So the people have spoken. They have told us that ‘none of the above’ had a strong enough narrative to deserve sole power. Have we lost the once in an era chance for real change and transition to grown-up co-operative democracy? The Tories shifted their position on PR considerably. But is it enough? It’s AV not AV-plus or full PR. And it’s a commitment to a referendum, not what Labour had offered.
A Lib-Labour coalition probably would not have held for long. A Lib-Tory coalition could well pull the Tories towards the centre and bring out the most progressive side of Cameron et al. And some time in the wilderness might do Labour a huge amount of good. There just was not the momentum in it. But will the deal Clegg got turn out to be a poisoned chalice for citizen democracy?
But PR would be bad for the Tories surely? If the majority of citizens are, at heart, progressives, then would PR not be the end of power for Tories? Well AV is not really that PR-ish. It’s more about voting for who you hate least than who you like the most. Maybe it’s a step in the right direction towards true PR?
And AV will not favour a Tory retrenchment to the right. It will favour, if anything, a shift to the centre to make sure more of those inclined for instance to vote UKIP (almost 1million) put Tory as both first and second choice.
It remains to be seen if Cameron can really turn his back on the ‘nasty’ side of his party and, with the help from people like Red Tory Phillip Blond, evolve the Tory vision and heart towards a progressive narrative. But assuming an AV referendum wins popular support, it could mean we have a very different and more progressive Tory party for some time to come.
What is for sure is that Murdoch and the right will be finding all sorts of reasons that we, the citizens, should vote NON to PR. Just as they came up with all sorts of scare stories about the dreaded hung Parliament, they will tell us that PR would lose us our jobs and our shirts. Last week Moody’s S&P and Fitch (Huhne’s old company)told us that actually a hung Parliament might be good for the markets. But still Murdoch et al kept telling us the city would fall apart by today. We got our hung Parliament. And it will be good for the city, for progress and for citizens. But now the real fight begins.
We now have a once in an era chance to sell a narrative about the possibilities PR would usher in. We need a progressive alliance of business leaders, politicians from all parties, Bishops, NGOs, think-tanks, economists, academics and anyone else we can get. We need to harness the power of the digital world with Avaaz, 38 Degrees and the progressive media. We need guerrilla marketing and citizen-led conversations.
In short we need to pull out all the stops if we have any chance of drowning out the white noise which the regressive right and Murdoch press will unleash. It’s a great challenge and the fight we should ALL put our weight behind.