AV referendum going ahead

Labour members of the UK House of Lords narrowly failed to delay the bill to call a referendum on the Alternative Vote for May, 2011. The vote was 224-210 to reject a proposal to refer the bill to a committee for further discussion (i.e. stalling).

The bill would set the referendum for the same date as the elections for the Scottish Parliament, Welsh Assembly, and some local councils. Labour opposition stems largely from the linkage of the AV referendum to a review of constituency boundaries, which currently favor Labour.

4 thoughts on “AV referendum going ahead

  1. If I was a Labour MP, I’d have a lot better reason to oppose AV than the mere parliamentary tactics of putting two issues in one bill. Besides the fact that AV is a phony reform, I’d be worried about the Lib Dem voters in 2015. Those Lib Dem voters who didn’t like the Coalition have already deserted to Labour. The others will split the Coalition vote in 2015, putting Labour in the lead. But with AV, they will mostly give their second preferences to the Conservatives, likely handing the Conservatives the majority government that First Past The Post denied them this year, leaving the Lib Dems on the sidelines again, and shutting Labour out of power.

    Oddly, the Lib Dems (who used to call AV “worthless”) are now wedded to AV (some reform, any reform, even a worthless one) although, under the scenario above, it will hurt them; as Lord Jenkins said, the effects of AV are disturbingly unpredictable. Meanwhile, the Conservatives are only just starting to realize AV is likely to help them. By the time the referendum is held, will the parties have figured out the logic, and switched sides? Fascinating.

  2. The boundary review and equalization of the size of the electorates, though there are a few reasons for it on policy grounds, is mostly power politics. For various reasons, the current system helps Labour, badly hurts the Tories, and doesn’t have much effect on the Liberal Democrats. So the package contains AV, which helps the Liberal Democrats, and the boundary review and equalization, which helps the Tories.

    Historically, the Tories used the same exact tactic in the late nineteenth century reform legislation, conceding the expansion of the electorate in exchange for boundary changes that helped them. It worked very well for them.

    Labour’s opposition should be expected and is almost necessary from a purely political standpoint. The Tories would be shooting themselves in the foot if they voted this down due to a sentimental attachment to “first past the post”.

  3. David Cameron used to refer to overhauling the Lords as a ‘third term issue’ before the election, but has been persuaded the Government should press ahead as quickly as possible.
    “Ministers are to unveil revolutionary plans to replace the House of Lords with a slimmed down elected ‘senate’ containing just 300 members.
    The first elections would take place in 2015 under Coalition plans to sweep away 1,000 years of history.
    Lords reform would become a bigger prize for Lib Dem members of the Coalition than next year’s referendum on Commons voting reform, ministers believe.
    Crucially, elections to a new senate would take place using proportional representation, the electoral system long favoured by the Lib Dems.
    It is favoured far more highly by Lib Dems than the alternative vote, the subject of a referendum on reform of the electoral system for the Commons, which is due to take place next year.
    Attention has focused on what the Lib Dems will do if Commons reform is rejected. But sources say that focus is quietly shifting to Lords reform as the ‘glue’ that will keep the Coalition together.
    ‘If the public ends up sticking with first past the post and rejecting the alternative vote for the Commons next year, actually the arguments for an upper House elected using proportional representation grow stronger,’ said one Government source.
    A draft Bill setting out reform plans is expected to be unveiled early in the New Year.”
    All great news for electoral reformers there and in Canada.

  4. Perhaps I’m a cynic, but to me this sounds like the Tories have finally figured out a way they can keep their coalition intact without risking any real electoral reform. Just mollify the LibDems with promises of HoL reform–and then judging by recent history, spend the next ten years trying to wheedle agreement out of the Lords, until everybody gets sick of the idea and gives up. Even if HoL reform actually passes, PR just ends up relegated to the house-that-can’t-actually-do-much, and the elections that truly matter continue to use FPTP.

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