Three cheers for Ed Miliband (shame about his party)

This evening Labour leader Ed Miliband will urge his party and the public to say yes to fairer votes in this coming May’s referendum.

All of us in favour of electoral reform, and a voting system that puts more power back in the hands of the people, should welcome his personal backing for the alternative vote. Ed, at least, is staying true to what Labour’s 2010 general election manifesto pledged, specifically:

To ensure that every MP is supported by the majority of their constituents voting at each election, we will hold a referendum on introducing the Alternative Vote for elections to the House of Commons.

Alas, when Ed speaks tonight he will do so in the knowledge that a large part of the Labour movement disagrees with him.

With mischievous timing, more than 150 Labour parliamentarians, including more than one hundred Labour MPs, publicly declared their opposition to electoral reform in a deliberate attempt to overshadow Ed’s big speech. Indeed, they took out a full-page advert in today’s Guardian to make the point. Those Tories, such as Lord Leach, who are helping bank-roll the No campaign must be delighted that such prominent Labour names are happy to assist in undermining their leader.

Indeed, there’s a curiously coincidental overlap between those opposed to electoral reform, and those who opposed Ed Miliband’s election as Labour leader. Who, for instance, is leading the Labour No campaign? Why Mr Dan Hodges, a devoted David Miliband fan who is very happy to stick it to Ed over at Labour Uncut (here, here, here and here, for example). Take a look at the list of Labour MPs in the ‘No’ camp… how many Ed supporters are there?

As I say, perhaps it’s just coincidence… I’m sure no Labour MP would use such an important issue as a proxy to undermine Ed Miliband himself. Perish the thought.

Will this split in Labour’s ranks — between the forces of progress who back electoral reform, and the forces of conservatism who oppose it — affect their performance in May’s elections? We’ll see. It’s said the public does not like disunited parties; certainly those progressive, reform-minded voters who’ve tended to think of Labour as on their side despite the constant back-tracking on constituional reform will be disappointed.

There’s one issue Labour’s inability to unite in support of fair votes does clear up, though: there was absolutely no way any form of Lib Dem / Labour coalition last May would have stuck. If Labour isn’t prepared even to deliver on their own manifesto promises when they enjoy the luxury of opposition, it’s clear they could never have delivered on the compromises necessitated by coalition government.

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30 Comments

  • I realise that this might not be instinctive to a Lib Dem, but do you not hold out the possibility that maybe electoral reform is not a tribal issue and that membership of a particular political party should not carry with it some compulsion to follow a certain line? Referendums are not whipped votes, nor should they be seen as one.

    Indeed, do you not hold out the possibility that those in the no (of all parties and none) camp have analysed the issue and drawn a reasoned conclusion – that they are not pursuing a particular course of action solely to affront you and the Lib Dem party’s value system?

    It’s not all about the Lib Dems.

    This article is one of the reasons I so loathe referendums. Issue free, personality partisan in nature. What exactly is the argument here? Vote yes because some Labour MPs who may or may not be bad eggs will vote no?

  • Stuart Mitchell 16th Mar '11 - 7:07pm

    Crikey. Labour politicians thinking for themselves, and coming to different conclusions on what is afterall a constitutional issue, not party political. What a terrible thing.

    And after 10 months of coalition I still don’t get why you Lib Dems are so upset about Labour people disagreeing with you, but don’t bat an eyelid when 95% of your partners disagree with you.

  • paul barker 16th Mar '11 - 7:25pm

    Lets make that 2 cheers, Millibands refusal to appear on a platform with the LibDem leader is pathetic & childish. Imagine what Labour would say if the roles were reversed.
    Milliband has a genuine difficulty in that Labour are split down the middle on this issue but his response is still weak. He is never going to be in a stronger position than he is now, this is the time to take on those trying to undermine his leadership.

  • The last thing I would be worried about is Labour; you should concentrate on your partners in government.
    Have the Conservatives given themselves a way to close the door on AV no matter what the referendum result, the booklet on Page 8 seems to imply that if AV is passed by the referendum, but parliament rejects the new boundaries in 2013, then this will also overturn the result of the referendum. Get out of jail free if it is correct, no wonder the Conservatives insisted on it being linked.

    “At the end of the review, the UK Parliament will vote on implementing the new boundaries. If the new boundaries are implemented, the ‘alternative vote ‘system will be used for all future elections to the House of Commons.”

  • Stuart Mitchell 16th Mar '11 - 7:52pm

    paul barker: “Millibands refusal to appear on a platform with the LibDem leader is pathetic & childish.”

    Give Ed a break, he’s probably still upset about the fact that Clegg told Labour they’d have to ditch their leader if they wanted to talk to him after the election.

  • paul barker – whether there are Labour splits on this issue, there doesn’t seem to be any appetite to make this an issue of confidence in the leadership. This is not an issue on which anyone is going to make a stand. His response might be weak, but that likely has more to do with this simply not being a question on which anyone is going to rock the boat.

    And let’s not forget that the issue as a whole doens’t really seem to be catching the public mood either – there is no value for any Labour politician really looking to votng reform as THE issue. Quite frankly, a good portion of Labour seems to be a pretty good haul for the yes campaign and certainly more than they will ever get out of the Conservatives.

    Come to think of it, didn’t Clegg appear to say that he would demand Gordon Brown’s removal as Labour leader?

  • “Ed, at least, is staying true to what Labour’s 2010 general election manifesto pledged”

    What a pity that the same cannot be said about Clegg and most of the Lib Dem 2010 general election manifesto.

    A year ago I would have voted yes to AV and welcomed a Lib/Lab coalition. Now, after ten months of this appalling right-wing government, I just want to vote Labour and I don’t wish to give a second preference vote to any other party. So I will vote no in the referendum.

  • Good Gods, please stop with the constant Labour bashing. People are capable of coming to their own conclusions about the actions of others. I know this is only a personal comment from someone expressing their conclusion, but every time I hear more of how Labour are the enemy it just makes the ‘new politics’ seem like a distant memory, a tv soap opera that ended in tragedy.

    As you point out Ed Miliband should be supported. But let’s not forget their are dissenters in the Lib Dem ranks too. And why, when advocating pluralist politics on the one hand is it ok to derise another party for allowing it’s members to take opposite views.

    This is not an issue for party’s to get tribal and stand together, after all, there is a YES campaign amongst the Tory’s as well. Let’s just here a bigg cheer for the supporters, and a big boo hiss to the detractors, be they red, blue, yellow, green or whatever, and leave it at that. Party’s can kiss and make up later.

  • Bert, right wing by what standards? Ctting public funding? Labour would have had to do that. The Lib Dems have been a good influence over the Tories, a Tory majority government would have been far worse. And when the finances are sorted out, and we can return to public spending again, on a sound basis knowing we can continue to fund them for the near and far future, do you really want to go back to Tory/Labour alternative governments? Alternately increasing and slashing the state, alternately providing for the rich, then … well the rich come to think of it.

    Are you really saying that if your favoured candidate (Labour) doesn’t win, you don’t care who else gets in, are you, really, suggesting that a Lib Dem candidate, or a Green, would be just as good as a Tory, or a Tory no worse than a BNP?

    FPTP doesn’t guarantee majorities anyway, the IPPR estimates that even with a major fall off of the Lib Dem vote the chances of a hung parliament are about 50/50 with FPTP.

  • Old Codger Chris 16th Mar '11 - 9:05pm

    @Duncan
    “This article is one of the reasons I so loathe referendums. Issue free, personality partisan in nature”. Hardly “issue free”. I think we Brits have it about right – referendums should be rare beasts used only on constitutional matters such as the voting system, joining the EU (that referendum was admittedly a bit late), Scottish and Welsh devolution.

    But it is a shame that personalities are being dragged into an issue in which they ought to be irrelevant.

  • Tory Backbench MPs are openly threatening to try and force an early general election if AV gets passsed to stop it and the Clegg loyalists are still trying to blame Labour for the problems they are having with AV ?

    Astonishing indeed.

  • @paul barker

    “Millibands refusal to appear on a platform with the LibDem leader is pathetic & childish.”

    More like sensible, and in the interests of the “Yes” campaign’s cause. Don’t you realise that the “No” side would love nothing more than for this to become a referendum on Nick Clegg? There would be only be one result if that’s what it’s presented as. If Clegg wants AV to pass, he needs to stay as far away from all “Yes” events as possible.

  • Old Codger Chris 16th Mar '11 - 10:41pm

    @John Basil
    “Tory Backbench MPs are openly threatening to try and force an early general election if AV gets passed to stop it”.

    Although many Tories will be severely hacked off if we get AV (I’m not sure why, as Conservatives will presumably get UKIP’s second preferences and I can’t see Labour getting many second preferences from anyone – they’ll depend on first preferences from their own supporters and from ex-Lib Dems) they would be mad to force an early general election on the basis of overturning a referendum result.

  • TheContinentalOp 16th Mar '11 - 10:49pm

    What a wonderful advert you are for the No campaign. Why do you insist on this lie about Labour breaking their manifesto pledge on AV? The pledge was to hold a referendum. No more. You even quote it yourself. There’s only one party who has broken their pledge on voting reform and that’s the Lib Dems.

    It’s no wonder your party are looking at electoral oblivion.

  • “they would be mad to force an early general election on the basis of overturning a referendum result.”

    Well I did say the were Tory MPs, so not the brightest sparks in the world, nevertheless they are openly threatening such a move because they loathe AV so much. They were on the News tonight doing it so there’s no point denying it.

    Why do the Clegg loyalists insist on alienating the swing vote which everyone knows is Labour supporters?
    Do they want to lose this?
    Tactically the Lib Dem Yes to AV campaign is an utter shambles.

  • “If Labour isn’t prepared even to deliver on their own manifesto promises when they enjoy the luxury of opposition, it’s clear they could never have delivered on the compromises necessitated by coalition government.”

    Their Manifesto promised a referendum. They have always been split on this issue.

    @Mark Pack
    Please name the Labour MP’s. Otherwise your comment has little benefit to those of us who feel that the referendum was the promise. I know of several Labour MP’s who have always been vocally opposed to electoral reform.

  • @Mark Pack

    Oh dear, do you really want to get into the realm of what party’s manifestos said?

    And I’m a “Yes” supporter.

  • All I’m hearing from the yes campaign at the moment is a strange sulking noise – running an ad on the same day as Ed’s speech isn’t ‘mischevious’ – its a clever reminder that there are principled people on the No campaign side as well.

    I get the distinct feeling the yes campaign is rattled – assuming the yes Lib Dems would actually like the votes of Labour supporter this article is a wierd way of going about it……!

  • What’s this – Labour supporting an AV referendum? Hang on a minute, ISTR they were supposed to do this in 1997, 2001, 2005 ….

  • oh please… grow up

    this Labour bashing is getting silly now

  • But the question, is Jim – who started it?

  • TheContinentalOp 17th Mar '11 - 12:29pm

    @Mark Pack

    Spin it any way you like, it’s another in an increasing long line of LDV lies.

  • Ed Milliband (minus 15% approval rating) doesn’t want to appear with Nick Clegg in case it harms the yes vote – but is quite happy to have shadow cabinet members campaigning for a no vote.

    It is obvious that the Labour manifesto commitment was written with little expectation hat it woudl have to eb delivered on.

    John Healey MP really lowered the tone with his article saying that AV would produce less proportional results – so does Mr Healey support proportional representation ?

    What the NO campaign ought to realise is that killing off AV means a straight choice betweeen STV and FPTP next time.

    Otherwise it’s no taxation without representation.

  • Top of the league 17th Mar '11 - 3:55pm

    It is patently absurd to suggest that the 2010 Labour manifesto commits Labour MPs (or anyone else) to voting or campaigning one way or another in a popular referendum.

    Especially when it’s a Liberal Democrat talking about manifesto commitments.

  • @ Top of the league … so the wording

    “To ensure that every MP is supported by the majority of their constituents voting at each election… ”

    how is that achievable by campaigning for FPTP?

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