Europe South Asia Asia Pacific Americas Middle East Africa BBC Homepage World Service Education

Front Page



UK Politics







Talking Point
On Air
Low Graphics

Thursday, January 14, 1999 Published at 21:34 GMT

UK Politics

Jenkins attacks 'know-nothings'

Comments come as Labour and the Lib Dems extend co-operation

By BBC News Online's Nyta Mann

Lord Jenkins has issued stinging criticism of political reaction to the Jenkins Commission report on electoral reform for Westminster, published last year.

Lord Jenkins says most MPs who debated the report adopted what the Liberal Democrat peer described as a "know-nothing, do-nothing, think-nothing" approach - adding that the Home Secretary Jack Straw failed to take the report seriously.

Speaking exclusively to BBC News Online in his first in-depth interview since the publication of the Jenkins Report, Lord Jenkins also gives the clearest indication yet that the Lib Dems will accept Labour breaking its promise to hold a referendum on PR in this parliament.

"Between a referendum shortly before the election and one shortly after it, I'm not sure I have a tremendously strong view," he says. "It would not be a betrayal if they don't have it until after the next election."

[ image: JacK Straw is accused of not taking the Jenkins Report seriously]
JacK Straw is accused of not taking the Jenkins Report seriously
His remarks came as Paddy Ashdown and other senior Lib Dems joined Labour ministers - including Mr Straw - agreed at a Downing Street meeting of the two parties' joint Cabinet committee on Thursday to extend their mutual co-operation.

Lord Jenkins of Hillhead chaired the Independent Commission on the Voting System, set up by the government at the end of 1997.

Tony Blair asked the commission to recommend an alternative, proportional (PR) system of election for Westminster. The Jenkins Commission's final recommendation was published last October.

Lord Jenkins tells BBC News Online he believes the prime minister is now converted to electoral reform: "My own view is that the report did push him over an intellectual, and maybe an emotional divide."

Asked if he expects Mr Blair to back PR in the referendum, Lord Jenkins says: "Yes, I think he will."

The Lib Dem peer also warns that "there is a danger of the vast Labour majority in the House of Commons being too drilled, and too discouraged to take independent attitudes."

MPs "are not independent enough, and by not being independent enough they tend to discredit the House of Commons".

Lord Jenkins also says the number of MPs at Westminster should be cut by a around third, from 659 to 450.

Advanced options | Search tips

Back to top | BBC News Home | BBC Homepage | ©

UK Politics Contents

A-Z of Parliament
Talking Politics
Vote 2001

Relevant Stories

14 Jan 99 | UK Politics
Further step to 'new politics'

14 Jan 99 | UK Politics
Jenkins' designs on democracy

Internet Links

Jenkins Commission

Electoral Reform Society

Charter 88

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites.

In this section

Livingstone hits back

Catholic monarchy ban 'to continue'

Hamilton 'would sell mother'

Straw on trial over jury reform

Blairs' surprise over baby

Conceived by a spin doctor?

Baby cynics question timing

Blair in new attack on Livingstone

Week in Westminster

Chris Smith answers your questions

Reid quits PR job

Children take over the Assembly

Two sword lengths

Industry misses new trains target