AV vote 'will not end coalition'

The voting reform referendum will not spell the end of the Tory-Lib Dem coalition, Prime Minister David Cameron insisted today as the parties engaged in an increasingly bitter debate.

Whichever side lost would just have to pick themselves up and "get on with the things that really matter", he said as a new poll suggested public opinion was hardening against change.



With less than two weeks until the May 5 poll, he waded into the row over campaign funding, backing Chancellor George Osborne against Lib Dem claims he was trying to "scare" voters.



But he said he hoped there would be a "reasonable argument on both sides" in the closing days of the campaign that would help to "fire up" a relatively uninterested public.



Securing a referendum on whether to abandon the first-past-the-post system for electing MPs in favour of the Alternative Vote (AV) was the key concession wrung by the Lib Dems as part of the coalition deal.



With imminent local elections putting an increasing strain on relations between the two parties, a public rejection of AV will heap still more pressure on Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg to pull out.



Speaking on the Murnaghan show on Sky News, Mr Cameron said: "I profoundly believe a 'no' vote is the right answer.



"We have got a system that is effective, that is simple, that is fair, that works, that is used by half the world and we shouldn't swap it for a system that is unfair and used by just a handful of countries and that is much more complicated. It should be a reasonable argument on both sides."



Asked if victory could destroy the power-sharing deal, he said: "Whatever the result on May 5, this is a five-year Government, Nick and I are absolutely committed to taking the Government and its programme forward."



"Whoever is on the losing side as it were will just have to pick themselves up and say: well, it was a fair argument, a fair fight, a fair referendum, the country has decided and now we have got to get on with all the things that really matter so much."



The Lib Dems had "made a real difference" to the direction of Government, he said.



Mr Cameron said Mr Osborne had simply been stating "fact" when he suggested that the commercial arm of the 'yes' campaign's biggest financial backer stood to profit from a switch to AV.



Electoral Reform Services Limited - which gives some of its profits from helping run ballots to 'yes' campaign backer the Electoral Reform Society - firmly denies any such conflict of interest.



In a vituperative attack on the Chancellor, Lord Ashdown said his strategy "stinks of the same odour which has surrounded our politics recently" and accused him of hiding the facts from voters.



But Mr Cameron said: "The point that George Osborne made that the Electoral Reform Society is a big funder of the 'yes' campaign but it has an organisation that could make money out of it - that's a fact and I think there is nothing wrong about bringing that fact out."



A ComRes survey for the Independent on Sunday and Sunday Mirror gave the "no" camp a six-point lead, an exact reversal of the position as recently as January as more undecided voters make up their minds.







The campaign is set to shift up another gear this week as senior politicians from both camps take to the stage for a final push ahead of the poll.



Much of the debate so far has been dominated by spats over funding, poll data and celebrity backers which Mr Cameron conceded had failed to engage voters.



"The most important thing we've got to do is try and explain to the public, who aren't absolutely fired up about this issue, why it matters," he said.



"What we've got to do in the closing days of this campaign is really focus on what the change would mean," he said.



Mr Cameron said both his party and the Lib Dems could point to "real things" that they had secured in Government.



"I don't know what that result is going to be but whatever it is, the Coalition Government I believe, will go on being a strong and effective government," he said,



"The most important thing we've got to do is get the economy moving and pay down the debts."



Writing in the Observer, Lord Ashdown launched a fierce attack on the "no" camp - which politically includes almost all Tory MPs as well as at least 100 from Labour despite Opposition leader Ed Miliband's support for AV.



"Their strategy is clear: throw as much mud as you can, don't let the issue be discussed openly and frighten the public over the next three weeks into voting to preserve the power the present First Past the Post system gives them.



"This strategy stinks of the same odour which has surrounded our politics recently. For the Chancellor of the Exchequer - the Chancellor of the Exchequer - to claim that there is something 'dodgy' about the Electoral Reform Society donating cash to a campaign in favour of electoral reform is bizarre.



"George Osborne makes the case for change for us. He graphically shows why we need to change our politics. Why we need to clean it up. Why the voting public deserve something better."



He said he respected opposing views, but said he was "perplexed and deeply disturbed...that those running the 'No' campaign haven't once put forward a positive case for the current system and, instead have spent their time lying about AV".



The poll - weighted to reflect those certain to vote - found 37% backed AV with 43% against - compared with a 36% to 30% split the other way in January.



Responding to the poll, Matthew Elliott, Campaign Director of NO to AV, said: "The polls show that as people are learning more about the complex, unfair and expensive Alternative Vote system, they understand why it is completely the wrong sort of change.



"There is much work still to be done to make sure the UK isn't saddled with a £250 million mess, but it is encouraging that the British people know a very bad idea when they see it."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Senior Environmental Adviser - Maternity Cover

£37040 - £43600 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The UK's export credit agency a...

Recruitment Genius: CBM & Lubrication Technician

£25000 - £27500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company provides a compreh...

Recruitment Genius: Care Worker - Residential Emergency Service

£16800 - £19500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Would you like to join an organ...

Recruitment Genius: Senior Landscaper

£25000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: In the last five years this com...

Day In a Page

Refugee crisis: David Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia - will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi?

Cameron lowered the flag for the dead king of Saudi Arabia...

But will he do the same honour for little Aylan Kurdi, asks Robert Fisk
Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Our leaders lack courage in this refugee crisis. We are shamed by our European neighbours

Humanity must be at the heart of politics, says Jeremy Corbyn
Joe Biden's 'tease tour': Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?

Joe Biden's 'tease tour'

Could the US Vice-President be testing the water for a presidential run?
Britain's 24-hour culture: With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever

Britain's 24-hour culture

With the 'leisured society' a distant dream we're working longer and less regular hours than ever
Diplomacy board game: Treachery is the way to win - which makes it just like the real thing

The addictive nature of Diplomacy

Bullying, betrayal, aggression – it may be just a board game, but the family that plays Diplomacy may never look at each other in the same way again
Lady Chatterley's Lover: Racy underwear for fans of DH Lawrence's equally racy tome

Fashion: Ooh, Lady Chatterley!

Take inspiration from DH Lawrence's racy tome with equally racy underwear
8 best children's clocks

Tick-tock: 8 best children's clocks

Whether you’re teaching them to tell the time or putting the finishing touches to a nursery, there’s a ticker for that
Charlie Austin: Queens Park Rangers striker says ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

Charlie Austin: ‘If the move is not right, I’m not going’

After hitting 18 goals in the Premier League last season, the QPR striker was the great non-deal of transfer deadline day. But he says he'd preferred another shot at promotion
Isis profits from destruction of antiquities by selling relics to dealers - and then blowing up the buildings they come from to conceal the evidence of looting

How Isis profits from destruction of antiquities

Robert Fisk on the terrorist group's manipulation of the market to increase the price of artefacts
Labour leadership: Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea

'If we lose touch we’ll end up with two decades of the Tories'

In an exclusive interview, Andy Burnham urges Jeremy Corbyn voters to think again in last-minute plea
Tunisia fears its Arab Spring could be reversed as the new regime becomes as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor

The Arab Spring reversed

Tunisian protesters fear that a new law will whitewash corrupt businessmen and officials, but they are finding that the new regime is becoming as intolerant of dissent as its predecessor
King Arthur: Legendary figure was real and lived most of his life in Strathclyde, academic claims

Academic claims King Arthur was real - and reveals where he lived

Dr Andrew Breeze says the legendary figure did exist – but was a general, not a king
Who is Oliver Bonas and how has he captured middle-class hearts?

Who is Oliver Bonas?

It's the first high-street store to pay its staff the living wage, and it saw out the recession in style
Earth has 'lost more than half its trees' since humans first started cutting them down

Axe-wielding Man fells half the world’s trees – leaving us just 422 each

However, the number of trees may be eight times higher than previously thought
60 years of Scalextric: Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones

60 years of Scalextric

Model cars are now stuffed with as much tech as real ones