Thursday 8 July 2010

Struggling with the spin

It's fun to watch the Lib Dems and Tories struggling to explain why it was absolutely out of the question to hold the Assembly powers referendum on the same date as the Assembly election, but there's no problem at all with holding the AV referendum on the same day.

The line was that the first was impossible because it would have meant cross-party co-operation for the referendum whilst parties were opposing each other for the election. But as long as the referendum is on a UK-wide issue, that problem somehow disappears. It's a flimsy and weak attempt to cover up the fact that they are standing on their heads.

I just don't understand either why the AV referendum has to be rushed or why the Lib Dems in particular are getting so hung up about it. On the first, there'll still be four years to go before any decision arising from the referendum has to be applied - plenty of time to hold a considered referendum without cutting across Welsh and Scottish elections.

The second is just perplexing. AV is not the system favoured by the Lib Dems, and isn't proportional. And yet it seems to have been one of the key factors in persuading the Lib Dems to go with the Tories. The Tories bought them with a promise of a referendum on something that they don't really want, whereas Labour were only prepared to talk about a referendum on something they don't want.

And now that they have the Tories' commitment to holding a referendum on something that they don't want, it seems to have become key to the continuation of the coalition that the referendum on the thing that they don't want is held as quickly as possible, so that if they don't get what they don't want, they have an opportunity to walk away from the coalition as soon as possible.

Politics is strange sometimes.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

It may be fun, but it’s pretty unedifying. I’ve never seen a party leadership being so openly and blatantly manipulated by another party, but the reality is that the LibDems have got themselves into a hole over AV and they’re still digging. What are they up to? This could be a referendum that fails to muster even a steering committee for a Yes campaign. I certainly agree that there’s no urgency about the timing of such a referendum, but I’d like to question why are we having a referendum at all? Between 1994 and 1999 the voting system for the European Parliament changed from FPTP to a form of PR without a referendum. When the nation voted in the 1997 referendum the vote was on the principle to establish the Assembly. The electorate was not asked to express a view on the voting system to be used. Yet it resulted in elections under a hybrid system previously unseen in these islands. Significant constitutional reform is mooted for the House of Lords. They may or may not be subject to a referendum – but if they are put before the people I’m willing to bet that the question will be on the principle of establishing an elected chamber rather than on the detail of the electoral system to be used. What is so sacrosanct about a Westminster election that it’s voting system needs the sanction of a referendum before democratic changes can be introduced? The LibDems have been sold a pig in a poke of gigantic proportions.