And they’ve said No to AV, as is their right. It’s a dark day for electoral reform, because although many on the Yes side will say that they voted against AV and not in favour of FPTP, a result is a result. In a national referendum, they voted to keep the status quo.
What now for the Lib Dems, for whom electoral reform is the golden calf? It’s a tough one, with the anti-reform Tories now surely emboldened to try to block reform where they can, by, say, dragging their feet on House of Lords reform.
I do hope that some academics do a study as to why people voted No. I’d love to know, for example, what proportion of both Yes and No voters actually understood AV. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not playing the old “the voters are stupid” card, because I’m not. But I do find it hard, coming from a PR background, to understand how people can vote for a voting system that can have such huge discrepancies between how people vote and the result. Does the average Brit know that, or maybe it just does not matter to them? Today’s result shows that the blunt instrument of FPTP is a system that a very substantial number of Brits are happy enough with, or at least, not bothered enough to change.
Yet, consider this future news broadcast:
“…and if you’re just joining us here on Election 2015, the news is that despite winning over half the votes of the British people between them, the first government to do that since 1931, the Conservative/Liberal Democrat coalition has been ousted by Ed Miliband’s Labour party, despite Labour having received less votes than the coalition.”
I’d be outraged at such an outcome, but seemingly the average Brit wouldn’t be.
The one sliver of hope is that FPTP has within it the seeds of it’s own destruction, that with the growth of the SNP and UKIP and the Greens that eventually it will throw up a result so divorced from how the public voted that it’ll force electoral reform back on the agenda.
And to my friends in the Yes campaigns, be strong. I remember the night of the Nice Treaty, when I realised that the majority of the people in the country I live in voted against the values I hold most dear. For the first time in my life, I was in a marked minority. I know what you’re feeling now, that aching vacuum of all that work and passion and hope. It hurts. But it will pass, I assure you. The morning does come. We have seen dark days of terrible despair. We’ve seen people told not to sit on lunch counters or sit at the front of the bus. Then we saw the son of a Kenyan immigrant elected President of the United States. Things change.
When we lost Nice, we cried and despaired too. We licked our wounds, and learnt our lessons, and organised, and came back.