Let’s AV It

YesBeing not a celtic troublemaker means I’ve only ever been asked for my democratic opinion through public plebiscite on one occasion before. 

And how embarrassingly wrong I was to reject the entirely inevitable collective response to an increasingly globalised world. 

But when you have Thatcher and the French on one side of a debate it is so very tempting to follow one’s heart before one’s head.  Gratefully we remained part of Europe and our nation continues to benefit financially – and otherwise – to this day. 

“But you get to express your opinion at every election,” I’m told.  Well this may be true.  Especially if at any stage my vote had counted for what it was meant to count for: the constitution of our parliament or local councils.  And to that end, not once has my vote counted at all.  Not once. 

Living in a ‘safe seat’ with an MP from a party I have never supported means that the formation of our parliament is made regardless of my input, or the input of others like me. 

And, unlike those overrepresented chippy celts with their fancy voting systems, we aren’t a small but vocal minority.  No fewer than half of the electorate’s votes had zero bearing whatever on the constitution of the democratic segment of our parliament. 

It’s as if Scotland, Wales, Northern Ireland and much of England had been denied suffrage completely. 

The opportunity offered in tomorrow’s AV referendum is by no means the best solution.  But it is almost certainly the best prospect of reform on offer and it is clearly an improvement on the anachronistic, discredited, and Conservative-favouring ‘first past the post’ system. 

A grubby compromise indeed: but the best chance we have to end the shame of accepting millions of wasted votes when the insistence is on keeping the single-member constituency link.

The campaign itself has been wretched, and best viewed from behind your hands.  The ‘No’ crowd’s arguments are based on the classic fear and greed of (small ‘c’) conservative campaigns:

 a) worry Middle England’s obsession with money by claiming the change would cost some exorbitant sum, a claim based on counting machines that the Government Minister responsible has already said will never be used;

b) claim that the new system is far too complicated.  A damning indictment of your electorate, frankly, and anyone that finds it difficult at this stage probably deserves MPs who take them for granted anyway;    

c) make ludicrous international comparisons that show AV to be used so infrequently.  No mention of course to the host of places where FPTP has been rejected and replaced by a proportional electoral system that would be far superior to our grubby little compromise. 

In all of this negativity and spin, a semi-positive message drops out like a brass ring in dung.  ‘One man, One vote.’  And it’s true, this tweaks on the consciousness of the undecideds.  But again, we shouldn’t forget that our existing system doesn’t give one person one vote.  It gives Two men, One vote. 

Something that the Yes campaign – unimaginative and uninspiring as it has been – might have fought harder to remind people.  If it had the money, or the media, or the leadership.  As it is, those like me who support reform will rely on the pivotal choices of Labour supporters. 

If the campaign is lost Ed Miliband shall doubtless blame Nick Clegg; but if the campaign is lost it will be because millions of Labour voters and supporters saw Ed’s message of support for AV, and they ignored him.  

So at that point I will have one question: if the Labour supporters aren’t listening to Miliband, why should anyone else?

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