Split on votes a threat to the British coalition
BRITISH cabinet ministers are not just campaigning openly on opposite sides in the debate on the proposed change in the UK voting system. They speak bitterly about their coalition colleagues. A four-letter word, "lies", has been bandied about.
A clear breach of collective responsibility, a principle supposed to prevail.
But that is nothing new. Harold Wilson, when prime minister, allowed Labour ministers to oppose each other publicly in a referendum on EC membership. In the Dail, Liam Cosgrave as Taoiseach once voted against a bill introduced by his own government.
Intriguingly, the Tory-Lib Dem confrontations have little to do with the merits of the proposal itself, to switch to the alternative vote in single-seat constituencies from the present first-past-the-post system.
The Lib Dems support it mainly because they believe that it would deliver them better election results. The Tories oppose it because they fear they would suffer.
Proposals for political reform here usually include a move to a system that features single-seat constituencies. That might clean up one garbage-strewn corner of the system. Enough for now, though, if Fine Gael and Labour avoid British-style splits.