Friday, 5 November 2010

What referendum?

Today is exactly six months until the referendum on voting reform. For that reason, the ‘Take Back Parliament’ campaign took to the streets across the UK, holding stalls and talking to voters, with the aim being to encourage a ‘yes’ vote next May. My daughter and I helped out on the stall in Muswell Hill, handing out leaflets and discussing First Past the Post and Additional Vote (AV) with passers’ by. It was very interesting seeing the various reactions and hearing the differing opinions.

If the good burghers of Muswell Hill (or ‘Muesli Hill’) are anything to go by, people will either not bother voting, or if they do, they’ll be voting for reform. Either way, they’re not all that excited about it yet (“what referendum?”). I can’t blame them, really. It is half a year away and not everyone is a political geek like me. (Never can seem to remember that…).

There’s another good reason why they might be right not to be too excited, of course. The fact is, we’re not going to have the option of voting for true Proportional Representation (PR). Although Green Party MP Caroline Lucas tabled an amendment to get the option of PR on the ballot paper next May, it wasn’t supported by…guess who? Well, naturally, the Tories, but also their little bedfellows in the yellow pyjamas, The Lib Dems, who of course have always had PR as a cornerstone of their manifesto. It was, for many people I’ve spoken to on the doorsteps over the years, the one redeeming feature of the Lib Dems. But of course that’s up the swanny now.

One of the other people helping out on the stall was a Lib Dem activist. “I’m a Lib Dem,” he whispered, “but PLEASE don’t tell anyone! We’re not exactly popular at the moment…” Poor chap.

He went on to say that he keeps getting emails from the Lib Dem spin machine about how well they’re doing in government, all the changes they’re bringing in, and what a load of tommy rot it is. “We’ve gone back on just about everything we promised!” he despaired. I gently suggested he might want to join the Greens instead…

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