AV may prove to be a sticky wicket for progressives…

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.


9 thoughts on “AV may prove to be a sticky wicket for progressives…

  1. Yeah, the chance would be a fine thing!

    I agree, all we can do is campaign though – just joined your group on fb 🙂

  2. and well done for joining from the Lib Dems, I am a committed lefty and generally unsympathetic to the lib dems but I have had the pleasure of working with the Libe dem peer Lord Avebury who is a real hero for his work on Latin America…..would be great if he joined the Greens.

  3. The Liberal Democrats did not have the leverage in the coalition negotiations to insist on STV. AV was the only deal they could get.
    If the referendum is passed, it is possible the Liberal Democrats will get more MPs elected and will have more leverage to insist on STV.
    If the referendum is defeated, both Labour and the Tories will revert back to defending First Pasty the Post. The argument will be that if the electorate do back AV in a referendum, there is no way they will back STV or any other system.
    The moment for electoral reform will be lost for a generation.

  4. Derek,

    Thanks for that. I haven’t heard of that peer, but that sounds good – there are some libdems who would be much better suited within the Greens. I think the problem I found within the LibDems was their anti state values, didn’t really fit within my lefty views. But your generally anti LibDem stance has shown to be right when lefty progressive views are in play.


    I agree with Derek, electoral reform possibilities has been really damaged by your ‘win’ of only AV. You know as much as we do that AV is not proportional and will do little to help inject fairness within the system. I hope you also realise that reform now will lead many to say we don’t need any more, regardless of whether it is voted through or not. I agree that if First past the post is voted in still, electoral reform will be damaged, but if av is then they will say you have had your reform we don’t want anymore – the av system will do little to sure up the libdems ability to get STV – nor will many progressives ever trust them again.

  5. Geoffrey, we’d have been much better off without a referendum on AV at all and keeping up the fight for real electoral reform. Once millions of people have cast their vote for one system or another then that’s the end of our chance to get a truly proportional system for decades – so your realism cost us any realistic chance of getting PR at a time when the public is most in favour of it.

    However, the bill is not written yet, let alone passed and I’d like to see us try to build some momentum for amending the bill to include options on what electoral reform people want. Amend it or kill is my position at the moment – there’s still time left!

  6. I have to say I totally agree with Jim, I can’t really add anything to that – I have the same concerns and I think this piece meal vote on a system that is sometimes less proportional than the current system is going to be damaging, not beneficial, for future reform. But, granted, the LibDems have to try and claim that they gained something of value from the coalition.

    All is not lost yet, there is the chance for additional electoral systems to be added to the ballot, but I very much doubt that will happen – as the LibDems seem to have lost their radical once progressive edge.

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