PM 4 PR? One policy guaranteed to put Ed in No 10. Photo: Getty
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Proportional representation: the pledge that would guarantee a Labour landslide in May

With one tiny hitch...

Recently, just about everyone has an opinion about how Labour can fix its middling poll ratings and win the upcoming election outright. Combine all the advice and you get a nice simple message: it needs to be simultaneously more left and rightwing, while ensuring it remains centrist. Easy.

But I have an even easier proposition, and something that – and I don't say this lightly – is virtually guaranteed to give Labour a landslide win in 2015. What's more, it'll draw in voters from the Lib Dems, Ukip, SNP, Plaid Cymru and Greens alike. It'll even pull in a handful of Tories, and not just those who slipped and put their X in the wrong box. But it does have one tiny drawback.

OK. Here's the manifesto. Don't worry, it won't take long to read. In fact, it's 485 pages shorter than Ukip's 486-page long 2010 opus, with room for overbearing stock photography, generous spacing, and a size 72 font:

Within 90 days of forming a government, we will vote on changing the Westminster electoral voting system to Proportional Representation, and then call a snap election.

That's it.

“PR? That's your big idea?” I hear you cry.

Yes, but think about it: a single-issue party with a chance of getting voted in, and then the guarantee of an instant second election? Ukip, the Greens, the Liberal Democrats, the SNP, Plaid Cymru, Respect... all of them would have to stand down and put their weight behind this once-in-a-lifetime chance to get rid of the hated First Past the Post, the system that limits their chances of making real progress.

Anyone can put electoral reform in their manifesto, tucked away somewhere at the back where only the most bored politico would spot it (Labour has done it in two of the last four elections), but to make it your entire manifesto: people would know you're serious. I can see the campaign now: "Vote Labour now, so you don't have to in 90 days", with a grinning Ed Miliband holding the pledge card.

The Conservatives would panic, and the press would go bananas, but if you get everyone bar Tory voters behind the Labour party, then current polling would suggest a turnout of around 67 per cent to Labour and 33 per cent to the Conservatives. Ironically, First Past the Post's archaic mechanisms would deliver a healthy, decisive majority at this point, just as David Cameron promised it would when he campaigned against AV.

Indeed, my entirely unscientific attempt at replicating this on's result calculator gives Labour 567 seats to the Tories' 58. A handful of seats are held by "others", mostly in Northern Ireland. Presumably the DUP managed to get onto the extremely sparse leaders' debates in this fantasy world.

This would lead to the unusual spectacle of the still fresh government voting to bring itself down, what with the Fixed Term Parliament Act meaning the Prime Minister can't unilaterally call an election. The Tories wouldn't know how to vote.

The chances of this happening? Close to zero. The Labour party is extremely well aware of how well First Past the Post serves the party, and how PR would be giving this away forever. The chance to govern based on 35 per cent of the vote would slip away, with only the delicious prospect of the Tories doing even worse to soothe Labour heads. There's a fair case to be made that that's what’s slowly happening anyway, but that's for another piece.

So, if you're reading, Ed: here's an incredible chance to go down in history as a genuinely reforming, albeit short-lived, Prime Minister with a share of the vote Blair could only dream of. You could even put nationalising the railways in size 6 font at the bottom of that one page manifesto, and try to slip that in too, if you fancy.

Alan Martin (@alan_p_martin) is a freelance politics, science and technology writer

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Geoffrey Howe dies, aged 88

Howe was Margaret Thatcher's longest serving Cabinet minister – and the man credited with precipitating her downfall.

The former Conservative chancellor Lord Howe, a key figure in the Thatcher government, has died of a suspected heart attack, his family has said. He was 88.

Geoffrey Howe was the longest-serving member of Margaret Thatcher's Cabinet, playing a key role in both her government and her downfall. Born in Port Talbot in 1926, he began his career as a lawyer, and was first elected to parliament in 1964, but lost his seat just 18 months later.

Returning as MP for Reigate in the Conservative election victory of 1970, he served in the government of Edward Heath, first as Solicitor General for England & Wales, then as a Minister of State for Trade. When Margaret Thatcher became opposition leader in 1975, she named Howe as her shadow chancellor.

He retained this brief when the party returned to government in 1979. In the controversial budget of 1981, he outlined a radical monetarist programme, abandoning then-mainstream economic thinking by attempting to rapidly tackle the deficit at a time of recession and unemployment. Following the 1983 election, he was appointed as foreign secretary, in which post he negotiated the return of Hong Kong to China.

In 1989, Thatcher demoted Howe to the position of leader of the house and deputy prime minister. And on 1 November 1990, following disagreements over Britain's relationship with Europe, he resigned from the Cabinet altogether. 

Twelve days later, in a powerful speech explaining his resignation, he attacked the prime minister's attitude to Brussels, and called on his former colleagues to "consider their own response to the tragic conflict of loyalties with which I have myself wrestled for perhaps too long".

Labour Chancellor Denis Healey once described an attack from Howe as "like being savaged by a dead sheep" - but his resignation speech is widely credited for triggering the process that led to Thatcher's downfall. Nine days later, her premiership was over.

Howe retired from the Commons in 1992, and was made a life peer as Baron Howe of Aberavon. He later said that his resignation speech "was not intended as a challenge, it was intended as a way of summarising the importance of Europe". 

Nonetheless, he added: "I am sure that, without [Thatcher's] resignation, we would not have won the 1992 election... If there had been a Labour government from 1992 onwards, New Labour would never have been born."

Jonn Elledge is the editor of the New Statesman's sister site CityMetric. He is on Twitter, far too much, as @JonnElledge.