We should never have been so surprised at LD support for this Tory government and its cuts agenda. In 2004, prominent LDs including Clegg, Laws and Cable contributed to the 'Orange Book' which was essentially a neoliberal manifesto. The reactionary take-over of the LDs had begun. Just as with New Labour The LDs swung to the right abandoning the social democratic approach the LDs had been founded on.
So what has this got to do with the referendum on the Alternative Vote (AV)? Given the above - its not surprising then that many on the left now want to punish Clegg and the LDs by voting down AV. The theory is that if the referendum is lost the Coalition government will split, forcing an election in which Labour and Ed Milliband will ride to the rescue of the nation. In my view this is very short-sighted for several reasons; firstly, there is no guarantee that the Coalition will split. The LDs are in a very vulnerable position at the moment and they don't want an election. Not only do they fear meltdown but they have no funds to fight a campaign; secondly, even if the Coalition does split there is no guarantee that Labour will win or that Ed will ride to the rescue if they do. New Labour may be dead but it certainly hasn't been buried; finally, and most importantly the AV referendum offers us something very rare in British politics - a chance to bring about progressive electoral reform.
AV isn't perfect, its not as good as proportional representation (PR), but it's a hell of a lot better than what we have at the moment - a rotten voting system well past its sell by date. If the referendum is lost it will put back electoral reform for a generation. The beauty of AV is that it increases voter power and makes MPs more accountable to their electorate - so what if it slightly benefits the LDS? - that is the popular view based on previous voting patterns, but it assumes that many will put the LDs down as a second preference - now that is much less likely. Neither will it benefit the BNP as has been suggested - it will benefit you the voter by putting more power in your hands. Don't believe the outrageous lies put about by the No campaign. Vote YES on May 5th and help to break the mould of British politics. AV now PR later!