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Does the AV outcome depend on other Miliband engagement?

Michael Crick | 12:24 UK time, Wednesday, 30 March 2011

Ed Miliband has finally decided to get married to his long-standing partner, but the future of British politics may depend on the Labour leader showing a lot more personal commitment in a very different, but equally symbolic way.

A senior member of the No to AV campaign has told me the referendum result could well depend on whether Ed Miliband "engages" with the issue, and gets actively and very obviously involved in supporting the Yes campaign. If Miliband's backing remains lukewarm, my No source claimed, then they are confident AV will be scuppered.

The No thinking is that if Miliband becomes very publicly associated with the pro-AV campaign, with lots of speeches, events and broadcast interviews, then it will give the green light for Labour supporters to vote Yes. Right now Labour voters are getting very mixed signals from Labour MPs, and the unions - and indeed overall those signals (especially the unions) are recommending they should vote No.

True, Miliband attended yesterday's Yes 2 AV event in London, alongside the former Lib Dem leader Charles Kennedy and the Green leader Caroline Lucas. But he made it clear at yesterday's event - as he has before - that most of his focus over the coming five weeks will be on the local elections, not the AV referendum. One of Miliband's senior aides has told me he "might" do "one more" AV event before polling day.

"Might"? "One more"? It's hardly the vigorous engagement that the No campaign fears.

Both the No and Yes camapigns think the Noes have a slight edge at the moment. And ironically both think that a low turnout will help the Yes campaign, as polls suggest that pro-AV people are much more determined to vote in the referendum. The higher the turnout then the more the hardline electoral reformers will have their votes countered by opponents and sceptics.

This is ironic because Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems fought ferociously for the referendum to be held on 5 May in order to boost the Yes vote with high turnouts in Scotland and Wales. Based on past turnout figures on election day we can expect a turnout of more than 60 per cent in Northern Ireland, over 50 per cent in Scotland, Wales in the 45-50 per cent area, and most of England where local elections are taking place may have a turnout in the late 30s. But both pro and anti AV campaigns think that the turnout in London, where there are no local elections, could be under 20 per cent.

If the AV result is close then we could see quite a post-result squabble over whether the result might have gone differently if there had been more equal turnouts.

Everyone agrees there's still everything to play for, simply because most voters don't even seem to be aware there is a referendum, let alone know how they'll vote.

The Electoral Commission booklets explaining AV to people, in a strictly neutral manner, should start dropping on the nation's 30 million or so doormats early next week.


  • Comment number 1.

    just heard a 'straw poll' hosted by Victoria Derbyshire on 5live and a No vote looks a certainty on almost every item the studio audience were not convinced by the Yes campaign, the British electorate are far too sophisticated to be taken in by rants by Charlie Kennedy and Clegg.....yesssss, er, I mean NO

  • Comment number 2.


    Will AV lead to widespread (localised) manipulation? Has anyone done a mental exercise in AV chicanery? Are the 'usual suspects', even now, preparing to subvert AV should it emerge at the next General Election? I think we should ban parties, go for locally sourced, local candidates of standing and integrity. But until we have a Certificate of Voting Competence, charlatans will always do well.


  • Comment number 3.

    AV is probably the way to go, but can I have a second choice?

  • Comment number 4.

    More seriously, I would abolish all voting for our representatives and instead have compulsory service for a fixed term, picked jury style.
    Only full time residents with, say, ten years of NI payments and at least four GCSEs could be selected.
    Lords reform on a similar basis but perhaps with minimum of twenty years NI record and six GCSEs to give more life experience.

  • Comment number 5.

    Here's a good story for you all at the BBC:


    1.UK Electoral Law - NOT 'fit for purpose'.
    2.UK Electoral Registers - NOT 'fit for purpose'.
    3.UK CERO cross constituency scrutiny powers - NOT 'fit for purpose'.


    A Genuine GUARANTEED 'One Person-One Vote' AV v FPTP Referendum in May 2011 is simply NOT POSSIBLE.

  • Comment number 6.


    So much we could do if the aim was 'good management' of these islands, but while politics is a game for the sort of people who laud and reward deviousness, we have a problem.


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