Thursday, July 14, 2011

It's hard to overstate just how stupid the Lib-Dems have been on PR

This is not a post about ideological differences or matters of principle. I'm agnostic on PR and have always been on the end of the Labour Party that has been more amenable to co-operation with the Lib-Dems.

It's one, simply, about the standard of thinking and quality of education within a political party.

In May 2010, the Lib-Dems signed up to an agreement to hold a referendum on AV - a system of PR that is greatly inferior to the one that they advocated.

They did so on the grounds that it would be a step in the right direction and represented a compromise between their absolute preference and what was achievable.

They did this, presumably, believing that you can win a referendum on something that the right-wing press don't agree with.


Remember, the corollary of this is that - if you lose the vote on PR-lite, it's going to be almost impossible to then make the case for the full-fat version a few years later.

Remember, this is a party who have almost no common defining features apart from a shared belief in proportional representation. They thought that a referendum on AV would create the conditions that would make it more likely that PR would be introduced in the long-run.

"The only acceptable option given the AV referendum result is to have all AMs elected by first-past-the-post, and we believe that each of the 30 new constituencies should elect two AMs by that system," he added.

"I think in retrospect we have to accept that we got it wrong when we set up the assembly with a two-tier electoral system that has two kinds of AM, and it should now be changed.

"We believe the only change that would be possible without a further referendum or general election manifesto commitment is a change to first past the post.

"The case for AV at Westminster level was defeated by a thumping majority for first-past-the-post. This is the only voting system that commands cross-party and public support in Wales."

Now - again, leaving aside ideological differences or questions of principle - how on earth did anyone in the Lib-Dems actually think that agreeing to a referendum on AV would do anything other than completely shag up any prospect of their party getting it's central demand met?

This is not a minor question; It raises accusations of what may be the worst political crime of all. This crime is not dishonesty - something that may sometimes be dismissed as a venal sin when higher matters of principle are at stake - or corruption (again, not something that indicts a political movement as much as individuals within it).

It's the crime of sheer political incompetence. Why have there not been resignations or witch-hunts to track down the idiots that led the party up this particular garden path? Because - remarkably - no-one in that party seems to be able to point to an example of themselves making a point that should have been completely obvious to anyone who understands how referendums work.

It's a party that has no witch-finders.

When a party doesn't have anyone who can say that they warned their colleagues about a bit of obvious stupidity, it is a party that is in terrible trouble.

(HT Anthony from Demsoc for the link to this story)

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