Opponents expose Lib Dem U turn over referendum option

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Political opponents have attacked the Lib Dem stance on the referendum on electoral reform claiming that the party is now openly endorsing a system of voting that they had derided in the recent general election campaign.

The Lib Dems and Tories plan to have a referendum that allows the electorate to choose between the current First Past the Post system and the Alternative Vote (AV) system.


Political opponents have attacked the Lib Dem stance on the referendum on electoral reform claiming that the party is now openly endorsing a system of voting that they had derided in the recent general election campaign.

The Lib Dems and Tories plan to have a referendum that allows the electorate to choose between the current First Past the Post system and the Alternative Vote (AV) system.

The AV system asks voters to list their choice of candidates in order of preference.  If their candidate of choice finishes last in the first round of ballots then that candidate is eliminated and the vote is transferred to the second choice candidate; this process continues until one candidate receives over 50% of the vote.

Critics of the AV system say that it could result in a candidate who is not the most popular first choice amongst the voters suddenly winning as he/she picks up a raft of second or even third choice votes, and, say opponents, the most damning criticism of AV has come from the Lib Dems themselves.

  • The Times, 22 April 2010 – Nick Clegg dismissed the alternative vote (AV) system proposed by the Prime Minister as “a baby step in the right direction”, and said he would not settle for “a miserable little compromise thrashed out by the Labour Party”.
  • Daily Mail, 3rd February, 2010 – Chris Huhne said: “Gordon Brown has undergone a deathbed conversion to electoral reform now that defeat is staring him in the face, but the alternative vote does not give voters enough power.”
  • Lib Dem Press Release, 1st Feb 2010 – Chris Huhne: “…but it is not a proportional system and it does not give voters real power over both the party and the person elected as MP.”
     
    “Only the Single Transferable Vote in multi-member seats would abolish MPs’ meal tickets for life, and we will fight to amend this proposal to give people a real choice for a more significant change.”
  • Sunday Telegraph, 17 Jan 2010 – A source close to Nick Clegg: “They are worthless and don’t go nearly far enough,”

SNP MSP Kenneth Gibson says that the insistence of the Lib Dems on going ahead with the AV referendum, despite their previous opposition to that voting system, was a reflection of their weakness within the UK Government, while their refusal to consult with the Scottish, Welsh and Northern Ireland administrations completely contradicted their promise of a respect agenda.

Mr Gibson said:
 
“Before the election  there was no support for AV amongst Nick Clegg and his party because, as the Lib Dems made clear themselves, it is not a proportional system. That they are now pushing ahead with a referendum for a voting system that isn’t supported by any of the political parties on the same day as the Scottish Parliamentary and Northern Irish and Welsh Assembly elections, shows their newly discovered enthusiasm is little to do with support for AV and more to do with flexing their muscles as junior partners in a Tory-led government.
 
“By planning to hold such a referendum on the same day as those elections completely contradicts Lib Dem and Tory promises to pursue a “respect agenda” when dealing with the devolved administrations.  Instead they have followed a disrespect agenda on this issue.
 
“There is a real danger of the Scottish Parliamentary elections being overshadowed and the issues that really matter to the people of Scotland being eclipsed by a media focus on an electoral system that isn’t supported by any of the political parties and wasn’t embraced by the LibDems.
 
“It just shows that the Tory-led coalition government with the Lib Dems is just treating the Scottish Parliament and the people of Scotland with contempt.
 
“The SNP will continue to seek a vote at Holyrood at an early opportunity after the recess to use the parliamentary majority – consisting of the SNP, Labour and Greens – to block these undemocratic plans.
 
“The Coalition Government must allow the voice of the people of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales to be heard and drop these ludicrous plans to have a referendum on a voting system that the Lib Dems have recently attacked for being disproportionate and the Tories will oppose.”

The attacks on the Lib Dems come as major disquiet in Scotland over the choosing of May 5th for the referendum threatens party support North of the border.  Both the SNP and Labour have attacked the scheduling of the referendum and First Minister Alex Salmond has written to the London coalition government in protest.

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