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The ‘No to AV’ campaign needs to engage with Labour voters and fast….

In May, alongside the local and (in Scotland and Wales at least) national elections, there is the small matter  of a referendum to change our voting system to consider. We know that the first electoral test for the Coalition will motivate Labour voters to turn-out and Labour activists to ensure a high turnout. Turnout will also be high amoungst Plaid and SNP supporters. We also know that, broadly speaking, Conservative voters oppose a switch to AV while Liberal Democrat ones broadly approve. Victory for the Yes camp therefore clearly requires a majority of Labour voters to support it as part of something like the ‘Rainbow Coalition’ that was briefly floated at the end of the last general election.

Conversely, the No camp can only be totally sure of victory by winning a clear majority amoungst Labour supporters. Basically, whichever way those who will otherwise be supporting Labour on May 5th vote in the referendum will almost certainly decide what happens to the Alternative Vote. Given this, and the fact that the Yes camp has the support of the new Labour leader, you would think that No camp would be showering Labour voters with attention.

You would think s,o but you would be sadly mistaken. It appears the No camp were very active at the Conservative conference but during all the coverage of the Labour one, I heard no reports of such an organisational flurry. Similarly, I have heard little evidence of a serious attempt to get the GMB, whose General Secretary Paul Kenny has made his opposition to AV clear, to launch a serious campaign or involve them in the No campaign. Nor does there seem to be any efforts being made to campaign within the other unions.

Tom Harris MP, a notable campaigner against AV, doesn’t seem to have been engaged either. In short, in this crucial area the No camp seem to be lagging behind. I rather suspect this is due to the leading role that prominent Conservative supporters have within the campaign and a certain complacency (or cultural hostility) to engaging with the Labour vote. Hopefully, I am wrong but it seems the most likely logical explanation for the No camp’s shortcomings in this area.

Relying on big money backers and an ad campaign wont cut the mustard if it is not backed up by a grassroots campaign visibly supported by important organisations within the labour movement like the trade unions.  If the No camp is serious about winning this vote, it needs to actively think of ways to engage with Labour voters and this needs to happen sooner rather than later.

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