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Out of Proportion

Out of Proportion

🕔27.Apr 2011

The AV referendum campaign really has been a damp squib. Any interest for those which do not get excited about constitutional and political reform has only been in the (alleged) spats between “Coalition Colleagues.” It really wasn’t meant to be like this.

Personally, I will be voting YES on 5th May. But the YEStoAV campaign has been pretty poor. No, it’s been abysmal. The messages have been far from clear; the argument has not be set out and it’s not had the right mix of champions to carry the case. The whole “make your MP work harder”thing has been silly. It’s far from the right reason or message to use. It’s about making your vote work harder. AV doesn’t sort out lazy or fraudulent MPs. Less MPs and a stronger legislature to stand up to the executive is what we need, but I digress. Meanwhile, AV is not proportional and is not likely to have a significant outcome on electoral outcomes, although the forecasts vary. Frankly, we won’t know until we get it and the electorate may need a few goes before they make full use of it. AV is not the system I envisaged when I signed up to Charter 88, but it’s a step in the right direction. I know there are some that only want a properly proportional electoral system rather than this ‘lite’ version, but if it’s NOtoAV next week, I fear there will not be another chance possibly for a generation.

A poor campaign is not the only reason a NO vote is likely to be first past the post next week. Poor timing – little run up and too much else going on rank high. The media has been pretty woeful, too concerned on the personality and Coalition battles to do proper debate and analysis in the main. I’m constantly aghast at their difficulty at coming to terms with the reality of Coalition Government. Meanwhile, let’s be frank. Apart from sad people like me and a few others, not many folk get excited by electoral systems, especially amidst austerity and wedding fever.

Next week looks like a missed opportunity. That’s a personal disappointment, but my real fear is for a Mayoral Referendum in Birmingham and the potential for that to be the subject of a poor YES campaign, apathy or both. I know a few brains are applying themselves to this challenge already, but this Referendum will need to go beyond a few political obsessives.

There is, of course, still time to prove the polls wrong next week. Whatever happens, let’s make sure the lessons are learned ready for the next Referendum we face in Birmingham.

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