Sunday News Review

Their last push

he importance and seriousness of Thursday’s AV referendum have been obscured by scratchy, bad-tempered debate. But the edginess of the campaign tells us something: there is a lot at stake, politically. A change could have major consequences. AV recognises that we now live in a world of multi-party politics and makes it easier for voters to express a wider range of choices. It will encourage prospective MPs to reach out beyond a narrow party base for wider support in the form of second preferences. Coalition is not a necessary consequence of AV, but it is more likely that parties will have to work together in government. AV undoubtedly poses a threat to the old tribal politics and to the Conservatives in particular, who have been best able to exploit it to advantage. The forces of reaction have been impressively marshalled on the battlefield. Not a single Conservative parliamentarian has broken ranks in an uncompromising defence of the status quo. The country’s right-wing newspapers – both the Murdoch and non-Murdoch titles – have swallowed their dislike of the coalition’s liberal compromises, and of each other, to line up solidly behind the No campaign. – Vince Cable, the Independent

You cannot build a fair society on an unfair politics. Britain consistently votes as a centre-left country and yet the Conservatives have dominated our politics for two-thirds of the time since 1900. On only two occasions in that long century – 1900 and 1931 – have the Tories won a majority of the votes. Instead, they have divided and ruled. No wonder David Cameron says the current system “has served us well”. For those who weren’t well served by the Tory 20th century, fair votes matter. They matter for the millions of voters who suffered the worst excesses of the Thatcher government, despite more than 54% repeatedly voting against her. They matter for the millions of progressive voters, supporters of the Lib Dems, Labour and the Greens among others, who want to be able to express their support for the party of their choice without feeling that they are wasting their vote or letting the Tories in. And they matter for the millions who do not bother to vote because safe seats mean they have no chance for a change. – the Guardian

He uses an article in The Sunday Telegraph to deliver his most passionate denunciation yet of the Alternative Vote (AV) method being backed by Nick Clegg and the vast majority of Lib Dems in Thursday’s referendum. The Prime Minister highlights the sacrifices of “generations of campaigners” who “fought and died” to establish the principle of equality at the polls in Britain – “one person, one vote,” as in the current First Past the Post (FPTP) system. He describes AV as “hopelessly unclear, unfair, indecisive” and accuses its supporters of backing a voting system which leaves “half-dead governments living on life support”. – the Telegraph

Possible outcomes

There is one party leader who can look forward with confidence to Thursday’s elections and referendum. Is David Cameron the man with reasons to be cheerful? The Conservatives may lose council seats, but they will probably not do so badly that reverses can’t be shrugged off as the level of bruising to a government that must be expected when the economy is fragile and taxes are being hiked and spending slashed in the name of dealing with the deficit. Truth to tell, Mr Cameron has not been losing any sleep over the fate of Tory councillors. He has much more at stake in the referendum. First past the post has generally been good for the Tories by inflating minority support in the country into majorities at Westminster. It gave most of the 20th century to the Conservatives. – Andrew Rawnsley, the Guardian

Labour will be the big winner with Ed Miliband’s party set to record its biggest share of the vote in council polls for around a decade. The Liberal Democrats could lose around 600 seats in Thursday’s poll – a third of all those currently held by Nick Clegg’s party which are being contested. A loss on this scale – together with a failure to win the referendum on changing to the Alternative Vote (AV) system, also being held on Thursday – could be enough to prompt behind-the-scene discussions about how long Mr Clegg can continue at the party’s helm. He has already faced criticism from some activists over a U-turn on big increases in university tuition fees and support for Government spending cuts. Chris Huhne, the Climate Change Secretary, is suspected by fellow ministers of being “on manoeuvres” as a possible alternative leader. – the Telegraph

Cameron somehow beats Becker

He is more at home exchanging verbal volleys with Labour MPs in the House of Commons but David Cameron proved he’s a bit of a dab hand with a racquet too. The Prime Minister took on tennis legend Boris Becker in a charity football match this weekend – and came out on top. The Tory leader seemed to have bags of energy despite a day of celebration at Buckingham Palace yesterday when him and wife Samantha Cameron attended the Royal Wedding before hosting their own wedding day celebrating in Downing Street. Living the dream of many keen amateurs, he donned shorts and t-shirts and stepped on court at his Chequers residents with the former Wimbledon champion. The event in Buckinghamshire came about after an auction in aid of the Kirsty Club, fronted by brave Kirsty Howard, who was born with a rare heart condition. Caroline Wynn and Sharon Kettle bid £8,250 to take part in a game with Becker and Mr Cameron. The money will help the Francis House Children’s Hospice in Didsbury, Manchester. – Daily Mail

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One Response to “Sunday News Review”

  1. Roger says:

    At least in the South the Tories will not lose council seats on Thursday.

    Rather hundreds of what were Conservative/Lib Dem marginals in 2007 will fall into their laps.

    On my own District Council they will probably increase their seats from 33 to 40 or 45 out of 55 – largely because the Lib Dems and to a lesser extent the Greens are abandoning seats to them without even a fight as their activists just can’t be arsed to stand any more.

    Further north it may indeed be more complicated and their probably are Lib Dem seats and councils in places like Sheffield and Bradford that Labour will win back.

    But that is no skin off the Tories noses as they are as resigned to insignificance in such places as we are across most of the South – and there is no reason why they should lose the rural and suburban enclaves they do retain up North.

    So overall the Conservatives will be in a much stronger position in local government next Friday – and this should give us all pause for thought.

    They should be in roughly the same place as Thatcher was in 1980 and facing a local government meltdown – but there are no indications whatsoever of that happening in the national polls or on the streets I’ve been working.

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