Will Labour sabotage AV out of spite?

I wrote to my Labour MP Meg Hillier today to ask whether she will be joining the YES campaign in the AV referendum. She was elected on a manifesto commitment to do so, after all. But statements by other local Labour politicians and activists suggest that Labour are preparing to break that commitment in a mad kamikaze attack on this reform.

The 2010 Labour manifesto supports AV, “To ensure that every MP is supported by the majority of their constituents voting at each election”. Yet local socialists seem more motivated by spite than principle.

A LabourList article by Islington Labour councillor Richard ‘Weasel’ Watts and his gold-plated spin doctor Graham Copp argues that:

“Whatever view one takes about electoral reform, it would be an enormous and avoidable own goal the newly elected Labour leader to introduce themselves to the public by supporting a losing cause in the AV referendum.“

Which is to say: Labour should ditch a manifesto commitment because the fight may be hard and it might fail. Rather than fighting for a principle but possibly losing (isn’t that what oppositions are supposed to do, anyway?), they would rather see, and think the public would rather see, their leaders renege on a promise.

Which way Labour ultimately fall on this is going to be important to the campaign, so I’m interested in seeing what my MP has to say for herself.

But from the evidence of Weasel and Copp, it seems like Labour are as willing to abandon their manifesto in opposition as quickly as they abandoned it in Government. After all, their 1997 manifesto said, “we are committed to a referendum on the voting system for the House of Commons” where they would support “a proportional alternative to the first-past-the-post system”.

I think an uncharacteristically honest statement falls half way through their article -albeit a plan, or possibly a wish, disguised as analysis:

“Referenda very often become a vote of confidence in the government itself. If the referendum comes when the cuts are really biting next May, it’s easy to envisage a scenario where the argument “vote no to send a message to about cuts” has a lot of resonance, particularly among Labour voters.”

It would be entirely in character for Labour’s kamikaze spin-doctors to try and turn the referendum into a mid-term judgement on the coalition’s ‘cuts’, even if that sacrifices both the best opportunity to improve our democracy and their own reputation for keeping promises. But Labour are currently suffering from a collective madness and are twitchily unpredictable.

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Published in: on September 14, 2010 at 1:11 pm  Comments (1)  

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  1. […] 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 […]


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