One of the curious aspects of the No to AV coalition in Britain is the way that conservatives and non-UKIP eurosceptics have taken a Pavlovian opposition to the proposed new voting system. Writing as a centre-right political activist and blogger, I find this to be quite perplexing, because it simply does not make sense.
The argument against AV made by some Tories is that AV will allow the progressive majority of the British people to finally unite, thus denying the Tories power forever. Ignoring the shockingly undemocratic nature of the proposition, what I find really infuriating about it is that it just isn’t true. It’s a loser’s whinge, that Tory values are the values of the minority. Yet why is it that in the US, Australia and France, for example, the right is not only able to win elections, but win a majority of the votes? Are Tories so unsure of their own values, indeed their own country, that the idea of an electoral system that requires candidates to win a majority of the votes available in a constituency sends them into a panic? Really? They believe themselves to be that politically ugly?
But that pales into the distance when one considers eurosceptic opposition to AV. To their credit, UKIP and Nigel Farage have recognised that AV could give them leverage and possibly even seats in the Commons, by allowing Tory voters to lend a first preference safe in the knowledge that it isn’t splitting the anti-Labour vote. Aha! Cry the No camp. Doesn’t the same apply to the BNP? No, it doesn’t. Even I, an ardent pro-European, accept that euroscepticism in Britain is widespread, popular, and held by perfectly decent people, unlike the foul brew offered by the BNP. Could a UKIP candidate in second place behind a Tory gets preferences from Labour and the Lib Dems in a way that BNP candidates never will? The answer is yes. Of course, perhaps the question hinges on as to whether non-UKIP eurosceptics regard their euroscepticism as being of less importance than their party loyalty? Perhaps. Funny type of patriotism, all the same.