Due to a combination of a national referendum on the voting system, impending essay deadlines and the fact I've been I've been living on my own for the last week, savouring the smallest morsels of human contact at supermarket checkouts and library helpdesks, I've recently been thinking about bringing back the soapbox-in-his-own-bedroom that in this blog. In fact, if I were a religious man I could definitely see this as some kind of spiritual calling, what with the whole resurrection vibe this time of year. Alas I'm not, so instead it's just me providing some added volume to the deluge of opinion washed across the internet. Despite the great benefits brought to society by such a technological behemoth as the internet, one big issue with it is that, as a forum for all, it too easily allows petty arguing and the peddling of mis-truths to drown out the voices that hold the most precision and clarity. If the ongoing AV campaign has achieved anything, it is proving that such symptoms of 21st century society are not simply confined to online.
There is strong argument to be made for a change to the AV system, and there's also a decent defence to be made of the current system. Unfortunately, both camps have decided to neglect such arguments and instead have indulged in a lamentable festival of gimmickry, deception and shit-slinging, making a vote people never really cared about anyway even less attractive. Whilst the country lets out a collective moan of pleasure over embedded hierarchies, deference to unearned wealth and all the other outdated aspects of our constitution this Friday, the Yes and No campaigns seem intent on showing democracy to be a similar scam.
The pattern goes like this: The No capaign levels an accusation at the Yes campaign. They respond one of either three ways- one, the claim is false, hey, we'll see you in court, two, the claim is false, hey, isn't Nick Griffin going to vote No, or three,the claim is false, hey, look at all the celebrities who support us. The actual debate on the issue moves nowhere.
No: AV will cost £250 million, killing babies and soldiers. In last years general election in Australia where the alternative vote was used, AV is believed to have been responsible for up to 12 infanticides and is also in the process of being court martialed for various military-based slayings. (The likely reason for the No campaign's focus on such a poor, distorted argument is probably due to their campaign is being run by Matthew Elliott, founder of bombastic, low-tax campaigners The Taxpayer's Alliance)
Yes: That simply isn't true. If you don't take it back we'll set Chris Huhne on you.
No: AV will let extremist parties in. Here's Baroness Warsi who we wheel out whenever we touch on minority issues to say so. We realise she's both unelected and wildly incompetent but we haven't got a whole lot to work with.
Yes: That nasty fascist bastard Griffin supports you, so there.
No: AV is a hugely complicated system that the electorate will struggle to get their simple heads around.
Yes: You underestimate the intelligence of the public. Look public, here's the wonderful Joanna Lumley. She sorted out the Gurkha's, remember, so she must know about politics. Well she's voting Yes so it must be better.
It's all a bit depressing. I voted Yes (postal vote), and genuinely believe it to be a fairer, more democratic system. A few months ago I was in favour enough to consider signing up to help locally with the campaign*. Unfortunately, the Yes campaign, baited by the No campaign, has become too focused on ephemera and likely hasn't done enough to overturn the prevailing sentiment in favour of first past the post expressed in the majority of opinion polls. We'll see on May 6th, but I fancy this may be rued as a opportunity missed, and all there'll be to show for it will be an 'outraged' Chris Huhne. I'd say the country loses.
*Kind of. I was in a bar in York where they have a noticeboard for local events and causes to advertise on. The Yes campaign had one of those posters where it's been sliced into strips at the bottom with contact details on for you to pull off. I went to pull one of these off, and ended up rather over-zealously pulling the whole thing off the wall. If the York Yes campaign ended up criminally understaffed I take full responsibility.