Why I said no to No2AV
Six months ago, I wrote a piece stating that it would be in Britain’s interest to vote No to the Alternative Vote. AV was a “miserable little compromise”, which twisted the principle of ‘one man, one vote’ and could lead to a succession of additional coalition governments in Westminster. I continue to share these concerns about AV, and do not feel that some of them have been satisfactorily answered.
But in what was by all accounts the most boring, pathetic and asinine election cycle in recent memory, the No2AV campaign decided debase the whole affair by going slumming in order to, in appears, win this referendum. First, there was Baroness Warsi – an unelected, bigoted, poisonous, shrill washerwoman with no qualifications to sit in the Cabinet or speak publicly on pretty much anything – smearing the Yes campaign by saying that a vote for AV is a vote for the BNP. The BNP, to clarify, backed the No vote (though its supporters lent toward voting Yes).
Then there was the ridiculous, unsubstantiated claim that the implementation of AV would cost the taxpayer £250 million, which included the cost of buying new voting machines. David Blunkett today admitted this figure had been made up, stating: “We are in the middle of an election campaign. People in elections use made-up figures”. He added that AV “would undoubtedly cost more but I have used an extra £90 million”. Another fictitious figure, then.
No2AV forced me to vote Yes. They failed to make the case which could very easily have been made, that AV isn’t any kind of magical fix that those on the Yes campaign are making it out to be. Instead, their campaigners, politicians and activists took an extended sojourn in the intellectual favelas, indulging in mendacity and smears to capture what will be a dirty victory.
That AV will not be transformative helped me to come round to the idea. AV retains the constituency link, and offers a minor tweak to the voting system that might help to rid parts of this nation of Labour and Tory fiefdoms and rotten boroughs. It’s funny that, just two years after the duck-house hysteria of MP’s expenses, the public will vote to retain the very system that ensures corruption’s continuation.
“If, as most opinion polls now suggest, the Noes have it”, Timothy Garton Ash argues in today’s Guardian, “this will be a victory not just for the Conservatives, as a party, but for a small-c conservative, English view of how Britain should be”. Indeed, that we have missed the chance to slightly alter the way we vote for the better, and that AV may be crushed by a campaign based on lies, just shows what a calcified little navel-gazing island we truly are.