AV: It’s got to be yes (to having a referendum)Posted on September 9, 2010
Today sees a crucial stage in the campaign to defeat AV in a referendum – the bill is being put to Parliament, and it is essential that all opponents of AV vote in favour of putting the question to the people.
I understand the temptation for many MPs who see AV as an absurd distraction that wouldn’t do anything to improve British democracy. They are right, but they should resist any urge to sink the proposal at this stage.
Fundamentally, the No to AV campaign must be about healthy democracy. That means the people should have the right to decided on this constitutional issue, and we must trust them.
If the referendum bill is voted down today that would do immeasurable harm to the anti-AV cause. At the moment I think there is a very good chance of winning a referendum campaign, but if No campaigners were seen to deny the people the chance to choose for themselves then it may well result in an eventual Yes vote in a few years time.
AV is an obscure hobbyists’ issue pursued by political enthusiasts on the fringes of wider British society. The referendum should be about ordinary people in the real world having an opportunity to reject the ideas of an out-of-touch elite. I trust that the British electorate have too much common sense to vote Yes in a referendum – and Parliamentary opponents of AV should trust them too.
In the longer run, MPs have a responsibility to the future of direct democracy in Britain. This campaign should be openly welcomed as a key moment in handing power to the people on all sorts of issues. That means giving people the right to decide for themselves, and showing that you have faith that they will make the right decisions. Today’s vote is not just about AV, it is about the chance of referenda on the EU and all sorts of other issues in future. MPs from all sides must live up to that responsibility.