Sunday, November 7, 2010

Labour's AV alibi, gift-wrapped by Nick Clegg

Prompted by Andy Burnham's declaration that Labour will be giving next year's AV referendum no priority at all, John Rentoul has written what strikes me as a too-clever-by-half article that 'records the demise' of electoral reform. The most peculiar line is this -

"many Labour supporters have since decided that it is a bad idea by the simple equation: electoral reform means coalitions and Labour does not like this coalition"

Which is then flatly contradicted by this observation just four paragraphs later -

"what AV is not: it is not a proportional system"

Precisely. Which (unfortunately) means that it would not make coalitions any more or less likely than at present. If Labour MPs really are in a mind to rage against literally any system that can throw up the arithmetic for a coalition, then clearly they should be seeking to do away with first-past-the-post forthwith, because it is that, not AV, which has contrived to produce the current government.

And, for what it's worth, I think the rumours Rentoul is spreading of the death of the patient are greatly exaggerated in any case. There are any number of examples that demonstrate the far greater volatility of the electorate when faced with a referendum question - the Common Market vote in 1975 is the best-known example, but the more recent Northeast of England Assembly referendum produced an equally startling turnaround in the final stages. With YouGov showing an eleven-point lead for the No side, let's say I'm 'cautious pessimistic' about the outcome - but the arguments haven't even begun to be seriously put before the electorate yet. To pronounce the result a foregone conclusion at this stage is risible.

What is fair to say, however, is that not only was Clegg's desire to hold the vote on the same day as the devolved elections a cynical and disrespectful tactical manoeuvre, it's also proving to be spectacularly counter-productive - as Burnham's comment demonstrates, it's delivered to Labour a gift-wrapped alibi for not engaging in the campaign.

No comments:

Post a Comment