Both the Greens and Labour face a difficult situation (for different reasons) when it comes to deciding whether or not to support AV in the planned referendum on May the 5th. The Greens face a more progressive question of whether they should compromise, as the LibDems did, their desire for PR and support a system that can sometimes be less proportional than FPTP. Derek Wall contemplates the problems the Greens face rather well, discussing the need for a PR campaign. This relates to a key problem that I have discussed previously, that there will be a road work blocking implemented when it comes to reform, whatever the result; as if it is passed people will say, look you have had your change now please leave it alone, but if it doesn’t get passed – people will say, see people never wanted the change anyway. This all is without the chance to vote for a more proportional system.
The AV referendum has to get through parliament first, there may be a chance to table an amendment for PR electoral systems to be included. But I very much doubt the LibDems would even support this amendment, as they have been whipped for the AV deal as that was all that was agreed for the coalition to form – even if the LibDems supported a PR amendment, the Tories definitely would not.
Furthermore, Labour may not provide support for PR either. Labour are more divided in their opinions towards a new voting system. The furthest most of them seem to go is AV – as many are opposed to any change in the system. Therefore, it will pose problems for Labour in different ways – they don’t want to look as though they are supporting a ConDem move, but equally if Cameron is to support AV as reports suggest, they don’t want to look more regressive than the Tories.
A key problem however, one which may tilt Greens to opposing AV, is whether controversial constituency boundary changes are included within the referendum as a clause. This has to be watched with care. This is something Left Foot Forward missed out when arguing for Labour to support AV as they argue it will help Labour more than the Tories.
I want electoral change, but the problem the LibDems have got us in is that this referendum may kill electoral reform and progress dead before it has even begun. It is a complex issue, and each party will find it difficult when it comes to decisions of what to support and what not to support.
Update: News is that David Cameron will campaign against AV.