But the struggle continues. It was AV specifically that was rejected in the referendum, not electoral reform as such. The case for proportional representation for the House of Commons remains as strong as it ever was and was not tested by the referendum.
What next? These are my first thoughts:
- Draw up a manifesto It should make the points that (a) it was only AV that was rejected on 5 May; (b) the case for PR remains as strong as ever; (c) the reasons we need PR have nothing to do with any party's self-interest.
It is probably not a good idea to have Nick Clegg or Chris Huhne or any other Lib Dem fronting this initiative.
- Make it a campaign for PR With AV out of the picture, the campaign for electoral reform must be explicitly in favour of proportional representation. It's not just "change" – it's a particular change.
- Purge the pro-PR organisations The electoral reform pressure groups, all of which are pro-PR, have been horribly compromised by their enthusiasm for AV in the referendum campaign. They need new personnel and a new political direction. With notable exceptions, the Charter 88 generation has let us down.
- Back AMS not STV There are two PR systems that have significant support in the UK: the additional member system (used in German general elections and in the Scottish parliament, Welsh assembly and London assembly) and the single transferable vote (traditionally backed by the Liberal Democrats). AMS retains single-member constituencies but tops up the results regionally; STV uses multi-member constituencies. The constituency link is the key point here: drop it and you lose a key element of British democracy. AMS is also familiar to a large number of UK voters.
- Use Germany as a campaigning example The Federal Republic of Germany has used the additional member system since its inception – and no one could claim that it has had extremist governments. But it has had alternation of left and right governments and has seen the emergence of new parties, most notably the Greens.
- Focus on Labour After the AV referendum fiasco, it's clear that the only way we'll ever get PR is through a Labour government. It's a long shot, true, but there was serious support in the parliamentary Labour Party and among constituency Labour parties for AMS before the AV referendum, and it's probably still there.
OK, your thoughts please.