AV Referendum should be a ‘free vote’ for Labour….

So, Nick Clegg has delivered unto the nation what for him and the Liberal Democrats is their 30 pieces of silver. A referendum on the Alternative Vote system will take place on 5th May 2011. Clegg will campaign for while the puppet master will be ‘lukewarm’ in his opposition. Meanwhile, the Labour response is in disarray with conflicting pressures pulling it hither and thither. Let’s be quite clear; were the Alternative Vote system to be all that is at stake then quite clearly it’s an improvement on First Past the Post despite the fact that it is not proportional, I myself prefer the hybrid AV+ system which introduces proportionality while not straying too far from the constituency link which I strongly support. It is far from perfect but then no voting system is and let’s be quite clear; completely ‘fair votes’ will never exist.

However, this is quite clear not all that is at stake. Implicit in a question of how we elect our MP’s is the question of the boundary changes.  Sunny Hundal conveniently wants this airbrushed out of the picture, arguing that just because it wont be included in the question it is not worthy of bracketing in the same place as the question of AV. Although we have yet to see the maps we all know these will be a gerrymander; something Clegg indicated himself by making it quite clear the safe Liberal Democrat seat of Orkney and Shetland will be exempted. Let’s be quite clear; the equalisation of constituencies based on voter registration is totally unacceptable. An attack on Labour as a Party it certainly is but what makes it unacceptable is the disenfranchisement of the voiceless; the making of them into ‘non-people’ as far as the government is concerned.  In other words it is the antithesis of fairness and democracy; it must be opposed and stopped.

Similarly, despite the ‘concessions’ the 66% dissolution rule is a gerrymander; ridiculously, the Scottish Parliament is invoked as a fair example of Labour double-standards on this issue. Except, of course, Scotland has a completely different voting system which Labour introduced along with it. So, on these grounds alone the price for AV is too high; however, there are more considerations. Is the change to AV really worth the disastrous effects of the 20% VAT hike, for example, or the cuts or the general lemming-like direction this coalition is taking economically? Comrades have to seriously ask themselves that question; I have and have come to the conclusion I will personally vote against AV.

However, I respect that there are different opinions within Labour and the above to me means that this Party should take no official line and allow its individual components to take whichever course their conscience dictates. I think Labour would be forgiven for turning against AV but what it will not be forgiven for is tearing itself apart over this and in doing so failing to represent and stand-up for those people who need it to be strong more than ever against this government.


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About darrellgoodliffe


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