The commitment to a referendum on AV was the price the Tories allegedly paid for securing our support in the coalition. It wasn't quite what we were after - and the irony is, that if the prophets of doom are right and the Tory boa constrictor squeezes the life out of our party, it may be an irrelevance anyway. What would be the point of having a second choice when there were only two real choices anyway?
Much has been made of this apparent "climb down" by the Tories - but they, with their stranglehold in the press, and unimaginable financial backing, will do all in their power to secure a no vote. Simon Hughes on WATO was upbeat and optimistic about a win - I hope he is right - it at least will be a small step on the way to PR, which I still hope to see in my life time. However, if he is not, then we run the risk of shutting the door on PR for a generation at least. I can hear the argument now. Despite the fact that AV is no way comparable to PR (and of course there are many who would vote against AV while supporting PR), it would be taken as a demonstration that the people of this country were perfectly happy with FPTP.
This is why the battle to secure a proper referendum on PR has to intensify now. The coalition agreement, Section 24, states "We will ensure that any petition that secures 100,000 signatures will be eligible for formal debate in Parliament. The petition with the most signatures will enable members of the public to table a bill eligible to be voted on in Parliament." Take Back Parliament already has over 56,000 signatures – can we get it up to 100,000 or 1 million? Surely there is scope to campaign now to get this petition to a point where we can force a debate? And if we could get that level of support behind the campaign, could any self respecting MP who allegedly believes in giving us back power, Cameron who claims we are now all in government with him, not even allow us to answer the grown up question about how we want to be governed? It would totally undermine and make a mockery of all the current drives to supposedly involve us in the decision making process.
But if we are to influence the referendum next year, time is short, let's all get behind this campaign now, let's show Mr C what the "Big Society" really looks like!