What if the Referendum is a 'No'

A Green laments the likely defeat of the AV referendum
Matt Wootton
29 April 2011

It looks as if the Alternative Vote referendum will be lost. As a green I'm more than sad about this if it happens. A 'No' is likely to turn out to be a lot more important than any of us realised.

 The Conservatives have practically promised their supporters that a 'No' vote will close off all discussion of electoral reform for a generation. And with it the democratisation of our constitution is likely to be put on hold, whatever Nick Clegg promises. Party funding, MPs and Peers having second jobs, Lords reform, all are likely to be either fudged or stitched-up or swept under the rug.

A Conservative victory at the next election is more likely as the impetus for reform is asphyxiated. For a generation any type of real reform in the way politics in Britain as a whole (Scotland and Wales may prove different) is conducted will be postponed and along with this how voters get to be involved.

That could then have disastrous ramifications for policies that need to be contested in this early part of the 21st century. As a green I’m particularly thinking of the urgent need to tackle catastrophic climate change. If we have a No vote on May the 5th, in thirty years time we will probably still have First Past the Post system and the same two main parties - Labour and the Conservatives - trying to solve those problems in Westminster without immune from the influence of a very large minority of the electorate and the input of new political parties including the party that I've been a member of for the last decade.

From a g/Green perspective the Labour and Conservative parties, and, they have recently proven beyond doubt the Liberal Democrats, are constitutionally incapable of seriously preventing or mitigating catastrophic climate change. They just don't have it in them. Policies of industrialised economic growth are too central to their raison d'être for them to ditch and enable green change to happen.

This is likely to be the reality of us failing to win a 'Yes' vote on May the 5th. Not just the denial of an interesting alternative to the way elections are conducted, but the denial of the beliefs, hopes and priorities of a significant minority of the population, the minority that wishes to change, to innovate, to grow in a healthier direction, and to steer us out of the mess that industrial global capitalism is getting us into. 

The Conservative peer who is the Chair of the No campaign, Rodney Leach, aka Baron Leach, was a banker is a Tory and is a climate change denier. If his campaign wins will we be stuck with the policies he supports for the next thirty years? Decades that are likely to be crucial as cheap oil runs out. 

Conversely, if the 'Yes' side wins, then we can encourage an appetite for change: Lords reform, local elections reform, rethinking the unnecessary cuts agenda, blocking the marketisation of the NHS, and real progress on stopping catastrophic climate change. But if the vote is No' all of these things will be in the hands of the political elite of the Conservative and Labour parties (half of whose MPs support a 'No' vote and will be strengthened if they win). And we've just had the last thirty years to see what that is like.

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