I’ve left it a bit late this week. If I’m not quick they’ll have the next one up…
Another week, another bizarre lie from No to AV. This week, they’re further exposing their incoherent and inconsistent message. After last week’s near-truth, this week’s is highly subjective. It almost feels as though they’re doing this specifically to challenge me.
AV, they claim,
is the wrong referendum at the wrong time.
OK, so, starting with the blindingly obvious, that doesn’t tell us anything at all about which way we should vote. It might not be the referendum some had hoped for, but it’s the one we’ve got. If you need to make your mind up, you’re probably looking for facts, not for the former head of the Taxpayer’s Alliance and the defeated Conservative candidate for Brighton Pavilion dismissing your right to have a say. Nor is it the fault of those looking to make MPs more accountable that David Cameron failed to deliver on his cast iron guarantee of a referendum on Europe. If broken promises are what you care about, a Yes vote will make it easier to kick the liars out in future.
Secondly, as I explained before, those looking for PR need two changes: one to the voting system, and a second to the composition of the House. It is only reasonable that those things should be debated separately. AV is a small change to the existing system that, by raising the threshold MPs need to pass to get elected, takes power from them and returns it to the people. STV was never going to be on the table in a Tory led coalition. Some had hoped for a compromise involving other forms of proportionality, like AV+ or AMS. They were misguided, and I’m greatly relieved they didn’t get their way. Any system based on party lists would have been the exact reverse of the benefits of AV. Rather than taking power from MPs and giving it to the people, it would have taken power from MPs and given it to spin doctors and party whips with no democratic mandate from the public. And worse, because of their proportionality, they would have been seen as end points by the parties, rather than steps to further reform. Once they were in place, we would be stuck with the least democratic of all options. AV is a natural progression from where we are now, and leaves us well positioned for further reform, without having abdicated our democratic responsibility if we later decide to keep it for good.
As for the timing; well, you couldn’t hope for a better time for democratic reform. These are the kind of discussions that only get on to the table in hung parliaments. Parties with large majorities start to think the system that put them there must have been good for them, and they consider their own perceived self-interest above the interest of the electorate. Labour promised reform in 1997 and never delivered. Only now, when they are out of government, have they started talking about it again. In opposition, what’s good for the public is good for you. The expenses scandal, still fresh in the memory, reminded people that we are supposed to be the bosses, and it’s time MPs answered to us again. Unless we seize the opportunity now, it’ll be at least another generation before they do.