On 5 May 2011 the UK will have its first national referendum for 35 years. Everyone legally registered to vote in the UK will be asked whether we want to replace our existing voting system (First Past the Post) with the so-called ‘Alternative Vote’ (AV). I myself will be voting ‘NO’ in the referendum vote on May 5th
Growing up in London and getting involved in national and local politics, I have followed and relied upon Operation Black Vote to educate, to campaign and to inform the rich diversity that is Britain’s BAME community. In the case of the current AV Referendum debate and campaign. OBV has failed to stimulate a debate and ensure, especially in London where there are no local elections, that the ethnic minority community make its voice heard.
Disappointingly, I find that OBV have allowed its logo, and therefore its hard won and fought for reputation, to be used by the ‘Yes to AV’ campaign. Where is the OBV facilitation for the other side – the ‘No to AV’ – of the debate? Surely we have moved on from assuming that Britain’s ethnic communities thinks and moves with only one voice. Surely our communities, partly due to the excellent past work of OBV, have developed into a rich, mature and diverse range of political views and opinions.
The referendum on AV was agreed as part of the Coalition Agreement, but each party will be campaigning for different outcomes. The Conservatives will be campaigning officially for a ‘NO’ vote with the Liberal Democrats campaigning officially for a ‘Yes’ vote – even though Nick Clegg criticised AV as ‘a miserable little compromise’ before the last general election. The Labour Party is split on the issue and will have no official position, although over half of Labour MPs support the NO Campaign and senior Labour politicians are Patrons of the NO Campaign. In this sea of diverse views, this is where OBV should be stepping in and stimulating the debate.
So if OBV will not start and stimulate the debate, I will.
I believe the proposed system of AV is bad and it’s important, I believe, to vote ‘No’ on May 5th.
Under First Past the Post, far-right extremists have never been elected to parliament. In Nick Griffin’s words, for the BNP ‘to continue fighting first-past-the-post elections and securing an ever-dwindling vote is simply a recipe for demoralisation and failure’ (‘General Election 2010 Analysis by BNP Leader Nick Griffin’, www.bnp.org.uk, 9 May 2010).
The Alternative Vote, however, would provide oxygen to groups like the BNP; while we hope that they would still not win seats, AV would certainly give such extremists more votes, more attention, and more legitimacy in the short term. And AV could lead to BNP MPs if, as the Yes Campaign wants, the AV becomes a ‘stepping stone’ to PR.
Nick Clegg even said that AV is a step in the right direction towards PR, which is what they really want.
The British National Party has long favoured Proportional Representation, and complained that First Past the Post puts their party at a ‘hugely unfair disadvantage’.
Nick Griffin said that:
“Under PR we could easily fill a bus with BNP MPs … The introduction of PR to Britain will dramatically change the face of British politics and propel the BNP into the mainstream political debate once and for all.”
(General Election 2010 Analysis by BNP Leader Nick Griffin 9th May 2010)
I feel it’s important to reject this proposed form of AV, which will provide legitimacy and electoral support for fringe and extremist parties, such as the BNP.
So vote on May 5th ‘No to AV’
Councilor Terence Paul
London Borough of Newham