Yesterday I was wondering how local Labour politicians will come down on AV. Emily Thornberry, Labour MP for Islington South and R’lyeh, immediately answered my question in a new article on Labourlist (which should surely now be called IslingtonLabourList for trading standards purposes). She declares her unambiguous opposition to AV.
The main thrust of her argument is that her constituents are too bestially stupid to understand preferential systems of voting. Never mind that they are able to muddle through for the Mayoral elections, or that the savage Celts somehow manage. Apparently, the poor benighted denizens of Islington aren’t capable of making informed choices, or counting. Doesn’t she even worry that her constituents might, uh, read this and take offence?
I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that Thornberry is worried that she would have lost under AV in 2005 and 2010. AV helps elect the least unpopular candidate. As she’s unpopular with the majority of her voters, she will probably lose her job.
At the last election, Labour secured 18,407 votes in Islington. The Lib Dems got nearly 3000 more votes than in 2005, but still trailed on 14,838. This leaves only 3570 votes to make up.
8,449 people voted for the Tories. It’s likely that many more of these would fall to the Liberal Democrats than to Labour. Next time, after they’ve seen Lib Dems work with Conservatives in coalition, and after having suffered under a seriously zany Labour council, this is even more likely.
With 54% of the vote when added together, Islington South and Finsbury is really a Coalition Constituency with a Labour MP.
Even in Islington, the Green Party is a minority interest, but there are 700 votes there that would be at least as likely to fall to the Lib Dems as to Labour. Green supporters I spoke to while canvassing in the constituency were impressed by the local Lib Dem council’s environmental record, and wary of Thornberry’s environmental credentials. Thornberry really didn’t help her cause by refusing to vote against airport expansion when she promised she would, and then giving a bizarre tirade on the floor of the House of Commons accusing Greenpeace of having “been manipulated by the Conservatives into being their cheerleaders” and demanding they apologise to their supporters!
I think it’s obvious that anyone in North-East London who cares about political reform and making Parliament more democratic should recognise that Labour is our enemy. Those like Thornberry are scared that they will be kicked out if the voters get the representation they actually want, and will fight to save their own skin. The idea of the voters being in charge petrifies them. Others, like Cllr Richard Watts, are more interested in using the referendum to attack the coalition Government, never mind the cost to democracy.
I can’t wait to see their anti-AV leaflets, though. “No to Alternative Vote: because you proles are just too stupid to understand.”
The article does have one nice Freudian slip from Thorners, though:
“But preferential voting cannot create honest politicians by itself, if it did, then I would be handing in a monster Chartist-style petition for first past the post.”