Posts Tagged ‘AV’

Labour should lead on constitutional reform

04/06/2011, 01:00:43 PM

The first few years of the last Labour government were radical in a number of ways, and particularly in the way we tried to reform our constitution. We (mostly) swept away the hereditary peers in the House of Lords, threw open a lot of doors and windows onto the workings of government with the freedom of information act and devolved power to Scotland and Wales. This led – not as critics predicted at the time to the formation of a pair of jumped-up local councils – but two thriving institutions that have helped to foster new political systems, a process given expression in spectacular fashion in Scotland a few weeks ago.

As with other areas of policy, we began to lose our radicalism the longer we were in government and our enthusiasm for constitutional reform petered out almost to nothing. We set up a commission to examine electoral reform and then rejected Jenkins’ sensible, moderate proposals for entirely political reasons.· Lords reform was voted on innumerable times and the last proposal – when MPs finally stopped rejecting all of the permutations put to them – got nowhere.

Had we pressed ahead with our plans for a mostly or wholly elected Lords there would have been a second chamber election mid-way though this parliamentary term, giving us a chance to put a new Labour agenda to the public and – in the event of a win – prove to ourselves and to the country that we can be election winners again. A Labour win would have inflicted a mortal wound on the government and provided the perfect springboard from which to launch a general election campaign.

In the end, we didn’t go ahead and now Cameron has assured himself a strong position in the Lords by stuffing the upper house with Tory and Lib Dem apparatchiks. Had we gone ahead with Jenkins’ AV+, then the progressive majority that exists in the country would have been translated into the election results and the progressive rainbow coalition touted last May that was a nice-but-impossible idea would have been entirely workable.

Ed Miliband shouldn’t let his recent unhappy dalliance with electoral reform blunt his aspirations for changes in the way we conduct public affairs, nor convince him that the British public have no appetite for changes to the way we do politics. As a result of the way it was conceived – a Liberal Democrat demand for entering into coalition – the referendum was seen by most through an entirely party political lens and became a referendum on the deputy prime minister and not on the change he was proposing. (more…)

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AV may be dead, but our obsession with marginals needs to go too

14/05/2011, 02:43:21 PM

by Ben Cobley

So the AV referendum is come and gone. Life has quickly gone back to normal without many of us giving the whole blasted charade much more thought.

That is in many ways a blessing, for while plenty of energy was injected into the campaigns, they quickly reverted to the sort of down-and-dirty tribal mud-slinging that we already get more than enough of in party politics. Once the campaign went down this route, the coalition of Tories and Labour tribalists on the No campaign was always going to triumph.

For Labour, there is now a temptation for us to shrug our shoulders, be thankful that we did not have a disastrous split, and continue as we were.

However that would be a mistake; there are lessons to be learned. The debate on AV gave us an opportunity to think deeply about the way we do our politics both within the Labour party and in the country as a whole– and for some of us it cast a light on the present way of doing things that was far from flattering.

The lessons to be learned also tie in with those issues arising from disastrous Scottish election results and the disappointingly piecemeal gains in southern England, which remains a desert for Labour. They are about how we do our politics –particularly the way that we willingly turn our backs of whole swathes of the nation in a quest for short-term advantage in a few marginal seats. (more…)

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Caption contest: Lefty love in special

05/05/2011, 11:46:12 AM

“The party is split” read the headlines. “Labour is dangerously divided over electoral reform” they said. They wish. Tomorrow a  temporary division will come to an end. If Huhne and Clegg thought the AV campaign was bad – wait until the Labour assasins are reunited.

Where does he get those shirts?

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No to PR, Yes to AV

04/05/2011, 08:07:14 PM

by Tom Watson

When Roy Jenkins recommended a change in the electoral system twelve years ago I helped lead the campaign to defeat it and preserve the first past the post system. I was dead against any form of proportional representation then and I still am now. But whilst I remain as firmly opposed to proportional representation as ever, I have become convinced that our current first past the post system is in need of reform and upgrading. That is why I am supporting the campaign to introduce the alternative vote and will be voting Yes in tomorrow’s referendum.

The main objections I have to proportional representation do not apply to the alternative vote system. One of my main concerns has always been that PR would give the BNP a greater chance of gaining representation at Westminster. But that is even less likely with AV than FPTP. That is why the BNP have come out to say they will be supporting a No vote in the referendum. AV is the anti-extremist system. With AV, no-one can get elected unless most people back them. Therefore the risk of extremist parties being elected by the back door is eliminated.

Another of my traditional objections to PR was that it will lead to unstable government. But hung parliaments are no more likely with AV than with first past the post. As the recent election showed, first past the post has not given Britain any special immunity to hung parliaments. The result at the last election was not an exception. It is the result of long-term changes in our voting patterns here in the UK which means the current voting system can no longer be relied upon to deliver a clear-cut result with a strong and stable single-party system previously the strongest argument for preserving first past the post.

The last of my major objections to PR, and to the hybrid system Roy Jenkins put forward, was that it was too complicated and alien to the way we have always voted. But AV, in contrast, couldn’t be more straightforward. It simply allows you to choose your candidates in order of your preference. It is literally as easy as 1,2,3. For voters, it simply means swapping an X on your ballot paper for a 1,2,3. And if you still want to vote for only one candidate you can.

So the alternative vote doesn’t have the disadvantages I have always associated with PR. But it does offer advantages that I believe will help change the way we do our politics for the better. (more…)

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Half a minute Harris

04/05/2011, 04:20:34 PM

Episode 8: Fingers crossed tomorrow’s AV result keeps it out of the next manifesto

You can catch up with previous episodes here:

Episode 1: Welcome, Uncut readers, to the mind of Tom Harris

Episode 2: Should we abstain on the welfare reform bill?

Episode 3: How’s that working out for you Polly?

Episode 4: Student visas… I’m with Theresa May on this one

Episode 5: A distraction from the main event

Episode 6: Ollie Letwin and the common people

Episode 7: Why I’m backing an in/out referendum on the EU

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Sunday News Review

01/05/2011, 06:56:33 AM

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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Cameron: I’m loving your election campaign, Labour

27/04/2011, 07:00:39 AM

by Rob Marchant

In the Labour party, we’re very excited about AV. In Westminster, of course, it’s easily crowding out debate on the (not unimportant) Scotland, Wales, Northern Irish and English local elections.

Ooh, the Yeses. The Noes. It’s all that analytical, wonkish, procedural stuff that we love to debate. We seem to have spent the last month or so monopolising the media and the Labour blogosphere with this one issue. To be fair, there are some sensible arguments on both sides, such as this one from Anthony Painter, a fine analytical piece from normblog and a lot of lowest-common-denominator ones. Also there is the delightful “meh2AV” campaign for those who, like Uncut’s own Mike Dugher, feel that it’s been a complete waste of time.

Any change to the constitution is important. Fair enough. And we got the referendum that we, after all, asked for (although, as various people recently observed, it is remarkable how we have gone from all supporting AV as a manifesto commitment, to split down the middle in less than a year). And the referendum is now upon us, so we have to make up our minds, and vote or campaign according to what we decide. So far, so good.

A note of caution: outside political circles and the metropolitan media, this issue is hardly dominating people’s thoughts. They have more mundane concerns: getting their way through the month with a sluggish economy and some nasty public service cuts.

But we Labour folk, on the other hand, are working ourselves up into a frenzy. We’re so excited about it that we’re happily knocking chunks out of each other. Every other article is making personal attacks on figures from the other campaign. (more…)

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Monday News Review

25/04/2011, 06:49:56 AM

Another day, another dose of staged AV campaigning anger

A Liberal Democrat cabinet minister has widened an increasingly damaging rift inside the coalition by warning that the prime minister and other senior Conservatives could face legal action over the manner in which they have campaigned for a no vote in next week’s referendum on a change to the voting system. Chris Huhne, the Lib Dem energy secretary, admitted for the first time that the campaign against the alternative vote by senior Conservatives will make the coalition government “more difficult” to manage in the aftermath of the 5 May referendum. Huhne said the claims made by David Cameron, George Osborne and other Tories undermined their credibility. He is concerned about two claims made by the Conservatives – that a move to AV will need new counting machines, and so cost as much as £250m, and that it will favour extremist parties. He said: “If they don’t come clean on this, I am sure the law courts will.” – the Guardian

To say senior Liberal Democrats are desperate to secure a Yes vote for AV would be an understatement. With less than two weeks to go to the referendum on electoral reform, they have cranked up their rhetoric to fever pitch. Paddy Ashdown has condemned the campaign of those opposed to the Alternative Vote as ‘stinking’. Energy Secretary Chris Huhne launched a tirade of abuse against Chancellor George Osborne for pointing out that AV would be costly and complicated to implement. And Business Secretary Vince Cable has melodramatically portrayed the referendum battle as a fight between the ‘progressive majority’ and the atavistic forces of Conservatism. Yesterday it was Nick Clegg’s turn to whip up the hysteria, with a rambling diatribe against our traditional first-past-the-post voting system, and anyone with the temerity to believe it works. – the Daily Mail


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In Australia AV doesn’t live up to the rhetoric of the ‘No’ or ‘Yes’ campaigns

22/04/2011, 12:00:07 PM

by Andy Bagnall

I’ve just returned from a five-month stint down under – advising the Australian Labor Party (ALP) on the New South Wales state elections – to a pile of post several inches high. Among the bank statements and the pizza adverts was a leaflet from each of the campaigns for the AV referendum. A hand-delivered, two-colour flyer from the YES campaign and a full-colour glossy, posted direct mail from the NO campaign – perhaps reflecting the differing financial resources of the two sides.

Although I’ve followed the AV debate from afar, I read the two flyers with interest, only to be disappointed by the simplistic level of the debate and the exaggerated claims of both sides.

As far as the YES camp is concerned, I can categorically assure them from my New South Wales experience that optional AV will not make MPs work harder. It will not end safe seats or jobs for life, and it most certainly won’t stop MPs becoming embroiled in scandals.

If that were the case someone forgot to give the memo to the two dozen New South Wales MPs  who, during the last parliamentary cycle, were tainted by accusations of domestic violence; marital infidelity; sex for planning consents; child molestation; or having their hands in the till. Sadly, all of these were Labor MPs and the charge sheet explains, at least in part, the scale of the Labor government’s defeat in NSW.

The most colourful scandal was the then police minister being accused of dancing in his underpants at a post-budget party simulating a sex act with a fellow MP while saying to her daughter “look, I’m t***y-f*****g your mother.” This has been strenuously denied by all concerned. No-one’s been sued but the Minister still resigned. No, my friends, not even the awesome power of an AV electoral system can stop that level of error of judgement even if it could stop an MP fiddling their expenses.

Similarly, to the NO camp, AV will not mean the rise of extremist parties in and of itself. Nor will it mean that some people’s votes are counted twice – everyone’s vote is counted the same number of times no matter how many rounds of counting. Nor will it lead to more broken promises. This last one made me laugh out loud. (more…)

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Friday News Review

22/04/2011, 05:47:42 AM

Mixed news on AV referendum

The battle between the Yes and No camps before next month’s referendum on the voting system is still wide open, according to a poll for The Independent. The findings will come as a relief to supporters of a switch to the alternative vote (AV) after recent surveys gave the No camp a lead of more than 10 points. The poll, by research agency TNS, found that 34 per cent of people oppose AV and 32 per cent support it, with 21 per cent replying “don’t know” and 13 per cent saying they would probably not vote in the 5 May referendum. According to TNS, one in four people who voted Liberal Democrat at last year’s general election oppose AV (26 per cent), while 74 per cent support it. In a mirror image, one in four people who backed the Conservatives last year favour AV (23 per cent), with 77 per cent opposing it. Labour voters are against a switch to AV by a margin of 53 to 47 per cent. The rival camps believe that this group could hold the key to the result. The pro-AV organisation will mount a major push to win over Labour supporters. – the Independent

The ‘Yes to AV’ campaign was dealt a fresh blow after a poll showed older voters were largely opposed to ditching the one person, one vote system. A survey of nearly 12,000 over-50s by Saga showed just 32 per cent were in favour of AV while 50 per cent wanted to stick with first-past-the-post. English over-50s were especially sceptical about AV, with more than 50 per cent opposed to it. Meanwhile older Scots are 41 per cent in favour, compared to 50 per cent of over-50s in Northern Ireland. Mature voters are more likely to turn out to vote and less likely to change their minds, which could make the battle for the Yes campaign even harder. The poll came as David Cameron risked controversy by using John Major’s Conservative administration as an example of a ‘bad government’ which only first-past-the-post could conclusively boot out. – Daily Mail

Gordon’s back

Gordon Brown claimed yesterday he was “not interested” in polls showing Labour heading for defeat to the SNP, as campaign chiefs insisted they would not change course, despite the sudden slump in their fortunes. In his first intervention on the campaign trail, he dismissed the surge in SNP support, saying Labour’s focus on job creation would resonate with “worried” voters as polling day drew near. But the latest poll finding, which suggests the SNP is within touching distance of an overall majority, will only confirm growing concerns within the party that the election is slipping out of their grasp as election day comes into view. Some Labour candidates insist they are untroubled by the poll ratings, claiming voters “on the ground” are backing Labour more enthusiastically than in the 2007 election. – the Scotsman (more…)

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