UK’s Clegg acknowledges hurdles to voting reform

* Deputy PM Clegg makes first speech

* Admits Conservatives, Lib Dems differ on voting reform

By Matt Falloon

LONDON, May 19 (BestGrowthStock) – British Deputy Prime Minister
Nick Clegg on Wednesday offered sweeping voting reforms but the
Liberal Democrat leader admitted they may never come to fruition
because of differences with his Conservative coalition partners.

The two-party coalition government, formed after the May 6
parliamentary election failed to produce an outright winner, has
promised to give voters the chance to change Britain’s
first-past-the-post electoral system.

On offer would be a switch to an “alternative vote” method,
under which members of parliament would need at least 50 percent
of the vote in their constituency to get elected.

The existing system, which tends to favour a two-party
contest and a single party government, only requires candidates
to win more votes than any other single opponent and has become
skewed because of population movements.

The Conservative Party, which won the most seats in the
election, agreed in its coalition deal with the Lib Dems to a
referendum on voting reform, but it is likely to urge voters to
reject the new system.

“(Conservative Prime Minister) David Cameron and I are very
relaxed about the fact we may be arguing different cases in that
referendum,” Clegg said.

The Liberal Democrats won nearly a quarter of the vote in
this month’s election but took less than 10 percent of the seats
in parliament.

“My position is clear: the current voting system, first past
the post, is a major block to lasting political change,” said
Clegg.

Britain has little experience of coalition governments —
this is the first since the end of World War Two — and while
the Conservatives and Lib Dems have promised to work together in
the national interest for a whole term, the test will come when
parliament has to vote on key legislation.

A lack of support on areas such as the economy and political
reform could force a vote of no confidence in the two-party
coalition and trigger another election.

BILL OF RIGHTS

Another area of contention is likely to be the possible
creation of a British bill of rights to supercede European laws
protecting human rights.

Rights activists fear a eurosceptic Conservative government
would erode certain freedoms rather than expand them but Clegg
said the new bill would build on the European blueprint, though
he said he would have to be “pragmatic” in dealing with his
senior coalition partners.

The coalition will also introduce fixed-term parliaments and
replace the archaic and somewhat exclusive upper house of
parliament — the House of Lords — with a chamber of
representatives elected by proportional representation.

“I’m talking about the most significant programme of
empowerment by a British government since the great reforms of
the 19th century,” Clegg said.

The Lib Dem leader said a new voting system could be in
place before the next election which, following the introduction
of fixed terms, would fall on May 7, 2015. Under the existing
rules, the prime minister picks the date of parliamentary
elections.
Stock Investing

(Editing by Tim Pearce)

UK’s Clegg acknowledges hurdles to voting reform