13 September 2010
The Green Party announced from its conference in Birmingham today that the party would join the Yes campaign in next year's referendum on electoral reform.
Many proponents of electoral reform have expressed doubts about supporting AV (the Additional Vote system), on the grounds that AV is not a proportional voting system and therefore its introduction would not be a thorough reform.
But this week's Green Party conference agreed to take a firm line in favour of AV in the referendum, as an initial step in the right direction and to demonstrate an "appetite for change".
The party's deputy leader Adrian Ramsay commented today:
"We want everyone who favours electoral reform to put their full weight behind the Yes campaign.
"A Yes vote would bring a step in the right direction and demonstrate an appetite for change. Greens and others who want a fair, inclusive proportional way of voting will then continue to campaign for further reform."
"Giving the public better options"
Green Party leader Caroline Lucas MP has proposed amendments to the bill currently before parliament. The Green amendment would give the electorate an opportunity to vote for a genuinely proportional system - but is expected to be killed off by the Conservatives, who are allowing the referendum but are opposing even the relatively minor reform to an AV system.
This will then leave reformers with only two options: to support the Yes campaign as a first step, or to join the No campaign in order to reject a reform they believe doesn't go far enough. But Adrian Ramsay explained:
"If you vote No in this referendum, nobody would know whether you were rejecting AV because you wanted genuine reform, or were simply opposing any reform. We think the only logical vote for reformers is to vote Yes to AV, because everyone who does so is clearly showing that they're unhappy with the current system.
"AV is not perfect but it has a clear advantage over first-past-the-post: it undermines arguments for tactical voting because under AV voters can give their first preference to their preferred candidate or party, safe in the knowledge that their second preference will count just as strongly if their first preference is unsuccessful. Votes cast will therefore be a much better reflection of people's views."
Many Greens have accused the Tories of trying to split the reformers by offering the choice between the status quo and moderate reform. Adrian Ramsay argued, "We mustn't let the government divide us over this and win. We must get everyone who wants electoral reform onto the same side, to demonstrate the public appetite for change, to win this particular battle and then move the campaign forward from that initial victory.
"This will help build support for further reforms such as a fair voting system for local elections, and will keep pressure on the government to implement its pledge to replace the house of lords with a second chamber elected under proportional representation."
The Green Party remains committed to the Additional Member System (AMS), which authorities agree would deliver a result closer to true proportionality as well as retaining constituency.
Proposers of the motion to join the Yes campaign included the party's London MEP Jean Lambert, former London Assembly chair Darren Johnson AM, as well as deputy leader Adrian Ramsay.