If there was any doubt in my mind about which way to vote on AV, the ‘no’ campaign has helped clear up the matter. The patronising force-feeding of crudely couched untruths and malevolent over-simplifications instead of presenting us with a well thought-out list of arguments and cogent analysis shows the present system up for all of its flaws.
Is it because they think we wouldn’t get our feeble heads around their elevated and lofty arguments? Is it because they don’t know why they are against it themselves they just know that they don’t want change? Is it because they know that if they tried to build a solid case for opposing AV it would stand up as robustly as a house of cards in a sandstorm?
So let’s take the only semblance of an argument that we have been slapped with. That AV would cost the country too much – soldiers would be mercilessly slaughtered and babies would die horrific lonely futile deaths. Errrm, pardon? Does this mean that no reform should ever be made because it costs money? Were the NHS/ welfare/ public health acts/ universal suffrage/ abolition of slavery gross errors because they were administratively costly to set up?
And how can the tories, sorry the ‘No’ campaign, sleep at night after a day of flogging the “let’s not waste money” argument given the millions of pounds our intervention in Libya is scouring from the public purse? Are they saying that attacking Gadafi – while not an entirely pointless cause admittedly – is more of a priority than making MPs win without being a minority candidate?
No, the truth is that the ‘no ‘campaign doesn’t know why the hell it is against reform. It just is. And rather than let the weight of their arguments win us over, expecting the natural British fear of change to prevail, they are simply dripping a few gory nightmare scenarios into the collective unconscious to keep us all afraid.
So if that’s the way it’s going to be played, then I’m voting ‘yes’. If we’re tossing any considered intellectually approach down the toilet – or even just doing what’s right for the country – and voting based on crude emotions, then my overriding feeling from this coarse campaign is revulsion at the way it’s been fought by the reactionary ‘no’ campaign.
It demonstrates why we need reform. Being fed clumsily constructed arguments and patronising half truths to win votes is exactly what has caused the UK system to alienate voters. It’s the same old conservatism. Assuming victory over a population so dumb that sledge-hammer campaigning is all it takes.
It leaves a rotten taste in the mouth that won’t go away. The only slight amuse bouche for me is knowing that a resounding defeat for AV, which I fear might be the result, will be nothing but a pyrrhic victory. If the ‘yes’ campaign loses, what possible reason have Clegg/ Cable (or more to the point the lib dems in the coalition who have kept their integrity) got for staying at the party? All the awkward flirting that’s been going on might suddenly seem a little hollow when the liquor of potential voting reform has dried up and the lib dems are left with a hangover that takes hold instantly and painfully.
Perhaps then, when the lib dems have finally left a gathering most of them didn’t want to attend anyway, and the conservatives realise they are back to square one – without a majority – they’ll wish they’d given people the facts about AV…