Saturday, 7 May 2011

The Rejection of AV – Better Luck Next Time (if there is a Next Time)

As a supporter of the 'Yes to AV' campaign, naturally I have been disappointed by the result of 68% of the 42 % Turnout voting to reject AV.

The reason I voted ‘Yes’ to AV wasn’t because I believe it’s the best system available, but it was the best system on offer. Proportional Representation would have been the ideal, but seeing as there was no chance of this system being put forward to the electorate, I felt compelled to support something that was a step closer to it.

I’ve read and heard plenty of reasons why people voted to reject AV and don’t want to sound like a ‘sore loser’ about this. At the end of the day, the No campaign was clearly very effective, regardless of it being patronising and bent on scaring people, having more high profile support or more wealthy individual donors.

Clearly the right-wing media have whipped up a storm over this, stating that many No voters rejected AV to spite Nick Clegg and give the Liberal Democrats a kicking. I honestly hope people weren’t so shallow about a chance to change the future of democracy in this country for the sake of ill feeling to one individual or to a political party. There was plenty of opportunity for ‘punishing’ Lib Dems in the Local Elections themselves, which has obviously resulted in massive losses for them.

In my opinion, an opportunity has definitely been missed here to push this country’s electoral system towards being fairer and more proportional. I think to reject the Alternative Vote system as, in Clegg's own words, a ‘miserable little compromise’ to Proportional Representation was a mistake. It was still a chance to make some progress. How could it be assumed that adopting AV would ever stop PR from being a possibility further down the line? “It’s a start...” is part of a comment from Rupert Read (Green Party Councillor for Norwich) on a Left Foot Forward blog post from last year. This would have been useful for people to remember at the ballot box on Thursday.

Will this resounding ‘No’ be twisted by the two main parties and used as an excuse not to offer a referendum on any other Electoral Reform? AV is clearly not going to be raised as an option again, but I fear that Electoral Reform as an issue in itself will now slip to the bottom of the political agenda, obviously for the Tories, but probably now also for Labour after their rather muted support for the Yes campaign.

So we are stuck with First Past The Post for the foreseeable future, left wondering when another chance will come to change it for a fairer voting system. My guess? Not for a generation. I sincerely hope I’m proved wrong.

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