Labour should campaign on AV


Late on Friday afternoon, the Guardian’s Patrick Wintour revealed that Labour would not be campaigning in the alternative vote referendum. Aside from John Rentoul’s Independent on Sunday column, which lamented the death of electoral reform, the story sunk without a trace. The media may not be interested but progressives should urge Labour’s leadership to have a rethink.

The Guardian quoted Labour’s election coordinator, Andy Burnham, arguing that:

“The referendum should have been held on its own day, when the yes and no campaigns could have argued it out. Our sole priority has to be, and will be, winning in Scotland, and Wales, and doing well in the local elections.

“It would be a recipe for chaos and confusion if Labour candidates were also supporting AV in their literature. The election and referendum campaigns have to be separate and distinct.

Burnham’s pronouncement is counter-productive for five reasons.

First, it belies the spirit of Labour’s existing policy at a time when the party is (rightly) criticising others for veering from their previous objectives. Labour’s manifesto said:

“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.”

During the leadership campaign Ed Miliband went further and told Left Foot Forward, “I support AV for the House of Commons and will campaign for it.” Little wonder, when the system worked so well for him during his own leadership contest. Reversing this position now will look to political and constitutional reformers like rank opportunism.

Second, given the likelihood of future hung parliaments (perhaps even next year in the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly), Labour has to show that it can work across party lines on areas of shared interest. Labour’s new leader recognised this during his conference speech so it seems odd that he should abandon this position at the first significant opportunity presented to him to work with Lib Dem colleagues.

Third, there is no obvious reason why Labour can’t, in LBJ’s words, “walk and chew gum”. Why shouldn’t Labour’s candidates support AV in their literature? After all, there is no additional cost to including a line in a direct mail or leaflet that is already paid for. While the party can be excused for prioritising victory in Scotland and Wales, campaigning for AV need not be a huge drain on resources or time.

Fourth, from a narrow party interest perspective, AV is in the Labour party’s interest. A projection by the Electoral Reform Society suggested that Labour would have won four more seats in 2010 under AV while the Tories would have won 26 fewer seats. Analysis from the BBC suggests that Labour would have won more seats in 1997, 2001, and 2005 (although it would have had fewer seats in 1983, 1987 and 1992).

Finally, those hoping that the defeat of the AV referendum will deliver a hammer blow to the Coalition are misguided. Nick Clegg has already told activists that he will remain Deputy Prime Minister regardless of the result. Clegg, as has often been observed, looks comfortable with his Conservative colleagues. Hours spent sitting around the Cabinet table adjudicating on the cuts has left a strong bond between the Lib Dem leader, Danny Alexander, George Osborne and David Cameron. A “little local difficulty” in May’s elections will hardly puncture those relationships.

NB: I look forward to Tom Harris’ fisking!

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  • Anon E Mouse

    Chris – Thanks sweetheart… I almost hate to use EVIDENCE to prove you are wrong. Yet again. Ok then.

    merthyr_bill said: “Ed M is rubbish so far and his background – a property millionaire champagne socialist from Primrose Hill – doesn’t strike a chord with me. That and his treacherous father spending his whole life attempting to enslave through Marxism the people who had offered him sanctuary frankly disgusts me”

    1. Ed Miliband is rubbish so far. That’s Bill’s opinion so that’s true.
    2. Property property millionaire champagne socialist is also true.
    3. Primrose Hill is true.
    4. His Marxist (Jewish I don’t care about) father was given sanctuary by us.
    5. He preached Marxism in the UK and considered Tony Benn too right wing at one point.

    So once again you have smeared and ranted and lied about someone in a public forum and the subject of Ed Miliband you might want to check how he actually became a property millionaire and his tax status. Who owns the house he lives in Chris?

    As for your last paragraph you are living on a different planet. Have you not realised Labour lost the election Chris?

    For the reasons I gave previously: The Tories are closer to the Lib Dems than Labour ever were and before all you Labour zombies start stirring in the woods, just remember ID Cards, control orders and the hundred and one other things Labour support involving the state crushing the rights of the individual.

    I won’t call you a zombie Chris since it appears that New Labour Lick Spittles like yourself are alive and well but unlike you I am too polite to be rude in a public forum….

    (Have you never wondered why you alone make the remarks you do Chris?)

    hahahahahahahahahahahaha

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  • http://wjshgenius@talktalk.net william

    OK, boys, calm down ,the task is to win the next election.I put £50 on Andy Burnham, purely because I thought the party would vote against everybody associated with GB.I had not worked out that the leadership was in the gift of the public sector unions, whose own elections have been copied by Burma. When we have lost an election or two,I think Merthyr Bill will seem to have been right all along.

  • Anon E Mouse

    William – (The above is an ongoing theme)

    I also agree with merthyr_bill but think that Miliband, irrespective of how he got the leadership, is doing ok considering.

    The fact is he really has nothing to do for 5 years. I think that people hoping the coalition will fall apart are bonkers – the only tribalists exist in the Labour Party.

    I don’t think anyone seriously thinks Labour can win the next election anyway – too much baggage but what I do find amazing is that the very policies that the electorate rejected are still being advanced here on LFF.

    Finally elections in Burma couldn’t be as corrupt as the public sector unions surely?

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  • merthyr_bill

    Ed M is keeping quiet because every time he does something he ends up on the wrong side of the argument/sanity.

    He wants multi-millionaires to get child benefit. Him and his friends wailed with the unfairness of capping housing benefit at 21k per year. They gnashed their teeth when middle class students had to pay for their own education rather than poncing off the working class. When it was considered that the long term unemployed may benefit from 30 hours of work, 4 weeks a year they uncontrollably wept at the unfairness of making people get out of bed before lunch. And when the government addresses the question of why 1 in 10 of working age people is too disabled to work (30% here in Merthyr) I assume the opposition will have a seizure at the idea of cancer patients and those in comas being forced into foundries or down the mines.

    They are either opposing for its own sake or they are mad.

    And EdM looks and sounds like a Mongo.

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  • http://wjshgenius@talktalk.net william

    Anon E Mouse.Phil Woolas.A Scottish MP that commited suicide.A democracy requires an opposition whose integrity is above board,whose opposition is reasoned ,not tribal,and is not obsessed by class, which is all I get on Labour uncut.Perhaps E Miliband will have a chat with Kinnock about laying the foundations for a future victory,as Tony Blair is too busy.

  • David

    Should be pretty easy for Labour to win the next election. After all, the Coalition are getting blamed for the deficit/cuts and Labour could lose by 5% and still have more seats (Ashcroft’s millions aside) due to the bias that won’t be corrected by the boundary changes.

    Following in Blair’s footsteps, Labour are taking a short-termist selfish view where grabbing power is the only thing that matters. Cameron, I hate to say it, nailed Ed with “Mili-bandwagon.”

  • Robert

    Winston Churchill described AV most accurately as ‘the most worthless votes for the most worthless candidates’. Here in my constituency AV would literally see a fine Labour candidate ousted in favour of a LibDem from the Phil Woolas school of electoral integrity, via the second or even third preference votes of BNP and UKIP voters. I accept in the name of democracy that a foul, neo-Nazi party like BNP can legally stand and that people can vote for it. But Will Straw and AV supporters are now advising me that we should go further – indeed that Labour should support a new system whereby the ignorant, racist morons who support BNP are awarded a second or even third vote (to be exercised BEFORE Labour, Tory or Libdem second or third preferences by the way) under which they will put out a Labour candidate who has polled the highest number of (1st preference) votes ! My dear Father didn’t lead a tank squadron across Germany in 1944-5 to facilitate that, Will. For once the Tories are absolutely right on this. Vote against AV and save British decency and democracy! Gordon Brown should never have supported AV. Like Iraq, tuition fees, economic liberalism, triangulation, pandering to bankers,retailers and Murdoch, crypto-racism, excessive spending on NHS luxury programmes, overpaying doctors and dentists, wasting money on overseas military and corrupt UN programmes, bashing the unions and unemployed and failing to build council houses (phew, long list, sorry), the quicker we dump AV and other poisonous elements of the Blair/Brown legacy, the faster we will have a Labour Government again. By FPTP with a majority of 100+ if Ed listens to Andy Burnham on this one!

  • Chris

    @mousey the tory press officer

    Yet again mousey you turn every thread into a meaningless, rabid anti-Labour rant.

    “I almost hate to use EVIDENCE to prove you are wrong.”

    It is a real stumbling block in your treatment that we can’t get past your stubborn belief that just because you imagine something necessarily makes it true in reality.

    “So once again you have smeared and ranted and lied about someone in a public forum and the subject of Ed Miliband you might want to check how he actually became a property millionaire and his tax status.”

    LOL, your accusing be of smearing your sock puppet then you smear Ed by questioning his wealth and tax status.

    “Who owns the house he lives in Chris?”

    His wife, she has the money as she’s worked hard to become a highly paid barrister, isn’t that what you tories are all for?

    “As for your last paragraph you are living on a different planet. Have you not realised Labour lost the election Chris?”

    Yawn, how do you think the ref can be won? Maybe your focus group work will throw up the answer, how is your mum?

    “For the reasons I gave previously: The Tories are closer to the Lib Dems than Labour ever were”

    I agreed with you on that, the orange bookers are proto-tories and the social libs seem to have disappeared. But how will the ref be won? The core lib voters, i.e. the 10% still supporting them aren’t enough to win the ref.

    “New Labour Lick Spittles like yourself are alive and well but unlike you I am too polite to be rude in a public forum….”

    Yawn. Yet again your displaying the inconsistency that characterises your every argument.

    “(Have you never wondered why you alone make the remarks you do Chris?)”

    Because hardly anybody else comments except your sock puppets. Its unfortunate that this actually rather good blog is inhabited mostly by a tory troll and his sock puppets.

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  • Anon E Mouse

    Chris – Public forum. People watching. You telling lies and smearing people. Sound familiar? You said none of the following was true so let’s try again:

    1. Ed Miliband is rubbish so far.
    2. Property property millionaire champagne socialist is also true.
    3. Primrose Hill is true.
    4. His Marxist (Jewish I don’t care about) father was given sanctuary by us.
    5. He preached Marxism in the UK and considered Tony Benn too right wing at one point.

    Case closed (again).

  • merthyr_bill

    If I can just add that Miliband senior spent his life leaching off the public purse. And his real name was Adolphe. That should have set alarm bells ringing for us!

  • Roger

    Disgusting.

    Ralph Miliband was a Jewish refugee who would probably have died in Auschwitz if he hadn’t escaped to Britain.

    He spent his entire life here as a teacher in universities that employed people on their merits and was no more a ‘leach’ (people who make racist slurs really should at least learn to spell their own language) than any schoolteacher or binman or soldier or policeman who worked for the state.

    What depresses me most about the internet is that it liberates every hate-filled moron on the planet to parade their stupidity.

    Wouldn’t you be happier commenting at the Daily Mail site?

  • Chris

    @mouse the tory press officer

    “Public forum. People watching. You telling lies and smearing people.”

    Yawn, you never answered when I discovered you quoting an entire paragraph from a tory press release.

    “You said none of the following was true so let’s try again:”

    Boring, its entirely subjective, in your crazy drug addled mind anything you dream up is gospel.

    “1. Ed Miliband is rubbish so far.”

    How do you quantify that? At PMQs he has bested Cameron 3/4.

    “2. Property property millionaire champagne socialist is also true.”

    No he isn’t, his wife bought the house according to the newspapers. He isn’t even on the deeds.

    “3. Primrose Hill is true.”

    No its Kentish Town actually.

    “4. His Marxist (Jewish I don’t care about) father was given sanctuary by us.”

    So?

    “5. He preached Marxism in the UK and considered Tony Benn too right wing at one point.”

    Your sock puppets actual phase was “enslave”, it depends on your concept of slavery. Is working 40 hours a week just to receive the unemployment benefits your paid your stamp to get slavery? Some loony rightwing morons, like yourself, would argue having to pay the 50p tax band is slavery.

    “Case closed (again).”

    LOL, more sedatives for you tonight, I’ll tell the night nurse.

    @mousey’s sock puppet

    “If I can just add that Miliband senior spent his life leaching off the public purse. And his real name was Adolphe. That should have set alarm bells ringing for us!”

    Yawn, what a pathetic little stream of shit you’ve puked up. As Roger suggested go join the circle wank at the Daily Fail.

  • http://giroscope.blogspot.com Hal Berstram

    Getting back to the issue in hand rather than right wing trolling…

    I think Ed Miliband should do a “Wilson ’75” and allow Labour MPs, party members and Shadow Ministers who support AV to campaign openly for it, while those who are against can campaign against it. Personally I will vote for AV because the Tories are against it. But I’m not an enthusiastic advocate – it’s not that much better than FTTP really. I’d prefer to see STV or AV Plus – real proportional representation.

  • andrew

    I will be voting no ,as i want to give the coalition as much pain as i can That may be narrow minded but i just hate Nick and Danny so much, and if they won they would ram it down our throats
    ANDY

  • Anon E Mouse

    Chris – Public forum. People watching. You telling lies and smearing people. Sound familiar?

    I can only conclude that you are either winding people up or you are thick.

    To not know about the Primrose Hill millionaire but never done a days work Ed Miliband and his property and tax status I simply don’t believe.

    It is impossible to argue coherently with someone, who despite advice from his parents and teachers continues to behave in an obsessional and deluded manner…

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