changing the system to stay in power.

But the Lib Dems remain committed to reform, and a proportional representation system (PR) is its preferred vehicle.

Rudolf Fara, co-director of Voting Power and Procedures (VPP) at LSE, and chair of tonight's lecture, said the Lib Dem message was "hauntingly" similar to that of 1974.

"Consider these words," he said.

"'This election will make or break Britain. It is already certain that the government that takes office after the election will face the greatest peace-time crisis we have known since the dark days of 1931... Before any government can begin to get to grips with the economic situation, it must regain the confidence and respect of the electorate.'

"While this could come straight off the pages of a Lib-Dem manifesto for 2010, it is taken verbatim from the Liberal manifesto of October 1974."

He continued: "While PR was a perennial fixture of Liberal manifestos, educating the electorate in voting systems was then a subject too complex for an electoral campaign.

"Since EU membership and elections the voters are considerably more aware of system differences. Now the choices between the voting systems advocated by the main parties are distinct: PR for the Lib-Dems, First-Past-The-Post for the Conservatives and for Labour, the Alternative Vote system," he added.

"It's fair to ask whether party preferences of voting system should now be an electoral issue spelled out explicitly in their respective manifestos."

Mr Cable's lecture, Electoral Reform in the Wake of the Economic Crisis, will be delivered at 18:30 GMT tonight, in the Sheikh Zayed theatre at LSE.


Politics @ Lunch

Friday lunchtime. Your Inbox. It's a date.