Lansons Conversations

Let’s be AVing you!!

On the streets near Vauxhall station is a large, brash billboard – the sort that during last year’s election was being coveted by all three of the major parties. On it currently resides another ‘inyerface’ election style poster. Yet this is one that could help have a major knock-on effect on the very nature of elections themselves. Here’s the poster: I know what you’re thinking, but strangely this isn’t going to be a rant about the quality of cameras on the new HTC Desire model (which, incidentally, exceeds the original iPhone). Press zoom a couple of times and it should become clearer. For those still visually challenged, the poster shows a picture of a police officer, and a quick but emotive statement; “he needs more backup NOT an alternative voting system.” It’s followed by a simple link to their website Not once on the poster does it mention who the rogue campaigners are, or why they are so vehement against the change that Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems are so desperate to get – only that the electoral overhaul will cost up to £250m that the country doesn’t have. Yet winning the AV referendum  is the major political win to be had from the Lib Dems in this coalition. The Lib Dems, who have spent 23 years building from scratch and a tiny handful of seats in Parliament to becoming a credible third party under the credible successive leaderships of Ashdown and Kennedy, are pinning their lives on getting AV. Since Clegg reneged on his pre-election pledge not to raise tuition fees, he and his party have been the undoubted losers of the new government, now heading towards its first anniversary. The joy of a coalition is that Cameron won’t need to look within for his own party for scapegoats when things go wrong, he’s got a ready made excuse provided by Britain’s third party who, at this rate, could be obliterated when the polls open in May 2015. They might have expected a tit for tat deal from the Tories after their eventual support over the thorny issue of tuition fees, but they won’t necessarily get it. Why would the Conservative party support AV? Too many are too quick to forget that the Coalition is nowhere near equal. So with that in mind, what would the Tories think about the no2AV campaign? Are they the rogue dealers behind the website, that in its haste to condemn the apparent £250m needed (incidentally, a figure that is a drop in the ocean when compared to the debt levels), is seemingly spending a ton on advertising itself? Well – the answer even online seems unclear. There’s no ‘About Us’ section, the ‘We say No to AV’ compiles a map of people up and down the country who dislike the scheme, and the only contact details for journalists points to just one man – William Norton, of 3 Albert Embankment, London. Thus, the investigation continues, and by this point, I’m beginning to know what even private investigators at the News of the World have to go through. A Google search reveals a few deceased William Nortons, until…bingo, link four takes me to William Norton, a solicitor and former Tory candidate for Birmingham Perry Barr. A flick through his recent articles takes me back to one written in 2007 – say no to any Lib Dem/Conservative pact, say no to alternative voting systems (in this case PR). Vocally, Mr Norton’s campaign is getting current support from Labour, but it is a Tory (and I assume a fairly rich one) who is leading the campaign. If Clegg’s deal with the Tories doesn’t come off, the protests he met at last week’s Lib Dem spring conference will grow, the Lib Dems could be wiped out politically, and the Tories may gain total control of the Commons more quickly then we think.