Did something odd yesterday. Spoke as the Conservative 'presence' at the launch of the Wales office of the Electoral Reform Society. The event took the form of a reception in the National Assembly for Wales. Reason it was odd is that I've always been a first-past-the-post man. I began my contribution by saying that I couldn't think of a singe reason why Annabelle had asked me to speak. Actually, I was very keen to attend, for several reasons - in addition to the principle that personal participation increases understanding of complex issues.
Firstly, the Electoral Reform Society are much involved in promoting 'participation' amongst the disillusioned young, an objective that all politicians share. And secondly, my inherent pragmatism has been nagging at me on this issue for a while. I did say that I think "The tide of history is flowing in the direction of proportional representation" (I know this sounds sickeningly Blair-like) - and so it would be as well for the Conservative Party to influence the direction this tide is flowing.
The Electoral Reform Society favours the Single Transferable Vote system. There was a Peter Snow-like cake cut into slices to demonstrate how the share of seats would change under STV. The big beneficiaries would be the Conservative Party. In Wales, we would have 9 MPs rather than the current 3. Self-interest makes you think. (I noticed that the Labour 'presence' John Griffiths joined me in avoiding having my photograph taken cutting the cake. We left that to Plaid and the Lib Dems - no point in asking for trouble.) I said that my nature is to be heavily influenced by tradition and that my instinct is to build on the Additional Member System, by which Assembly Members are presently elected. To win my support, it would have to be based on 'open' lists so that voters can choose candidates as well as parties. And the shameful ban on dual candidacy, which so pollutes Welsh democracy and will always be a deep and smelly stain on the reputations of Rhodri Morgan and Peter Hain would have to be reversed.
Anyway it was a very nice event. I had to be circumspect in what I said because I could see the little newshound, Clive Betts scribbling in his notebook and ITV's Nick Powell leaning nonchalantly in the background. And sure enough, Clive was straight down to the Members Tearoom to ask Tory Group Leader what he thought. Bloody troublemaker', I thought to myself. That's his job I suppose. Anyway, He came back up and told me he thought I had been 'cautious', so clearly he hadn't found a Tory 'split' to report on. I did feel quite proud of my traditional Tory roots when the Plaid spokesperson, Helen Mary Jones pointed out that the first-past- the-post system was introduced in the 1870s. I suspect that we will be forced to move on, and at least I've started to consult the map in order to decide which way I want to go.