Amber Rudd calls for proportional voting system to be discussed

First speech since leaving cabinet also warns no Brexit or no deal would risk public anger

Amber Rudd is to use her first speech since leaving the government to call for cross-party efforts to consider proportional representation.

In a speech to the Reform thinktank in London on Thursday evening, Rudd – who quit as work and pensions secretary and resigned the Conservative whip over Boris Johnson’s Brexit plans – will call for compromise on leaving the EU, warning that either no deal or revoking article 50 would risk public anger.

The comments on electoral reform are more notable given they indicate a potential willingness among at least some senior Conservatives to consider replacing the current first-past-the-post system.

Given the Brexit impasse, Rudd is to say, it is time to “ask ourselves some tough questions about whether our institutions remain fully fit for purpose”.

She will add: “A House of Commons divided and a House of Lords that is bloated have been unable to solve this logjam. Is now finally the time to put proper cross-party efforts into electoral reform?

“Would a system of more proportional representation have seen our institutions better able to respect the results of elections?”

While the Liberal Democrats, the Scottish National party, the Brexit party, the Green party and Plaid Cymru are members of a cross-party campaign for electoral reform, this is being resisted by Labour and the Conservatives.

The official Conservative line is that the 2011 referendum on electoral reform, put in place as a price for the Lib Dems joining David Cameron’s Tories in a coalition, settled the matter, as change was rejected by 68% to 32%.

However, critics say the fact that the preferential alternative vote system was on offer in 2011 and Brexit has been such an intractable problem, means the issue should be re-examined.

On Brexit, Rudd is to say, the UK risked facing the choice of a no-deal departure or the process being entirely abandoned.

“Choosing either of those paths would wholly alienate those on the other side of the argument,” she will say. “It would risk fuelling the anger, resentment and divisions we are already facing.”

An alternative compromise could be based around Theresa May’s withdrawal agreement, which was rejected three times. “A middle path risks disappointing everyone. I continue to believe that compromise is the right approach,” Rudd is to say.

“But it is extremely difficult for elected politicians to advocate policies that are literally nobody’s first choice. Most people acknowledge we have to leave, but we can’t keep trying bulldoze one type of Brexit through a parliament where MPs take a different view of their democratic responsibilities.

“The tragedy here is not that one side is anti-democratic, it is that fundamentally our democracy has delivered two opposing views.”

She is also expected to appeal to Labour to back any deal that emerges. “Politicians have a responsibility to acknowledge the crisis we are in, and to find solutions,” Rudd will say.

• This article was amended on 25 September 2019 to describe the alternative vote system as preferential rather than part-proportional.


Peter Walker Political correspondent

The GuardianTramp

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