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Now as regular readers will know, I don’t always have the greatest amount of time and respect for the Liberal Democrats. I didn’t before the coalition and little that has happened since has changed my mind (more reinforced in steel what I always believed to be true). I say this because what I am discussing below could easily be seen as my putting a partisan gloss on an issue. There are certainly good reasons both in terms of the fairness and the electoral effect of the boundary proposals to make it a clear Labour priority to scupper the Bill by any means possible (and you know, all it really takes is one Scarlet Standard blog post to bring the establishment, trembling, to their knees *ahem*). But actually I hope this is a bit more of a thoughtful blog about the rock and the hard place the Lib Dems find themselves over this issue.

So here’s the problem:

The Lib Dems are – in all likelihood – going to be completely shafted by the boundary review. There are mutterings that several might vote against it. Labour will vote against it. If enough Lib Dem and Tory rebels can be found the Bill could be defeated. Defeat of the Bill suits the Lib Dems in terms of immediate parliamentary arithmetic.

The problem is that they made a very public agreement to support the boundary changes in return for the AV referendum. As Lady Bracknell might have said: “to break one high-profile promise is unfortunate…”. Additionally, this promise is one that the right-wing press is absolutely behind. While Nick Clegg may have passed into popular culture as Britain’s most well known liar (and you just have to look at the recent Shameless trailer to see how pervasive this is) it is not quite yet seen as endemic to the Party. If they go against the Government on boundary changes, you can guarantee that the press goes after Tim Farron and Simon Hughes, after the Lib Dems who might have a chance at giving them a post-coalition future. It will be open warfare on all the Lying Lib Dems. If you think it’s been bad up to now….

Now those of us who were imploring the Lib Dems to split the Bill and make these issues less reliant on each other last year can look on at the car crash that is coming with a certain sense of “I told you so” style satisfaction. And of course, part of me is doing that, because this bind the Lib Dems in is entirely of their own making. The continually slapdash approach of the Lib Dem team to strategy is astonishing by a Party at the level they have reached. But having backed themselves once again into a lose/lose corner, it is impossible not to feel a stirring of pity for them.

Just a tiny bit mind.


Confessions of a floating voter

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By Emma | 4 comments

I’ve always voted Labour (well there was that one time in London in 2000, but that worked out OK). I’ve always known pretty quickly which side represented my point of view on an issue and been an active and vocal supporter. What I don’t know about the ins and outs of campaigning could be written on a postage stamp. Or so I thought, until I realised that what I really didn’t know about campaigning was what it was like to be ambivalent, to be campaigned at. What I discovered was that I didn’t like it, not one bit.

As I’ve documented in previous articles on this site I was completely ambivalent about the AV referendum. I eventually came down on the side of No, but with so little conviction that I didn’t even try to change the mind of my husband who voted the other way. I had no strong political conviction on one of the biggest issues of the day. I felt lost and confused.

Ambivalence was one of the most eye-opening political experiences of my life. What I saw wasn’t good.

In this election I was like the vast majority of voters at most elections. I didn’t have a team, I was open to persuasion and by the end of the campaign I was thoroughly sick of the whole thing.

Not having a team meant that I had the opportunity to evaluate dispassionately the tactics and behaviours of both sides and their supporters. The Yes campaign believed they had right on their side. They were high-minded and high-horsed. They talked of change and its transformational properties. The No campaign believed they had the Right on their side. They used low cunning and base humour. They talked of waste and the cost of change.

But mostly what each campaign talked about was each other. Endless attacks on Twitter and in the press about the other side, their tactics and their supporters. When you don’t have a side, this means nothing to you. You get that the two sides don’t like each other, but if you don’t like either of them, you don’t get why you should care. These spats may have energised and outraged supporters, but it left the rest of us out in the cold.

A lot of people I like and respect seemed to believe very strongly that I should agree with them, but they didn’t agree with each other. Both groups seemed to feel that my lacking a view was somehow a deficiency on my part. The yes campaign in particular saw my inability to become a fellow traveller as a quite abhorrent act. I was actually told by a yes campaigner to whom I confessed early on my ambivalence that voting against was immoral. I didn’t find this a very persuasive argument.

Both campaigns were self-congratulatory and self-reinforcing (if my Twitter feed was anything to go by there would have been a Yes to AV landslide, and I think some convinced themselves there would be because everyone they talked to was voting that way) and while No to AV won a convincing victory, it wasn’t a campaign you could ever replicate to vote for something, and there aren’t any winning tactics to copy to elect a party.

Throughout the campaign I seemed to be asking questions that neither campaign would answer. No one seemed to want to bother to answer anything off the FAQs track. My objections to either side were met not with a considered reaction to my issues but by a retreat as fast as possible to the talking points.

So what does this mean for Labour and our future campaigning? Because at the end of the day, I’m not a floating voter. I’m a Labour tribalist who has been granted the chance to see where we go wrong and try to fix it.

Well firstly, attacking the Tories just for being Tories is fine for branch meetings but people without a party card won’t jump to the same conclusions we do when they hear the word Tory. We have to prove why the Tories are wrong in their policies and damaging to the country and people’s lives. We can’t assume people will hate them “because they are Tories”.

Secondly, a fixation on horse-trading keeps us geeks alive and active, but again those who aren’t tribal don’t care. If you’re not in a campaign you don’t care about a campaign. You might care about the messages and how they resonate with your lives, but you don’t care if the head of the campaign made a gaffe or compared their opposite number to a plank of wood. Our concentration on process over policy is far too imbalanced. That’s fine on this website, which is for Labour to talk to Labour (and we do need places to have the necessary discussions about strategy) but in the generalist press, on television and particularly when engaging personally with voters, we need to talk issues not inside baseball.

Finally, we need to be a lot cleverer when engaging with voters on a one-to-one basis. We need to listen to the questions they are asking us and respond properly and accordingly. We need to stop treating canvassing like it’s a race. It should be a qualitative not a quantitative exercise in engagement. It should be a two-way exchange of information and views which are fed back through the party, just as we hope convinced voters will pass on our convincing messages to their friends and family.

I’ve had a chance to experience life as a floating voter. What I saw shocked me. It also seemed a bit too familiar.

This piece  first appeared on Labour List.


The question of electoral reform is now closed for a generation. Anyone who disagrees with this statement is part of the much wider problem that the democracy movement has.

The movement likes to believe that it listens and that it represents “the people”, but, generally, what that has meant in my experience is that people who agree with the aims of the movement get a hearing as to how their aims might be achieved, while those who question the priorities of the reformers are dismissed as dinosaurs and not engaged with to understand their reticence. And while the movement certainly represents some of “the people”, who deserve a voice as much as anyone else, the inability to grow from a niche to a mass movement demonstrates clearly that it is not the voice of all the people.

At the moment, the blame game is moving quickly. So far we have the mendacious No campaign, the toxicity of the Lib Dems and particularly the childish tantrums of Chris Huhne, the intervention of the prime minister and the split in the Labour party. All of which did – of course – play a part in why the Yes campaign failed. But for my money, the biggest reason the campaign failed is because it was run by people who don’t know the electorate and don’t understand what they want and what they fear.

Most of my friends voted yes to AV (full disclosure, I didn’t) but among them I couldn’t find a single one with a good word to say about the Yes campaign. If even your strongest followers think you’re getting it so wrong and you aren’t listening to them, you have a real issue and you need to think very hard about how you deal with that.

If the democracy movement want to make real and positive changes to the impact of democracy on people’s lives and the engagement people have with the process, they need to do three things.

First I would urge them to take a year off and spend it getting their own house in order. While the campaign for fairer votes was made up of many disparate organisations, those who were at its heart – like Unlock Democracy, the Joseph Rowntree reform trust and the electoral reform society – need to get an external party to look properly at why they are failing to reach beyond their metropolitan support base. They need to look at absolutely every aspect of their organisations and campaigning, from the language they use to their campaigning methods, from their leadership to their relationships with their supporters. I suspect the results will be extremely uncomfortable, but should also be fully digested and changes implemented. The failure of this campaign shows the desperate need for the movement to get its house in order. This will take time, but is essential and unless they take the time to do this nothing else will be achieved.

Second, they need to stop being an anti-politics movement. Most of the thrust of the campaign was about teaching politicians a lesson and making them work harder. It was negative and that doesn’t really work when you’re campaigning for something. The No campaign had by far the easier job in that respect. But in truth, electoral reform is about improving political engagement which may or may not have a knock on effect on the behaviour of politicians. The honest and hard truth is that anyone who wants to talk about political or electoral reform is already politically engaged. They may be engaged through anger at politicians, but they are engaged. By being anti-politics you denigrate that which you want to improve, which is a confusing and confused message. It’s also mendacious which made fighting the No to AV’s baby and soldier posters harder, because frankly you all looked as bad as each other.

My final point is the most important and the most overlooked: There has been far too much focus on how we vote and far too little on if we vote. Whole swathes of the country, and usually those with the most to lose, are disenfranchising themselves by disengaging from the political process. Turnouts are dropping year after year after year. Electoral reform has been offered (rather unconvincingly in my opinion) as a solution to this, but in Scotland they have PR for Holyrood elections and turnout in this election varied from 34.5% in Glasgow Provan to only as high as 62.8% in East Renfrewshire. Given that a change in the voting system is now dead in the water for a generation, perhaps the best outcome of all would be a shift from the democracy movement away from procedural matters that obsess those who already vote, back to a focus on the cultural factors that stop  those who don’t.

What happened last Thursday was a massive setback for the democracy movement. This is a dangerous time for them. They could retreat further into their own self-reinforcing bubble, blaming everyone else for their loss, but they could take this loss and use it as a springboard for the rejuvenation the movement has so clearly needed for so long. As democrats, they should listen to the message the people have given them before it’s too late.

This piece forst appeared at Labour Uncut.


I have been struggling with my feelings on AV for a really long time*. Not least because I don’t really care that much. It’s quite a small change and there are good arguments on both sides. Sadly both campaigns have been utterly, utterly dreadful. Badly managed, insane tactics, negative shouty-fests over the lowest forms of argument. I hope if nothing else comes out of this debate, we at least have a look at how we campaign on the issues in this country. We have nothing to be proud of in the way this national discussion has been conducted. Most of the arguments put forward by both official campaigns have been specious at best. AV will patently not cost £250 billion, nor will it solve the problems of an unresponsive and out of date body politic.

 I have tried extremely hard not to base my decision on my tribal allegiances. This has been made easier by the fact that there is no compelling argument one way of the other about whether AV will hurt or help Labour or the BNP which seem to be the two most often discussed parties. Frankly, I would rather beat the BNP on the issues than a technicality. As for Labour I want to see us in power. I don’t think there is clear-cut evidence that AV would have an effect on that (for example, experts say our majority would have been even greater in 1997 under AV, but so would the Tories in 1987).

There are good reasons to vote for AV. Having been six and two threes throughout the campaign, I know what they are. I get that people who live in a safe seat will get to express their preference, even while preferencing the leading candidates. Every 5 years, in the voting booths, people will feel they get a better chance to have a say in how they are represented, and that would be a good thing.

My reason for voting  no is what happens in-between those 5 years. AV is currently being sold as a solution to all that ails the body politic. That is will make MPs “work harder” and that it will stop things like the expenses scandal. This is frankly insulting, but also a little worrying. OK quite a lot worrying. Leaving aside the insane notion that people working 14 hour days aren’t working hard enough, I worry that we don’t really know what we actually want from MPs. Do we want legislators or social workers? Constituency champions or Westminster players? If AV is adopted, I am deeply concerned that the actual changes that need to occur to the way Westminster is run to make it more representative both of the people and of the century in which we live will be kicked into the long grass. In fact it was in part this concern that kicked me over the edge when I saw the yes to AV broadcast.

However my main concern, is the effect AV and the race for second preferences will have on representative politics. I am strongly of the opinion that the need for parties to “reach out beyond their core vote” will mean them fielding more and more often candidates intended to appeal generally. This is fine in a individual seat. It works very well for example when choosing a Party leader, because being at roughly the centre of where your party are is not the same as being a centrist. But when replicated across the country, we will end up with a legislature made up from a far narrower group of people, with a narrower range of centrist stances. We will end up with greater freedom for voters to express their diverse opinions, only for them to be represented by a far less diverse group of elected representatives.

No electoral system is perfect. You just have to balance the negatives and the positives and make a choice. Mine won’t be a popular choice among my friends, but in the end, in a democracy, I have to vote the way I believe to be right.

*If AV+ had been on the ballot I would have voted yes in a heartbeat. I believe that this system would have balanced the flaw of local candidates appealing to the middle with the top up of diverse candidates. I still believe AV+ to be the best system of electing our representatives. But it’s not on the ballot.


Why I Remain Undecided on AV

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By Emma | 5 comments

I am still undecided on AV. I am leaning towards voting yes, but I have so far found the level of debate pitiful. The Yes Campaign have got their act together a bit more recently, and have been campaigning far more positively. The No campaign is kind of ridiculous, and shows more about Director Matthew Elliott’s obsessions than the genuine arguments against AV of which there are some, which I will articulate below.

AV is a crap choice really. The democracy movement in the country must – behind closed doors – be absolutely fuming with Nick Clegg and the Lib Dem negotiators, because by holding this referendum they are putting off reform towards anything actually proportional for at least a generation. We simply will not have another referendum on the same issue for 20 years. AV is not a stepping stone, it’s the choice we have to measure against first past the post because it will be one of these two we are stuck with.

Under AV it would certainly be true that more people would have preferenced their local MP. It wouldn’t guarantee 50% plus of the electorate as is sometimes argued, but certainly it would be the case that more people would feel they had a hand in picking the winner, even if that winner is not their first or sometimes second choice.

My concern is that under AV, parties will start to choose candidates that appeal to a broader electorate. That sounds like a good thing, but with the most common phrase on the doorstep being “you’re all the same” what concerns me is that politics will become even more of a fight between different smooth-edged managerial types with centrists being highly represented, but at the expense of a wide range of views and characters being expressed.

So for me, this referendum is about competing visions of pluralism. Both are valid and there are arguments for both. That’s why I’m having such a hard time choosing.


My Predictions for 2011

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By Emma | 8 comments

Here are 11 predictions for 2011 (with some explanation to make it vaguely interesting!). I promise to come back and mark myself honestly this time next year…

1. Ed will still be leader of the Labour Party. Of course he will, we don’t have the money, the stomach or the suicidal insanity to re-fight that fight. That won’t stop the bitching or the briefing but as what most people know becomes ever clear to those who can’t quite see it yet, these will subside.

2. Labour will remain – in aggregate – ahead in the polls. There will be times when we are quite far ahead, and times when the Tories spike. We should treat these imposters both the same. We are a nose ahead and should fight accordingly.

3. Labour will win Oldham East & Saddleworth, but it will be close. In the end, not enough Tories will switch to compensate for the loss of Lib Dem voters to push the Lib Dems over the line. The Libs could possibly have won this with a different candidate, but that we will never know.

4. Labour and the Greens will be the big winners in the local elections, both increasing their numbers significantly at the expense of the Lib Dems.

5. The AV referendum will be closer than I once thought it would be, but it will be lost. I just don’t think enough of the public care enough. I know I don’t – I’m a hack and I don’t even know which way I’ll vote.

6. The coalition will hold, but will falter briefly as after the AV & local election losses, Lib Dems see their polling number increase to about 12-15%. There will be some agitation from the left of the Lib Dems that that’s as good as it’s going to get and they should take that opportunity to leave. The leadership will tough it out. They will succeed in doing so as unless there is a new war, the totemic issues for the left have already been capitulated on.

7. This will strengthen the Tory right and Cameron will have to give them something. It probably won’t be hunting as the polling and imagery is too bad, it probably can’t be Europe, so I suspect there will be something on either tax cuts or immigration or both.

8. Gove will be reshuffled into a role he can’t screw up so publically.

9. There will be at least two more cabinet resignations, and at least one will be a big beast. Neither will be Vince Cable who missed his chance to make a difference, and is nicely neutered as far as Clegg and the Tories are concerned.

10. The 10% cut to Housing Benefit will be dropped from the Welfare Bill.The Lib Dems will claim this as a victory despite a lot of the other pernicious stuff that will remain.

11. There will be at least one quarter of negative GDP and unemployment will rise.


What A Mess

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By Emma | One comment

My God the Lib Dems have screwed this one up royally.

Let’s leave aside for the moment, the rights and wrongs of the policy, this is just stunning political ineptitude. Every step they take seems designed to make them look more ridiculous than the last.

Look first at Vacillating Vince. Will he vote for his own policy. No one – especially not Vince – seems to know. In the end though he will of course vote for it. As will enough Lib Dems to ensure it passes. They’ll be left with the worst of all worlds, having adopted the policy while trying to weasel out responsibility for it. Which of course, anyone with an ounce of political nous can tell you won’t happen if the policy passes.

The interesting thing is that the really high profile likely rebels – apart from Tim Farron – are the giants of the past. Ming Campbell and Charles Kennedy won’t be back in senior positions again, but still command a great deal of respect from the left of the party. Their high profile rebellion this early in the parliament is quite significant.

The problem Clegg and the Lib Dems have, is that they have allowed the Tories to front-load all the stuff they hate before the AV referendum. The cuts have been announced, they are going to pass the hideous housing benefit changes, Tuition fees will largely have been and gone, the changes to the NHS, Education and Policing will have Lib Dem support on the record, even if the votes haven’t occurred.

So when the AV referendum and council seats are lost, the cold comfort of the raise to the basic level of tax (more than off-set by the VAT rise) or the Pupil Premium (not new money) will not be enough to reinvigorate demoralised activists. The hardcore few will remain. These will be those who are more wedded to the coalition than those who have slipped away. They will cling ever harder, because they will rightly see that before 2015 and a change of leadership (at the least) the Lib Dems will not survive alone again.

There are a lot of people who see the splits over tuition fees as the beginning of the end of the coalition. I don’t – I think it binds the two parties tighter than ever. However, what it could easily signify is the end of what we currently know of as the Liberal Democrats as a single and separate political force. Large parts of the party could be wooed by the Tories into a more permanent political Alliance (they’ve been there before). While some others may join the Liberal Party or struggle on as a seatless wraith. The ghost at the feast of plural politics. The warning to all politicians to be careful what you wish for.

Frankly, the way they have bungled this, it remains to be seen if they will even have the nous to salvage that much.


I was having an interesting discussion with a colleague this morning about what Lib Dem MPs who didn’t like the coalition’s actions could and would do. I said that it was highly improbably that this (or any) government would go a full term without at least one ministerial resignation and that that was probably even more likely under coalition. While ministerial resignations are dramatic and aid a narrative of splits, in the end they don’t really amount to much unless a Government is a lot closer to a knife edge than this one is. Some junior Lib Dem stepping down from being minister for paperclips will occupy Twitter, the blogs (this one included I’m sure) and the press, but won’t make an awful lot of difference to the Parliamentary mathematics.

The only thing that would really change parliamentary mathematics would be defections.

Now as is utterly clear, the Lib Dems hate Labour. Lib Dem blogs are full of this bile and since going into coalition with the Tories, it’s all spewed endlessly at us. And let’s be fair – we hate them right back. We hate them for splitting the left making it so easy for the Tories to rule without a majority and the coalition has hardly dulled that feeling. Both sets of activists are as tribal and angry as each other and this is not being made better by the ConDem coalition.

So I really can’t see a Lib Dem defecting to the Labour Party in this parliament. But I can see a Lib Dem feeling so far removed from their party that they didn’t see a place for them in it anymore. This happens – rarely but it does happen. If it did, I think that the shock of leaving their own tribe would probably be quite enough and defecting to Labour probably more than they could take. But with Caroline Lucas now firmly ensconced in Parliament, there is another alternative which would work pretty well for non-Orange Book Lib Dems.

I’m not willing to put any money on it (unlike AV failing, which following today’s story in the Independent I have now put £20 on) but I don’t think it could be dismissed out of hand that by the end of this Parliament, we could see at least two Green MPs fighting for reelection.


Take a look at the official website for the Yes to AV Campaign: http://www.yestofairervotes.org/ it has some negative and fairly strident (but ultimately unprovable) comment about how awful MPs are. Then asks us to care about how they are elected. This website absolutely takes for granted that every and any person who lands on the website is ready to man the barricades for AV. There is absolutely nothing there for anyone interested but undecided on the issue. no arguments, no persuasion, no gradual drawing in. There is in the bottom left a very small “about” link. This takes you to a page of only 105 words. These words again are all about the campaign (who they are, who they do and don’t represent),  not the issue.

In order to get any further with the website, you have to sign up to get involved. For you, dear reader, I submitted my details in order to see what lay beyond that. First there was a page where – once you had signed up – you are asked to submit details of at least one friend. You cannot get to the next part of the website without giving another email address to them. Luckily I have two email addresses and enough curiosity to want to see it through to the bitter end. However I suspect that the Venn diagram for people interested in electoral reform and people interested in data privacy has a pretty big cross-over. So not being able (as far as I can tell) to access any information without both signing up yourself and giving the details of another is insanity.

The final page is about what you are willing to do for the campaign. It’s only after agreeing to take some form of action that you can access a screen that looks like it might be helpful and have the kind of information that someone interested in the issue might find useful. This page has the landing text “Thank you for growing our movement.  We will be in touch soon to let you know how you can get involved in the campaign. But in the meantime can you use the buttons below to spread the word via Facebook and Twitter.” It also has links to a blog and to “why vote yes”. The blog has two posts in Lorem Ipsum and the why vote yes page cannot be found. So in other words – nowhere on that site – to my untrained eye – was a simply list of arguments as to why I should vote yes to AV. It just feels like a website written by people who feel the argument has already been won, and who didn’t bother to consult with anyone who was unsure on what might be needed to convince them. I am sure the answer to this will be that the campaign website is still being constructed. But the problem is, the campaign was launched on September 11th and it’s now October 21st. The Campaign shouldn’t have been launched without fully functioning website and for the website to remain so inaccessible and uninformative over a month on is inexcusable.

This matches closely my experience of talking to campaigners – particularly those who are Lib Dems – about this. They have cared about  this issue for so long now that they simply don’t realise that most of the country doesn’t know very much about it and even fewer care. A campaigner said to me yesterday that he thought there was “simply no moral case” for voting any other way.

Now there is nothing wrong in believing that passionately in change. But to deny that the other side has a case is to deny yourself the ability to answer that case. To further deny that you might have a party political problem in spending most of your time slagging off Labour members while expecting them to then join you in fighting for a measure even the Lib Dem’s own leader described as “a miserable little compromise” is naive.

The people running the pro-AV campaign need to do some focus grouping very, very quickly. it may already be too late. This interesting article on Labour List says that to succeed a referendum should start with a 2:1 lead in the polls. A YouGov/Sun poll in early October already has the vote at 40% FPTP, 35% AV and 18% undecided.

Now have a look at the current (temporary) website for the other side: http://no2av.org/ It has easily accessible information and arguments. The stories are updated every few days. There is even a section on what AV is. It’s not patronising, but it does present the arguments clearly and openly accepts that they won’t be familiar to everyone. The website has many, many times the information that the pro-AV website has -  and it’s just temporary.

I understand that the different sides probably have very, very different funding levels. But if half the energy and passion I have seen from pro-AV campaigners had been put into devising their principle portal into actually informing the populous (as a pro-democracy campaign really ought to do) they would at least have some blog posts up and a decent basic FAQs on the positive argument for AV.

As it stands, I don’t see the commitment to democratic discussion and argument making from the pro-AV lobby that will be essential if this referendum is to have any legs at all. And that in itself is the biggest insult to democracy I can think of. It may be that the campaign is not being run as passionately as it could be because the proponents themselves believe it’s a compromise measure. But if we in the UK are going to spend £90 million on a referendum, it ill behoves us all to do so halfheartedly.

As things stand, if the yes campaign doesn’t step up, I simply cannot see how a yes vote is going to be won.


I think anyone reading this blog will know that I’m no great fan of the Liberal Democrats and wasn’t before the coalition. I’ve had to campaign against either their right flank or their spiteful and misleading campaign tactics too often.

But they do have a few policies I agree with, and while voting reform wouldn’t be top of my priority list, on balance I think it’s probably a good thing. AV is a terrible reform, and they should have got more out of the negotiations, but it’s where we are.

One thing the Lib Dems always was good at was political calculation. The coalition seems to have rather sent them out of whack.

One of the recurring tropes from Lib Dem commentators around the coalition and it’s forming was that it was their one chance to enact some of their policies – not least to get a referendum on AV. One presumes that the Lib Dems want this referendum to actually pass.

So articles like this and this actually baffle me. Don’t get me wrong; I am very used to and of course expect articles from the Lib Dems attacking Labour. Particularly since going into coalition, their hatred of Labour has intensified and without the Tories to rail against equally, Labour is now the only political target for negative attacks – a long term component of all political blogs. But attacking Labour furiously on this issue is simply counter-productive to achieving your actual aim of a successful referendum.

Let’s break it down clearly: The Tories do not want voting reform. At all. Labour are mostly committed to it (a few backbenchers have dissented, but it was in our manifesto and all our leadership candidates are signed up to at least AV). The Lib Dems are cratering in the polls, and the referendum will be a really easy time for their disaffected voters to give them a bit of a kicking. To avoid this, they will need one of the larger parties campaigning vigorously with them, and t0 make it look really “new politics” it would be great if that were the party of the opposition. Either way it won’t be the Tories.

So here’s my question to the Lib Dems, and I really, really don’t mean this in a negative fashion:

Do you want to win the referendum, or do you want to better cement coalition relations?

Because at the moment there seems to be a whole lot of attention on the latter, at obvious risk to jeopardising the former.

If you do want to pass AV, then I cannot advise you strongly enough to split the bill. It will free labour to vote for the referendum, which will in turn ensure a vigorous Labour presence in the campaign. And for all this week’s talk of “Toxic brand” we are considerably higher in the polls than we were at the election. You need us. Try to remember that before you continue to slag us off just to impress the big boys!



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