The lamentable messages emerging from the campaigns in favour and against the Alternative Vote system have once again returned the state of debate to a lowest common denominator form of politicking. This is no different from recent electioneering that has encouraged the public to vote for the least worst option rather than a party whose policies they actually believe in. Leaflets brashly proclaiming that ‘Labour can’t win here’, or ‘A vote for the Tories is a wasted vote’ are prime examples of this.
So what then of the AV debate? The No campaign has placed the supposedly complicated nature of the AV system at the heart of its message, which is patronising and assumes that the electorate have little capacity to understand what is actually a fairly simple electoral system.
Meanwhile, the Yes campaign is pandering to peoples’ fears by urging voters to contradict the wishes of the BNP by voting in favour of AV. Making policy recommendations based on whatever the BNP doesn’t want is a zero sum and simplistic approach, and conveniently ignores the fact that it is conceivable that in some situations the BNP may fare better under AV than they do under First Past The Post.
Campaigns based on such negative foundations do nothing to reduce public disillusionment with politics and politicians. If these kinds of campaigns remain the norm, we will continue to see low levels of voter turnout and a general sense of apathy and antipathy. You can’t help but feel that democracy will be all the poorer for it.