What would Clement do?

A Labour blog that witters on about Clement Attlee. Hurrah for The Major!

Noes To The Left…

Two recent articles on the Referendum on Electoral Reform (no, please wait, its not that dull…) by decent leftwingers against change have got me thinking. Nick Cohen in The Spectator today, and Darrell Goodliffe at Left Futures (links on your right) both have it in for AV and Nick Clegg. As a Democrat and a Socialist, I have to disagree with my no-doubt honourable opponents here, and this is why…

Nicks article is mainly a sustained diatribe against celebrity endorsements of the Yes campaign, and, to a certain extent I have to agree – certainly I do not believe that any campaign or issue is “good” on the say-so of an actor, singer, poet or model. Often I find myself taking a reverse opinion, wondering where on earth you could find Fois Gras in Asda, or eat swans stuffed with owls whilst wearing only cruelty guaranteed fur and blood diamonds. But this is simply the reaction of someone who doesn’t like to be hectored at by those richer, safer and more powerful than himself. In the case of Electoral Reform, surely anyone who has the vote in the UK is entitled to their opinion? The charge Nick makes is that we in the yes campaign are hiding Nick Clegg behind the skirts of Helena Bonham Carter.

Now for those of a Liberal Democrat persuasion, there may be some truth in this, but the fact remains that the Yes campaign is much broader based than that. I really have little sympathy for Little Nicky and his Orange Book groupies, but the case for reform of our voting system is much more important than any one party. Mr Cohen and Mr Goodliffe decry the only option on the table for change – that of the Alternative Vote (AV). I understand the misgivings, and the arguments against it, but is it not better to get some change, rather than none? The Royal Commission under Lord Jenkins proposed a system incorporating AV plus an element of proportionality – AV plus, which could be introduced early on if Labour commits to it fully, and we win in 2015. And heres the rub, whatever the Lords have managed to squeeze out of the Coalition in concessions, we still lose 50 MPs and constituencies before 2015. The majority of these will be Labour, in a staggering move more suited to Al Capone than a democratic government. Without a change in the voting system, Labour face the prospect of being gerrymandered out of office for at least a decade. What on earth will be left to save in 2025? Will we have to start all over again? Can we?

For Labour, there is also a tactical consideration here. We oppose the Coalition on pretty much everything they are doing, and that means laying into the Lib Dems. This is no bad thing at all, but we may very well have to form some kind of alliance with them at some stage to win back power. To do this, we must prove ourselves to be willing to make changes, and to live up to the “Democratic” part of Democratic Socialism. We may also see a growing number of Lib dem activists from the Social Democratic wing come over to our side… Yet No campaigners within Labour, honest though they may be, are proving themselves just as tribal as Clegg, and as wedded to the old Tory “No reform” policy as Ham-Face Cameron… Think again Please…

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