Another reason to vote NO2AV: AV is part of the "Europeanisation" of British politics
By Jonathan Isaby
We have alas not had the chance to vote in a referendum on a European question since before I was born, but voting No in the forthcoming referendum on Alternative Vote will allow us to show that we oppose the Europeanisation of our politics.
And before you accuse me of trying to bring matters European into an unrelated arena, I would ask you to consider the words of Chris Huhne, the Energy and Climate Change Secretary and now leading supporter of the Yes to AV campaign (despite having slated AV in the Guardian before the general election, in February 2010).
I have just discovered that the IPPR posted on the internet this recording of the seminar it hosted last October at which Huhne and others discussed the nature of the Coalition and its future prospects.
The fact is that AV would mean that most general elections would result in hung parliaments, which take power away from voters and deliver it into the hands of politicians, who then proceed to negotiate deals behind closed doors, resulting in a government and a programme for which not a single person voted.
But, according to Huhne, this is great, because it makes us so much more European in our politics:
"We are becoming more like every other European democracy. In every other European democracy it is absolutely normal that you have a period after an election result where there is no clear overall majority: you have a period where people attempt to see whether they can reach a common understanding on a programme for government, they come together, the programme for government is signed and sealed... and at the end of the parliament, which is often a fixed term parliament, they part again, they park the achievements which they've made during the period of coalition government and they argue for different visions about the future in the next parliament. And I think that's exactly what's going to happen here."
"In any other European country they would find it totally bizarre that we were taking about this as a problem rather than as absolute normality."
And it didn't stop there.
"Although I am quite pugilistic myself and quite capable of looking after myself and hitting back, I also, having had that experience as Nick [Clegg] had in the European Parliament, am absolutely determined to hold on to the fact that we want ideally a new style of politics in which people respect where other parties and other ideological positions come from."
"If you're moving to a system where it is normal to work across party lines; if I'm right about the Europeanisation of our politics, that actually the chances of getting an overall majority for either Tories or Labour are substantially reduced... we're much more likely to generate Parliaments without an overall majority."
"There is common ground and we can work together, and I hope that in the process of doing that in a European manner, we also develop a new and respectful language for each others' points of view."
For good measure, Huhne also laid bare the fact that voters have little or no idea what government is likely to be formed after an election which results in a hung parliament, since a party like the Lib Dems will refuse to indicate in advance who they would prefer to work with. He was asked specifically whether he thought it likely that the Lib Dems would in future announce a preferred coalition partner before general elections. He replied:
"I think it's quite hard to know exactly what the basis for a common ground is going to be until you've gone into detail in negotiations, because although things appear in parties' manifestos, reality is that for the leadership and indeed for the party, some are more strongly supported than others and it's not always easy to work out from being outside that party what are the sort of key things that would be absolute sticking points and red lines, and what would be more negotiable. So I personally don't think that's very likely."
So there you have it: one of the leading proponents of the Yes to AV campaign has outlined his desire to see the "Europeanisation" of British politics with its perpetual hung parliaments - which, he admits, result in parties negotiating away their manifesto without having given the electorate any notice of their intentions when it comes to the post-election Dutch auction of pledges to the highest bidder.
I say we should stick to what we know works; the tried and tested British way of running elections. Say NO2AV.