Sunday, 24 April 2011


For the record - I don't agree with Nick. Like many people in this country I'm appalled by the role the Liberal Democrats (LDs) have played in propping up a reactionary, class war Tory government which is seeking to return us to the inequality and public squalor of the 19th century. £81 billion pounds worth of cuts which will hit the poor, low paid, unemployed, disabled and women hardest would be bad enough in itself but what accompanies it makes it much, much worse - the privatisation of the NHS, the bogus 'Big Society', the sell off of forests, student loans at £9,000 a year, the scrapping of environmental bodies, the attack on the public sector and pensions, the support for bankers who created the economic crash, nepotism for neighbours by Cameron, and the absurdity of calling environmental protection legislation 'red tape' all add up to a nightmare for the British people. Those of us who lived through the Thatcher era never thought we could be shafted to such an extent again - but that is what is happening as I type this.

We should never have been so surprised at LD support for this Tory government and its cuts agenda. In 2004, prominent LDs including Clegg, Laws and Cable contributed to the 'Orange Book' which was essentially a neoliberal manifesto. The reactionary take-over of the LDs had begun. Just as with New Labour The LDs swung to the right abandoning the social democratic approach the LDs had been found on.

So what has this got to do with the referendum on the Alternative Vote (AV)? Given the above - its not surprising then that many on the left now want to punish Clegg and the LDs by voting down AV. The theory is that if the referendum is lost the Coalition government will split, forcing an election in which Labour and Ed Milliband will ride to the rescue of the nation. In my view this is very short-sighted for several reasons; firstly, there is no guarantee that the Coalition will split. The LDs are in a very vulnerable position at the moment and they don't want an election. Not only do they fear meltdown but they have no funds to fight a campaign; secondly, even if the Coalition does split there is no guarantee that Labour will win or the Ed will ride to the rescue if they do. New Labour may be dead but it certainly hasn't been buried; finally, and most importantly the AV referendum offers us something very rare in British politics - a chance to bring about progressive electoral reform.

AV isn't perfect, its not as good as proportional representation (PR), but it's a hell of a lot better than what we have at the moment - a rotten voting system well past its sell by date. If the referendum is lost it will put back electoral reform for a generation. The beauty of AV is that it increases voter power and makes MPs more accountable to their electorate - so what if it slightly benefits the LDS? - that is the popular view based on previous voting patterns, but it assumes that many will put the LDs down as a second preference - now that is much less likely. Neither will it benefit the BNP as has been suggested - it will benefit you the voter by putting more power in your hands. Don't believe the outrageous lies put about by the No campaign. Vote YES on May 5th and help to break the mould of British politics. AV now PR later!