Sunday, 8 May 2011

On the AV referendum

I'm sad that Britain voted to reject electoral reform last week, and by such a big and politically incontestable margin. But there we are.

One thing though: those who fought, were imprisoned and even died for our right to vote didn't do it for the paper entitlement, but so that it could be used. Universal suffrage was resisted for so long because of the practical effects it would have at and beyond the voting booth.

I live in a massively safe Conservative seat in south-east England. You, perhaps, live in a nailed-on Labour seat in South Wales or Yorkshire. Under 'first past the post', if either of us doesn't want to vote for the dominant party, ours is a wasted vote - we might as well not do it. Moreover, the system we have just voted to keep encourages us not to do it. Far from it being incumbent upon us to vote out of respect for those who fought for our right to do so, we should be asking whether this is really what they intended.

It's ironic, too, that in a nation where there is widespread cynicism about politicians and about the point of voting, and that has falling electoral turnouts, so many should vote to continue to silence their and others' voices in this way.

I hope that very few of those who are so cynical voted 'No' to reform, as I'm not sure that they can hold both opinions at the same time. Or perhaps they didn't vote at all, in which case maybe they should have. For once.

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