Tuesday 3 May 2011

Old Labour wounds open over AV…

Margaret Beckett sounded rather frosty when I chatted to her earlier about Neil Kinnock’s comments in the Independent today regarding her and other Labour No2AVers.

In the piece Kinnock said: "I simply cannot understand how experienced colleagues can mistake the lessons of the last 60 years – that the Tories have profited massively from divisions in the continual anti-Tory majority.

"They must recognise the implacable truth – that first past the post is the Tories' lifeline."

He went on: "They haven't been able to explain why they're doing it, to me – they just give me knowing smiles and say first past the post helps us. Well, first past the post almost permanently put the Tories in power for the last 40 years."

But hitting back, Beckett (pictured below with Tory Chief Whip Patrick McLoughlin) told Lobbydog the reason the "anti-Tory majority" had not prevailed in recent history was that it had not existed.

The former Labour Foreign Secretary said Kinnock was guilty of “wishful thinking” if he thought the voting system was the only thing that had kept Labour out of power in 1983, 1987 and 1992.

She wouldn't be drawn on it, but it's hard not to ignore the fact that these were years in which Kinnock was leader.

She said: "When people go into an election they know that they are risking a particular outcome. They know what risk they are running.

"In the 80s and early 90s the people decided that the risk of returning Margaret Thatcher and John Major was less than the risk of returning us – it's sad to have to admit.

"But it's very wrong to suggest people didn’t know what they were doing when they made those decisions, but that they suddenly did know what they were doing when they voted Labour in 1997."

Beckett added that Kinnock had never asked her about her views on AV, but said she would be happy to explain them to him "any day of the week".

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