Well, I have news for James Landale. AV is not any sort of glittering prize. All it does is make sure that the MP in each seat is elected by a majority of the people. It does not make the system proportional across the country. At best, it's marginally better than First Past the Post, a tiny baby step to the reform we actually need. At worst, it's a distraction, a dead end, on the road to reform. In a post in which I outlined many good things in the Coalition Agreement, the AV referendum ended up in the "bring me the gin now" section. I wrote at the time:
Now, I know we could, some might say should, have held out for STV and gone into opposition if we couldn't get it. I have a whole load of sympathy with that argument. I would actually ditch the referendum on AV - it's a waste of money. Is AV worth us actually campaigning for? I wouldn't be bothered if this referendum never saw the light of day and we shouldn't have agreed to it.
I doubt you'd find many Liberal Democrats willing to die in a ditch for such a small change which won't necessarily make the voting system fairer. Yes, I'll vote for AV in the referendum, I suppose, although I'm more tempted by the idea of an STV write in campaign. My enthusiasm for it could be described at most as tepid.
James Landale needs to realise that the reason we went into this coalition was because the country needed a stable Government which would tackle the horrific mess Labour had left with the least possible impact on the poorest and would go the distance. Yes, we could have let the Tories govern as a minority and voted with a Labour Party that's even more irresponsible in opposition than it is in Government, but there would have been two disastrous outcomes from that: our economy would have been well stuffed, and a Conservative minority government, fed up at being able to accomplish nothing, would have gone to the country within months and possibly secured a massive majority. If that had happened, we could kiss goodbye to raising of the tax threshold, a pay rise for the lowest paid public sector workers, possibly had the range of VAT extended to things like children's clothes and books, had no levy on the banks or commitment to banking reform, an end to dangerous shorter prison sentences, no Calman reforms for Scotland and so on.
It was the right and the responsible thing to do for the Liberal Democrats to enter this coalition, but please don't think for one minute we did it because we thought we could get the Alternative Vote system.