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Rene Kinzett

Conservatives need to debate AV, not stifle ideas

February 13th, 2011 by René Kinzett

The news that the Conservative Party has excluded the official “Conservatives for AV” organisation from being able to hold a fringe meeting at the Party’s Spring Conference in Cardiff next month has come as something of a surprise.

For years the Party has been happy to take money from exhibitors and organisers of fringe meetings pushing ideas and policies at odds with the Party’s manifesto. Conference attendees will be urged to attend pro-EU meetings, anti-EU lunches, fringes organised by airport operators and breakfasts hosted by wind farm developers.

So, what is different about the debate to reform our electoral system? Why is the Party so keen to not only press its corporate message of “no to AV” but now appears to want to curtail any internal debate on the matter, too? Could it be that the No to AV campaign is losing ground and failing to inspire with its dull messages of negativity and half-truths? I trust that the No Campaign have had no bearing on the decision by the Party to deny the Conservatives for AV their meeting space at the Conference, but questions need to be asked of our Party Chairman as to the reasons for this departure from the usual commitment to open debate at Conference Fringes. I have written to Baroness Warsi and Andrew Feldman outlining my concerns:

Dear Baroness Warsi and Mr Feldman

After having read John Strafford’s article on Conservative Home, I am writing to you to urge you to reconsider the decision to not allow a “Conservatives for AV” Fringe Meeting to take place at the Spring Forum/Welsh Conference next month. I note from the BBC article that the Party is quoted as saying that it is “surprised” by the comments attributed to Mr Strafford as not such request for a meeting had been received. I am not sure how this has occurred as I saw a copy of the form, duly filled in and signed, prior to its dispatch last month.

I believe that there are many Conservatives who would wish to openly debate the issues concerning AV, its pros and cons. Conservatives do not take easily to being told what they ought to think, let alone what they should or should not learn more about. I cannot see why it is in the Party’s interests to close down debate within the Party on AV. I fully accept that the Party has a corporate policy of being against the change to AV, but the Prime Minister promised that all members of the Party had a free vote on the matter.

As Vice-Chair of the Tory Reform Group Cymru and as someone who would have been attending the Welsh Conservatives Party Conference in any case (and indeed would have applied to the Welsh Party to hold a similar pro-AV Meeting) I have copied into this email the Director of the Welsh Conservatives, Matt Lane.

Best wishes

René

Cllr R H Kinzett

There have been some interesting examples of the No Campaign becoming worried about the prospects of the May referendum resulting in a yes vote. The language of some of the No to AV campaigners on Twitter leaves many, especially those in the undecided category, distinctly turned-off. There was also the inaccurate listing of Michael Gove as a “No Campaign” supporter.

Then there is the question of the misrepresentation of polling data. The only recent polling to put the No Campaign ahead was conducted by YouGov for the Sun, with bespoke wording informing the respondent that the proposal to change the electoral system was a “Conservative/LibDem coalition” plan. All the polls which use the actual wording on the ballot paper resulted in a win for the Yes Campaign.

The No Campaign may not be able to put up any good reasons to stop people from voting for reform, but they really ought not to be aided by the stifling of debate or the gross manipulation of polling data.

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