What will the outcome of the FPTP / AV campaigns tell us? Our main lesson, if we look past the bluster, may be about leadership in a world changing as it never has before, by the day and hour.
Tomorrow the UK polls open and, when they close, it looks pretty certain that the AV debate will for now close too. The campaign to replace First Past The Post (FPTP) with the Alternative Vote (AV) is, the pre-election opinion polls tell us, dead.
Some with win and some will wince; my guess is that instant ‘victory’ either way will in the longer term prove ephemeral. But, with the global population reaching 7 billion this very year, there are other political issues of genuinely massive import for us all.
More critical than for the future than FPTP or AV may prove to be the lessons we can learn from this debate about what party politics can and can’t do.
Tempting immediate party advantage aside, my own feeling is that AV can’t deliver much of real value. Focus is going to be far more important than fudge in the politics of the future.
Veering to the indeterminate (and necessarily hazy) middle ground is unlikely to be a realistic proposition in our fast-changing world. The rules of yester-year no longer apply, albeit they are the ones to which most politicians of all reasonable persuasion generally adhere.
To make sense of Britain’s future – environmentally, economically, socially or in any other important way – it’s necessary to see the absolute criticality of clear leadership for continual, managed change.
Woolly middle-way compromise of the AV sort celebrated by the LibDems, the consensus of the less politically defined, will not meet up to the vital long-term challenges ahead. Nor will the status quo of the Conservatives or, sadly, the self-proclaimed moral certainties of the Greens.
Only a major political party with outreach into all sectors of society can begin to address the real, inescapable, relentlessly morphing issues of the modern world. The Labour Party, bringing in others who choose to work with it, is the only political body in the UK which offers some hope of facing up to the fundamental realities of the future.
Which leads us to our main point.
It’s not, once the basics of democracy have been fully established, tinkering with the voting system which is going to ‘save’ us. Whilst, of the two options presented, I marginally prefer FPTP because to an extent it forces the issue on real political judgement, neither FPTP or AV are of themselves the answer (though I do think Weighted Voting might be better).
It’s inclusion, unremitting analysis and insight, vision and genuine leadership for sustainability which will provide a way forward.
Tomorrow night Tories may crow about retaining FPTP; but many Labour MPs and voters will too. Whatever, David Cameron still has Coalition problems not easily resolvable. And the LibDems are in for a rough ride, perhaps even one which sees Nick Clegg fall off his horse.
So is there now a left-of-centre strategy in place to move on from all this and meaningfully change the agenda to meet the future? Have we grasped the need to develop a strong progressive programme (as above) and stay clearly focussed on what’s most important?
Can the Labour leadership now grasp the real, enduring challenges and bring to bear the advantages to hand? Will they find the strength to embrace a critical mass also of others in politics (probably disoriented LibDems), such that present ConDem policies can be arrested whilst there is still hope of a different way?
Only time will tell, but let’s all try in every way we possibly can to make this happen.