Ed Miliband says Yes to AV

Labour Party

Regular readers of this blog will not be surprised to hear I am absolutely delighted that Ed Miliband has given his unequivocal support for the Alternative Vote.

Ed is due to address a Labour “Yes” rally today, giving his first major speech on AV.  He will stress that “the time is ripe for change”.

This is indeed true.  First past the post effectively disenfranchises huge numbers of people. In a general election if you do not live in a seat which may change party, you’re vote is essentially worthless. It’s because of this that people try and vote tactically. The best that can be said for this is that it’s a hit and miss method of choosing your MP and doesn’t really work as a large number of people are required to vote tactically for it to have any discernible effect.

AV, however, would allow voters to rank candidates with preferences being transferred until one candidate receives over half the votes cast. Since this was the system used to elect Ed Miliband as Labour’s leader, I would have thought Labour Party members would be used to it and agree that it is, in fact, much fairer than the current majoritarian method used for the House of Commons.

Ed will today also urge Labour supporters to ignore the temptation to vote “no” in order to damage Deputy Prime Minister and Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg, saying, “We can’t reduce the second referendum in British political history to the betrayal of one man. I supported the inclusion of an AV referendum in our manifesto. If it was right then, it is right now.”

Labour Party members should back our Leader on AV and campaign for a yes vote. We are the only country in the EU which elects its national parliament by first past the post. It’s high time Britain moved into the modern world.

Electoral Reform – A Feminist Issue

Labour Party


I have had a flurry of emails from fellow electoral reformers debating how to respond to Gordon Brown’s proposal to have a referendum on the Alternative Vote system. As Nancy Platts and I said on Wednesday evening  electoral reform is a feminist issue as it will result in better representation for women. Regular attenders of Labour Party events will have seen Cath Arakelian (pictured). Cath is Labour’s candidate in Chingford and Woodford Green, and she regularly wears a sash, suffragette style. This is her take on the current situation:

“Each year before conference I ask myself what would the Pankhursts be fighting for? For the first three days of conference I wore my suffragette sash with Vote for a Change written on them. I am certainly happy to go as far as chaining myself to railings, hiding in a House of Commons broom cupboard, although I don’t think I would throw myself under a horse! Electoral Reform and Proportional Representation are for me feminist issues. Fair voting, fair representation and fair chances for women go together.  

“I’m a woman PPC in a so-called “unwinnable”.  Women candidates are even given advice to stand in unwinnables, or as I call them, “zombie” seats “for the practice” or to build their confidence as novice candidates.  Unlike me perhaps, many women who come to the idea of standing for Parliament are already ready and often hugely experienced. They do not need the practice.

Standing as a woman in an “unwinnable” is a way of fobbing women off with lesser opportunities. Rather than building confidence, the experience of having only minimum campaigning support from the Party, and all local activists including the candidate, having to work off their own patch, can seriously undermine self-esteem and lead to burn out or disillusion.

 I believe a Proportiwaltham_forest_016onal Representation system – where every candidate will count and quality will be essential to the Party,  will enable more women candidates of quality to emerge and be successful.

 I think we should enlist political women of note to head up a campaign and women’s organisations – Fawcett, Labour Women’s Network,  etc. Together we should campaign for the referendum to be on the same day as the General Election. 

And that this should be a referendum asking the question 

 Do you want a system of Proportional Representation which will 

(a) mean you will still know who your MP is, and

 (b) will give each party a share of MPs equal to the share of the total votes cast across the country? Yes or No

 I think this means Alternative Vote Plus. We need to campaign openly for Proportional Representation versus First Past The Post.”