Billy Bragg: Mr Miliband must be brave and bold on voting reform

Billy Bragg, in an exclusive article for Left Foot Forward, argues that the new Labour leader Mr Miliband must be brave and bold on the AV referendum next year.

Tonight at 5:45, Billy Bragg will be speaking at a purple rally hosted by Take Back Parliament and many other groups campaigning for a ‘Yes’ in the AV referendum next year; here he outlines why Mr Miliband must be brave and bold on voting reform

As well as opposing the Coalition’s disastrous course of spending cuts, the new Labour leader will face the task of repairing our democracy in the face of the public’s deep-seated distrust for politicians. Key to this will be what position he takes in the referendum on the Alternative Vote next May.

Mr Miliband has to go for it – that’s the very clear message that myself, and many others, will be sending at a rally in Manchester Town Square today organised by the Take Back Parliament campaign.

Some have argued that electoral reform is a “distraction” that we can’t afford at a time of economic weakness. But that view is dangerously mistaken. Democracy isn’t an optional “luxury” that can be discarded when it suits us, it’s something that has to be continually fought for and defended.

From the Chartists to the Suffragettes, the history of electoral reform in this country is one of taking power from the few to give to the many. This is as true today as it ever was. The left’s fight for a more just and equal society is inseparable from the fight for fairness in our democracy.

Although the Alternative Vote isn’t the proportional system I had hoped for, it will deliver a fairer, more representative politics. For millions of people it would finally see the injustice of casting a worthless vote righted. My constituency of West Dorset, for example, is one of around 80 per cent of constituencies classed as a ‘safe seat’. With Labour languishing on around 10 per cent, a vote for the Lib Dems was the only option for those who wanted to keep the Tories out.

Since the formation of the Tory-Lib Dem Coalition, of course, this has all changed. If the next election is fought under first past the post, anti-Tory voters are left with a Labour candidate who stands little hope of getting in.

Until the voting system is reformed this frustrating state of affairs will continue and the natural anti-Tory majority in this country will remain disenfranchised. This includes the four million voters who deserted Labour between 1997 and 2010 without switching allegiance to the Tories.

A vigorous campaign by the new Labour leader for a “Yes” vote to AV will be the first step to winning them back. Standing on the sidelines or joining the Tories in supporting a “No” campaign headed by ideologues of the ultra right-wing Taxpayers’ Alliance would be unthinkable for a progressive reforming party.

Today in Manchester, Labour reformers will take the lead in agitating for a Yes. I will be there alongside Neal Lawson, chair of Compass, Billy Hayes, of the CWU, Fiona McTaggert MP and many, many others.

Together we will turn the Square purple – the colour of democracy and the franchise – with banners and flags and call on Labour’s new leader to back fairer votes. Join us at 5:45pm tonight to rally for democracy – and let’s send the next Labour leader a message they can’t ignore.

24 Responses to “Billy Bragg: Mr Miliband must be brave and bold on voting reform”

  1. CAROLE JONES

    RT @leftfootfwd: Billy Bragg: Mr Miliband must be brave and bold on voting reform: //bit.ly/bt0lM8 – guest post by @BillyBragg

  2. Fred Garnett

    RT @leftfootfwd: Billy Bragg: Mr Miliband must be brave and bold on voting reform: //bit.ly/bt0lM8 – guest post by @BillyBragg

  3. Kemi

    Great pro AV post: rt @leftfootforward Mr Miliband must be brave and bold on voting reform: //bit.ly/bt0lM8 – guest post by @BillyBragg

  4. Ralph Ferrett

    RT @leftfootfwd: Billy Bragg: Mr Miliband must be brave and bold on voting reform: //bit.ly/bt0lM8 – guest post by @BillyBragg

  5. carboncoach

    RT @leftfootfwd: Billy Bragg: Mr Miliband must be brave and bold on voting reform: //bit.ly/bt0lM8 – guest post by @BillyBragg

  6. Keir Husband

    RT @leftfootfwd: Billy Bragg: Mr Miliband must be brave and bold on voting reform //bit.ly/bt0lM8

  7. Clive Booth

    RT @leftfootfwd: Billy Bragg: Mr Miliband must be brave and bold on voting reform: //bit.ly/bt0lM8 – guest post by @BillyBragg

  8. Take Back Parliament

    RT @leftfootfwd: Billy Bragg: Mr Miliband must be brave and bold on voting reform //bit.ly/bt0lM8 #takeitback #labconf #lab10

  9. oldpolitics

    “the history of electoral reform in this country is one of taking power from the many to give to the few” – a neat summary of what AV would be.

    “If the next election is fought under first past the post, anti-Tory voters are left with a Labour candidate who stands little hope of getting in” – what are they left with under AV, in seats where Labour is in third place? A choice between two Tories?

  10. GuyAitchison

    RT @takeback2010: RT @leftfootfwd: @BillyBragg: Mr Miliband must be brave on voting reform //bit.ly/bt0lM8 #takeitback #lab10

  11. James Graham

    RT @takeback2010: RT @leftfootfwd: Billy Bragg: Mr Miliband must be brave and bold on voting reform //bit.ly/bt0lM8 #takeitback #la …

  12. winston k moss

    RT @takeback2010: RT @leftfootfwd: Billy Bragg: Mr Miliband must be brave and bold on voting reform //bit.ly/bt0lM8 #takeitback #labconf #lab10

  13. Jon Ivins

    RT @takeback2010: RT @leftfootfwd: Billy Bragg: Mr Miliband must be brave and bold on voting reform //bit.ly/bt0lM8 #takeitback #labconf #lab10

  14. Forum Democratie

    RT @takeback2010: RT @leftfootfwd: Billy Bragg: Mr Miliband must be brave and bold on voting reform //bit.ly/bt0lM8 #takeitback #la …

  15. Helen Lambert

    "The history of electoral reform in this country is one of taking power from the many to give to the few." //bit.ly/bQSWym #yestoAV

  16. John Lees

    Will David Miliband be campaigning for a NO to AV!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  17. John Lees

    Logically ED has to support AV as otherwise his brother would be leader>?!

  18. AnnC

    Why should anyone listen to Mr Bragg. His unequivocal support for the LibDems during the election, and now for AV tied to boundary changes shows that his bank balance has caused a change in his rhetoric.

    It must be remembered that the ConDems, in tying in the AV vote to massive boundary changes will result in Tory governments for years to come. I will oppose AV presented in such a way. Mr Bragg – think again!

  19. John Ruddy

    Billy,
    would you like to take this opportunity to apologise for recommending people to vote Liberal Democrat in the last election? I would agree that few might have expected them to join with the conservatives – but the signs were there. The only way to ensure that there is not a tory in office after the general election is to vote Labour.

  20. Andy May

    @Annc and John.

    Worth pointing out that under a fairer voting system, Number 1 Billy wouldn’t have had to advocate for tactical voting. Number 2 – The number of seats in the House of Commons would have likely allowed a Lab-Lib coalition.

    First Past the Post caused a situation where the only stable coalition possible was a Con-Lib one.

    Also the boundary changes will likely have an even worse effect on Labour if the AV referendum is lost and new boundaries come in with First Past the Post.

  21. Ell Aitch

    RT @leftfootfwd: Billy Bragg: Mr Miliband must be brave and bold on voting reform: //bit.ly/bt0lM8 – guest post by @BillyBragg

  22. Helen Parker

    RT @takeback2010: RT @leftfootfwd: Billy Bragg: Mr Miliband must be brave and bold on voting reform //bit.ly/bt0lM8 #takeitback #la …

  23. Mr. Sensible

    AnnC completely agree with you.

    If we look at the case Mr Bragg presented us with, I don’t see how AV would have changed that.

    A changed voting system does not change how difficult the situation now is in that seat for a Labour voter.

  24. FairVote

    UK: Singer Billy Bragg touts alternative vote (IRV) referendum as chance to be "bold on brave" on reform: //tinyurl.com/25wa2dy

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