Brown woos Lib Dems on electoral reform

Brown woos Lib Dems on electoral reform
Brown woos Lib Dems on electoral reform

By Alex Stevenson

Gordon Brown has continued his strategy of closely aligning Labour with the Liberal Democrats by flagging up their similarities on electoral reform.

The Labour leader, who finished last in most polls after Thursday evening's historic first televised leaders' debate, repeatedly said "I agree with Nick" [Clegg] during the debate.

Now in an interview with the Sunday Telegraph newspaper he has emphasised the "common ground" between Labour and the Lib Dems on electoral reform.

"I want people to know that I've thought very hard about constitutional issues since the MPs' expenses scandal and I do think we've got to address the public's trust in politics - and I think Labour and the Liberal Democrats have similar policies about the scale of political reform that is needed," he said.

"The Conservatives don't. The Conservatives want to keep hereditary peers, they don't want a serious reform of the House of Lords in the next parliament. It is important to recognise there is some common ground there [with the Lib Dems] on electoral reform."

The 2010 campaign's news agenda has been dominated by the huge surge in the polling performance of Britain's third party. Two out of three polls published since Thursday evening saw the Lib Dems overtake Labour into third place.

But with analysts stating that Labour could remain the largest party in a hung parliament, even if they did finish third in the popular vote behind the Conservatives and Lib Dems, Mr Brown's overtures to Mr Clegg may prove worthwhile after May 6th.

The Lib Dem leader remains suspicious of Mr Brown's motives, however, saying his proposals to hold a referendum in the next parliament were "hardly an act of great courage" in an interview with last month.

Mr Clegg said of the Labour government: "They've done nothing for 13 years and then right at the last moment they want to say there should be a referendum on a system that is frankly the very bare minimum of change - it's not even a fully proportional change.

"It's better than nothing, because frankly anything is better than the status quo, but I think it's not the real wholesale reform of party funding, electoral reform, the House of Lords, giving people the right to sack their MPs if their MPs have been shown to be corrupt that I think is necessary."

The prime minister may be prepared to make greater concessions on electoral reform to Mr Clegg if it means keeping the Conservatives out of government.

He told the Sunday Telegraph today the prospect of shadow chancellor George Osborne holding a Budget in a few weeks' time "sends shivers down my spine".


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