When any politician goes in for extreme negative attacks, it’s always the last act of a desperate campaign. Phil Woolas engaged in his unique brand of slurring when it was obvious he was going to lose. This week marked the start of that type of campaign from the No2AV camp, with this blog and this advert:
For a start, the £250m is a meaningless figure. The No camp might as well have said that AV will cost us all four hundred squillion billion trillion million pounds, and that if we say Yes to AV then disembodied zombies will rise up from graveyards and devour our babies. Now I come to think about it, that is basically what they are saying.
Secondly, they seem to misunderstand how government spending works. Money isn’t being taken directly from maternity wards, out of the mouths of babes and sucklings (literally) and instead being spent on referendum publicity, or on vote counting machines. It’ll come out of the budgets for the relevant government departments that run elections.
Also, complaining about cuts would be more convincing were the No campaign not comprised of groups (such as the Conservative Party and the Taxpayers Alliance) who are in favour of, and are carrying out, massive cuts to public spending that will affect poor and vulnerable people. If you want a proper debate over public spending, then the AV referendum is a red herring. Also, they seem to have based their claims on the wrong electoral system.
Let’s face it, this figure of £250m is farcical. Apparently it comes from a report commissioned by the No to AV campaign. Which obviously means it’ll be a balanced, impartial figure. Maybe the Yes campaign should commission their own report saying that the referendum will only cost £3.50, and we can spend the referendum arguing over the cost of the campaign rather than the actual issues involved.
For this is what the No campaign are ignoring. They already seem to have given up trying to give us reasons to retain First Past the Post, and the referendum campaign hasn’t even really begun yet.
Of course, bringing in AV will cost some money. Probably not as much as £250m, but it will cost something. Yet surely cost is irrelevant compared to bringing in a voting system that will lead to a more pluralist politics, greater choice to voters and ensure that MPs have a proper mandate?
Except the No campaign refuses to engage in debate with the Yes campaign. Conservative groups who are in favour of AV have even been banned from the Tory conference, for goodness sake. What does that say about the No campaign’s commitment to a fair, open debate?
There are important constitutional issues at stake in this referendum that will affect how every single Briton engages with politics forever. Rather than debating these issues, the No to AV camp has decided to go for scaremongering. It’s immoral, abhorrent and shameful.