Support 100 years of independent journalism.

  1. Politics
13 January 2011

Which side would benefit from an AV date change?

The Yes camp has the most to gain if the referendum is moved from May.

By George Eaton

The news that the planned referendum on the Alternative Vote may be delayed raises the question: which side would benefit? The Lib Dems originally pushed for an early referendum (5 May) in the hope that the vote would take place before the coalition’s cuts destroyed their popularity. But, as the party’s recent poll ratings show, that assumption no longer applies.

Although it is largely the No camp that has pushed for a date change, to my mind, it’s the Yes camp that has most to gain. The biggest risk for the pro-AV side is that the vote turns into a referendum on Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems. A delayed vote, after the Lib Dems have already been dealt a bloody nose in the local elections, would lower the possibility of this.

The opportunity for a prominent debate on electoral reform (rather than one overshadowed by the royal wedding) should also benefit the Yes camp. The arguments against first-past-the-post are persuasive but require far more exposure than at present.

In addition, a delayed vote would allow Labour supporters of AV to campaign in the referendum without being accused of diverting time and energy away from the party’s local elections campaign.

Sign up for The New Statesman’s newsletters Tick the boxes of the newsletters you would like to receive. Quick and essential guide to domestic and global politics from the New Statesman's politics team. The best of the New Statesman, delivered to your inbox every weekday morning. The New Statesman’s global affairs newsletter, every Monday and Friday. A handy, three-minute glance at the week ahead in companies, markets, regulation and investment, landing in your inbox every Monday morning. Our weekly culture newsletter – from books and art to pop culture and memes – sent every Friday. A weekly round-up of some of the best articles featured in the most recent issue of the New Statesman, sent each Saturday. A weekly dig into the New Statesman’s archive of over 100 years of stellar and influential journalism, sent each Wednesday. Sign up to receive information regarding NS events, subscription offers & product updates.
I consent to New Statesman Media Group collecting my details provided via this form in accordance with the Privacy Policy

Most opinion polls already put the Yes camp in front; a change in the referendum date could extend their advantage.