"So this is how democracy ends? With applause." So wrote the mighty French political philosopher Raymond Aron, and let's face it kids, he would know. The way certain segments of the political classes have been running around over the past week, one might think that tomorrow, the very fabric of British democracy is set to come to an end, followed of course by rapturous applause from the winning side. "The Queen will be handed over to France if the electoral system changes," scream the NO camp.
"Politicians will forever be corrupt if nothing changes," yell the equally shrill YES brigade.
Of course the whole thing is just froth and piffle. Yet the AV referendum is at least a truly wonderful betting event, given that nobody actually knows what will happen. Currently, No leads the way at 1.09, whilst YES trails far behind at 10.0. But in an unprecedented two-horse race such as this, the odds are at best misleading, and at worst, wildly inaccurate. Here is why there could be a turn-up for the books, and why we could all be giving it the AV, come Friday morning.
Here are the key factors:
With local elections for Holyrood / Welsh Assembly taking place on the same day, turnout for the referendum will be far higher in Scotland/Wales, than in England. It is no secret that the most hostile areas to the Tories are Scotland (where Thatcher's poll tax hit hardest) and Wales (Maggie's closing of the pits didn't go down great.)
If the NO vote is over-associated with the Conservatives, the greater number of YES voters pitching up in these areas, particularly North of the Border, could be critical. Consider that it is estimated that in England, just 15% of the population will bother to leave the couch and Come Dine with Me to go and vote. In the Scottish Election of 2007, over 50% of people voted. Even in Wales, the turnout was more than two in five. Watch the turnouts before having a punt.
Desire for change:
Following a year mired in expense scandals, politicians cocked a sneer at the 'difficult second album' by breaking lots of manifesto promises instead. And the electorate - well they were furious. If they weren't paying for their MP's duck-houses, they were having to fund their own education, or were being called bigots.
Even though AV will make absolutely no difference at all to the chances of any of this reoccurring, people might think it will, and will vote accordingly. 'Vote for change' cry the YES camp. It could be a catchy chorus.
Shaft the coalition;
Whilst much focus has been on the consequences for Nick Clegg were he to lose the vote, the real threat to the Government would be if David Cameron ended up on the wrong side. The Lib Dems have no choice but to stay in the coalition - the alternative is electoral suicide. Whereas if the Tory right fear for their seats following a YES, they could collapse the coalition and force an early election, taking advantage of Lib Dem weakness, for their best chance on an outright majority under the new system.
Those angry at the coalition (and there are many apparently), may find the chance to give it a bloody nose, irresistible.
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