James Forsyth

Cameron won’t lead the charge against AV

Cameron won't lead the charge against AV
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The most significant political news today is that David Cameron won’t play an active role in the save first past the post campaign. When Cameron told Conservative MPs that he was going to offer the Lib Dems a referendum on AV in exchange for them going into coalition with him, he told them he would campaign against it. Now, his words to the Sunday Times today are consistent with that pledge as he says he remains a supporter of the current voting system and “will make that clear at the time” of the referendum. But they are also consistent with the Tories soft-pedaling their opposition to the change to try and keep the Coalition together.

If the referendum on AV was lost, Nick Clegg would face loud and sustained calls from his party to pull out of the coalition. To most Liberal Democrats, it would be unclear what they were getting out of the Coalition if they weren’t getting a change to the voting system. For this reason, there’s considerable chatter in Westminster that the Tory leadership while nominally opposing a change, will not campaign hard against it. In other words, they’d be prepared to see the AV referendum pass if that was what it took to keep the Coalition together.

It’ll be interesting to see if there is any backbench reaction to Cameron’s comments. Most Tory MPs remain steadfast defenders of first past the post and would want to see the party throw its full weight behind it in the referendum campaign.

Written byJames Forsyth

James Forsyth is Political Editor of the Spectator. He is also a columnist in The Sun.

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