Don’t vote against AV because you hate Clegg

Both David Cameron and Nick Clegg will still be in the same jobs next week. A vote for or against AV

If you have ever been at an election count, you will know that there are many imaginative ways to waste your vote: obscenities on the ballot paper, several crosses, or writing "none of the above".

But in this referendum there is a new way to waste your vote: "I am voting No, to destroy Nick Clegg", or "I am voting Yes, to destroy David Cameron". If ever there were completely fatuous reasons to vote either for or against a change in the voting system, these have to win the prize.

First, if the much-predicted drubbing of the Liberal Democrats takes place in the local elections and there is a No vote in the referendum, Nick Clegg will not stand down as leader, of that I am absolutely certain.

In order to remove Clegg as leader, 75 Liberal Democrat constituency associations would each have to hold a fully quorate extra-general meeting to pass a motion saying that he should be removed, or half the parliamentary party would have to ask him to stand down. The reality is that the often-briefed-about future contenders do not have half the parliamentary party behind them.

True grit

It is the shock of defeat that often leads to the unseating of a leader. Well, no one is going to be shocked by a negative result for the Liberal Democrats that was predicted as far back as May last year while the print was still drying on the coalition agreement.

But what about Cameron? It has been a deft move on the part of the right of his party to make him sweat so much about the result that he had to get involved. There is no doubt that a year ago Cameron thought he could take a back seat on this campaign. Rumours abound he said as much to Nick Clegg.

But the right has put the willies up Cameron sufficiently to draw out some of his true campaigning style – the smoothie we've grown accustomed to has had a good dollop of grit thrown in. However, yet again, the likelihood of unseating Cameron as leader right now is extremely remote.

So if anyone is undecided how to vote, how about considering the arguments for or against? How about deciding for yourself, not because you love or hate Margaret Beckett, Colin Firth, Eddie Izzard, Nick Clegg or David Cameron, but because you agree with the policy arguments of one side or the other?

Of one thing I am certain: win or lose, both Cameron and Clegg will still be in the same jobs next week. So may I suggest to you that if you vote to "destroy" either one of them, yours will be a wasted vote.

Getty
Show Hide image

Meet the MPs who still think they have a chance of defeating Brexit

A crossparty group of MPs believe they have a right to vote Brexit down in the House of Commons. 

The decision on 23 June was final. With the ballots cast, the nation’s voters started the conveyor belt that would take the United Kingdom in only one direction - Brexit. It was independence day, or Brexitpocalypse, depending on your point of view.

But some MPs think differently. A growing handful of of crossparty MPs who backed Remain are now saying they will vote against Brexit if offered the chance. 

With Article 50 yet to be triggered, they still have an opportunity to influence what happens next. But the decision also raises questions about democracy. What is an MP’s role at this point of national crisis? To respect the will of the majority? Or to fight for their individual constituents?

David Lammy, the Labour MP for Tottenham (pictured), has led the charge for a second vote on Brexit.

He points out the referendum was “advisory, non-binding”, and argues it should be up to Parliament to make the final decision

In a series of tweets, he said:  “Our Parliament is sovereign and must approve any Brexit.

“My position is clear. I will never vote for Brexit or to invoke Article 50. On behalf of my constituents and the young people of this country I will not do it. Three quarters of my constituents voted to Remain, and I will continue to stand up for them.”

Lammy isn’t the only one to invoke the will of his constituents. Another Labour MP, Catherine West, represents Hornsey and Wood Green. In Haringey, the overlapping local authority, three quarters of voters chose to Remain. 

West tweeted: “I stand with them on this issue and I will vote against Brexit in Parliament.”

Daniel Zeichner, the Labour MP for the Europhile island of Cambridge, has also pledged to vote Remain. Geraint Davies, a Welsh Labour MP and Jonathan Edwards, from Welsh nationalist party Plaid Cymru, have submitted a formal notice to Parliament demanding a second referendum "on the terms of leaving the EU". 

Perhaps it is not surprising English and Welsh MPs are taking such a stubborn view. Short of following Scotland’s example and demanding London’s independence, they have few other options.

But the MPs’ resistance also brings up a thorny political question. A majoritarian vote is only one part of democracy after all. Constituency MPs and minority protections are also part of the mix. 

There may also be an argument that responsible MPs should act in voters’ best interests - even if that is against the wishes of the voters themselves. 

Speaking in the House of Commons, Tory grandee Ken Clarke noted MPs were yet to actually hear the details of what Brexit Britain would look like. 

He asked the Prime Minister:

“Does my right hon. Friend agree that we still have a parliamentary democracy and it would be the duty of each Member of Parliament to judge each measure in the light of what each man and woman regards as the national interest, and not to take broad guidance from a plebiscite which has produced a small majority on a broad question after a bad-tempered and ill-informed debate?”

It is not a straightforward democratic case. But with two parties divided, a 300-year-old union in jeopardy and the peace process in Northern Ireland under pressure, MPs might be tempted to put the patriot’s argument first.