Don’t turn the AV referendum into a vote on the Lib Dems

The upcoming referendum on the Alternative Vote is an opportunity for us all in Cornwall to demand a fairer voting system. There is a great danger however that the referendum will become one on the Liberal Democrats, and indeed Nick Clegg, and not on a better electoral system – no small matter. Or there is the danger it becomes a vote on Devonwall, something it certainly isn’t. The result of the AV referendum will have no bearing on the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act, which has now of course passed. Instead the vote on May 5th is a chance to ensure our MPs work harder for our votes, have majority support in their constituencies, while keeping out extreme parties such as the BNP; one reason why they are in the ‘No to AV’ camp. On the other hand, as welcome as it would be for socialist candidates to get elected, it isn’t particularly likely under AV or FPTP, so sticking with the current system isn’t going to help anyone on the left.

But the main reason I’m supporting the Alternative Vote on the 5th May is because, as a student, I want my first general election vote to count, and I want to be able to vote honestly, without having to vote tactically as many are under First Past the Post. Being both a young person and a (very left) Labour supporter in Cornwall, I’m firmly anti-Lib Dem. But this referendum is a once in a lifetime opportunity to revitalise politics. Students: vote Yes on the 5th May and make what limited power young people have – the vote – count.

One step forward is better than standing still.

[This is an amended version of a letter for the West Briton]


Labour Members Free to Campaign For AV

Despite news from Andy Burnham saying Labour will not be campaigning for AV in the referendum in 6 months time, Labour members can campaign how they like, though the party is fairly divided in terms of Alternative Vote/First Past the Post support.

With the FPTP campaign way ahead with a large lead, we will need to campaign hard to ensure a fairer electoral system will be in place before the 2015 general election (earlier if the coalition collapses). Our current system has candidates winning on 30% of the vote – meaning the majority vote against the winner. But more importantly, it means voters too often have vote for the party they did not wish to support, in order to prevent their least preferred candidate winning. This is simply not acceptable in a democratic system. Voters should be able to vote for who they want, and to have a choice. Tactical voting rarely generates anyone’s ideal outcome.

Young Labour members in the South West largely support AV, in the conversations I’ve had with fellow Young Labour-ites. Vested interests are putting all they can into maintaining the status quo in terms of the electoral system, when the status quo is frankly broken and archaic.

This has nothing to do with party politics. We must forget that the Lib Dems support the AV yes vote. Labour supported AV in the 2010 manifesto, and even the Conservatives promised to review the electoral system. This is about what is the better system – now is the time to take a small step, closer towards proportional representation. If we don’t now, we may be stuck with first-past-the-post for decades to come.