16 Mar 2011

AV referendum: Could it break the Coalition?

Tory MP Peter Bone says in a piece on Channel 4 News tonight that “it’s absolutely a possibility” that if the Yes campaign wins the AV referendum Tory MPs could try to pull down the Coalition and force a General Election in the window before the new voting system could be brought in.

The plan would be that the Tories could then win an outright majority on first past the post with a manifesto commitment to stick with that system, burying electoral reform for many years to come.

One Tory Cabinet Minister I mentioned that to said that the voters “wouldn’t forgive” Tories for such a self-interested act in the middle of an attempt to close the deficit.

What it tells you though is a mood abroad amongst some Tory MPs who are seriously concerned that the Yes campaign is running away with this – Peter Bone says he thinks it is “theirs to lose”.

Labour Leader Ed Miliband (Getty)
Win-win situation? Labour Leader Ed Miliband

It leaves you thinking that Ed Miliband is in a bit of a win-win situation on this referendum. AV wins and you get your prize and David Cameron has a very tricky ride. Lose and you blame Nick Clegg and watch him squirm.

What is a bit uncomfortable for Ed Miliband is that yet again he is failing to win the vote in his own Parliamentary party (I say “yet again” because he lost amongst MPs to his brother in the leadership contest).

Of the 255 current Labour MPs, 102 have declared for the No campaign so far. Ed Miliband’s Yes campaign has collected 85 or a third of the PLP.

There will no doubt be some more names unveiled at tactical moments through the campaign but it’s not ideal.

Just spoken to Ed Miliband on his way into the Mother’s Union HQ, where he’s delivering his first speech of the campaign (Alan Johnson joked on the way in that it was about the only unionĀ  the Yes campaign had on board).

Ed Miliband admitted there was a serious chance that Labour supporters would simply see this referendum as a choice between kicking Nick Clegg and kicking David Cameron. His aim, he said, was to get them to look beyond that.

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15 reader comments

  1. Philip Edwards says:


    If it does “break the coalition” it would be a pity because it would delay the inevitable final confrontation with Capitalism – always assuming the neo cons don’t find another war or something else to deflect attention from their looting.

    The Cleggies would be able to claim some sort of “independence” from Tory Capitalism, and thus diffuse the argument.

    Far better long term for society if the Cleggies stay embedded with the Tories and share the blame, as they should. Similarly, I would like to see New Labour breakaway so we could have that brand of neo con line up with the Tories too, which is where they belong.

    Sooner or later the establishment will run out of delaying tactics and propaganda. The question then becomes what precedent would they use to cling to power? Von Papen and Germany, circa 1933?

    1. Anonymousse says:

      “final confrontation with Capitalism”

      Sheesh. Spare us your twisted ideology:

      “You cannot legislate the poor into freedom by legislating the wealthy out of freedom. What one person receives without working for, another person must work for without receiving. The government cannot give to anybody anything that the government does not first take from somebody else. When half of the people get the idea that they do not have to work because the other half is going to take care of them, and when the other half gets the idea that it does no good to work because somebody else is going to get what they work for,that my dear friend, is about the end of any nation. You cannot multiply wealth by dividing it.”
      Dr. Adrian Rogers, 1931

    2. sue_m says:

      Not so much twisted ideology as wishful thinking.

      We dont need to multiply wealth – there is plenty to go around but the balance has tipped too far into concentrating the vast majority of wealth into a very small clique of people or organisations. Forget the 80/20 rule its more like 95/5 in the UK and Thatchers argument that it would trickle down from the top has been proved a complete fallacy. The more money and power the clique have the more they try and absorb from those who have little. They are the original spongers! AV will be a first small step towards changing this situation.

  2. Robert Eve says:

    Peter Bone is my kind of MP.

    1. Gracie says:

      Bone is clutching at straws when he says that Ed is losing election “yet again”. When the labour leadership looked sewn up in favour of David Miliband, Ed came from behind and won. Since then he has won two by-elections and looks on course to win a “few” seats in the May elections, there is also another parliamentary by-election coming up which Labour could win. If he wins the AV vote too, then he is going to be viewed as a winner, even if the referendum goes to the “nos” Ed Miliband is looking like a winner, he has brought the party up from way behind in the polls to overtake the Tories and now there are signs that the Tory vote is eroding.

  3. Ray Turner says:

    This news is actually a very good example of the reason why we need to break the stranglehold that career politicians currently have on our Parliamentary system.

    They’re only in this business to serve themselves, look after their own interests…

  4. Martin says:

    So wish there was a way to exclude politicians from the PR/AV debate. It’s supposed to be about democracy not political and/or vested interest.

  5. HYUFD says:

    8 – Peter Bone is clueless! On present polling forcing an election under FPTP before AV is approved would probably lead to a Labour majority. Under AV ironically the Tories would do better with LD and UKIP second preferences. In the unlikely event he manages to achive an early FPTP election whilst ignoring a Yes vote he will thoroughly deserve the Red Ed premiership he will get and if he loses his seat all the better too!

  6. sue_m says:

    Peter Bone seemed to be putting across the mood of Tory MP’s in his interview. Which only goes to show how completely and utterly out of touch with ordinary voters your average Tory MP is. They clearly don’t realise they would lose any election called now and certainly lose in the event they tried to cling to power by having a FPTP election just after the electorate had chosen to use AV.
    We should forget about what any of the deluded and self-interested folk in Westminster think and concentrate on securing a Yes vote as the only chance we have to start modernising and controlling those who should be serving us in government rather than helping themselves to a ticket on the gravy train.

  7. Martin Marprelate says:

    I was going to vote YES2AV anyway on the merits of the matter but if there is a chance that a Yes vote would bring down the Coalition and force an early general election I am even more for it!

    The thought that occurs to me is that if there is a NO vote and FPTP remains then the Coalition could founder on that too as the Lib-Dems would feel they had been sold short, especially as Cameron and his stooges have come down so heavily behind the NO2AV brigade. This was THE big issue for the Lib-Dems when the Coalition was founded and they have not really got much else out of it apart from some Red Boxes and a Ministerial Limo and the chance of playing at being in Government of sorts.

    I have a funny feeling that we will have had a General Election and a different Government by this time next year.

  8. Swingingv says:

    I don’t think it is the referendum result that poses the greatest threat to the Conservative – led Coalition. It is their plans for the NHS that have the potential to create an anti-Conservative alliance

  9. StephenJ says:

    Hats off to Ed Miliband for his stance on AV.
    Vote NO for the same old politics.
    Vote YES for the hope of change.

    FPTP is not fair because so many votes cast in safe seats are wasted. Every vote should make a difference.

    For real change we have to look beyond FPTP and AV. Direct Party and Representative Voting (DPR Voting) is fair because every vote makes a difference regardless of where you live.

    Voting is simple, counting is simple quick and transparent, it works with our existing single member constituencies.

    google dprvoting

  10. Paul says:

    Of course it will break the coalition.
    AV = ‘Yes’ means the Tories rebel.
    AV = ‘No’ means the Lib Dems rebel.
    Either way it means a breakdown of the coalition. A General Election before the end of the year is likely, and the only possible winner is Labour.

  11. Simon G says:

    Just the sort of twisted logic to be expected from a Tory MP. He seems to think that the slogan “Vote for us and we’ll ignore what you’ve just said you wanted in a referendum” will be a vote winner.

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