Historians take on businessmen in AV battle

By politics.co.uk staff

The battle for electoral reform took a strange turn today as businessmen clashed with historians in the letters pages of newspapers.

The Times published a letter by 25 eminent historians arguing against a move to AV, saying it would undo Britain’s democratic heritage, while 11 leading businessmen wrote to the Telegraph saying the alternative system would make MPs work harder.

“The cause of reform, so long fought for, cannot afford to have the fundamentally fair and historic principle of majority voting cast aside,” the historians wrote, in a letter organised by former historian and current Tory MP Chris Skidmore.

“Nor should we sacrifice the principle which generations of men and women have sought: that each being equal, every member of our society should cast an equal vote.”

The letter was signed by professor Anthony Beevor, Richard Evans, Niall Ferguson and Andrew Roberts.

Meanwhile, leading business figures were backing a change in the system.

“Parties would have to pay far more attention to the vast majority of people during election campaigns under AV,” they write.

“A vote for change on May 5th would be a victory for fairness, a break with a system of the past and a foundation for greater political stability. It would be good for the country and good for business.”

Neither letter was commissioned by the official campaigns around the vote, which will be held in May.

Meanwhile, Nick Clegg has revealed that he told David Cameron he was talking “complete bilge” during this week’s PMQs, after the prime minister criticised the AV system for being too complicated.

“We were very good humoured about it,” he told the Independent. “We mutter about it.
“We were just joking. We disagree on this one.”