Tim Farron MP writes … Labour’s staggering hypocrisy on the Alternative Vote

The decision by what remains of the Labour high command to vote against legislation bringing a referendum on the Alternative Vote is one of the most hypocritical and staggeringly self-interested political decisions in recent years.

After 13 years of promising reform, in which precious little materialised, each and every Labour MP campaigned at this election on the promise of a referendum on AV. That referendum has now been proposed by the Coalition Government and a Bill to make it happen put forward, yet Labour’s shadow cabinet has now decided to oppose the legislation.

What an astonishing decision.

It is even more astonishing given that most of the party’s leadership candidates have publicly said they back AV. So what on Earth is going on behind the doors of Labour HQ to make them break their manifesto commitment?

Panic, I would venture, with heavy doses of political opportunism and naked self-interest thrown in. They claim their opposition is because they fear the proposal to make constituency sizes more equal, which is being put forward as part of the Bill, is a politically motivated move to put them at a disadvantage.

What no Labour member has explained to me or anyone else is why they are opposed to making everyone’s vote count equally. Could it be that they know that they have an entrenched advantage with the current system? Or could it be that they fear it will mean the end of their cosy, safe seats that they expected to keep for life?

When the expenses scandal was exposed last year, there was a clear correlation between the size of an MP’s majority and the scale of the abuses that took place. Not that every MP with a safe seat abused their expenses, but they were certainly more likely to – and Labour has a lot of safe seats.

Put simply, these are not good reasons to oppose legislation designed to make the voting system fairer and to makes votes across the country count more equally. They are not reasons grounded in principle.

When it comes to putting self-interest ahead of principle on voting reform, Labour has form. Despite years of talking about changing the voting system, Labour kept the creaking, out-of-date First Past The Post system while it suited them. It brought Tony Blair and his party huge majorities with mere fractions of the popular vote. They even appointed the hugely respected Roy Jenkins to carry out a review of the voting system in 1997 and then chose to ignore the AV-based model he proposed.

Despite their comprehensive defeat this May, the old system still favoured Labour, with its MPs still needing fewer votes to get elected than Conservatives, and far, far fewer than Liberal Democrats.

In all the calculations about whether or not to support this Bill, Labour appears to have paid little regard to the bigger issue that is at stake here: whether or not the Alternative Vote is a fairer and more democratic way of electing our parliament. Under AV every MP will need to have the backing of at least 50 percent of their constituents in order to be elected, whereas under the current system many MPs are comfortably elected with barely a third of the people they represent backing them.

AV eliminates the need for tactical voting and means that people can vote the way they want to without the fear that their ballot is wasted. It also encourages would-be MPs to court the second and third preference votes of people who they previously would have ignored, meaning less negative campaigning and more inclusive policy-making.

These are all good, principled reasons to back the Alternative Vote, and they explain why my Liberal Democrat colleagues and I will be backing the Yes campaign when the referendum comes.

Labour needs to figure out what it is for now that its MPs sit on the Opposition benches: naked self-interest and opposition for opposition’s sake, or real reform that will make the country fairer? The early signs suggest the former.

* Tim Farron is Liberal Democrat Member of Parliament for Westmorland and Lonsdale.

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66 Comments

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  • For goodness sake thats five times you have done a piece on this.Do you really think members of the labour party will listen to this drivel,because the more you use your double speak the less i feel inclined to vote for AV.
    As said by scores on all sides of the political divide,if you want your AV referendum split the bill into two parts.

  • Andrea Gill 2nd Aug '10 - 2:07pm

    “each and every Labour MP campaigned at this election on the promise of a referendum on AV.”

    Funnily enough, in spite of brandishing one (IMHO silly) VAT poster – and NOT a Lib Dem manifesto commitment – as “every Lib Dem MP campaigned against VAT rise”, Labour have the cheek to now turn around and claim, as in Tom Harris’ case (I believe, on Newsnight Scotland) that they “didn’t actually campaign on that manifesto”. Hm…

    Then again Tim, are you really so naive as to still be surprised? 🙁

  • Look, I’m no labour supporter, and indeed I support voting reform, but Labour have repeatedly asserted that the AV elelment of the bill is not the bit they oppose. They oppose the re-drawing of constituency boundaries.

    Are you deaf or deliberately obtuse on this? Becasue frankly THIS looks like the sort of opportunism you’re blaming them for.

  • The proposal to equalize the number of eligible voters in each constituency will fail, because of problems with registration. Obviously the current system isn’t ideal either, but that’s not a good reason to rush through a massive shake-up of the entire system that won’t improve it much, and that will have to ride roughshod over local consultations and proper scrutiny in order to get changes in place for the next election.

    But regardless of that, why won’t the government just split it into two bills? The AV bill would then go through very quickly, with all parties backing it. The only reason I can think for the government to have joined the two issues together is precisely so that they can use it to attack Labour and make them look opposed to AV – by writing articles like this, for example – when they have made it clear they are in favour of an AV referendum, just not in favour of the rest of the bill.

  • If what you want is for AV to pass, split the bill.

    If you are willing to sacrifice AV for the sake of yet more Labour bashing, keep going the way you’re going.

  • It is easy enough to attack Labour Party hypocrisy on this issue and milk a bit of applause. What the Lib Dem leadership needs to do is justify the reduction of the number of MPs from 650 to 600 and the removal of the right of appeal against Boundary Commission decisions. I don’t think they can come up with an argument that will convince me, but let them try.

    It looks to me as if Cameron has set a trap. He has promised a referendum on a tweak to the electoral system that comes nowhere close to being PR (and which will be lost, anyway), in return for Lib Dem support for a weakening of Parliament and a stiching-up of Parliamentary boundaries that no-one can challenge except by judicial review. Is this not a honey-trap?

    What kind of constituencies are going to emerge from Cameron’s review?

    Southwark East and Southwark West, with the boundary running from London Bridge to Crystal Palace.

    Portsmouth West and Isle of Wight East.

    Portsdown and Southsea.

    Colchester North and Dedham Vale.

    Colchester South and Tiptree.

    Henley and Blackbird Leas.

    Sutton and Cheam and Ewell East.

    Carshalton, Wallington, Woodmansterne and Banstead.

    And the list goes on.

    Never trust a Tory, certainly not David Cameron, once described by a former colleague at Carlton TV as a “mendacious creep”.

  • BTW, once Cameron has completed his boundary review, he will kick us out of the Coalition and call a General Election on constituency boundaries designed to give us 20 seats on 23% of the vote.

  • Agreed that the +50% argument is silly. Clearly someone’s second preference isn’t as strong a preference as their first. They might REALLY want their second preference to win, or the prospect might make them feel a bit sick (but less sick than whoever they place 3,4 and 5 though obviously).

    I’m not sure why supporters of the highest two parties in each constituency should only get one vote and supporters of the rest should get two or maybe three though.

  • @Sesenco..Never trust a Tory, certainly not David Cameron, once described by a former colleague at Carlton TV as a “mendacious creep”
    Very good indeed and i totally agree with you.
    In 2005 Jeff Randall of the telegraph wrote he would not trust David Cameron with his daughters pocket money!

  • It looks to me as if Cameron has set a trap. He has promised a referendum on a tweak to the electoral system that comes nowhere close to being PR (and which will be lost, anyway), in return for Lib Dem support for a weakening of Parliament and a stiching-up of Parliamentary boundaries that no-one can challenge except by judicial review.

    Correct – except the Bill is designed to avoid even judicial review by restructuring the existing process for written submissions. It extends the period for sending in written submissions from 4 to 12 weeks and, crucially from the JR aspect, provides for a second round of written consultation on revised proposals.

    This slightly extended two-staged consultation is designed to serve two ends: one, it is intended to provide political cover for the abolition of public inquiries; and two, they think this ruse will make the Bill JR-proof.

    In reality the courts may not see it that way, but time will tell. What is beyond doubt is that the extension of the period for written consultation in no way makes up for the abolition of public inquiries.

  • Split the bill. Labour have said they oppose the boundary reforms and not AV. If they oppose a bill for AV alone, then you can call them hypocrites.

    Also, AV doesn’t make “everyone’s vote count equally”. AV is not PR.

  • Sorry, I made an error in my above comment. I meant:

    No FPTP/AV system can make “everyone’s vote count equally”. AV is not PR.

  • republica you are right. Loads of articles on this. None on the bidding war to turn nhs wards into private ones. None on 12% opinion polls or “changed my mind before the election about the cuts but told no one”. None about the plans to introduce regional benefits with London weighting. I think the AV vote may become a vote against Lib Dem approaches to the coilition and the gerrymandering of political boundaries. It could have been so different.

  • Pat Roche,

    Why didn’t Tony Blair make good on his promise to hold a referendum on changing the electoral system? If he had kept to his word, none of this mess would have arisen. Is it perhaps because he knew that the system we have advantages Labour?

  • Andrea Gill 2nd Aug '10 - 3:43pm

    @bob ” Labour have repeatedly asserted that the AV elelment of the bill is not the bit they oppose.”

    Funny then that during negotiations it was brought to light that Lab couldn’t necessarily even get their MPs onboard for the AV referendum… and several prominent MPs have spoken out against it since, largely because Brown jumped the suggestion on them at conference.

    The Labour grass roots may well be in favour of electoral reform, and of AV to some degree. But I would not bet on more Labour MPs voting for it, than Tory MPs voting against it, if the bill were split…

  • Andrea Gill 2nd Aug '10 - 3:50pm

    @pat roche – Many are frankly sick of the Labour trolling and scaremongering on these comments sections, and keep debates about concerns to an area where we can discuss sensibly, amongst each other, so as to bring any issues we do have, up at conference to debate them like a democratic party, rather than rabble-rousers like Labour who have to rely on public savaging of opponents in the media.

  • actually andrea it waas cleggs insistance on cutting now that broke any chance of a deal but that was a good try at muddying the waters.

  • @Andrea Gill.. “Many are frankly sick of the Labour trolling and scaremongering on these comments sections”
    maybe you should stick to drinking lapsang souchong and leave people with thicker skins to debate,to me this site is no worse than any political sites,you know people used to be prepared to die for there beliefs andrea so complaining about a few harmless words is just ridiculous,do you never watch newsnight where the audience regularly bays for blood?welcome to govenment adrea ,don’t expect it to get any easier.

  • Stuart Mitchell 2nd Aug '10 - 4:41pm

    “What no Labour member has explained to me or anyone else is why they are opposed to making everyone’s vote count equally.”

    I am completely baffled as to why Lib Dems suddenly seem to think that having equal sized constituencies (however one works it out) amounts to everyone’s vote counting equally. When did FPTP with tweaked boundaries suddenly acquire this magical property of making everybody’s vote count the same? It’s a complete nonsense, and flies in the face of every argument I have ever heard against FPTP.

    As usual, there is widespread rage here at Labour’s opposition to this bill, and barely a single word about the 40+ coalition MPs who have threatened to vote against it. This is odd when you think about it.

  • Without the Orange Tories the Blue Tories would be toast. The Orange Tories should be using the fact that they have the whip hand to force the Blue Tories to make concessions on PR (Not AV) and split the bill. Why should such an important and radical political change as the future of the country’s voting system be conflated with Cameron’s wish to deprive the country of 50 MPs? After all the corruption of the last parliament the public are hungry for change. Demand a referendum on various aspects of PR and the Orange Tories will be respected. At present you are simply demonstrating that when it comes to manipulating the levers of power you are amateurs. I am desperate to see a Party List System or something very similar and not AV which is to PR what the Great Reform Bill of 1832 was to Universal Suffrage. I have lived for 26 years in a constituency which has always returned a Tory and will continue to do so for the next century under FPTP. I haven’t got another hundred years. I want I want to see my Labour Vote count now. There are so many people like me up and down the land. Use your political clout to push for PR. You are pushing at an open door. If you mess it up this time you will end up with nothing — not even AV. The last YouGov poll put AV at just one per cent in front of FPTP. You can only gain by insisting on a referendum on PR. Forget the coalition agreement. The Tories had no respect for your coalition agreement when it came to privatising the Health Service. Amend the bill.

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Aug '10 - 5:10pm

    There are some Tories who when discussing this issue really do give the impression that they believe unequal sized constituencies are the main reason our electoral system does not accurately reflect the votes cast rather than the reality which is that our current system and the slight variation of it which is AV both mean geographical minorities do not get representation of their choice.

    I agree with Stuart Mitchell, when Tim Farron writes

    What no Labour member has explained to me or anyone else is why they are opposed to making everyone’s vote count equally

    this is a Tory Party propaganda line and any Liberal Democrat should be ashamed to use it. Everyone’s vote does not count equally when we have a “local majorities only get represented” system, the distortions caused by varying constituency sizes are nothing as to the distortions caused by giving no elected representation to local minorities. The fact that our MPs are in a coalition with theirs in Parliament does not mean we have to pick up and use their propaganda. Being in coalition means we have to make compromises, this is one of them. Being a separate party means we can be honest and open about those compromises, SHAME on our MPs when they are not and instead pretend their latest give-in to the Tories is what they always wanted in the first place.

    It would help if someone could give me what I have not had yet – what is the actual difference on “equally sized constituencies” between what we have now and what is proposed? Is it not the case anyway that the Boundary Commission is charged with producing constituencies which are equally sized in terms of number of voters? All I have heard is from people who have a bias and so aren’t saying honestly what the actual mechanism is at present and how it is proposed to change it.

    I have also not yet seen a single honest argument against AV and in favour of FPTP. All the arguments I have seen are dishonest because they are in terms of the supposed overall effect rather than in terms directly of why the presence of candidate C should make the difference between whether candidate A or candidate B is returned as the Member of Parliament for constituency X.

    If the argument is that FPTP is good because it forces people to vote for those candidates endorsed by the biggest parties for fear otherwise of “splitting the vote”, and this in turn leads to a distortion in favour of the biggest parties, and this is good because it will generally give single-party government, then those using that argument would be more honest if they were to endorse an electoral system guaranteed to do that rather than one which seems, given British geography and British history, to give it despite there being no guarantee it does. So let them argue honestly for distortion in favour of the largest party, have a rule written in which gives the largest party enough MPs to form a majority in whatever circumstances they think justified for that.

  • Matthew Huntbach 2nd Aug '10 - 5:26pm

    MacK

    Without the Orange Tories the Blue Tories would be toast. The Orange Tories should be using the fact that they have the whip hand to force the Blue Tories to make concessions on PR (Not AV) and split the bill.

    How? Had the Liberal Democrats ended the election on an upward trajectory, we would be in a position to threaten the Tories by forcing another general election and gaining seats. But we ended it on a downward trajectory, the Tories knowing full well that we would be the biggest losers in any new general election. The arithmetic following the general election also meant a coalition with Labour was not viable, even if Labour was keen to offer one, which it was not. The election results showed what nonsense it was when it was suggested we would be the kingmakers in a no-majority Parliament. They showed the more likely scenario was that we would be forced through “national interest” to form a coalition in which we would be the biggest losers. They showed the better question to ask about coalition was to Brown and Cameron “Would you be prepared to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats?”, since it would be their willingness that would be the biggest factor if the situation did give a choice (as it didn’t in 2010).

    The only way the Liberal Democrats will have the whip hand is if we can show we will be the winners if a new election is called. I.e. if we can show there’s a big group of left-inclined voters who would turn to us if we brought down the coalition. So this means the stronger the left support there is for the Liberal Democrats, the stronger the Liberal Democrats can argue their corner in the coalition. Or, to put it another way, all those people saying “I’m never going to vote LibDem again because of the coalition” are Cameron’s fifth column. To any LibDem who is unhappy with the coalition, what needs to be done now is to fight, fight, fight for what you believe WITHIN the party, not to desert it. We are a democratic party which belongs to its members, we members are Nick Clegg’s master and not vice versa.

  • @MacK..Don’t every believe a word that comes from a lib dem like Duncan Stott ,they think white is black and that wrong is actually right,they are skullduggerous beyond belief,make your own mind up who you want to vote for and don’t allow the fork tonged flibbertigibbets to convince you otherwise.

  • David Boothroyd 2nd Aug '10 - 5:33pm

    The Lib Dem attack on Labour on this issue is fatuous. Regardless of whether you agree with Labour’s criticism of the changes proposed to the redistribution of Parliamentary seats, it is clearly a separate issue from the electoral system once the constituencies are defined, and what is more it is also something never previously supported by Labour whether in government or opposition. It is entirely reasonable for Labour to oppose the redistribution proposals, and therefore to vote against the Bill containing them – even if it does also contain the AV referendum with which Labour is happy. The Lib Dems seem to be saying that Labour is obliged to support the Bill because it contains the AV referendum, and that Labour has then got no right to quibble with anything else in the Bill.

    Put it like this – supposing there was a two part bill with the first part containing an AV referendum, and the second part proposing the slaughter of the first-born. Are the Lib Dems seriously suggesting that Labour are duty bound to support that?

  • David Allen 2nd Aug '10 - 5:54pm

    “It would help if someone could give me what I have not had yet – what is the actual difference on “equally sized constituencies” between what we have now and what is proposed? Is it not the case anyway that the Boundary Commission is charged with producing constituencies which are equally sized in terms of number of voters?”

    Good question. My understanding is that the Boundary Commission do produce roughly equally sized constituencies, but they are also asked to stick with existing local government boundaries and where possible, reflect natural communities. This means that the BC have to choose between different aims, i.e. most natural boundaries versus most equal sizing. This leaves lots of room for argument, appeal, and review. So they only produce a revision every decade. Hence the constituency sizing drifts out of date, Labourish inner city constituencies get smaller, while Toryish shires get bigger.

    What Cameron now wants is equal sizing and ignore everything else, allow wards to be sliced in half if that is necessary to achieve equal constituency sizes. So it should be possible for the BC to do its job more quickly, to abolish appeals because there aren’t any valid grounds for them, and to revise its recommendations more often. If they do revise their recommendations more often, they ought to be able to avoid the size-drift effect. What I don’t know is whether they are actually going to do that. Does anyone else know?

    There are drawbacks with Cameron’s scheme, neglect of unregistered voters being one. it would be better to try to avoid these drawbacks. However, at least it will get rid of the huge bias toward Labour that we have now. Labour have a cheek to complain about “gerrymandering” in these circumstances!

  • I’m rather depressed that our LibDem MPs don’t appear to read LibDem Voice, or if they do read it then they don’t take heed of what LibDem activists are saying. There have been several articles on this subject now and the concensus is that the Bill is wrong to conflate the AV Referendum with legislation to subvert the work of the Boundary Commission. Someone on a previous thread said that there was a proposal in our manifesto to reduce the number of MPs by 150: was this discussed by Conference or the Federal Policy Committee? If it was, then fair enough but I still think it’s a stupid idea. If not, then where did the idea come from? Is it just a piece of anti-politician populism? The proposals in the Bill to speed up the process of redrawing boundaries and creating more equally sized constituencies seem to me to be based on a mixture of ignorance, wishful thinking, and stalinism.

  • Francis Irving 2nd Aug '10 - 6:05pm

    Labour opposition to the Bill is not the important thing.

    The real question is, will Labour support the referendum?

  • There can be little doubt that few Labourites or Tories will be saddened if the outcome of the ‘new politics’ is the destruction of the Lib Dems and a return to duopoly. The Tory hugging and Labour baiting we are witnessing
    from MP’s like Tim Farron plays straight into the hands of the duopolists. It would be far smarter to recognise where Labour have legitimate concerns and debate reform in a mature way.
    Although, I suppose if you represent a seat previously held by the Tories and are hoping to pick up a lot of Tory second preferences it must be tempting to put the boot into Labour at every opportunity irrespective of where that leaves
    your party.

  • Peter Venables 2nd Aug '10 - 6:48pm

    This is Kamikaze politics.

    Your negotiating team is to blame for this mess, You managed to get AV which wasn’t what youwanted(tied to a referendum). But to even get that you bolted on a conservative policy that Labour wouldn’t support, and instead of getting your leaders to split the bills up they engage in stupid attacks on the party they need to help win the referendum.
    You are probably going to lose the referendum at this rate.
    Madness, Suicidal Madness.

  • Andrea it is what I read in the press that I have reported. These are supposed to be quotes from the coilition about private wards, regional variations in benefits etc. Perhaps the 12% lib dem voters thing is wrong. I am not scaremongering – I am scared.

  • David Boothroyd 2nd Aug '10 - 7:30pm

    I don’t think Duncan Stott has really engaged with the central part of my argument, which was that it the charge of hypocrisy made by Tim Farron is so misplaced as to be ludicrous. He may not endorse the Labour opposition to the redistribution proposals, but they are not a mere minor detail of the Bill. The proposals amount to a major constitutional change which is not the product of party political consensus but a partisan imposition and it is entirely reasonable to oppose a Bill containing them even if it has some other sections which are supportable. And it certainly isn’t hypocrisy to do so, especially since the reasoned amendment declares its support for an AV referendum.

    As far as the reasons given by Labour for disagreeing to the redistribution go, the point about the inaccuracy of the electoral register is that it did not matter so much when the Boundary Commissions are not under a requirement to produce absolutely equal constituency sizes. In practice many of the areas where unregistered voters are a high proportion happen to have small constituencies, partly because the local authority boundaries force them to be small, and partly because population movement has tended to be away from these areas. Under the new system the number of unregistered voters will always matter. This is no mere ‘nitpicking’.

  • Stuart Mitchell 2nd Aug '10 - 7:44pm

    Tim Farron: “Under AV every MP will need to have the backing of at least 50 percent of their constituents in order to be elected”

    If I understand AV correctly, Farron’s statement is simply *wrong*.

    50% of constituents may choose not to vote at all.

    But even if everybody did vote, Farron’s claim is still completely untrue. In fact, MPs would only be guaranteed the backing of 50 percent of those voters WHOSE VOTES WERE INCLUDED IN THE FINAL ROUND OF COUNTING.

    Suppose Labour come third with 10,000 votes. If 70% of those Labour voters express no second preference (a realistic figure, according to a recent YouGov poll) then those 7,000 votes would be thrown in the bin before any more counting takes place. The eventual winner would only need the backing of 50% of the *remaining* voters, which could be significantly less than 50 percent of all the people who cast votes in the election.

    The only way Farron’s statement could ever be true would be if we had an Australian-style system whereby it was compulsory to vote, and compulsory to rank every single candidate on the ballot paper. I think both those options would be anathema to Lib Dems and just about any other sensible person.

  • @ Duncan Stott

    Threaten to walk away from the coalition and you will be surprised at how accommodating the Tories will be. It’s called politics.

  • Stuart Mitchell 2nd Aug '10 - 8:05pm

    Duncan: “Those 40+ Coalition MPs (Conservative MPs, it should be stressed) opposing this bill is totally predictable.”

    I am surprised you should say that. The Conservative Party signed a coalition agreement with the Lib Dems. An important part of that agreement was that the Tories would deliver a referendum on AV. Now a large number of Tory MPs are threatening to welch on the deal. I find it absolutely remarkable that Lib Dems are expressing no anger whatsoever at the behaviour of their so-called coalition partners.

    “What is unpredictable is Labour using technical issues surrounding the boundary review to vote against the headline reform,”

    Whatever reasons Labour have, they are entitled to them, and they owe the Lib Dems nothing. Labour’s objections are far more fundamental than you make out. The electoral system should not be the plaything of any one political party. For decades, questions such as this have been considered on a multi-party, consensual basis, and it is the abandonment of this approach which is totally out of order.

    As for the AV referendum itself, if Clegg wanted Labour to vote for it, why did he not pay them the courtesy of consulting them beforehand about the kind of bill that would be acceptable to them? That is all it would have taken, and surely this is what the “new politics” was trumpeted as being all about? To the great credit of many Lib Dems here, a lot of them can see the current situation for what it is and know exactly where the blame lies.

  • Stuart Mitchell 2nd Aug '10 - 8:13pm

    “you will know how ruthless the Lib Dems had to behave to squeeze just AV out of the Tories.”

    This is all academic now, but I really believe that the Tories’ original offer (for an all-party commission) was far superior to the offer the Lib Dems eventually accepted. And I was saying this long before the current fiasco.

    A commission would have at least offered the *chance* of significant reform, which the AV vote does not. Lib Dems might counter that such a commission would have been a stitch-up, but that didn’t stop them agreeing to similar “reviews” on several other important policy areas. FPTP is so obviously unfair that I find it inconceivable that any properly conducted commission would have recommended anything less than an AV referendum (which you might not even get now). It may well have come up with much more. Even if it hadn’t, the issue would have stayed very much alive into the next election; whereas the debacle taking place now (all of Clegg’s own making) looks like killing real voting reform stone dead for a generation.

  • Andrea Gill 2nd Aug '10 - 9:29pm

    @Stuart “This is all academic now, but I really believe that the Tories’ original offer (for an all-party commission) was far superior to the offer the Lib Dems eventually accepted”

    Blair screwed us over with the same thing, and electoral reform was in their manifesto at the time. How on earth was Cameron going to give us anything better?

  • @ Tim Farron

    Your assertions that Labour is being opportunistic and hypocritical concerning the Parliamentary Voting Bill are egregious. The wording of Labour’s Amendment to the bill fully supports a referendum on AV: why don’t you read it for yourself on Left Foot Forward?

    http://www.leftfootforward.org/2010/07/electoral-reformers-should-oppose-the-coalitions-gerrymandering/

    Why aren’t you criticising the Blue Tories for attempting to scupper the bill by conflating AV and boundary changes which they know Labour can never vote for as a whole package? Why aren’t you criticising the forty or so Blue Tories who are attempting to have the date of the referendum changed because they are afraid that the voters in Scotland and Wales who are used to AV and will be voting on the proposed date will be more sympathetic to AV? Now that’s what I call opportunism. Disgraceful! Thank heaven for the Orange Tories on this site who can really see what’s going on.

  • I’m a Labour supporter – I support true PR….ok we can argue that AV isn’t PR but it’s a step in the right direction – no doubt there is some opportunism going on with Labour threatening to vote against the bill (that by the way is what opposition parties do) – but nevertheless the Liberal leadership is making the argument to vote against pretty easy by supporting different issues in one bill.

    As others have said here this is all heading one way – Cameron gets his way on constituencies (Farron – what the hell has the expenses issue really got to do with the number of constituencies?) campaigns against reform in the referendum and dumps the Liberals into electoral oblivion. Come on Clegg – show some balls and call Cameron’s bluff (I think a lot of the country who didn’t vote Tory would like to see this) split the bills and insist on independent review. Ok it might not be cosy or nice or warm or cuddly but it would be good wholesome politics – just as you promised.

  • republica
    Posted 2nd August 2010 at 5:32 pm | Permalink
    @MacK..Don’t every believe a word that comes from a lib dem like Duncan Stott ,they think white is black and that wrong is actually right,they are skullduggerous beyond belief,make your own mind up who you want to vote for and don’t allow the fork tonged flibbertigibbets to convince you otherwise.

  • @ republica
    Posted 2nd August 2010 at 5:32 pm | Permalink
    @MacK..Don’t every believe a word that comes from a lib dem like Duncan Stott ,they think white is black and that wrong is actually right,they are skullduggerous beyond belief,make your own mind up who you want to vote for and don’t allow the fork tonged flibbertigibbets to convince you otherwise.

    Thanks for the advice which I appreciate but I would never vote for the Orange Tories who can’t even organise support for their own core policy when Labour offers it to them and who confuse the words “coalition” with “compliance”!

  • @Tim Farron

    Please, save the phony anger and throwing of insults. The real hypocrisy is a party that has campaigned for years to make the voting system fairer dumping that and supporting a blatant gerrymandering of constituencies by reducing the number of MPs. I have no problem with a boundary review, five such reviews have been carried out since WW2 without any serious accusations of gerrymandering but the review Clegg is going to force through is sickening.

    And I’m a former LibDem voter.

  • The expenses scandals crystallised an ongoing crisis of legitimacy in the political class. What we are seeing is an attempt to manage, frustrate and dissipate the electorate’s desire for far-reaching political reform for party advantage.

    The Tory measures in the bill are aimed solely at dealing with the problem that their support tends to cluster geographically. Their argument appears to be that although FPTP gives them an unfair advantage it doesn’t give them quite as unfair an advantage as Labour. Both parties are are engaged in a dogged, unprincipled fight over the undeserved spoils of a broken electoral system. Why are the Lib Dems signing up as cheerleaders for one side of this pathetic argument? Just to get the miserable retrenchment of FPTP that is AV. While AV may be fairer technically, in a political structure formed by FPTP all that will result is more triangulation, spin and mendacity. The deep problem in representative democracy is that it provides little effective sanction against politicians campaigning on one agenda and ruling on another. AV in the current climate will simply exacerbate this problem. None of the
    measures in the electoral reform bill are really worth supporting. If it passes it will represent no more than the triumph of the political class over those they pretend to represent. If it fails, ditto.

  • “complaining about a few harmless words is just ridiculous,do you never watch newsnight where the audience regularly bays for blood?welcome to govenment adrea ,don’t expect it to get any easier”

    and you think this is acceptable? Just because the lowest common denominator does it, doesn’t mean it’s the best way to do things. Personally I preferred the times when people had sensible debates, made good arguments and tried to win support by appealing to peoples sense of decency and rationality. Of course in these media-centric, sensationalist days where tv ‘debates’ and ‘interviews’ are held in front generally ignorant audiences, by interviewees and hosts who are only slightly more informed themselves, where the programme itself is no more than a pale simulacrum of the ancient Rome arena fights, designed to appease and placate the masses rather than inform them, this method of debate has fallen out of fashion.

    It takes a far thicker skin to have a reasonable debate with someone you disagree with than it does to just hurl insults and spread lies and dissension. This goes for people on both sides of the fence. Personally I’m getting rather tired of a lot of the Lib Dem bloggers myself. Isn’t it about time that they started practising what they supposedly believed before they were in government, which was that attacking the other parties and blaming them for all the worldsw problems is not only unhelpful, uninformative and pointless, but also damaging to your own arguments, especially in the eye of the public. Lib Dems used to say politics needed to grow up, and I wholeheartedly agreed with them, now to see them acting in the same childish way just because people are pointing fingers at them is seriously depressing. It’s about time they took their own advice and grew up.

  • Hove Howard 3rd Aug '10 - 11:28am

    “Under AV every MP will need to have the backing of at least 50 percent of their constituents in order to be elected”

    This oft-repated statement fails a basic truth test, given that by no means every voter will bother to express a second preference and – by my understanding – there is no intention to try to force them. So it will remain perfectly possible for an MP to be elected with less than 50 percent of the vote.

    That’s even supposing that it’s OK for a second preference vote to be considered as having the same weight as a first preference one. What would be better is a system where first preference votes have a better chance of actually counting – list or MMP or AV+, I’m not fussed, just NOT AV!

    Since there’s nowhere else to do it on this forum I’d just like to say how delighted I am that I spent my time (and money) on campaigning for a party whose leader did not believe in its published economic policy. What a disgrace.

  • Barbara Bowman 4th Aug '10 - 5:35pm

    Re equalising constituency electoral sizes.
    Why in this day and age?
    If MPs voted in the Commons electronically their vote could be weighted to constituency electorate size.
    As long as constituencies were not wildly out of the mean this could allow MPs to have votes worth 1.0 (for the mean) , 1.23,or 0.89 etc as appropriate. Only if there were the equivalent of new towns would an additional MP be necessary, otherwsie the voting strength for each constituency woud just be adjusted at say 5 year intervals (6 months before the fixed term election?). This would allow constituencies to stay with fixed boundaries and be more aligned with local authority borders / natural boundaries / communities and everyone would be equally represented (as far as is possible with AV)

    Just a thought and would absolutely scupper lab / Tory crie sof fix and gerrymandering

  • Andrew Cook 4th Aug '10 - 10:25pm

    Is it not true to say that AV would enhance the power of the political parties at the expense of the ordinary voter? If this is the case it would be less democratic than First Past the Post. We really should be arguing for proportional representation & aim to adopt a system similar to that used in Southern Ireland.

  • The reforendum question should read”Do you think that an alternative voting system to
    the present first past the post in single member constituencies is
    required at the next election” A straight YES/NO answer is required.
    If the NO vote wins no action is needed.
    If the YES vote wins,and the result either way is by a single majority,it is then up
    to Parliament to come up with a Proper Constitutional Act after full discussion
    and within one year.The public has decided but Parliament must have the power
    to enact change,it does not need to be put to public vote again.If parties do not
    like the new rules they can still put it in their manifestos at that next election.
    However with good will on ALL sides surely we can come up with something
    that will last.
    The only thing we need to do is get those who want to say NO to actually justify
    FPTP in open debate using facts not fancies.

  • So what if the Labour Party is self-interested. One should consider their arguments against the boundary reform on their own merits without jumping to conclusions. Talking about social class is unfashionable but Labour still gets disproportionately more votes from more marginalised sectors of the population, which are also more likely than other social groups either to abstain or to fail to register. The real problem is how to measure constituency size: do we just use the electoral register, which tends to miss off precisely the more marginal social groups, or do we use some other method? The fact that we have nothing better than the electoral register at present is of course Labour’s fault since they had plenty of time to sort this out. Nonetheless, constituency population could be measured on the bases of national insurance, NHS, or census data.

  • “The decision by what remains of the Labour high command to vote against legislation bringing a referendum on the Alternative Vote is one of the most hypocritical and staggeringly self-interested political decisions in recent years.” I’m not a full on Labour supporter, and in fact I like the Lib Dems more, and voted for them both in the local and general election, but I still have to say that from that then the Liberal Democrats don’t wish to secure their own interests through AV? That’s such a farcically hypocritical and transparent comment from you it’s laughable. And, plus, you guys know that this new AV proposal includes changing the boundaries so that Labour loses more seats, so to be fair it’s not exactly a U-turn because they were/are for and against different things. Don’t pollute the world with more low life deceitful journalism.

  • David Dineley 5th Aug '10 - 9:37pm

    You can see why the man in the street thinks the Lib-dems are a joke, when this idiot calls the Labour leaders hypocrits, he should have a good look in the mirror.

  • As i have said before,it may all be academic if the lib dems own partners don’t support it,i know its easier to attack labour but in the end its futile
    http://conservativehome.blogs.com/thetorydiary/

  • keith gardner 9th Aug '10 - 5:29pm

    all/most of the comments above miss an important point, all this talk about boundary changes is irrelevant if we go for
    PR, —-AV is not the answer, what we need is PR on the same rule as Israel, one country wide constituency.
    We should then arrange responsibility for what we now call a constituency with the politition who is best suited.

  • Keith Gardner’s point of view truly crystalises the debate with his spot on comment. Yes if we had STV the issue of boundary changes could eventually become a thing of the past. AV must be seen regardless of what the Tories believe as a stepping stone towards achieving STV.
    So come on Labour. Don’t use the boundary change issue as the reason for not supporting AV ! Lib Dems have never seen AV as any solution to the failings of FPTP. Indeed, and i think Labour MP’s would support this in even fewer numbers, Lib Dems would be much much happier with AV Plus.
    Lets all stop Lib/ Lab bashing. Get behind the Takeback Parliament Campaign to ensure we get AV through. The thought of not even getting over this hurdle for larger, and smaller political parties alike supporting Electoral reform would be a DISASTER !!!

  • keith gardner 14th Aug '10 - 2:26pm

    I thank Mark Wilson for his compliment, but he has misinterpreted my comment, I sited ISRAEL as my example, Mark seems to be talking about Eira, STV is not my choice.
    PR— and by the way I am only saying we should use it to elect the house,( NOT as in Israel the priminister, except as an MP) is my answer to getting rid of FPTP.
    I apologise for any confusion I may of caused, probably my fault for not making myself clearer in the first place.

    However Mark is correct in saying that to loose the referendum even if it’t for AV would be a disaster, what sticks in my craw is that voting yes will be like voting for MP’S over the last decade or so, VOTING FOR THE LESSER OF THE BAD
    He is also correct in saying we must support the “TAKE BACK PARLIAMENT” organisation.

  • keith gardner 16th Aug '10 - 10:20am

    I should have added in my above comment, that Israel abandoned PR to elect their prime minister in 2001.
    I feel that the election for PM and deputy in the UK should remain the choice of the house, obviously in coalition government it would no longer be simply the choice of MP’s from one party.

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