Fairer votes referendum: it needs to be about the voting system, not the government

Contrasting poll results from YouGov and ICM on the AV referendum show how important it is to avoid the referendum becoming a vote for or against the government rather than about the merits of the alternative vote compared to first past the post.

An ICM poll has found the Yes camp leading by 35% – 22% (with the balance don’t know or wouldn’t vote), which compares to a 35% – 41% deficit on the latest YouGov poll.

However, there is an important difference between the wording of the two polling questions, with YouGov’s question starting, “The Conservative-Liberal Democrat government are committed to holding a referendum…” whilst ICM has no mention of the Conservatives in its question which begins “A referendum is due to be held…”. Though there are also other differences in the wording, this looks to be the most important difference.

Meanwhile, there was good news for the Yes campaign yesterday with a wide cross-section of notable Labour Party figures signing a letter to The Guardian, including Alan Johnson, Ken Livingstone, Jon Cruddas and both Glenys and Neil Kinnock:

Next year we have the opportunity to vote for a fairer voting system – one in which everyone’s vote counts and every MP is required to get the backing of a majority of voters. It means that every Labour party member and supporter, in every seat in the country, can cast their vote for Labour and then mark any other preferences, knowing their vote won’t be wasted.

First past the post isn’t working. When just a few thousand people determine every election result in a few swing seats, the interests of the Labour party and the people we represent go unheard. The alternative vote means the majority get their voices heard; it will shut the door on extremist parties like the BNP.

You can read the full letter and see the signatories here. Thought not listed as a signatory, Ed Miliband earlier in the week also indicated his own support, confirming his earlier similar comments:

Ed Miliband, the Labour leader, will tomorrow join eight other shadow cabinet members in backing the Labour Campaign for the Alternative Vote, brushing aside concerns that support for AV would be seen as a distraction from Labour’s declared main task in May of doing well in the Scottish, Welsh and English local elections…

Miliband’s decision to put his name to the AV campaign is a sign of his willingness to combat the big Labour beasts who have come out against changing the voting system, including Lord Reid, David Blunkett and Margaret Beckett. [The Guardian]

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