Referendum: three awkward truths

3 May

Here are three things that have contributed to the awkwardness surrounding the referendum campaign.

  1. Governments don't like referendums (the last and only other UK-wide referendum was in 1975) in case we cast a vote about them rather than on the issue. But this government is unusual since it's a coalition and the Conservatives and Lib Dems are split on this question. Heads or tails?
  2. Many supporters of Yes are only lukewarm about the alternative voting system (AV) because though it may be a bit fairer, but it's still not proportional. Most, though, would not go along with Lord Owen who advocates a No vote because he's holding out for proportional representation.
  3. Those campaigning for No don't want the public to realise that they're almost all Conservatives, hence their enthusiasm to put forward former Labour cabinet ministers. But where has the money for the campaign come from?

My verdict? I think the No campaign has been the more effective and may have succeeded. They've learnt some lessons from US politics and have played to people's fears. Negative campaigning appears to work.

Me? I'm voting Yes. Remember how you felt over the MPs' expenses scandal? Most of the worst excesses came from MPs with 'safe' seats. If you support tribal, binary Labour-Conservative politics, then the status quo has suited you well. But for many of us (and for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) politics is much more than a binary choice. So get used to ranking candidates by preference (or simply voting 1 instead of an X if you must).

What of the cost issue (the main thrust of the negative No campaign? By this argument, we'd dispense with all elections whatever the system because they're also expensive. So it's Yes to democracy. Make sure you vote on Thursday.

2 Responses to “Referendum: three awkward truths”

  1. Eva Kestner 05/05/2011 at 2:09 pm #

    It agree with you last senitiment and that the ‘NO’ campiagns has used negative appeal. But from a commication perceptive do you not think that the ‘YES’ campaign has been failed as they have not been very persuasive or be able to convey their message. They never seem to be able to counter the ‘No’ campaign claims,even teh false ones.
    Also,the ‘No’ campiagns tactics have brought up some ethical consideration about poltical campaigning. I think that some of their techiniques were questionable as the were communicating lies and playing on peoples fears to try and gain support. Not what I think potilical communication should be endorsing.

  2. Paul Seaman 10/05/2011 at 7:43 pm #

    There we go. Had I been in the UK I’d have voted no. I rate our MPs as mostly honest and hard working and worth much more than they are paid. I don’t think whichever way the vote had gone it would have made them any more or any less trustworthy. The most remarkable thing about the whole referendum was the humiliation of Nick Clegg (and the complete irrelevance of Ed Milliband). But having said that, the outcome – which was an overwhelming NO – should not be taken as an endorsement of David Cameron. In my view, the British people voted for what was good for them…not for their leaders. That suggests to me that a positive democratic spirit remains deep rooted in British society and that it is not easily influenced by spin from either side.

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