In my interview with David Miliband – running in Wednesday’s FT – we talked about the alternative vote in some length. The question everyone wants answered is whether Labour will end up on the No side or the Yes side of the referendum: or neither.
Miliband told me he would himself vote yes for AV. But would he actively campaign for it? Maybe, maybe not.
His final decision – if he becomes Labour leader – is crucial given that many Lib Dems are counting on the party joining the Yes campaign for it to have any chance of success.
Labour is in the curious position of being in favour of electoral reform but against the bill which will enable the referendum next summer. (Their criticism is that it has been tied up with cutting the number of MPs, a move which Labour decries as ‘jerrymandering’.)
I asked Miliband whether this position was opportunistic. “I totally reject that,” he said. “Opportunism is on the part of the Tories and the stupidity is on the part of the Libs because they’re giving electoral reform a bad name.” His theory is that LibDems have been “suckered” into discrediting political reform by letting it be tied up with changing the constituency boundaries.
I asked how he could balance being pro-AV while Labour looks set to vote against the bill. “That is being principled. Why should we vote for a bill with poison pills in it? For 100 years the Boundary Commission has done its work, with independent public inquiries with the right of public appeal. They’re trying to take that right away.”
Miliband said the LIb Dems thought they were “snookering” Labour but were in fact snookering themselves. “That’s what’s so stupid about it.”
When I asked if he would campaign actively for reform, he replied: “We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it.”