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AV can be defeated if voters go into the polling booth thinking of Nick Clegg, broken promises and tuition fees

by Tim Montgomerie

There are two major ways of thinking of Alternative Vote:

  • You can think of it as a mechanism; a way of voting where someone's fourth preference carries as much weight as someone's first preference.
  • Alternatively you can think of the kind of government it produces; ie more coalitions.

In this week's New Statesman I encourage the anti-AV campaign to put Nick Clegg, broken promises and tuition fees on the ballot:

"Clegg wants to abolish first-past-the-post because he wants the Liberal Democrats to become the permanent power-brokers in British politics. It is why he went into the coalition negotiations ready to drop his party's tuition fees pledge - and much else besides - but with electoral reform as non-negotiable. Post-election trades between politicians would become the norm, not the exception, if AV passes. Politicians will have institutionalised the freedom to wriggle out of manifesto promises.

If AV is to be defeated, an anti-Clegg message probably needs to be central for the Conservatives. A model is the defeat of the Maastricht Treaty in France in 1992. Maastricht wasn't rejected because the French people had turned against the European project but because President Mitterrand was hated. Opponents of AV need to turn the campaign into a referendum on the broken promises and horse-trading of coalition politics. An all-out attack on Clegg's screeching U-turn on tuition fees may be the best chance of keeping first-past-the-post but will Cameron sanction a campaign that is so hostile to his deputy?"

The posters below are probably too wordy but they capture the sort of campaign that might defeat AV. It shouldn't be too personal but it should underline how Nick Clegg - Britain's least popular political leader - and the Liberal Democrats - Britain's fastest slumping party - would benefit from AV and routinely become the kingmakers in British politics. As one Cabinet minister said to me yesterday; under AV the losers win.

All suggestions for improving the message would be appreciated.



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