The party can win electoral reform, and much moreby David Laws / January 26, 2011 / Leave a comment
David Laws: “The Lib Dems must work harder to show that their policies are progressive”
The demise of the Liberal Democrats has been widely anticipated in recent months. Expect more gloomy predictions to come. Lib Dems are used to this: we have been written off more times than a piece of Latin American debt. Forecasts of the party’s demise will be as ill-judged on this occasion as they have been over many a decade.
Indeed, with the upcoming referendum on how this country chooses its government, the party has a real opportunity to reform the political system and deliver fairer representation in parliament.
One of the key reasons for Nick Clegg‘s appeal during the televised leadership debates was that he reached across party boundaries: touching on issues people cared about regardless of their political allegiances. “I agree with Nick” was repeated so frequently that it became a campaign slogan. Now, on the decision over the alternative vote (AV), the Lib Dems can once again work with people of all political views in the best interests of the country, just as we are in this coalition government.
The arguments for changing our voting system are strong: people want more choice and control. It is no longer good enough that so many citizens have to vote for the candidates who are not their first choice, simply because they know that otherwise their vote will be irrelevant. The alternative vote gives more power to voters, and ensures that MPs cannot just get elected on the basis of minority support at the ballot box. Making the case for this reform will help reconnect the party with voters. Our own figures show that the referendum on AV is very winnable indeed, and that the more people understand the new system, the more they like it.
It’s worth noting, too, the other factors the Lib Dems already have in their favour. The party was very united over the decision to form a coalition government—because, quite frankly, no other credible option existed for the party or the country. To maintain a minority government, under Gordon Brown or any other Labour leader, would have been impossible, and was not what the Labour party or the public seemed to want. Second, Lib Dems are now active and influential in government. Such influence is a refreshing contrast to the past 70 or 80 years of national irrelevance the party has…