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David Cameron warns Tory backbenchers against "wrecking" AV Referendum Bill

By Jonathan Isaby

JI interviews DCThis morning Tim and I went to interview David Cameron in his hotel room here in Birmingham (Tim took the photo, right) and talked about a variety of topics.

One thing on the minds of many activists and parliamentarians at the moment is the AV referendum scheduled for next May. Speaking to us, the Prime Minister reiterated his opposition to changing the electoral system:

"I think the argument for the First Past The Post system is strong and I will be making that argument. I think the No campaign has a strong argument: the Labour leadership election was not exactly a great advert for Alternative Vote - you end up with your second choice."

But he indicated that whilst backing the No Campaign (being run by the excellent Matthew Elliott), he wouldn't want to take centre stage in that campaign:

"I think the No campaign looks well organised; they'll do better if they don't have too many politicians all over them."

However, the referendum will take place next May only if legislation currently going through Parliament is passed in the coming weeks, and there are a number of Conservative backbenchers seeking to amend the Bill to provide for a threshold and to change the date of the poll to stop it from coinciding with the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly elections.

To those MPs, Mr Cameron issued the following message:

"There are MPs who don't like the prospect of the AV referendum, but of course it was something we had to give to make the Government work, to make the Coalition work.

"But my message would be: don't try and wreck the bill, let's get on and have the debate in the country and win the argument.

"On the date, the No Campaign seem to be perfectly happy with the date, so let's get on to the substance of the argument."


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