Why voting No to AV is not a vote against Ed

Written by 30 on 19 April 2011 in Diary
Labour MPs voting No to AV are not protesting against their leader or creating a serious split in the party

This morning shadow defence secretary Jim Murphy was among another crop of Labour MPs to come out against AV.

Murphy argues that his reasons have nothing to do with "Cleggophobia".

"There are many people I know who are voting No simply to spite Nick Clegg, but I’m not one of them," he says.

But it is also wrong to suggest that by voting against AV, Murphy et al are being "pitted" against members of their own party. Ed Miliband allowed his party to make up their own minds on this vote, and that's all there is to it.

The 150 Labour MPs who oppose the alternative vote are not suffering from 'Edophobia'. There is no conspiracy theory. It is not a vote against their colleagues or their leader and it is wrong to portray the referendum in this way.

In an effort to prove this, I took the first preference votes of Labour MPs at the leadership election and compared them to Labour MPs declaring support for either Yes or No.

My oh-so-scientific methodology involved a lot of spreadsheet-wrestling, so stay with me.

Some Labour MPs chose Ed Miliband as their first preference for Labour leader but are voting No at the AV referendum. This is compared to a grand total of 31 MPs who put Ed Miliband down as first preference in 2010 and are now voting Yes.

Plenty of strong Ed Miliband supporters such as Chi Onwurah and Lisa Nandy have been unveiled as No voters.

It's tempting to draw artificial dividing lines, but voting No to AV is not a vote against Ed Miliband.

Some might even see it as refreshing that Labour can be split on a constitutional matter, and not descend into in-fighting.

No to AV Labourite Joan Ryan suggested to me that it was it was "a sign of [Ed Miliband's] confidence" that party members were allowed to make up their own minds about the electoral system.

So put away the camera phones: you won't see any serious brawling here.

UPDATE: One MP just suggested that the reason we are not seeing more blood spilt over AV is because "it's just too boring". Worth keeping in mind. There are certainly stronger emotions on other dividing issues.

Tags: Alternative vote (AV), Alternative Vote (AV) referendum, Ed Miliband ( Labour Leader ), Labour leadership contest 2010

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