Tuesday, 15 February 2011


Nick Cohen is suitably withering about the launch of the pro-AV campaign on the Spectator blog:
I once vowed never again to mock celebrities who endorse political campaigns as if they were advertising two-for-the-price-of-one offers in supermarkets. But today’s announcement that the Yes to AV campaign has recruited Helena Bonham Carter and Colin Firth is testing my resolve.

It is not that I believe that celebrities should keep away from politics. They have as much right as journalists to express an opinion – indeed, when they argue for artistic freedom or libel reform they are more committed and more knowledgeable than most reporters are. But the Yes campaigners decision to propel Bonham Carter and Firth forward, along with Tony Robinson, Richard Wilson, Eddie Izzard, Stephen Fry, Joanna Lumley, John Cleese, Billy Bragg and Martin Bell is not an attempt to use thought-thorough expertise for a good cause, but a transparent manoeuvre to avoid debate.
The first calculation is that the public are fools. Glamour sways the plebs' minds and determines their votes. Let us hope they are wrong on that.

The second calculation is that when presented with a star, most journalist will go weak at the knees and forget to ask hard questions. If you doubt that I am right on that, try to imagine John Humprhys demanding to know of Stephen Fry or Joanna Lumley why they thought that AV would deliver “fair votes” when Lord Jenkins’ commission on electoral reform found that AV could lead to even more unrepresentative parliaments than we have now. Or Jeremy Paxman pounding Colin Firth to a pulp as he asks again and again why voters should trust him, when he all but apologised for urging them to vote Liberal Democrat at the last election?

The worst of it is that the Yes campaigners are offering us actors because they dare not present Nick Clegg to the electorate. AV is what the Deputy Prime Minister wants. The referendum is the great concession he received from David Cameron to justify his misbegotten alliance with the Conservatives. But he has become so unpopular as a result of that alliance, he will not appear in plain view and argue for his beliefs like an honest man.

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