It is imperative that any agreement with any political parties following the election includes electoral reform. On Thursday, the electorate of this country voted for a hung parliament, showing that there was no clear majority supporting one party. The voice of the electorate needs to be listened too and not ignored.
The Liberal Democrats cannot offer a blank cheque to prop up a Conservative administration.
The Conservatives have offered an inquiry into electoral reform. However, the inquiry was held on Thursday. The election showed the need for electoral reform. It is well known that under the current electoral system each vote is not equal. In safe parliamentary seats, thousands of votes are deemed to be worthless at each election. This means that a significant proportion of the electorate are not effectively represented in the House of Commons. These safe seats are the modern equivalent of the rotten boroughs that existed in the early 19th century. The Whig party, a predecessor of the modern Liberal Democrats, fought, ultimately successfully, to change that system. We must do the same now. We must be the voice of the electorate that, on Thursday, sent a clear message that the electoral system of this country needs changing.
Whilst it is recognised that electoral reform would be beneficial to the Liberal Democrats, this demand is not made for selfish motives. In some areas of the country, including the South-West and Scotland, the Liberal Democrats would actually lose out. However, above all else, the Liberal Democrats, and before the merger the Liberal and, before that, the Whig parties, have pushed for electoral reform since 1830. This is not a recent conversion.
I appreciate that it is the national interest to put in place, as soon as practical, a stable Government for this country. However, a deal should not be done at any price. We must not enter into an agreement which does not include electoral reform. Indeed, it is in the national interest that the electoral system be reformed.
We cannot, and must not, allow this party to be taken into an agreement that does not support this position.