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26 July 2009

Is Brown planning an election day referendum on PR?

The Observer follows up on the New Statesman's scoop

By Mehdi Hasan

According to the Observer’s Whitehall editor, Toby Helm, the government is planning to portray the Tories as a “roadblock” to much-needed, post-expenses constituonal reform.

Helm writes:

“…plans are being considered to hold a referendum on general election day in which people would be asked to support or reject a switch from the present first-past-the-post system to a new model, under which candidates would need to have the support of at least 50% of voters to be elected.”

In its editorial (“Our voting system needs a radical overhaul”) plays up its supposed exclusive (e.g. “The Observer reveals today that the government is considering holding a referendum on electoral reform to coincide with a general election”). But regular readers of the New Statesman will have spotted that it was our political correspondent James Macintyre who first broke this story over a month ago:

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“Word reaches me from a senior cabinet ally of the Prime Minister that the recent proposal by Alan Johnson, the Home Secretary, for a referendum on PR to be held on the day of the next general election is being considered at the highest levels. Like Roy Hattersley, a recent convert to PR and a Labour weathervane, Brown is said to be increasingly aware of PR’s merits. He is also in favour of a written constitution.”

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Let’s hope both James and the Toby are right….