One of the arguments I keep hearing against the Lib Dems regarding AV is that there are loads of more important things than electoral reform (the economy, the health service, schools etc. etc.) and that it is disgraceful that the party should have insisted on a referendum on AV as part of the coalition agreement above all these other things. Margaret Beckett was at it on Any Questions this week, although Lynne Featherstone rightly pointed out that lifting the lowest earners out of tax and the pupil premium and green investment were all considered of equal importance too given they were the 4 things on the front of the manifesto.
Monday, 4 April 2011
So straight away this line of attack is untrue. However I accept the point that some people will view wanting to change the electoral system as of less importance than various other things. The problem is that is not peculiar to now. There are always things that need to be sorted out and the argument that "now is not the right time" could be used in perpetuity.
And this is why that particular argument irritates me. Because it is a cheap way of trying to retain the status quo without even trying to argue based on the merits or otherwise of the systems on offer. It is simply an attempt to paint those who advocate change as doing so in bad faith and distracting from "real" issues. Like the method used to elect our primary legislative chamber (that the British people have never had a say on) is completely unimportant.
Anyway, I have a suggestion for all of those in the No2AV camp who think the referendum is a distraction and that there are more important things to focus on. If you take an average of the polls it would appear that a majority is already in favour of AV. So how about we change the voting system to AV without a referendum? This will certainly take less time and be less of a "distraction" from other legislative priorities.
We can keep it for future elections and then, at some point in the future where everyone agrees that there are no other pressing priorities, we can have a referendum to see if we stick with AV or switch back to FPTP.
Does that sound fair?
No, didn't think so. I think we all know we would never reach that mythical point where there were no other issues that some would consider a higher priority than voting on the electoral system.
As I keep saying, the No camp should be arguing for the merits of FPTP. After all, that's what we will be stuck with if No wins the day next month. Instead they seem determined to argue on spurious costs, illogical nonsense about multiple votes, erroneous claims about the influence of the BNP under AV (in that case why are they campaigning against it?) and arguments that we shouldn't be having this vote in the first place.
Oh and the latest one that Yes leaflets are somehow dodgy because the people used on them have been regionalised and hence a black Londoner is not on the West Country leaflets.
I just hope the level of debate gets better in the remaining weeks of the campaign. I suspect my hope is forlorn though.