Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Yes2AV or Yes2Defeat? The pro-AV camp must harness Nigel Farage.

The gap apparently opening up for the "no" side of the Alternative Vote referendum doesn't surprise me. Yes2AV, who have my support as someone who views AV as a shift towards Proportional Representation, have destroyed their appeal by being short-sighted and ridiculous.

They've had Labour's Ed Miliband and LibDem Vince Cable as faces for Yes2AV. Several celebrities including the EU-supporting, Labour member Eddie Izzard involved. Even Caroline Lucas and the Green Party have had a seat at the top table as a part of the supposedly broad cross-party Yes2AV campaign.

While UKIP have had MEP William Dartmouth taking to the stage to argue the case for the pro-AV camp in local and regional debates, by not allowing UKIP's Leader Nigel Farage to be a major and visible part of the Yes2AV campaign on the national stage, those who want electoral reform have done their and our cause great harm.

I'm told Ed Miliband effectively refused to share a stage with Farage. Tough. This isn't supposed to be a party political campaign and Miliband's reluctance to work with the Greens but not UKIP on this campaign is downright pathetic. A new politics? Same old Labour.

Farage would have been able to reach out to voters that Clegg and Miliband will never appeal to: right-wing Eurosceptics. More importantly, though Farage does command an increasingly huge youth following, he also commands the respect of many older voters who lend Farage and UKIP their votes during European Elections and increasingly, General Elections. These older voters are crucially the ones shown in repeated polls to be those least likely to vote "yes" to AV.

What's more, Nigel Farage would have probably championed a more pragmatic approach to the debate: stating quite wisely that AV is not perfect by any stretch, but that it would mark a shift from a First Past The Post system that disgracefully saw 920,000 UKIP voters in 2010 get 0 representation in  the House of Commons between them. This would represent a small crack in the dam for the flood of Proportional Representation to subsequently flow.

There is still time. Just. I'm not holding out much hope. But if those who want AV to pass and this referendum to shift our electoral system away from FPTP, then Yes2AV  better pull their finger out and harness Nigel Farage. He is one of the Yes2AV campaign's greatest potential weapons and it is shockingly idiotic to allow Greens, Labour MPs and LibDem Ministers to dominate their campaign. If something doesn't change, Yes2AV may end up being slaughtered at the polls.

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