Will the AV referendum take place as early as next May?

Will the AV referendum take place as early as next May?

Could the timing issue cause a coalition split?

As we recall the concession that finally delivered the Lib Dems as coalition partners with the Tories was the voting reform referendum and the measure was included in yesterday’s Queen’s Speech. It’s this, of course, that the Blues found most difficult to swallow.

The question that could cause a rift is when it takes place. According the the Guardian the LDs are pushing for it to be earlier rather than later with May 5 2011 – the day of next year’s local, Scottish and Welsh elections being suggested.

The coalition partners would campaign on either side of the voting reform argument which would make it much easier for the yellows in their first big post-coalition deal election test.

The May 2011 elections have been flagged as ones when Clegg’s party could come under severe pressure and to be seen to be against the blues on this big matter would make it easier to assert their separate identity

It would also demonstrate to supporters one big tangible thing that they got from agreeing to the deal.

It’s planned that the referendum measure will be included in a bill that will include other key changes such as larger constituencies which are equalised in size – a measure that could make the electoral system less Labour-friendly. This, it’s said, could take time and make it difficult meeting the May 2011 date.

Who is going to win the coalition timing argument? When will the referendum be held? Will Britain adopt a new voting system. All of these look like good issues for political betting markets.

Mike Smithson

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