Leading article: The No campaign is built on fear and cynicism

The No to AV camp does not have a very high opinion of the intellectual capabilities of the British public

Share
Related Topics

Earlier this week, David Cameron argued that adopting the Alternative Vote will do "nothing to rebuild trust in politics". It is a dubious contention. The requirement under AV for MPs to have the support of a majority of local voters should strengthen the link between politicians and the general public. But what is likely to be detrimental to trust in politics, however, is the unscrupulous and deeply cynical manner in which the No camp has run its campaign in recent weeks.

AV is certainly not a perfect electoral system. There are decent arguments that can be made against it. AV can enhance majorities in landslides. And it is not a proportional system either. These are not overwhelming arguments against the reform on offer in next month's referendum. The benefits outweigh the drawbacks. And for all its faults, AV is still vastly superior to first-past-the-post. But these are, nevertheless, serious arguments and ought to be at the heart of the debate over the coming weeks.

Yet the No campaign has not bothered itself with any of these points. Instead, it has resorted to cynical scaremongering, in order to frighten the public away from backing reform. The Conservative Party chair Sayeeda Warsi has argued that AV will be a great boost to the British National Party. Coming from a politician who claimed in 2007 that BNP voters have "some very legitimate views" on immigration, the hypocrisy is clear. But more importantly, there is no evidence to support the contention that racist parties such as the BNP would benefit from AV. Indeed, the BNP themselves are urging their supporters to vote No next month.

These claims about the BNP are merely one manifestation of the cynicism of the No campaign. They have produced posters claiming that the cost of moving to AV would be £250m and implying that this money would be better spent on maternity units and body armour for British troops. Again, the hypocrisy sticks in the throat. The biggest supporters of the No campaign are also those who have been most vocal in calling for cuts in public spending.

But this £250m figure is, in any case, spurious. Some £90m of this would be spent on the referendum in any case, and would not be saved in the event of a No vote. And around £130m of that figure is predicated on the assumption that expensive new electronic counting machines would be introduced. The flaw here is that those expensive machines are a figment of the No campaign's imagination: there are no plans to introduce any such technology.

The No campaign has also tried to smear the Yes campaign over its funding. It claims that the Electoral Reform Society, which is supporting the Yes campaign financially, has received millions of pounds of taxpayers' money. This is deeply misleading. A commercial subsidiary of the ERS has been paid by local councils in recent years for printing ballot papers. The No campaign maintains that this creates a conflict of interest. But for that claim to be credible there would have to be big money to be made by the ERS from a switch to AV, which simply is not the case.

The No campaign does not appear to have a very high opinion of the intellectual capabilities of the British public. It presents AV as "complicated". But the public is surely capable of listing candidates in order of preference. This already takes place in some local elections and voters have managed perfectly well. Yet perhaps the greatest insult from the No camp is that it expects the public to swallow its misrepresentations and exaggerations without wondering about the motives of those serving up this propaganda.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Recruitment Genius: Graphic Designer - Immediate Start

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Dom Joly owns a pig. That thinks it's a dog.  

I'll bow out. Let Wilbur, the pig that thinks it's a dog, bring home the bacon

Dom Joly
 

Forget charging by the page - with books, heart matters more than heft

Katy Guest
The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'