Is Tony Blair secretly backing the No2AV cause?
Katwala does a brilliant job of tracing Blair’s pretended interest in AV Plus, or AV Top-Up, the compromise system of proportional representation designed by Roy Jenkins in 1998, to his disillusion with the Liberal Democrats under Paddy Ashdown’s successors.
He only omits one of my favourite Blair interviews, a disastrous outing on Newsnight with Jeremy Paxman on 24 November 1998. Paxman asked him to summarise the Jenkins system in 30 seconds and then asked if it could be easily sold: ‘I think it can be easily sold, yes.’ Lord Jenkins ‘makes a powerful case, but I want to wait and see how the range of constitutional change settles down’.
Blair refused to say he liked it, and as good as admitted what he was up to by saying: ‘Before I commit myself to it I want to see how it settles down.’ He pointed out that Scotland and Wales would have ‘a variation’ of the Jenkins system – ‘we chose that system as a Labour Party for there’. (Previously the line had always been argued that different systems were appropriate for different bodies and functions.)
He ended up sounding ominously like Neil Kinnock in the final week of the 1992 election campaign, when he said he had a view on electoral reform but he wasn’t going to say what it was, to the hoots of a studio audience.
But what does Blair think now? He could well take the conservative view that the existing system is the least of several evils. It would hardly be surprising if the most successful election winner of the democratic era thought that the system that delivered him consecutive majorities of 179, 167 and 66 was rather a good one.
Photo: Peter Macdiarmid/Getty ImagesTagged in: electoral reform, headline, tony blair
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