Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Monday, 2 August 2010

Could Labour's new leader credibly oppose AV?

Following on from my post yesterday where I suggested that the Lib Dems should separate out the AV part of the constitutional reform bill in order to help Labour support a "yes" vote in the ensuing referendum I would like to expand a little on one of the points I made.

I highlighted how whoever wins the Labour leadership election will just have been elected using AV. This is not a trivial point. It actually goes to the heart of the mandate that they will have.

It would be incredible if, having just been elected using that method they then went on to oppose exactly that reform for the election of MPs. I expect the public would find it very hard to understand how it can be good enough for the election of political elites but not good enough for the rest of us. This is a particularly acute issue at the moment in the wake of the expenses scandal when one of the things that infuriated people was how there was one rule for MPs and another for everyone else.

So, frankly I cannot see how the new Labour leader would want to put themselves in that position. They would have enough of a job explaining why they were campaigning for a "no" vote in a referendum that was in their own manifesto, let alone the absolute hypocrisy of the election of their own position would expose.

And so if the new leader is not going to credibly be able to oppose the referendum, it would be far better for them to throw their full weight behind a "yes" vote rather than do it in a half-hearted way (which might be tempting). Otherwise, if the vote fails then it would reflect badly on them too.

After all, this will be the first big test of national opinion on an issue since the general election. Won't the new leader want to be on the winning side and to be seen to have visibly contributed towards this positive vote?


Sol said...

Does it follow that a party leader has to be elected in the same way a general election is held?

Do the Tories elect their leader by FPTP?

Mark Thompson said...

It doesn't necessarily follow but I feel it is incumbent upon the parties who do this to explain why, otherwise the charge of hypocrisy is warranted.

And no, the Tories do not elect their leader by FPTP and this is also hypocritical in my view.

Sol said...

Of course Im being slightly facetious but I dont think the point would be as embarassing for them as you are making out. I am sure a reasonably credible answer to it could be made to it.

That said I think you are spot on with the underlying sentiment of this post and the other one at the weekend, about stripping out the bill into two parts.

I dont see AV happening unless this course of action is taken.

Emma Burnell said...

I strongly suspect that the result will be more subtle than that.

If the bill isn't seperated, as you sensibly advocate, Labour will make it clear that while they support elements of the bill (such as the AV refendum) they connot support the bill as it is written. It will then whip its members to vote against, and it will be up to the coalition to get enough Tory backbenchers through the Aye lobby.

If they then manage to do so, Labour will give its MPs the freedom to campaign either way, but the Leadership will campaign in favour.

The fervour with which the activists take up the leadership's call to arms may well be dependant on the bill as a whole though. And this is another reason to seperate the AV referendum from the other measures.

SomeBeans said...

I think a bill combining the 2 elements will go through, even if some backbench Tories will have a bit of a grumble.

I'm not convinced that Labour will campaign with any enthusiasm for AV, there's little or nothing in it for them politically, and the GMB union has already come out against.