Baroness Warsi tells Tory activists that defeating AV is their most important task on May 5th
Conservative Co-Chairman Baroness Warsi has just addressed the party's spring conference in Cardiff.
The most significant passage was a very strong call to join the campaign opposing the introduction of an AV electoral system, chiming with Paul Goodman's advice yesterday that winning the referendum must be the priority for the coming two months.
Here's what she had to say on the issue:
"I am passionate about First-Past-the-Post. Why? Because it’s based on a fundamental British belief: a belief that has been the beacon of British democracy for centuries; a principle that has inspired millions of democrats around the world and continues to do so; the idea that one person should get one vote and every vote should weigh the same.
"Let me tell you what’s wrong with AV. 'It is the stupidest, the least scientific and the most unreal' voting system. It means that elections 'will be determined by the most worthless votes given for the most worthless candidates.' Conference, not my words – the words of Winston Churchill eighty years ago.
"He knew then – like I know now – that AV is wrong for Britain. It’s wrong that candidates who come third can win elections. It’s wrong that your fifth choice can count as much as my first. And it’s absolutely wrong that elections can be decided by the eccentrics who vote for the Monster Raving Loony Party, or even worse, the extremists who vote for the BNP.
"We must win this referendum. But it is not going to be an easy fight. I need each and every one of you to join the campaign! Of course, on May 5th, I want you to defend the seats we hold. Of course, we’ve got to take the seats we can. But above all on May 5th, we need to win the one election which will affect every single general election to come."
On the matter of the local elections, she indulged in some understandable expectation management in terms of how the Conservatives will fare:
"Let’s remember where we're starting from. We hold almost half of all English seats, gaining many when Labour were rock bottom in the polls. So we have a high base to defend. And let me be absolutely clear: We are going to be fielding candidates in every corner of the country. And yes, against every party in this land. And our message is clear: Labour councils waste your money. Conservative councils deliver more for less."
"He is the best advert for AV. He wasn’t the first choice of Labour MPs. He wasn’t the first choice of Labour activists. For all I know, he wasn’t even the first choice of his own family! But because Labour use AV, he’s now running the Labour Party."
"But what about his part in the past? He was there when Gordon Brown wrecked our economy. He was there when public spending got out of control. He was there when Brown raided billions from Britain’s pensions. He was there when Brown sold the gold. And all he does now is snipe from the sidelines: Denying the deficit. Attempting to rewrite history. Taking the British public for fools.
"But it was Labour who doubled the debt. It was Labour that gave us the biggest budget deficit in peacetime history. And it is Labour that has caused these cuts. These cuts are Labour’s legacy. I know you might have heard this before. But frankly Labour spent 13 years complaining about 18 years of Tory government: a government which in 1997 left them a buoyant, thriving economy and they brought Britain back to the brink of bankruptcy, and I for one will never let them forget it."