“Character, Choice & Change – three Labour reasons to support AV”
– Richard Robinson, West Midlands regional Organiser, Yes to Fairer Votes
Richard previously worked for Ed Miliband’s Leadership campaign & is a Labour Councillor in Broxtowe, Nottinghamshire.
Anyone remember February 1975? I was twelve at the time. The only thing I can vividly recall was in May of that year was crying shed loads of tears at my Gran’s house watching on TV my beloved Leeds United being cheated out of victory in the European Cup Final in Paris against Bayern Munich. The referee for the match Michel Kitabdjian was later suspended on grounds of corruption.
Something else happened that year, three months prior to this, and whilst I can’t remember the moment (I’ve cried as many tears since) Mrs Thatcher became Tory leader. Little did then the country at large realise the extent to which the political discourse throughout Britain would change irrevocably.
It’s a tad ironic then at just ten weeks away from our own AV referendum to recall the Iron Lady’s most important engagement during her first few months in office. Believe it or not was to campaign for a Yes Vote in the referendum which of course kept Britain in Europe!
Fast forward through eighteen years of Tory rule, thirteen years of New Labour and now during the first year of the current Tory led government Labour now searches its soul and seeks to redefine its message to the electorate; regrettably our performance at the General Election last May was our worst since 1918.
As Labour then seeks to spell out its identity, and win back the swathes of voters who have branded us “out of touch” I would argue there are three very good reasons for the Party to embrace AV.
First we should embrace the change AV offers and not push it aside. I did not join the Labour Party in 1981 or become a Labour councillor in 1991 to accept the status quo.
The facts speak for themselves; under First Past the Post (FPTP) General Elections in the UK are decided by a handful of voters in marginal seats. For Labour to win back the missing millions we have to reach out. Under AV candidates will have to appeal to a broad range of voters.
Furthermore I did not join the Labour Party to be reactionary and campaign alongside the likes of Matthew Elliott the Director of No2AV and of the Tax Payers Alliance (TPA) – they who want to cut public services to the bone. The TPA are anti union, and its no surprise to me they are No2AV; at the 2010 General Election sixty nine per cent of the electorate cast votes that had little chance of making a difference. The TPA realise therefore that by targeting money from big donors they are able to influence the outcome of the General Election.
Second the character of the Party is always defined when it is bold, there are defining moments in our history; the great reforming Labour Government after the 2nd World War and the birth of NHS and the welfare state. Likewise Tony Blair’s single minded mission in ruthlessly pursuing a peace deal in Northern Ireland. The Party can seize the moment now by getting behind a campaign that gives power back to the people.
Finally we have a choice. It was Oscar Wilde who said “socialism is very good, but it takes up too many evenings”. There are just 71 evenings between now and 5 May to spell out the positives for the AV referendum; a more honest politics, a brick wall for extremists to climb, re-connecting with the lost working-class voters. It’s a choice for Labour activities that shouldn’t be hard to make. Referendum’s don’t come all that often.