Friday, 6 May 2011

AV Vote and Local Council Elections– A Referendum on the Lib-Dems?

Unless you’re living under a rock or inside a hermetically-sealed chamber of some kind, you’ll know that yesterday the country went to the polls to vote in various local council elections as well as the referendum on introducing the Alternative Vote. We’ve already outlined the leftist argument against AV in a previous blog – that it could lead to people competing for the centre ground (which is now in fact located somewhere on the centre-right), creating even more bland candidates and even a potential consolidation of a right-wing, neo-liberal politics. The argument progressives and leftists in favour of AV would put is that it is a step closer to true proportional representation and that it would in fact lead to candidates attempting to stand out more rather than blend in as they would feel they had more appeal that way. As one of our commenters put it:
Do you have to be a dull generic centrist to win majority support? Is that what makes a candidate popular? Most parties used a form of AV to elect their leaders - are Ed Milliband, Nick Clegg and Caroline Lucas "dull centrists"? Are Ken Livingstone and Boris Johnson who won mayoral elections under AV "dull centrists"? I think that to win high preferences you need to stand out. You need to understand problems and have creative solutions to them. It won't be enough to appeal to armchair ideology of a small faithful. More importantly, independents and smaller parties will no longer be squeezed by tactical voting. With new contenders having a fairer chance, I think that voters will have more choice.
It’s too early to call at the time of writing – the counting of the AV referendum votes doesn’t even begin until 4pm today – but the ramifications of both results will be felt for some time. If the Lib-Dems have a bad night in the local elections, which is looking very likely, the pressure on Clegg and the Lib-Dem leadership in Westminster will increase to distance themselves from their Tory bedfellows and put more strain on the coalition. Similarly, if the AV referendum returns a ‘No’ result Clegg will have failed to achieve one of his main aims in going into coalition with the Tories and risking – well, destroying is probably a better word – his party’s credibility. Conversely, if a ‘Yes’ result is returned this will bring its own strains for the Con-Dem government with the Conservatives most likely looking to put as many obstacles in the way of voting reform as they can. Whatever the results, the next few months are going to be turbulent times for the government and the country. With things in flux like this there has never been a better time for leftists of all stripes to come together and take control of the political agenda and fight back against the neo-liberal, free-marketeer dominated political landscape.

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