Sunday, 13 February 2011

Poll shows increased support for fairer votes

Today's Independent contained a surprising article, which referred to a survey giving the "Yes" campaign a ten point lead over the "No" camp.

This is very positive, and shows how successfully the "Yes" team has been able to distance the arguments for voting reform from too close an identity with those political parties that support it.

As the campaign gathers momentum, it is likely that the issue will feature far more in people's minds and that the arguments for change will become more positively received. But it's already evident, in spite of the economy and cuts to public services featuring larger in people's minds, that there is an appetite for change. Electoral reform might not be the kind of thing that excites a nation, but the current system is obviously flawed and according to The Independent only 30% of those surveyed want to retain it. I'm sure that figure is even lower in Scotland where voters already use STV for local elections and the AMS system for Holyrood.

It would appear that support for reform has increased as a result of the actions of Labour peers in the Lords, whose filibustering appeared petty and motivated by small-minded party-political prejudices. I suspect that next Friday, when Cameron and Clegg will give statements regarding their opposing positions, we will see pro-change support increase even further. After all, seeing the Lib Dem leader stand up to the Prime Minister and destroying his arguments is something everyone wants isn't it?

Interestingly, the paper also reported that 40% of Labour members - and an impressive 28% of Conservative Party members - want change. Hopefully, activists from these parties who want voting reform will ignore the signals coming from their respective leaderships and put their energies into helping to secure a "Yes" outcome. If the "Yes" campaign can put together a real coalition of reformists from across the political agenda and appear genuinely non-partisan I have no doubt that those who have already written off the chances of a "Yes" verdict will be proved very wrong.

Even more encouraging is the news that, fearful of the "No" campaign being dominated by Labour former ministers such as John Prescott and Margaret Beckett (not exactly the most appealing of ambassadors) No to AV is set to unveil some high-profile supporters including some with very obvious links to the Conservative Party. What could be more certain to tempt Scottish voters to say "Yes" than the "No" camp identifying itself so closely to the Tory Party?

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