Stephen Gilbert Speaks Out on Yes2AV
Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 17th March, 2011
With only six weeks to go to the Alternative Vote referendum in the United Kingdom, MPs who are in favour of the switch to a fairer voting system are beginning to speak out loud. Last night, Stephen Gilbert, LibDem MP for St Austell and Newquay, was guest of honour at a social event put on by Holborn & St Pancras Liberal Democrats in London and urged everyone present to seize this opportunity for change. Were the vote to go the wrong way, it is unlikely there would be another chance for electoral reform for a generation, he claimed. Steve is right that the LibDems must not leave the campaigning only to non-party-political groups, although cooperation with them is of course very important. Although Ed Miliband and some other leading Labour figures (including London mayoral candidate Ken Livingstone) have come out in favour of AV, 200 Labour MPs are said to be opposed. So is most of the Conservative Party, the BNP (!) and some absurd purists such as Crossbench peers David Alton and David Owen who argue that people should vote No on 5 May because AV is not STV (the single transferable vote). Of course most LibDem campaigners for electoral reform would prefer STV, but the Conservatives made clear that was not an option when the Coalition Agreement was negotiated. So we have to work hard for the second best, AV. There has been a fear among some senior figures in the party that parts of the electorate would be turned off if the LibDems are seen to be too prominent in the Yes2AV campaign. But there is an even greater danger: that we could lose the referendum if they are not.