Cameron prods Clegg towards voting referendum
Just when you thought the bizarre role reversals of coalition couldn’t go any further… I hear that, behind the scenes, David Cameron has found himself privately encouraging a nervous Nick Clegg that he really can win a referendum on AV in May 2011.
One of the biggest concerns for the Lib Dems is Labour. Does a new Labour leader use his or her fresh political capital to back Nick Clegg’s dream (the Miliband brothers back AV, as does Ed Balls) or hold back a little, keep it low-key?
The Lib Dems could really do with Labour support and it won’t ignite naturally. They have the carefully calculated advantage of combining the referendum with the elections that will bring out Scottish and Welsh voters to elect their parliament and assembly, and those voters are expected to be more at ease with changes to the voting system than the English. But with Tory opposition well-heeled and fired up, they’ll need help to get them over the line.
Early on, starting next week with announcements on a constitutional package that will include Lords reform, fixed-term parliaments and an outline of boundary reform timetables, Nick Clegg will have to define the referendum on his terms and start to convince voters that it’s not about a self-serving pay-back for Lib Dems but a chance for voters who like the idea of parties working together to say “actually, yes, I’d like a bit more of this.”