One of the issues he seemed keen to take the temperature on was Lib Dem views on the Brown initiative on voting reform. Much has been written about this in the last few days. When Jim asked me on Friday night my mind went back to the late 1970's. There had been two general elections with close results and there was much discussion of what we should do if the same thing happened again in 1979.
Like many I was impatient with this as you can't campaign to get the balance of power. You are as likely to get it with 3 million votes as you are with 7 million. Nevertheless if by serendipity it gets handed to you how do you react?
Clearly there are many policy initiative one would wish to put on the table. One would be a reform of the voting system. At the time I recall Michael Steed arguing to me that because the process of introducing STV would take a while and we might find ourselves fighting another General Election under first past the post. He suggested that a short Bill could be introduced to bring in preferential voting straight away. Such a move altho a long way short of STV would nevertheless be a guarantee of good faith as would an instruction to the boundary Commission to start work on multi member constituencies thus transforming AV to STV.
At the time I wrote all this up and it appeared somewhere. Sadly my filing system is not as well organised or as comprehensive as some folks and I cannot lay my hands on it.
Finally a word about multi member constituencies. I think we are being a tad faint hearted in selling the positives of this aspect of STV. Take a City like Liverpool with several MPs. It is preposterous to argue that voters are attached to the Central or Walton, or the Broadgreen seat. I doubt very few punters even know where the boundaries are -they often run down the middle of a suburban street. The attachment is to the city.
Even in rural constituencies the boundaries are often wholly unrelated to communities. I fought Congleton twice. All the principal settlements looked outside the constituency. Congleton looked to Maccelsfield, Middlewich to Northwich, Sandbach to Crewe. The towns had little in common with each other-but they all saw themselves as Cheshire to which they did belong.