Labour’s hypocrisy on political reform: kill it off then claim you’ll resuscitate it later, maybe

by Stephen Tall on April 7, 2010

General election campaigns are, perhaps, the worst possible time to judge politicians: they’re frantic, break-neck affairs when serious thought takes a back-seat.

But, still, you really do have to wonder at the sheer breath-taking effrontery of Gordon Brown’s decision to trumpet his political reformist credentials on the very same day as his government kills off measures to improve our democracy.

Compare and contrast. Here’s today Guardian:

Gordon Brown tonight sanctioned the abandonment of measures on constitutional reform including the alternative vote, reforms to phase out hereditary peers, and plans to give the backbenches powers over the parliamentary agenda.

And here’s today’s Independent:

A far-reaching package of constitutional reforms which could form the basis of a deal between Labour and the Liberal Democrats if the general election results in a hung parliament will be announced by Gordon Brown today.

The Prime Minister has had almost three years in power to introduce these reforms. The New Labour Government has had a further ten years.

If after 13 years Labour and Mr Brown have shrunk from the task, you’ve got to wonder who they think they’re kidding that they’ll get serious about reform now.

Especially as Labour has consistently joined with the Tories over the last five years in voting down any and all Liberal Democrat measures to reform our politics.

Here’s what Nick Clegg will be telling a press conference today, ahead of the final Prime Minister’s Questions of this Parliament, about how a vote for the Lib Dems will be the only way of voting for political reform:

Today is the last big set piece day in Westminster before the General Election.
After a year of scandal and sleaze:
We are finally seeing the back of the most corrupt Parliament in living memory.
People watching this Parliament come to an end will rightly say: never again.
In the campaign over the next four weeks you will hear a lot about political reform.
David Cameron will talk about cutting the cost of politics.
Gordon Brown will talk about reforming the Lords.
Their words are a smokescreen for the truth:
Both of them would do anything to protect the corrupt two-party stitch up and secrecy of Westminster.
That’s the reason they’ve blocked serious reform every step of the way – to keep things exactly the way they are.
If Labour and Conservatives get their way, the Parliament returned on 6 May will be no different from the one being dissolved this weekend.
If Labour and Conservatives get their way, only the faces will change.
All the corruption and all the sleaze….
All the big money and all the backroom dealings… will remain.
Only the Liberal Democrats can be trusted on political reform.
Labour and the Conservatives talk about it.
We will make sure it happens.
Anyone who needs proof of what I’m saying today should turn to the recently published minutes of the Hayden Phillips negotiations on party funding.
They make depressing reading.
A clear demonstration of the venal self-interested way the two old parties behave when the doors are closed.
The further the negotiations went
The more hostile and difficult the Labour and Conservative representatives became.
The closer they got to change
The more they did to stop it from happening.
The evidence is here in black and white.
Labour chose to protect their union paymasters.
And the Conservatives chose to protect their chums in the City and their sugar daddy in Belize.
The two old parties will never remove the stench of corruption from the Houses of Parliament.
When push comes to shove, they look after themselves, instead of looking out for the country.
It’s the same pattern we have seen, time and again, in recent years.
Months ago, I demanded Sir Thomas Legg extend his inquiry into expenses abuses to cover all those MPs who flipped their homes or avoided Capital Gains Tax.
What did we get from Labour and the Conservatives?
Stony silence.
They let the flippers and the CGT avoiders off scot free.
And when Liberal Democrats put forward plans to give people the right to sack corrupt MPs.
Labour and the Conservatives blocked them.
When Liberal Democrats put forward plans to crack down on lobbying.
Labour and the Conservatives blocked them.
When Liberal Democrats put forward plans to put a cap on donations to political parties.
Labour and the Conservatives blocked them.
And yesterday both Labour and the Conservatives blocked even the most modest reforms to our electoral system in the House of Lords.
It wasn’t a wash up it was a stitch up.
This is proof positive that you’ll never get real change with either of them.
The way the old parties behave is to talk about change in order to prevent it from happening.
For Gordon Brown, change is what you talk about when you want everything to stay the same.
For David Cameron, change stops on May 7th.
A vote for Labour or the Conservative parties is a vote for corrupt politics.
Liberal Democrats are the only party that will radically shake up politics to make it fair, and put power in the hands of citizens, rather than politicians.
We will give people a real say in who governs the country by introducing fair votes – including for the House of Lords.
We will stop big donations.
We will give people the power to sack corrupt MPs.
We will make sure that instead of looking down on politics in disgust, once again people can look to Westminster with pride in our democracy.
The choice in this election is simple.
Old, corrupt politics with Labour and the Conservatives.
Or open transparent fair politics with the Liberal Democrats.