Wednesday, 23 February 2011


It is hardly surprising that the polls are all over the place on the AV referendum: for the latest, see the ever-excellent UK Polling Report website here, showing a big advantage for the "no" campaign for the first time.

It could be a freak: previous polls have suggested a clear "yes". It's more likely that the vote is simply up for grabs because voters haven't yet made up their minds. So far, the issue has not engaged any but a handful of people – and in so far as it has my hunch is that the official "no" campaign's brutal right-wing populist bullshit about how much a change of electoral system would cost has probably made a rather bigger impact than the vague appeals of the "yes" campaign.

For a totally different take on the battle so far, see my good friend and colleague James Anslow here: he thinks that the "yes" crew won the first week of the campaign because, with its clear anti-politician message, it told a more convincing story about the issue than the "no" lot, which mixed up what it was trying to say by talking about the wonders of the existing voting system at the same time as whinging about its results.

This one will run and ... well, stop. It's been going for a week and there are only another 10 to go, and the arguments on both sides are being tried out with very little testing in  focus groups or opinion polls. Largely because of the almost unbeleivably tedious parliamentary wrangling over the legislation for the referendum, the issue has gone live very late, and the political class is playing rabbits-in-the-headlights on it. (On this, more anon ...) Both "yes" and "no" campaigns are poorly resourced and run by idiots.

It's going to be be extraordinarily unedifying, and I remain an opponent in principle both of AV and of plebiscitary democracy, but it could be spectacular and most enjoyable: with any luck, it is set to give us some very tasty political roadkill.

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