POLITICS: Democracy at Risk, Reformers Say at Launch of Electoral Choice Bill

Article excerpt

Just 20,000 voters living in marginal seats across the country will decide the next general election, MPs and reformers have warned.

The increasingly volatile battle over the diminishing middle ground of British politics has left millions of people 'disenfranchised' and threatens the fundamental principles of a fair democracy, they said.

The Labour MPs John Denham and David Chaytor and the Liberal Democrat MP Nick Harvey joined forces with electoral reform organisations yesterday to unveil proposals which for the first time would give people the right to choose an alternative system for electing MPs.

Under the plans, an electoral choice Bill, presented at Parliament yesterday, would require the Government to back a national referendum to choose a more representative method for electing politicians to Westminster. The Bill also sets out the terms for a national petition that could pave the way for a referendum once 2.2 million people had given their written support.

Mr Chaytor, who co-drafted the Bill, said this year's general election had secured the lowest share of a vote for a majority government. He said: 'The last election was a watershed in our democracy, with only 36 per cent of those voting responsible for electing the Government. It is time for a change and for the people to choose what voting system they want to elect their representatives.'

Mr Harvey said the dynamics of Britain's first-past-the-post system meant that political parties were targeting a very small section of the electorate. …