Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Friday, 2 July 2010

Five reasons to cheer the timing of the AV referendum

So if the unofficial comments from the government are correct, the referendum on changing the electoral system to the Alternative Vote will be held on May 5th next year to coincide with the local, Scottish and Welsh elections.

If this is true then it is good news for a number of reasons:

1) It will demonstrate that the referendum has not been kicked into the long grass and hence that the Lib Dem section of the government has real clout when it comes to the issues that it got into the government's programme. This is especially true of the AV referendum because so many Conservative MPs and activists are against any change.
2) The fact that it will coincide with the local and Scottish/Welsh elections will increase turnout. This will be a good thing however the country ultimately votes.
3) It will be easier for the Lib Dems to get out the vote for a "Yes" vote as they will be out campaigning all over the country anyway. This of course will also be true for the "No" campaigners but they will be better funded than us so would have had a headstart whenever the vote was called and hence the differential between resources in the two camps will be more equal.
4) It will ensure that the Labour leadership candidates have to properly address what they would do and whether they will support a change, after all the referendum will be held only a few months into their leadership, whoever is elected. In my view it will look pretty cynical if the winning candidate does not campaign for a "Yes", after all it was in their manifesto and they were willing to go even further than the Conservatives during coalition negotiations.
5) It will give us 4 years to get the necessary changes in place if there is a "Yes" vote which should be more than enough time to ensure that the next general election in the UK (in 2015 or even if it was earlier) is held under the new system.

The fact that this is being announced so soon makes me wonder if the rumours that Cameron may not campaign for a "No" and that he may even back a "Yes" vote (perhaps tacitly) may indeed be true. If the Conservative leadership was dead against it you would expect they would have found some way to nudge it forward a bit to suppress turnout and make their lives easier.

Just one last point. I am still in favour of a proportional electoral system which AV is not. However this is the referendum that was politically possible and it can be used as a stepping stone to a more proportional system later. In the meantime it would remove tactical voting, ensure that in individual seats people were not forced to choose the least worst option and may even reduce negative campaigning by encouraging candidates to appeal to their opponents' supporters for second and third preferences. It will also get people used to preferential voting which is of course the method used for Single Transferable Vote, my preferred (and much more proportional) system. And if we can increase the Lib Dem share of seats in future parliaments, then we have a good chance of getting a referendum on STV at some point.

So I will be campaigning for a "Yes" vote.


Greg Stone said...

6) The Scottish and Welsh voters ought to have a higher propensity to support the change, given their experience of voting under a different system already.

Ewan Hoyle said...

7) The liberal democrats may increase their vote in the Scottish, Welsh and local elections because of their demonstrable commitment to improving our democracy.

I read one sentence in the Guardian that concerned me though.

"Should voters back AV in a referendum, he could still hold a 2015 election under first past the post if a boundary review equalising constituencies is not complete."

What the f*** does it matter if the boundary review isn't complete?!! If we vote for AV we should get AV when the next election is held! Grr!

Stephen Glenn said...

Campaign away for a yes vote all you want Mark. I'll be campaigning for election on that day, as indeed with the rest of our Scottish and Welsh colleagues.

Mark Thompson said...

Stephen. Am I to understand from that comment that you would prefer the referendum to be held on a day that did not coincide with other elections?

NoetiCat said...

Point 3) is quite important for us as the 3rd largest party with the smallest funds, we can fit some campaigning onto our usual literature rather than requiring more printing and deliveries which we can already ill afford

dazmando said...

I dont agree hope you dont mind. But I do support the AV referendum but I do think the timing could of been better.