AV rejected but electoral and constitutional reform still needed

The UK wide referendum on the proposed introduction of an optional preferential Alternative Vote (AV) system last week resulted in a clear rejection of, in Deputy PM Nick Clegg’s pre-election terms, “a miserable little compromise” to the hoped for proportional representation system. It however cannot be seen as a final decision for the discredited and limited FPTP as some have self-servingly suggested.

The reported results in the 5 nations of Great Britain & Northern Ireland involved were:
England 69% No – 31% Yes
Scotland 64% No – 36% Yes
Wales 65% No – 35% Yes
N.Ireland 56% No – 44% Yes
Cornwall 70% No – 30% Yes

Note that the highest No vote was in Cornwall, despite being a traditionally strong Liberal voting area .. even many Lib Dems seemed to have voted against, or in some cases ballot papers were spoiled – in response to the way the proposal was introduced through The Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill (aka Devonwall Bill).

This  flawed Bill  not only squibbed on electoral reform but also proposed over-rigid limits to voter numbers in constituencies, and  thus the creation of two cross border parliamentary constituencies between Cornwall and England.

Regardless of the referendum result it is still likely, despite what should be an active and continuing campaign against (and close scrutiny of the electoral rolls), that one  or  more across Cornish border constituencies will be defined in time for a 2015 Westminster Parliament UK wide general election.

Looking past electoral reform, the majority gained by the SNP in the concurrent Parliament of Scotland elections, with their promise of a referendum of a form of independence for Scotland points to a fracture in the whole patched together edifice of the ‘United Kingdom’ and the crown.

Perhaps reform will now be refocussed and be amplified – on to the constitutional  mess that  is  the State of Great Britain and Northern Ireland and on to much more thorny territory – the West Lothian question, the Duchy of Cornwall conundrum, England’s identity and governance (and thus one hopes on Cornwalls – the Amazon question perhaps?), to  republicanism, the EU, and Ireland’s continuing partition.

The ‘No’ vote coalition may not realise how piskie-led they may have been.

Chris Dunkerley
10 May, 2011