Break the Tory Estabishment once and for all: Vote Yes to AV

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Charlie Cooper

I’m a sucker for pomp and ceremony and two people getting married in the spring time is one of those timelessly happy things that people of all creeds, nations and wage-brackets should go on celebrating as long as there’s a sun in the sky.

However, as the crowds receded from Westminster and the dream-vision of Pippa Middleton’s rear-end swayed out of sight, I began to feel a little uncomfortable.

Had we not just witnessed an extraordinarily lavish, luxuriant ceremony of golden rings, designer dresses and towering marzipan at a time when the government is asking everyone to tighten their belts, pull together and make “difficult decisions”? Were not the very men asking us to make these sacrifices at the front of the queue at the Abbey door; chief among them the rosy-cheeked Prime Minister, looking very comfortable in a morning suit? And were not Tony Blair and Gordon Brown, the Labour men who broke a Tory hegemony on the reigns of power that had lasted, with brief interludes, for most of the 20th century, conspicuous by their absence?

You see the Royal Wedding now looks to me like one thing above all; a confident declaration from the echoing halls of the rich and the powerful; the Establishment is back.

The progressive spirit of New Labour, or of the pre-Coalition Liberal Democrats is dead, the wedding said. Tony who? Gordon Brown? Wasn’t he the beardy chap that Queen Victoria fancied? As for Nick and Vince, we’ll suffer their presence but only if Dave and Gideon keep a close eye on them, in case the pleb Cable uses the golden cheese prong before the silver dessert spoon at dinner.

The Conservative party, for all its slippery adaptability, is and will always remain, the party of the Establishment: of the rich, for the rich. That’s a rather fantastic recipe for holding onto power.

Or, at least, it is under our current voting system. First past the post has an inherent bias toward powerful minority interests; and there is no more powerful minority in this country than the Establishment.

In a system where generally it only takes the backing of just over a third of voters to become an MP, it’s no surprise the wealthy few have been able to maintain their hold on power.

There is a dividing line in this country between the majority of those that believe that wealth should, to some extent, be shared out and not hoarded by private individuals; that a person’s chief goal in life should be to benefit his society first and himself second; and the minority who do not.

The people who do believe this generally split their vote between one of the many parties – Labour, the Lib Dems, the Greens, Plaid Cymru, the SNP – that more or less share this view. It is after all, a majority view, so it’s no surprise that so many parties adopt it. The people who do not, vote Tory.

Nick Clegg, who for all his grave mistakes this past year, is to be commended for his commitment to vote reform, calls First Past the Post a Conservative party “racket”, and he’s rarely spoken so pointedly.

Now why, do you think, are the Tories so vehemently opposed to reforming the voting system? Because the old one keeps them in power. Why are their rich Establishment backers pouring money into a patronising, dishonest, grubby campaign to defeat it? Because as long as the Tories are in power, taxes will remain favourable to the wealthy, blame for the country’s ills will continue to be placed at the feet of the undeserving poor and the healthy racket that serves the fat, red-faced sort that filled the pews at Westminster Abbey last weekend will go on unopposed.

But we can oppose it, and we can defeat it. And nowhere have we more power to do so than in London.

Because there’s no local elections in London to coincide with this Thursday’s referendum, it is expected that voter turnout will be low. In fact, the No campaign is counting on it. Because the No campaign is afraid of London. And so they should be. If anywhere in the country is to stand up and defeat the centuries-old grasp that overgrown public-schoolboys have had on power, then let it be London; the most diverse, tolerant, vibrant city in the world; the city that reflects what Britain really is better than any icing-sugar Royal Wedding attended by fat white men and ladies in silly hats ever could.

The new voting system will be one that reflects Britain’s diversity, one where the Tory voice of entrenched privilege will be just one that is heard among many; it will be given it’s due place; a minority voice in an otherwise progressive, fair and honest democracy. Go out on Thursday and vote Yes.


  1. P rivate May 2, 2011
  2. Charlie Cooper May 2, 2011
  3. P rivate May 2, 2011
  4. Meagan Eggen January 8, 2012

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