A bank holiday to remember

What a bank holiday weekend. As the nation settles down to watch the snooker, two strong contenders for 'moment of the decade' occur within 48 hours of each other.

Royal wedding: John Woodcock
Royal wedding: John Woodcock

The absurdity of questioning politicians on whether the timing of the Osama bin Laden strike was altered to take account of the royal wedding can surely be attributed to newsroom pressures of running two enormous stories in parallel.

But while entirely separate, both are of course set to have enduring effects on the nation. The spellbinding marriage may well have a lasting positive impact on the public's relationship with its monarchy.

And while there could be immediate increased strain on our security services from attempted reprisal attacks, the battle against terror is unquestionably strengthened by the death of the evil mastermind who has influenced so many.

Yet for all the jaw-dropping news over the weekend, it is the fall-out of the depressingly turgid AV referendum - and the performance of the political parties in the local elections - that are likely to have more immediate impact on Westminster politics.

The naked manoeuvring of those with designs on the leadership of the Liberal Democrats suggests that this grassroots concern will bubble over into government relations in the coalition - it just remains to be seen to what extent.

But the conclusion of the AV referendum will mean a halt to the shrill excesses that have drowned out reasoned arguments from both sides.

I am voting yes to the alternative vote because I think, on balance, that it will be fairer by preventing candidates that are only acceptable to a minority of voters from coming through the middle to win.

But Nick Clegg should be disowned by his party for claiming that a 'No' vote will mean more 'duck house' expenses abuses. So should Conservative Baroness Warsi for implying voting 'Yes' could lead to race riots.

They won't be. But at least we won't have to listen to their nonsense any more.

John Woodcock is Labour MP for Barrow and Furness, and a former spokesman for ex-prime minister Gordon Brown

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