We recently asked supporters of the purple people's movement for fair votes for their views on how we should approach the referendum on the Alternative Vote planned by the coalition government.
AV, of course, isn’t the proportional system we favour that would match votes to seats, and it’s deeply cynical of politicians to have restricted the public's choice in this way. But it does have certain other advantages over first past the post and it would signal to the political class that we want change.
So how should we approach the referendum?
Over 250 people completed our poll with hundreds more feeding back their views on Facebook.
The options we put were:
1) Support AV unconditionally
2) Campaign for AV as a stepping stone to PR but only after other options are exhausted
3) Vote against AV and hold out for a PR
The runaway winner was option 2 with 59%, followed by Option 3 with 23% and Option 1 with 18% of the vote.
The result was accompanied by some vigorous discussion as people debated the strengths and weaknesses of the different approaches for achieving our common goal of PR:
Robbie Gee put a forceful case for a rejection of the AV offer:
A vote for AV is a vote for "more of the same please". You'll note that most of the current political classes are right in favour of it, only arguing around the margins. This should tell you all you need to know - few of them want a proper PR system, so they offer AV as a sop to the masses, knowing that it will change very little. Looks like that tactic is likely to work too, judging from the comments here. I'm a little disappointed, tbh
But Stuart Westcott summed up what many people felt in the comments when he said in support of a “Yes” campaign:
Please, some paitence and realism. This time round we will only have a choice between AV and the status quo (in case you haven't noticed, the tories are in the government). If we get AV it is only a matter of time (i.e. until the next hung parliament) until there will be any more movement towards PR. Option 3 would be self-defeating madness.
As did Ali Dixon who advised:
Definitely 1...but make it clear that this is the first step in a wider movement towards voting reform rather than a final solution. Votes for women happened in stages as well remember.
Following such clear feedback, Take Back Parliament will be taking the second course of action.
We will campaign for AV as a stepping stone to PR but only after other options are exhausted.
Certain MPs, such as Alan Johnson, have already indicated that they will attempt to table amendments in Parliament that will put a PR option on the ballot paper. We will support these and any other attempts that are made to give the public a fair choice in the referendum.
But it is quite likely that these attempts will fail given the numbers in Parliament and so in parallel we will be throwing our full weight behind AV, making the forceful case for reform of our bankrupt system of first past the post.
There is much work that needs to be done. Powerful vested interests are already laying the ground for the “No” campaign in the referendum. They have raised large amounts of money and engaged expensive PR firms to do their dirty work for them. If we know one thing for sure it’s that they will do whatever it takes to kill change and defend the status quo. We cannot let them succeed.
They have the money, but we have the people and the arguments and the fight is ours to win.
Let the organising commence!