Sunday, July 04, 2010


On the AV Referendum

I can confirm Sardinia is a lovely place to visit, though I would like to meet the man in charge of road signs in the island and subject him to some impassioned butr polite consumer feedback. On the plane home I happened to read David Aaronovitch's piece in The Times, which can't be linked now unless I pay Rupert Murdoch a fee, and was intrigued by the logic of his argument which, when I've thought a little more about it, might even seem irrefutable.

AV won't deliver to Clegg and his mates what they really want- AV Plus or STV which are truly proportional systems- but, they hope, it will be a staging post along the way. The Conservatives regard the proposal as antithetical to their cause and merely as a necessary concession to the Lib Dems to secure their collaboration. Aaronovitch notes that all five Labour leadership candidates are on record as supporting the move, though some Labour MPs are reported as oppposed. The deal is that Lib Dems and Tories will be free to campaign according to their preferences, meaning Dave will express his comradely disagreement by carrying the 'anti' banner.

But, points out the columnist, while Cameron once declared such a move would be 'a recipe for weak coaliton government', he IS now he is in just such a coalition and, presumably regards it as hugely sensible and well founded, adding tartly:

'Mr Cameron has not just shot his own fox but made love to it'.

He goes on to argue that if he leads the 'anti' campaign AV is defeated, the Lib Dems will be 'screwed', having given a great deal in exchange for a 'smack in the teeth'. They might very well decide, only a year after the historic deal, to withdraw from the coalition, go back to their constituencies and prepare for genuine opposition. And then it will be Dave who will be screwed and suddenly a new scenario of coalitions will be on the table with Labour looking the most suitable candidate for Clegg's youthful embrace.

Aaronovitch goes further and suggests that if Cameron loses the fight against AV he will be seen to have suffered a defeat and to be anti-change. The answer to these depressing possible outcomes? To be bold and lead his party to support AV! After all, it was never the case Lib Dem second choices would all go to Labour; an increasing number now might swing to the right.

In his piece today Andrew Rawnsley covers similar ground but comes up with the point that Dave could always 'lead' the campaign against AV in a number of ways:

The real question about David Cameron is whether he takes an up-front or a backseat role in the referendum campaign. There will be a world of difference between a "no" campaign which has the full-throated support of the prime minister, the big Conservative beasts and all the resources of the Tory party and a campaign in which they stay on the sidelines.

Right now, I'd bet on the 'backseat' role.

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