Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

AV Debate Is Healthy for the Coalition

Posted by jonathanfryer on Saturday, 23rd April, 2011

There are Macbethian witches who have been incanting that the arguments for and against dropping Britain’s first-past-the-post electoral system in favour of the Alternative Vote (AV) could ‘destroy’ the Lib-Con Coalition, but I think it is actually very healthy that there is such a debate within the government and believe that the Coalition will emerge stronger for it. The vote itself, on 5 May, comes exactly one year after the General Election whose inconclusive outcome led to the Coalition’s being formed. Many of us were astonished just how quickly the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats came to agreement — considering how long these things often take on the Continent — but David Cameron and Nick Clegg seemed to make a good match. Inevitably, the Labour opposition, like a rejected suitor, is furious at the LibDems for having ‘sold out’ to the Tories — even though careful scrutiny shows that is not the case; a substantial proportion of the LibDem manifesto is in the Coalition Agreement and has largely been delivered. But Clegg’s potrayal as Cameron’s puppet (wickedly lampooned in Guardian cartoons) is impossible to validate now the two are at the head of diametrically opposed campaigns over possible electoral reform. I think this is healthy and will force progressive Labourites to work with LibDems (and the small but noble pro-Yes Conservatives). Opinion polls suggest the outcome could be very close. Of course, I hope that Yes2AV will win. But whatever the outcome, I trust the campaign has made clear to the public that the nature of British politics has changed. Alliances are not set in stone; people can coalesce around issues on which they agree.

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