That headline misrepresents the Ritz/Savoy Hotel room-service (and fictional?) waiter who delivered champagne to George Best’s room, to find Best and (at least one) Miss World sprawled on a bed covered with his winnings from the casino. Improve the story as you wish.
On May 5th, which happens to be the day in 1215 the Barons renounced their allegiance to King John, Britain will vote on the Tory-led coalition government’s referendum on introducing the Alternative Voting system (AV). The chickens came home to roost at Runnymede with Magna Carta (15 June 1215). Mr Gove please note: it was a joint Scottish and French invasion presence in London that encouraged John to sign, a small detail not often mentioned in English school histories.
Should anyone be in doubt, Malcolm will be voting No. His reasons are:
- It is a contemptible lowest common denominator. No political party in the 2010 election campaign was in favour of AV.
- It is not proportional representation, which was the creditable Lib Dem ambition.
- Nor is it a credible alternative vote . Without the “top-up” list it does not reach the standards of proportionality Labour introduced for the Greater London Assembly or the devolved Assemblies.
- If that needs summarising, Nick Clegg (now the prime supporter of AV) denounced it as a miserable little compromise. That interview with The Independent is worth reference:
Until now, the Liberal Democrats have suggested they would accept the alternative vote (AV), with people listing candidates in order of preference, on which Labour has promised a referendum next year. But Mr Clegg is now demanding the “alternative vote plus” system, which unlike AV is proportional and was recommended by Lord Jenkins of Hillhead in 1998.
Mr Clegg said: “AV is a baby step in the right direction – only because nothing can be worse than the status quo. If we want to change British politics once and for all, we have got to have a quite simple system in which everyone’s votes count. We think AV-plus is a feasible way to proceed. At least it is proportional – and it retains a constituency link.
So AV and the whole referendum farrago is, at best, at stitch-up. In the back-stairs coalition negotiations it was the least the Lib Dems could accept, and the most the Tories could concede. A spavined camel is a horse designed by a cabal.
- As this degenerate Malcolm recalls (from a briefing circa 1965 by his then other half, the sage of Kinnegad) the Labour position should be based on a definitive Conference vote. Labour went into the 1918 Election pledged to introducing AV+. That had been the proposal of a Speaker’s Conference, which had passed the Commons, and was only aborted by the Conservative and Liberal dinosaurs of the House of Lords. As far as Malcolm recollects, no subsequent Labour Conference has overturned that commitment. Mr Ed Miliband’s distance may, unfortunately, vary.
- Beyond all that, it would not work. it would not deliver the goodies promised.
Reform of the voting system is causing more than just constitutional upheaval
Here’s the meat:
… AV is forcing David Cameron, the Conservative prime minister, to choose between pleasing his own party and placating his Liberal Democrat coalition partners. Many Tories, who are opposed to AV, want to exploit the unpopularity of Nick Clegg, the Lib Dem deputy prime minister who champions voting reform. They think voters are likelier to reject AV if told that it will mean more seats for the Lib Dems, and more king-making power after elections for third-party leaders such as Mr Clegg, whose reputation has been hurt by his various policy compromises since allying with the Tories.
But Mr Cameron cannot attack his deputy without jeopardising the coalition. The Tory party’s official anti-AV campaign material makes no mention of the Lib Dems, and the prime minister is thought to have leant on the independent “No to AV” campaign to lay off them, too. Opponents of voting reform, however, can’t afford the luxury of deploying only their most decorous arguments: one recent poll gave the pro-AV campaign a lead of ten points.
Were AV to be approved by voters, Mr Cameron would be in serious trouble with his own side. Many Tories already harbour grievances against him: for his allegedly aloof, cliquey leadership style; for failing to win the last general election outright; for conceding too much to the Lib Dems (including, during last May’s coalition negotiations, the promise of the AV referendum). If he is seen to have hamstrung the anti-AV campaign, he will find it hard to command the support of his backbenchers.
What is, quite frankly, amazing is how Clegg has sold this to his foot-soldiers. It represents precisely that to which they have been objecting these many years. Those, in all parties, who wanted and argued for genuine electoral reform, have been sold down the river.
Clegg cannot step back now. He cannot argue that this is a step on the way to proper proportional representation. He has bought himself a pig-in-a-poke: he has no clue how this will alter his party’s standing, or British democracy, in any short or medium term.
Lib Dems, as a flock, are a herbivorous, not a prepossessing lot, but as was said on a previous occasion:
Mr Tweedy; [being attacked by chickens] Mrs Tweedy! The chickens are revolting!
Mrs Tweedy: [not paying attention] Finally something we agree on.
The whole AV referendum was an attempt to make an instant omelette without breaking eggs. The eggs, unfortunately, are now well past any reasonable sell-by date.
David Cameron has had a easy time since May.
Miss Lib Dem had rolled over, once she had pocketed her reduced price.
Room-service is now knocking at his door, with the bill.