Yes on 5 May means challenging 'business as usual', says campaign

By staff writers
3 Apr 2011

"I don't want to wake up after 5 May and find it’s just business as usual at Westminster," said Eddie Izzard at the official launch of Yes to Fairer Votes.

The coalition for political reform got a boost across Britain on Saturday 2 April, with events designed to show how broad the campaign in favour of the Alternative Vote (AV) is in the run-up to the 5 May 2011 referendum.

Izzard, a popular and thoughtful comedian who also takes a genuine interest in politics and current affairs, was among those taking part in the London launch.

"I am delighted to be hosting the launch of the Yes to Fairer Votes campaign," said the entertainer. "This is the only time we have been asked to change the way we do politics in this country and I think we should seize the moment."

Speakers were introduced by Katie Ghose, Chair of the YES to Fairer Votes campaign, who said: "We believe we have the momentum going into the short campaign. Today there will be more than 50 banner drops and more than 100 events across the country.

"This is a people’s campaign urging the people of this country to grasp the first opportunity we have ever had to change the way that politics is done in this country.

"This is too good an opportunity to miss. This is a straight choice between changing our politics for the better or settling for more of the same.

"The 'no' side’s campaign of misinformation shows that they cannot defend the current system," she concluded.

'No' campaigners have tried to scare voters with claims that AV will encourage extremism (in spite of the BNP's opposition to AV), with what critics say are made-up figures about what it will cost, and with other negative claims that have been discredited on factual grounds - though utilised eagerly by vociferous propaganda from right-wing tabloid newspapers like The Sun and the Daily Mail.

In Scotland and Wales, and amongst the young, the 'fairer votes message' has been getting through, but older English voters are among those who need persuading, say campaigners. There is also a struggle against apathy, in that voting reform is not a naturally popular issue.

A poll this month in Scotland has indicated a seven per cent lead for AV over the existing first-past-the-post system for electing Westminster MPs, which leaves millions effectively disenfranchised.

Four out of the five main parties in Scotland back the change, with only the Conservatives opposing.

Labour MP Douglas Alexander, who was among those supporting the Scottish 'Yes' launch, declared: "The Tories are desperate for a 'no' vote and I know many people in Scotland will find that a good enough reason to vote 'yes'."

Patrick Harvie, co-leader of the Scottish Greens, said: "A change to AV would ensure the public were more familiar with preferential voting, and hopefully end the need for people to choose between their principles and a tactical vote."

John Mason, former SNP MP for Glasgow East, commented: "So often the result has been way out of line with the way people actually voted. One of the worst examples was in Glasgow City Council when one party could get 95 per cent of seats with only 50 per cent of the vote."

And Lib Dem MP Charles Kennedy - who has been critical of aspects of the colaition government's policies - added: "Here in Scotland it took a generation to get a second referendum on Scottish devolution. Let's grasp the opportunity for political reform on May 5 and vote 'yes' for a fairer voting system."

Community, neighbourhood, charity and faith groups and individuals are also backing 'Yes to Fairer Votes', which stresses that the campaign is about widening choice, making parliamentarians accountable, and ensuring that the 'big' parties face real competition.

---

Ekklesia backs the Yes to Fairer Votes initiative: http://www.yestofairervotes.org/

[Ekk/3]

Creative Commons LicenseThis work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 2.0 England & Wales License. Although the views expressed in this article do not necessarily represent the views of Ekklesia, the article may reflect Ekklesia's values. If you use Ekklesia's news briefings please consider making a donation to sponsor Ekklesia's work here.