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David Cameron warns that under AV Gordon Brown might still be Prime Minister today

By Jonathan Isaby

David Cameron 2011 Public awareness of the forthcoming referendum on adopting the Alternative Vote for Westminster election ought to be heightened by the end of today: both the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister are making their first interventions of the campaign since the eventual passing on Wednesday night of the legislation which formally set the ball rolling.

Nick Clegg is making a speech at 9am in favour of adopting AV, whilst David Cameron will follow just under two hours later with a speech in defence of First Past The Post.

Both men have written pieces for the Daily Mail previewing their cases, with Mr Cameron setting the scene by making an Olympic comparison:

"Let's imagine it’s August 2012. The Olympics is in London and Usain Bolt powers home first in the 100 metres. But when he gets to the podium, he’s given the bronze medal and the athlete who came second gets the gold. Sounds ridiculous, doesn’t it – giving the top prize to someone who didn’t win? But that’s exactly what could happen in our democracy if the country chooses the Alternative Vote system in the referendum on May 5."

He goes on to define AV as being "unfair, unclear and unaccountable."

In the speech the Prime Minister is delivering this morning he will expand on these themes, making the point that First Past The Post generally delivers decisive results and particularly makes it clear if the electorate wants to eject a Government. He will raise the prospect that Gordon Brown might still be Prime Minister if the last election had been fought under AV:

"AV will actually make politics less accountable and make it much harder to kick out governments. You want to know the best thing about First Past the Post? It is often decisive – and sometimes ruthlessly so. It has a habit of rising to the occasion. Be it 1979. And yes, 1997. It recognised that the government of the day, had had its day, and it was time get rid of them. There’s nothing more powerful than that – when people see their vote had led to the removal vans driving down Downing Street. That’s real accountability. Real democracy. Real people power.

"The problem with AV is that it makes this all the more unlikely. Hung Parliaments could become commonplace. Now, it won’t surprise you to hear me say that is not necessarily a bad thing and that, as happened last May, it can bring parties together in the national interest. But let’s be clear, when there are more hung Parliaments there will be more haggling and horsetrading between politicians – both before and after elections. There will be gamesmanship between parties in different constituencies as they try to stitch up second preference votes. And there could well be an occasion where we have a genuine second-choice government.

"If the last election was under AV, there would be the chance, right now, that Gordon Brown would still be Prime Minister. OK, the last election was not decisive in terms of who won. But it was certainly decisive in terms of who lost. And I think any system that keeps dead governments living on life support is a massive backward step for accountability and trust in our politics."

After he's made the speech and we've got a full text, I'll add any further observations later. It will be interesting to see how explicitly he makes the point that AV would give disproportionate power to the Lib Dems, making them king-maker after most general elections under that system.

1pm update:

You can now read the full text of the speech by clicking here. Mr Cameron was not explicit in talking about the Lib Dem potential to be permanent king-makers, but he did specifically cite Nick Clegg's description of AV as a "miserable little compromise".

> Tim has written this piece for the Times (£) today, in which he suggests that the anti-AV campaign "is an opportunity for Downing Street to reassure Tory activists that, when it has a clear mission, it is capable of accomplishing it."


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