Thursday, 29 July 2010


The AV referendum is already in trouble today, after claims emerged that Nick Clegg bluffed David Cameron, into offering the Lib Dems a referendum on a change to the voting system as part of the coalition. Apparently he told Dave a whopper when he implied that Labour (aka Lord Mandelson) offered AV without the need for a referendum. This has led to an absolute glut of meaningless double speak from all sides.

The suggestion in a BBC documentary is set to deepen anger on Tory benches that a referendum was ever offered, making it more likely that legislation to change the voting system will struggle to avoid a defeat in the Commons in September. So that’s the Labour party officially against it. That combined with the opposition of the Tories should sound the death knell of the whole thing before it has even got off the starters block. Which is just as well as far as I am concerned. The invidious choice between FPTP or AV was really as far as I could see no choice at all. Neither system is any way proportional and both have major faults. I had a feeling that a “No” vote would lead to Cameron claiming that the public were happy with FPTP while a “Yes” vote would lumber us with a system equally as bad. Either way the whole thing would disappear off the agenda for a generation.

On Monday, the shadow cabinet decided to vote against the bill on the referendum because it has been coupled with what Labour described yesterday as gerrymandering of constituency boundaries. What a shocking revelation, as if Labour never did anything like that in their 13 years.

Cameron described the Labour volte-face as "a descent into complete and utter opportunism", pointing out that Labour had been the only party to go into the election promising to hold a referendum on the issue. Yes but David they lost the election remember.

Rumours have frequently circulated in Tory circles that Clegg, in highly pressurised coalition talks after the election, managed to outmanoeuvre Cameron by intimating he had been offered more by Labour in parallel post-election talks than was actually the case.

Cameron was asked by Nick Robinson in a documentary – Five Days that Changed Britain, to be broadcast on BBC2 tonight – whether he misled his MPs by saying Labour would give the Lib Dems voting reform without a referendum. Cameron replied: "No, because I was absolutely certain in my own mind that was the case, and I had I think good reason to be certain. I had a number of people had told me what was, what they thought was going on and conversations that were taking place about AV without a referendum. I'd also had a conversation with Nick [Clegg] when I'd argued very vigorously that you couldn't do alternative vote without a referendum – it would be wrong."

Clegg is then asked whether it is inaccurate to say he told Cameron he could get the alternative vote without a referendum from Labour. Clegg replies: "The perception, which I think was accurate, was discussions are out and it might have been an offer that might had been made and might have been considered. In answer to your direct question – was it ever formally made to me? – no, it wasn't formally made to me."

Talk about meaningless double speak. Its a pretty sad state of affairs when a government has to trot out this kind of drivel when its less that three months old. And they think they will last five years?

Lord Mandelson, one of the chief Labour negotiators, told the Guardian last night that in the first talks between Labour and the Lib Dems negotiating teams on the Saturday after the election, "it was suggested by the Liberal Democrats that the legislation introducing AV could be passed in its entirety for the alternative vote and then possibly a validating referendum would be held. It was a very odd, curious proposal and I found it difficult to understand.

"Soon after I had a call from the editor of the Times, James Harding, and he seemed like he was acting as a mouthpiece of George Osborne, asking whether we had made that offer to the Liberal Democrats, and I said no. It would have been incredibly wrong. The idea had disappeared by the following day."

Good old Petronella Lord Voldermort, still stirring things up I see. Well I guess he has to make up plenty ground after pissing off so many people on his own side (whatever that is) with his book of revelations.

A Lib Dem spokesman confirmed last night that no offer had been made in the formal discussions between Labour and the Lib Dems, but suggestions of a big offer on constitutional reform were made through other channels.

The dispute over the origins of the coalition is not academic since some Tory MPs remain furious that a referendum was ever offered. Edward Leigh, a leading Tory rightwinger, said on Tuesday that if the AV system had been used in 1997, "the Tory Party would have been reduced to a pathetic rump of 65 MPs".

Meanwhile, Nearly 45 Tory MPs have called for the Electoral Commission to change the date of the referendum from May next year on the grounds that it should not be held on the same day as national elections in Scotland and Wales, as well as English local elections. Peter Hain, the shadow Welsh secretary, writing on the Guardian website, said: "Clegg has allowed himself to be sandbagged by his Tory partners in his otherwise laudable attempt to introduce a fairer electoral system, probably losing a once-in-a-generation opportunity for electoral reform.

"Instead of introducing a separate bill on the alternative vote referendum which would have been supported by Labour in a vote through parliament, the government has spatchcocked it together with the most blatant gerrymander of parliamentary constituency boundaries since the days of the rotten boroughs."

Talk about mixed messages, didn’t the shadow cabinet vote against that laudable aim?


  1. This is all academic surely? There are so much more important things.

    In the case of Edward Leigh, I'd refer you to Oliver Letwin, a moderate on the party left; who rumour has it isn't fussed by the possibiliy of electoral reform...

    "because it has been coupled with what Labour described yesterday as gerrymandering of constituency boundaries."

    Absolute rubbish, we are making the constituencies of equal size so each vote counts as much as each other. This is fair, please please do not be taken in by Labour opportunism in opposition - turning their death grip on inner city rotten buroughs into a virtue.

  2. Deang: academic indeed, if you are not a Lib Dem that is.

    With Labour against and your lot also against (officially and the usual Tory awkward squad) it seems that the referendum may never happen at all. Where is that going to leave your coalition? It seems Nick Clegg has staked everything on a dead duck and not only that he launched "new politics" with a whopper of a lie. Suddenly the place is littered with dead ducks: new politics,Lords reform, the respect agenda and now AV.

    Gerrymandering is a political tool that both sides use. What the Tories are doing is reversing the slant the other way. Please don't try to dress that up as anything than what it really is.

  3. I had such high hopes for the coalition but just as with Bliar, it is quickly seen as a posturing group of elite bantam cocks. Pathetic is the word that springs to mind and tiresomely repetitive of the NWO grip over us all.

  4. OR: it’s a real shame. But new politics suddenly looks a lot like old politics and just a whole lot more of the same. Add that to Cameron and Hague running around the world doing the US Presidents bidding is really rather nauseating. This latest thing with Turkey is just the icing on the cake. The US want Turkey in the EU as a nice buffer to the middle east so now the Tories also want Turkey in the EU. We are their junior partners and always have been second fiddle even in 1940. And now India is going to have a say in non-EU immigration as a sop to trade. Can’t quite understand how he went so badly off message over Pakistan but no doubt there will be some heavy duty back-pedalling over that.

  5. usual Liebour hypocrisyJuly 29, 2010 12:08 pm

    Labour are now against the referendum on AV beacause if they can defeat the bill that would be the end of the coalition.
    AV is ok for the Labour leadership vote of course because that's different ( not).
    Hopefully if there is a referendum then it's on the same day as the Scottish Holyrood elections. Labour sheep are a thick lot and can't cope with more than one cross in one box ( see previous Scottish election vote).

  6. "A glut of doublespeak" Munguin, in our dearly beloved but increasingly frail great great grandmother of parliaments...surely not!

    Like Oldrightie, I had high hopes that the “new politics” were really "new" and proper "politics" and that Dave, with no tie on, and Nick, with his diverse experience, and bringing the Liberal in to the game after so long, would make a difference.

    Maybe in losing the Tory old guard; the likes of Winterton and Winterton and the Duck House boy who looked upon parliament as their right, not to mention Labour’s the Right Hon and Odious and (unbelievably) Noble, the Lord Martin of Springburn along with the equally repulsive Margaret Moron or wherever, who looked on it as a brilliant way to trough at leisure, there would be some decency and fairness, thought I...

    ...Well, for 10 minutes or so. But, they squabble over their expenses while the country goes to the dogs; they sign up to “no cars and second class transport” and take their limos along with chauffeurs to France, and trot off to boozy lunches and let their mouths run off, and they appear to lie and cheat in the same way that they always have. Plus ça change, plus c’est pareille !

    I sometimes reflect that it’s a great pity that the Queen can’t still do a bit of “off with their head” ing.

    I’d be glad to see the AV system bite the dust, but I can’t help laugh at old “Viscount” Eddy Leigh bless the poor old thing. (Did you know that his son, Benedict is 600th in line to the throne?) His description of the Tory party as a pathetic rump is hilarious. If I remember right, the FPTP system, based on approximate vote ratios of 5 : 4: 3, rendered a seating result of (approx) 6 : 5 : 1. That’s fair.... and reflective.

    In other words Teddy your grace, it’s OK when the pathetic little rump isn’t your mates, possibly excluding YOU.

  7. ULH: to be fair it’s not just Labour that are against the referendum. The Tories are too. And it hasn’t taken long for the usual suspects in the Tory awkward squad to strat flexing their muscles.

  8. Tris: I was much more cynical and didn’t believe for one minute any of that tosh about “new politics” nor did I give credence to the “respect agenda” either for that matter. But I did expect that the paying of lip service would last for a bit more than 3 months. I though the coalition would last for 2-3 years tops, but am not so sure now that the wheels are falling off the AV fig leaf that was meant to fob off the career liberalistas.

  9. Munguin

    Yes but it didn't matter about the Tories who were against the referendum as it would be passed easily by Labour and LimpDems. Now that Labour have decided against it it's dead in the water and can never get through.

  10. ULU ULH LUH HUL whatever ;)

  11. What's in a name ULW (what'sit)?


  12. Seeing as the Lib dems are dead in the water Labour may as well hang on to FPTP till another more suitable day.....

    after all its two party politics again lib dems gone snp toast............

    Ole deano and his 'opportunism' someone leaves an open goal what would anybody do?

    bang it in the back of net thats not opportunism
    that is the way you win.

  13. Munguin,

    I hardly hold it to be gerrymandering to seek to ensure voters are represented in equal sized constituencies. It makes for better democracy and representation - unless your a Labour MP for an inner city rotten borrough where Liebore red can give a job-lot for life.

  14. ULH: the Tories could still swing behind it and with them and the Lib Dems it should be ok. But with Labour and the Tories against it its dead in the water.

  15. Mr MixedPickle: I don't think the SNP are toast just yet. Don't count your chicks before they are hatched now will you. These US senators are doing no end of good for the popularity of the SNP Government aided by the junior partners since 1940 in all this the Tories. Thanks very much the Tories for you cringing toadying to the USA. All to play for again in the Scottish election I think.

  16. Dean if you want to ensure that voters are represented and that every vote counts why don't you advocate STV. How can you expect us to take what byou say seriously when your party advocates a system where more than half of votes are totally wasted?

    What the Tories are doing is gerrymandering pure and simple they are altering electoral districts in a way that will suit them. That is gerrymandering, it has nothing to do with equal size, population or whatever.

  17. The referendum thingy is "quackers" nobody wants AV except GB and a we nipper as understudy to that guy rewritting the second world war and now offering to help India up the nuclear stakes. When will the UK wake up and call for a grown up democracy rather than that sham of Westminster.

  18. I'd make a rough guess of 'never' in answer to that Cynical!

  19. Waste of money the whole thing. I mean turkeys don't vote for Christmas and the tories will never vote for this. Putting it together is a clever trick which must be humiliating for Clegg.

    The cracks are beginning to show and they haven't even started to be tested yet.

  20. S/R I tend to agree. There is no way this coalition is going to last five years.