Hopelessly divided over AV


Question MarkBy Mark Ferguson / @markfergusonuk

Labour supporters are split almost down the middle over AV, as our “State of the Party” survey revealed last week. Today, Labour Uncut has a list of the 114 MPs (nearly half of the PLP) who are only opposed to AV. When it comes to May’s referendum, on a proposal that formed part of the manifesto on which the party stood less than 8 months ago, we are hopelessly divided.

There are of course many party members between these two warring camps. We are the AV agnostics. We see the advantage of representatives with 50%+ support in their communities and the higher morale principle of “fairer votes”, but we’re cagey about the concept of more coalition governments, fewer Labour MPs and outsized general election swings. Although we know there’s a referendum on the issue coming up, and we know it’s an important part of the upcoming political year, we find it hard to see past the economy, and cuts. We worry that expending energy on either side of this battle this is an unnecessary distraction.

Either that or we just shrug our shoulders because we don’t see why others would fight for or against what Nick Clegg called a “miserable little compromise”.

Regardless of the concerns of the AV agnostics though, the battle for AV rages on, and poses a difficult conundrum for our new leader (already battered and no longer box-fresh). Miliband’s natural instincts are to push for AV personally, and to campaign for the reform. But how far to push? And does he risk being tied to the unpopular possible loser Nick Clegg? The circling vultures would certainly not forgive him that, and the 114 anti-AV members of the PLP would surely balk at the imagery. Yet to shirk the fight would reinforce already established (albeit somewhat unfair) narratives that suggest Ed dodges difficult decisions and won’t confront the party.

So which way will he turn? Will he fight hard for AV, or will he stand back from the fray and allow the battle rage around him? Either choice could be politically disastrous. He must make a brave decision or pull off a phenomenal balancing act.

Perhaps it might be best if Ed became an AV agnostic too…

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