Daily View: Alternative voting referendum
Commentators discuss Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg's announcement that there will be a referendum on alternative voting in 2011.
Simon Hoggart observes in the Guardian that this wasn't universally welcomed in the House:
"MPs hated the plans. They always hate change. They sprang up from all sides of the house to tell him how his ideas would never work. They were particularly peeved about the decision to hold the big referendum in May next year, on the same day as the local elections and the Welsh and Scottish elections. This would make for 'differential turnout' since people who didn't have local elections would be unlikely to bother walking to the polling station just to vote for or against AV voting. This would mean very unfair voting, since a single crofter in the Highlands would have the same influence as half a dozen lazy Londoners, since there are no local elections in the capital next year."
Max Hastings argues in the Daily Mail that vote could "cripple the Tories for a generation":
"Introduction of the AV system would mean that people's second preferences count towards electing their MPs as well as their first. The number-crunchers argue fiercely about what impact this will have on the composition of future governments. The most likely is that more Lib Dems will be elected to the Commons, which is of course why Nick Clegg supports it. This, in turn, will make it much harder for either of the two big parties in future to gain absolute majorities. Coalitions, which in the past have been rarer in British history than decent kings, will probably become the norm."
Steve Richards says in the Independent that the Tories aren't worried:
"No government knowingly announces constitutional reforms of which it will be a victim. This one has not done so either. Cameron can live with the referendum. The big project for him and Osborne is the economy and the reform of public services in which they hope their so-called big society replaces the state. I doubt if either will be too disturbed by a relatively minor change in the voting system while Lib Dems support their ideological crusade."
Kiran Stacey says in the Financial Times that electoral reform isn't necessarily good for the Lib Dems:
"Tories who remain concerned about the effect of AV on their seats have been reassured today by the party whips that it is the Lib Dems who are more vulnerable. Besides which, the party calculates that the effect of the boundary review, which will give a greater say to suburban voters who traditionally vote Tory, will negate the impact of AV, and possibly put them in net positive territory.
"Nick Clegg will be selling his announcement to the Commons today as the great triumph of the Lib Dems in the coalition. But with potential Tory rebels looking markedly more relaxed in recent days perhaps it is the Lib Dems who should be the more nervous coalition partner right now."
Mike Smithson says in Political Betting that if AV is not voted in, it doesn't mean the end of the coalition:
"A split might happen but I'm far from convinced that a referendum defeat would be terminal.
"Firstly the referendum is on an issue that isn't LD party policy. AV does not produce a proportional system and I, for instance, will probably be in the NO camp.
"Secondly would the yellows really want to precipitate a general election which, surely, would lead to fewer LD MPs being elected. Those 15% YouGov ratings could be acting as a sort of glue."
Ex-Labour Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott says in Labour Home that the referendum is using £80m that could be better used elsewhere:
"Now on the very day plans for more than 700 new state schools were axed, Clegg championed AV, a form of voting he once described as a 'miserable little compromise.'
"And on this occasion, I agree with Nick. That's exactly what it is - cover for the biggest gerrymandering of seats that I have ever seen in my 40 years in politics"
Links in full
• Simon Hoggart |Guardian | Clegg - lonely schoolboy who dreams of a perfect state
• Max Hastings |Daily Mail | Vote reform could cripple the Tories for a generation
• Kiran Stacey |Financial Times | Is electoral reform necessarily good for the Lib Dems?
• John Prescott |Labour Home | Why Labour must fight this poisonous package
• Steve Richards |Independent | AV doesn't make up for rabid cuts
• Mike Smithson |Political Betting | Will the coalition end 10 months today?