Tuesday, 11 May 2010
Remember that line about being wary of them even when they bring gifts? That is how I feel about the Conservatives with their very late offer of a referendum on the Alternative Vote system. Behind the courtesy at the negotiating table they thought the Lib Dems had no alternative to a Tory-LD deal. The Right were salivating at the thought of getting power back. It seems they thought they could get away with not offering a referendum. The offer was only dragged out of them when the LD team began to walk away. Clearly the Conservatives still love First Past the Post and that is not surprising - it has served them very well. But the national interest requires that the era of phoney majorities based on a minority of the popular vote must end. The electorate has this time withheld a majority whether in the Commons or in votes cast from any party. Many more people voted against the Conservatives than for. Even the inscrutable millions who could have voted and didn't were expressing something that could be interpreted as disillusionment and a feeling of powerlessness. This cannot go on. The arithmetic of an LD-Lab alliance could, just, work, as I don't see the minor parties rocking that boat if launched. So in my view, the LD team is right to talk now to Labour. The prize is an electoral system in which the people's votes really count, that could reinvigorate our democracy. The electorate has given the LD team a unique opportunity to bring both main parties to heel, and they are right to take it. But I'm wary of Labour bearing gifts, too.