May 17, 2011

AV CLUB IS ALWAYS SYNONYMOUS WITH LOSERS:

The electoral reform that no one wanted: As the post-defeat outpourings from Yes campaigners reveal, the 2011 referendum was an entirely elite concoction. (Tim Black, 5/17/11, spiked)

The billboard posters have been removed, the emails have stopped, the website has vanished… It’s almost as if the ‘Yes to Fairer Votes’ referendum campaign – you know, the one in favour of the alternative vote – never happened. Which, given that the referendum result was 69 per cent against AV and 31 per cent in favour, might as well be true. [...]

That the Yes campaign appeared insular shouldn’t have been a surprise. It was the product of a specific cultural milieu speaking to itself, not deliberately, but because the vast majority of us weren’t interested in listening.

May himself mentions the difficulty posed by the public’s lack of interest in electoral reform: ‘Another major problem was that the public awareness levels about AV and the referendum were very low so many of the early contacts made [through phone banks] were not Yes or Nos but “Don’t Knows” which were of little use to follow up “Get out the Vote” calls.’ And again, when talking about the need for members of the various lobby groups behind the Yes to Fairer Votes campaign to learn to get along, May explains that they are just too numerically small to do otherwise: ‘There isn’t enough money, media interest or grassroots support in this constitutional reform for people to be fighting their own side.’ [My emphasis]

Despite the Yes campaign’s best purple-clad, suffragette-invoking attempts to arrogate to itself some popular, democratic lineage, its very public post-defeat implosion tells a different story. The referendum was not the product of a popular struggle. It was not a concession won from a recalcitrant elite backed into a corner by the agitation and protests of the disenfranchised, whether Chartist or Suffragette. In fact, it had very little to do with the people. Rather it was the product of political class wrangling between the Lib Dems and Conservatives, with what external pressure there was exerted by a cronyistic band of professional lobbyists, from the Electoral Reform Society to Unlock Democracy. Which ever way you spin it, this was an elite concoction by and for an elite.

In this regard, the strange case of the 2011 referendum, a yes-no question that few felt needed to be posed, offers us a telling snapshot of contemporary UK politics. It appears as a game played by isolated cliques with the electorate cast in the role of largely unwilling spectators.

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Posted by at May 17, 2011 3:31 PM
  

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