Campaigners for electoral reform will be listening keenly to Ed Miliband's speech on Tuesday afternoon to hear what he has to say about the forthcoming referendum on electoral reform.
On the face of it, the election of Ed, rather than David, is a welcome development for the "Yes" camp. Although Ed is not a supporter of proportional representation, he has been consistently supportive of AV and was quite deliberately positioning himself as the more reforming candidate. David, on the other hand, had given out mixed signals over whether he'd campaign for a "Yes" vote, telling the FT that he'd "cross that bridge when we come to it".
Having made his support for AV so explicit, it would be difficult for Ed to backtrack now, but it's still conceivable that he might decide to pay lip service to supporting a Yes vote, whilst refusing to commit any of the party's campaigning energy and resources to it. He faces internal pressure from the more tribal and conservative voices in the party to either abstain from the referendum or join the motley group of radical right-wingers campaigning to keep first past the post.
Islington MP Emily Thornberry, an Ed supporter, is staunchly against AV, telling conference today, according to the Guardian, "It's not proportionate...I don't believe someone's third preference should have equal importance to someone else's first preference ... and in the end you get more Lib Dems."
Other Labour figures have even made the extraordinary argument that since the referendum is "doomed", the party should have nothing to do with it so as not to "go down with the ship". One would hope that Ed, who aspires to lead a "progressive" and "reforming" party, would have no truck with such dubious, self-serving nonsense and instead fight for causes because they're worth fighting for. If he's sincere about wanting Labour to rediscover the reforming zeal it had in the 90s, as he told Andrew Marr, the best way to show it would be to embrace the cause of democratic reform with gusto.
This will be the message of campaigners for fairer votes at Take Back Parliament's rally in Albert Square, Manchester, Tuesday, 6pm. There will be a purple light-show and speeches from Billy Bragg, Neal Lawson, of Compass, Fiona MacTaggart MP, and Billy Hayes, of the CWU.
We will call on the new Labour leader to commit to a better democracy for this country and get behind the Yes campaign. Please come along, if you can, wearing purple - and help spread the word through Facebook and on Twitter.
No pass is needed for this event, as it's outside the conference venue, so if you're in the area, you really have no excuse!
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