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Jack Straw outlines political reform ideas at inaugural Magna Carta lecture

Speaking at the Institute's first annual lecture, “Constitutional Change and Parliamentary Democracy,“ at the Institute of Engineers, in Westminster, on Monday, Mr Straw revealed that if Labour won the general election there would be a referendum on the electoral system.

The event was chaired by Justin Fisher, Professor of Political Science at Brunel University, in West London and Director of the Institute.

The key proposal would be whether to introduce the Alternative Vote system, by which voters rank candidates in order of preference, to replace the current First-Past-The-Post system. The winner must receive the support of more than half of the voters.

“Crucially, the Alternative Vote would enable us to retain the single member constituency link, which is one of the central merits of the current system,“ Mr Straw explained. “It delivers effective representation, and allows MPs to be held directly to account.“

Mr Straw added that there would also be a referendum at the same time to proposing to elect peers to the House of Lords using the electoral system of Proportional Representation.

He believed this “would be the right method of election to a reformed House of Lords, which would perform a different function to the Commons and where the constituency link would not be a factor.“

In reference to the recent MP expenses scandal, Mr Straw claimed that the “restoration of trust in UK politicians is the most pressing issue facing UK politics today.“

He remarked that the media coverage was also a triumph for recent legislative reforms. Defending the Freedom of Information Act, he said: “If anyone previously held doubts about the impact of Freedom of Information, the experience of revelations over MPs expenses should have removed them.“

Professor Justin Fisher commented: “Jack Straw's lecture went to heart of what the Magna Carta Institute is all about - recognising the opportunities and challenges in delivering appropriate reforms, and engaging in a thorough debate about how best to achieve and sustain good governance.“

Brunel University's Vice-Chancellor Professor Chris Jenks, said: “Jack Straw demonstrated a brilliant grasp of parliamentary reform through the ages, but always with an eye to the prevailing economic and social climate. It was a singularly appropriate inaugural annual lecture for the Institute.“

Notes to Editors

Professor Justin Fisher is a regular media commentator on key political issues and is the co-editor of the Journal of Elections, Public Opinion and Parties. He has also acted as an advisor and consultant to numerous bodies including the Committee on Standards in Public Life and the Electoral Commission.

Justice Secretary Jack Straw MP delivering the Magna Carta Institute's first annual lecture


For further details, please contact the Brunel University Press Office. Email: press-office@brunel.ac.uk

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