Thursday, May 05, 2011

What are the Lib-Dems playing at?

There are a number of Lib-Dems that I know, like and respect. I've been trying to think of a nice way to say what I'm going to here, but I can't. So here goes.

I've posted something today on Slugger urging people not to vote in the AV Referendum - it's a squalid way to answer a stupid question, and that's all there is to it.

But I have to ask, what on earth have Lib-Dems been trying to do here?

Assuming this vote goes the way we're expecting (Victor Chandler are offering 1-100 on a No vote), we’ve seen how deep their understanding and concern for democratic reform is from three factors around this campaign.

Firstly, they were prepared to allow this question to be decided in a very anti-democratic manner. A referendum on voting reform? How about a trial-by-combat to decide who wins a peace prize?

Secondly, they were prepared to go along with a rigged question that didn’t include the options that even they wanted on the ballot. In yesterday's Times (no link - paywall), Lord Adonis claimed that they were offered the deal that they wanted on PR by Brown as part of the negotiations - and that Clegg misled his colleagues on this offer.

Thirdly, they went into a campaign that they were certain to lose (if they’d ever thought about referendums, they’d know that this one was hopeless) in a way that will be allowed to rule out their central political demand for a generation.

I'm not saying that Labour have an understanding of what democratic reform should be that is any better than the Lib-Dems. But for me, it was always their USP. They did care about the quality of liberal democracy - or so I thought.

Now they're backing the Tories in legislating for local referendums and elected police chiefs. Bizarre.


Strategist said...


Yes, and they will pay for these mistakes by their political death.

Andrew King said...

'Firstly, they were prepared to allow this question to be decided in a very anti-democratic manner. A referendum on voting reform?'

I understand the objection that we're being asked to vote for on a face-saving political fudge, rather than being offered an opportunity to vote yes or no on PR, the objection that the alternative on offer wouldn't really change the status quo very much anyway and that engineering a vote on a compromise nobody wants is a sneaky way of kicking the issue into the long grass for a few years, but I don't understand why you think a referendum is inherently anti-democratic.

I can see that, on this occasion, the question has been rigged to limit our choice, but I can't see what's wrong with the principle of putting such questions to a referendum.

Paulie said...


I've outlined my general objection to referendums here:

... and to it being used on electoral reform in the way it just has been here: