Monday, April 18, 2011


AV Debate Subsides into Partisan Rowing

I note Paddy Ashdown has a rant against George Osborne in yesterday's Observer. Osborne has claimed that the fact that the Electoral Reform Society has backed the 'Yes' campaign 'stinks' as that body stands to make money out of a voting change. Yes campaigners claim this is nonsense as ERS does not envisage any use of voting machines under AV and is only one of six companies manufacturing ballot papers for a possible AV election. Ashdown condemns this smear as symptomatic of the 'old politics' he hopes AV will help to remove. Some hope.

Such an explosion of ire from the good captain would not cause such concern were it not for an article by the highly respected Economist columnist Bagehot, which accuses both sides in the debate of staging 'a mud-pie fight of spurious, partisan claims and counter-claims.' Both sides have eschewed patient explanation 'plumping for cartoonish exaggeration' instead.

Bagehot concludes:

"The Yes and No camps bellow and roar about the marvellous or horrible consequences of AV....Nobody dares predict a result: the opinion polls are close and turnout risks being very low, especially in London where no other elections are being held on May 5th. One question has already been answered, however. Offered a chance to engage seriously with voters, Britain’s political leaders rejected it. It seems that distrust between electors and the elected runs both ways."

Expect much more of this as 5th May approaches. I am giving a talk on the AV debate 3rd May in the Liverpool Hope University Creative Centre at 7.0pm but you can read my briefing here.

Of course I would vote no, if I were in the UK. But anyway...

On predictions...Paddy Power are offering 1/7 for a vote against AV, and 9/2 for a vote in favour. All bookies are heavily tending towards No votes. They are rarely wrong. And indeed if they are wrong, you would stand to make a pretty packet backing a Yes vote.
It grieves me to sday it but I fear you, and the bookies are right Michael.
I'm sure you'll be jolly interested to learn that I have meandered from reluctant "no" voter through reluctant abstainer through possible ballot-paper spoiler* to reluctant "yes" voter.

Either result for this wretched "wrong question" referendum will mean I'm unlikely to see PR in my lifetime but a Yes result might at least give a better indication of what voters' real preferences are at the next GE.

* I've been to enough counts to realise that no one of any great significance reads spoilt papers (no disrespect to our returning officer, his staff or my fellow candidates intended!).

My favourite was at the very first election in which I stood. Someone had carefully and neatly written "idiot", "stupid" and "fool" - one in each of the three boxes where the X might have gone. I'm a little sad that I can't remember which was next to my name...
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