AV is rejected, but 71 per cent of the electorate do not actively support FPTP
It was, of course, the cost of coalition: the price the Conservative Party had to pay to entice the Liberal Democrats into forming a partnership in the first place. The promise of voting reform has been their long-cherished hope and ultimate political objective for decades. To be finally in a position to demand it must have felt like all their Christmases coming at once. The promised policy was theirs to shape, advocate and legislate for: it was the glue that not only appended them prosthetically to the majority party of government; it united them internally and bound them together: what’s a little electoral unpopularity compared to the holy grail of voting reform?
And so they debated, legislated, and toured the country to sell it. So important was this constitutional proposal that they gave the United Kingdom its second nationwide referendum in its long political history. And they lost (and they are bad losers). The country has rejected AV by an unequivocal 2:1. Only a few areas came out with a majority for a Yes vote, including Cambridge, Glasgow Kelvin, and the London boroughs of Camden, Haringey, Islington, Lambeth and Southwark. But every single region of the UK delivered a No. On a 42 per cent turnout, the rejection of the LibDem dream is beyond dispute: the people ultimately agreed with Nick Clegg that AV is a ‘miserable little compromise’.
But David Cameron is wise to forbid a champagne celebration. His Grace would like to point out that this result was not an endorsement of First-Past-The-Post, as some are claiming, since that wasn't the referendum question. It simply means that, given the particular choice between AV and FPTP, the British people prefer the status quo.
His Grace would also like to point out that a 42 per cent turnout is not anything to boast about: it quite obviously means that the vast majority of the electorate – some 58 per cent – couldn’t be bothered to be engaged. In fact, if 32 per cent of 42 per cent prefer AV, it means that 71 per cent of the entire electorate either actively reject or passively can’t be bothered to defend FPTP. This is hardly a ringing endorsement of the status quo, and by no means suggests that the issue of electoral reform has now been kicked into the long grass for a generation. In fact, without wishing to rain on the Conservative Party’s muted celebrations, it remains an argument for a FPTP / PR referendum.
But, please God, not before an In-Out referendum on our membership of the EU. For to ask us twice about something as trivial as how we vote before asking us once about something as crucial as by whom we are governed would be patronising, insulting, frustrating and infuriating.