Daily View 2×2: 27 May 2009

2 big stories

Much of today’s coverage is summed up perfectly by the Independent’s headline Brown v Cameron v Clegg, under which all three leaders set out their visions for the rebuilding of Britain’s broken politics. They are due to take party in cross-party talks according to the Guardian, talks to be led by that famed bastion of reform, Jack Straw. Perhaps that’s who Nick Clegg was thinking of when he said (to the Times): “There are prominent people in government who recognise that the game’s up.” Our friends in the Lords are stepping up the pressure as well, as Shirley Williams critiques David Cameron’s speech on reform for Comment is Free, and Matthew Oakeshott writes to the Guardian to call for a polling day double bill:

…it is time to move to electing the Commons by the alternative vote (AV). Labour’s 2005 manifesto said: “A referendum remains the right way to agree any change [to the voting system] for Westminster.” That’s not a mandate to change the voting system at the fag end of a parliament – and it wouldn’t get through the Lords. But giving the people the choice on a polling day is different. So that must be the date we decide both who governs us and how we elect them, with a general election and referendum on AV on the existing parliamentary boundaries.

Decide your double date with destiny and announce it now, Mr Brown. Give time, but not too much time, to clear out the corrupt MPs and clean up the parliamentary stables; 1 October looks good – the first day of the pheasant shooting to distract Mr Cameron.

Loving your work there, Lord O.

No clear runner-up today in the big story stakes, but here are two pleasingly contrasting mini-stories about tax. The Telegraph continues to put the boot in, not with more revelations, but with the news that ministers who claimed the cost of their tax returns on expenses can soon expect a knock on the door from HM Revenue & Customs.

And at the other end of the scale Steve Webb has uncovered a 54% increase in the number of families being underpaid tax credits in 2007/08 compared to the previous year. I would guess this will have resulted from an internal attempt to clamp down on the terrible publicity generated by overpayments and the dreaded clawback. Tax Credit officials will have been told to get tougher on claims. The result is that 1.3 million families were short-changed by an average of £610 of their annual entitlement in 2007/08. Still, at least some people were (temporarily) quids in that year, with another 1.3 million families being overpaid, this time by an average of £705.

Is there anyone even in the depths of the Labour bunker still defending this shambolic system?

2 must-read blog posts

Andy Hinton has a handy guide to Tory smears against PR, for all your interweb argument needs.

And Joe Otten has caught the South Yorkshire Tories out in a bit of cheeky cut and paste.

And finally…

At last, justice for the East Dunbartonshire One! The Guardian prints the following in its corrections:

A further correction to our graphic surveying the expenses of certain MPs: In the category Cheapest claims, we stated without qualification that cosmetics were included in receipts submitted by Jo Swinson, Liberal Democrat MP for East Dunbartonshire (23 May, page 6). Jo Swinson has denied claiming for these makeup items, telling the Telegraph, which originally reproduced one of her receipts, that the cosmetics appeared on a Boots receipt for other items she was claiming.

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  • Lord O – yes, let’s have a referendum, but let’s have it on a sensible proportional system and not one which will simply leave the national disproportionality behind. AV plus with a redrawing of constituency boundaries to allow for a maximum of 650 MPs, or STV by combining existing constituencies would be more proportional and more logical (and to those who say STV is confusing, it was the AMS vote for the Scottish parliament which caused the most problems and not the STV one for the Councils!)

  • Either STV or AV Plus is fine, both are a MASSIVE improvement over FPTP. It’s hard to split them because both have clear advantages over the other. AV Plus gives more encouragement to rigorous debate between candidates because they have to truly win to get in, also you have to travel less distance to meet your representative to raise an issue. STV gives more representation to more people. But do either of them NOW, I don’t care which, BEFORE the next general election. I suggest we go headlong and immediately into AV Plus a la Jenkins. Somebody in government explain to me why we have to wait a day longer.

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