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All to play for in the AV campaign…..

Depending on which opinion poll you happen to believe either the No or Yes to AV campaigns are in the lead at the moment. Although criticisms of the YouGov poll (which gave the No campaign the lead) about the nature of the question, which probably did bias Labour supporters against AV, are probably valid that still does not explain the fact that the No camp was also ahead in the recent LabourList survey on the ‘State of the Party’. Our best guess is that the true situation lies somewhere between the two extremes, with No and Yes being neck-and-neck but those undecided beating them all.

We think this will go down to the wire; those people who are strongly committed now won’t shift because they have always been that way but those who make up their mind at the very last moment will be the decisive majority. This reflects the fact that most people don’t care strongly either way about electoral reform. It’s one of those issues that fascinates politicos but fails to fire the public imagination.

The Yes camp, unlike the No camp, has decided its Labour Party campaign will be autonomous. We’re undecided whether this is a plus or the minus. What it may do is allow an autonomous Yes campaign more opportunity to distance itself from its own allies which given the current dreadful unpopularity of Nick Clegg’s Liberal Democrats will most likely be a benefit. On the minus side it may make the campaign more incoherent and more likely to fracture. The No campaign has produced some good early advertising; especially that on Bonfire Night. What it might do well to emulate is the attempt the Yes campaign is making to be a ‘bottom-up’ campaign.

One obvious weakness that the Yes camp should have in the Labour camp is its promotion of ‘coalition politics’ which Nick Clegg is doing an outstanding job of making a by-word for breaking your word. The notion that coalitions are a good thing and are inherently more democratic (they arent) is one among many bubbles the No camp needs to puncture. We can see how coalition politics is inherently less representative of people in the actions of our own government because parties are forced to horse-trade and compromise on promises they made in their manifestos. They also decrease democratic accountability because they give representatives the fig-leaf of the coalition and ‘necessary compromise’ to hide behind. If coalitions are so much more democratic why do so many Lib Dem voters feel so betrayed?

Others are the complete nonsense that AV somehow makes every vote count or ends ‘tactical voting’. It obviously does not. None the of the second preferences of the supporters of the two Milibands in the recent leadership election counted or mattered a damn. Both campaigns furthermore expended an awful amount of tactical effort chasgin the second preferences of other candidates; indeed, the media speculation which way these votes would go was endless. AV changes the site of the tactical battle but does not eliminate it; in fact, it gives disproportionate weight to the second preferences of smaller party voters (while, incidentally, making these same parties less likely to win actual representation by setting the 50% threshold).

There is plenty left to play for in the AV campaign. The No camp has to make the democratic case against AV and show how its introduction would further emaciate our democracy because it will.

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