Andrew Grice: Miliband finds he has little room for manoeuvre on AV

Labour sympathisers cannot simply vote against the Coalition

Share
Related Topics

The unexpectedly bitter battle between the Conservatives and Liberal Democrats over electoral reform has left little space in the debate for Labour.

Ed Miliband's party is ahead in the opinion polls and should gain 1,000 seats in the English council elections. But most headlines after 5 May will probably be about the fallout from the referendum on the alternative vote (AV). And the polls suggest that Alex Salmond's Scottish National Party could deny Labour the expected prize of forming the next Scottish government.

Mr Cameron's surprisingly high profile in the referendum campaign – the opposite of what he agreed with Nick Clegg beforehand – has made Tory supporters aware of the plebiscite and boosted the No camp's poll ratings.

Most debate has focused on whether the Liberal Democrats would walk out of the Coalition before 2015, when the next general election is due. But Mr Cameron's blitz has prompted speculation that if he wins the referendum, he might pull the plug on the Coalition and call a "dump, cut and run" election as early as this autumn.

It seems far-fetched, but there would be a lot of attractions. The Tories have plenty of money, unlike Labour and the Liberal Democrats. The Government's spending cuts have not yet sunk in and the Tories remain steady in the polls. Labour is plainly not ready for an election. It is blamed by the public for the deficit. Ed Miliband has not had time to establish himself and his policies are a "blank sheet".

Although an early election probably won't happen, the very prospect ought to encourage Labour supporters to vote Yes to AV. Yet Mr Miliband cannot mobilise his party's natural supporters in the way Mr Cameron has done.

With the Tories and Liberal Democrats at each other's throats, Labour sympathisers cannot simply vote against the Coalition. Many will be tempted to "kick Clegg", despite the Labour leader's plea in The Independent last week not to make the referendum one on the Deputy Prime Minister.

The Yes campaign has been hampered by Labour's divisions. It is split down the middle, with 125 of its 258 MPs backing a No vote. It was ever thus. Although the party swallowed Gordon Brown's last-minute offer of an AV referendum in the party's manifesto last year, that was only because the election was imminent.

Mr Miliband has a difficult hand to play. He backs AV and wants to reach out to the Liberal Democrats, knowing his party may need them to form a government again. But Labour's split has limited his room for manoeuvre.

He decided to campaign for a Yes vote but to refuse to share a platform with Mr Clegg, a hate figure for many Labour folk. Yet that only advertises another problem for the Yes camp.

A switch to AV might be only a small change, but the implications of the referendum for all the party leaders are huge.



React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Biomass Sales Consultant

£20000 Per Annum: The Green Recruitment Company: The Green Recruitment Company...

Java Developer

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: My Client are a successful software hous...

Senior Analyst - Financial Modelling

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: This really is a fantastic chance to joi...

MS Dynamics NAV/Navision Developer

£45000 - £53000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: **MS DYNAMICS N...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Katie Hopkins is a true Twitter villain

Felicity Morse
Adele performs onstage during the 2011 MTV Video Music Awards at Nokia Theatre L.A  

Adele knows that privacy is the best gift a famous mother can give her child

Chloe Hamilton
Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

Screwing your way to the top?

Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears
US Army's shooting star: Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform

Meet the US Army's shooting star

Lt-Col Steven Cole is the man Hollywood calls when it wants to borrow a tank or check a military uniform
Climate change threatens to make the antarctic fur seal extinct

Take a good look while you can

How climate change could wipe out this seal
Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier for the terminally ill?

Farewell, my lovely

Should emergency hospital weddings be made easier?
Man Booker Prize 2014 longlist: Crowdfunded novel nominated for first time

Crowdfunded novel nominated for Booker Prize

Paul Kingsnorth's 'The Wake' is in contention for the prestigious award
Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster to ensure his meals aren't poisoned

Vladimir Putin employs a full-time food taster

John Walsh salutes those brave souls who have, throughout history, put their knives on the line
Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

Tour de France effect brings Hollywood blockbusters to Yorkshire

A $25m thriller starring Sam Worthington to be made in God's Own Country
Will The Minerva Project - the first 'elite' American university to be launched in a century - change the face of higher learning?

Will The Minerva Project change the face of higher learning?

The university has no lecture halls, no debating societies, no sports teams and no fraternities. Instead, the 33 students who have made the cut at Minerva, will travel the world and change the face of higher learning
The 10 best pedicure products

Feet treat: 10 best pedicure products

Bags packed and all prepped for holidays, but feet in a state? Get them flip-flop-ready with our pick of the items for a DIY treatment
Commonwealth Games 2014: Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games

Commonwealth Games 2014

Great Scots! Planes and pipers welcome in Glasgow's Games
Jack Pitt-Brooke: Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism

Jack Pitt-Brooke

Manchester City and Patrick Vieira make the right stand on racism
How Terry Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

How Newton tragedy made iron men seek help to tackle their psychological demons

Over a hundred rugby league players have contacted clinic to deal with mental challenges of game