England sends A V-sign to Westminster – which sees it as a V for victory!

So the results are in: 4,824,357 (or 30.93%) say Yes to AV; 10,774,735 (or 69.07%) say No to AV. For clarity, that’s the result in England. Across the UK as a whole, it was 32.1% in favour of AV and 67.9% against. So England appears to have rejected AV even more decisively than the whole UK.

But hang on a minute. Turn-out in England was a mere 40.95%. Across the UK as a whole, turn-out wasn’t significantly higher (42.22%), despite fears that holding the referendum on the same day as national elections in the other countries of the UK would skew the result – although turn-out was quite a bit higher in Scotland (50.43%) and Northern Ireland (55.20%).

So adjusted for turn-out, only 28.12% of English voters rejected AV, while a pitiful 12.59% supported it. That leaves a further 0.25% of English voters (or 0.61% of those who bothered to turn out) who spoiled their ballot papers. Accounting for this 0.61%, the proportion of those who came out to vote that supported AV was actually 30.74%, while 68.65% opposed it.

OK, then; so the real totals in England are:

Yes        12.59%

No        28.12%

Spoiled        0.25%

Didn’t vote    59.05%

Who are the real winners and losers here? While it’s certainly a massive rejection of AV, this is no endorsement of the First Past the Post voting system used for Westminster elections. In fact, it’s pretty much a rejection not only of any actual voting system used for the Westminster parliament but of the whole Westminster parliament: a clear majority either rejected the non-choice that was being offered to them, thought Westminster-parliament elections weren’t worth bothering to vote about, or didn’t think about it at all, including those who didn’t even know a referendum was taking place.

So for me, the AV referendum provides categorical evidence of the disconnect that exists between the broad mass of the English people and the UK establishment that presumes to govern them – in contrast to Scotland and Northern Ireland, where a majority did vote in the UK referendum and are by implication more engaged by UK-wide politics, paradoxically because they are also engaged by the devolved politics of their nations, which motivated them to vote in their national elections. So England duly sent a V-sign to Westminster: either rejecting a reform that seemed like a devious tinkering with the existing system designed to lever more Lib Dems in to Parliament, or telling the whole worthless bunch of Westminster lackeys where to go.

But did the politicians get the message – did they heck? They immediately started to spin it as a clear rejection of electoral, and even broader political, reform; as an endorsement of the existing system of voting and governance; and as a sign of approval of the government’s focus on making the tough decisions on the economy and (English) public services necessary in the ‘national interest’. I heard both Simon Hughes and Nick Clegg for the Lib Dems, and David Cameron talking in such terms.

This is, however, by no means an expression of support for business as usual nor a ratification of the legitimacy of First Past the Post and the whole system of UK governance that depends on it. Just watch as the politicians conveniently ignore the fact that the clear majority in both England and across the UK either spoiled their ballots or did not come out to vote, and by implication rejected both options. But they’ll say that 68% of British, not English, voters support FPTP. Well, they don’t. For a start, technically, the referendum didn’t ask whether people supported FPTP but only whether they wanted to replace it with AV. I and millions like me – the silent majority – refused to legitimise Westminster rule over England based on either system. The fact that the politicians go on about the verdict of the people having been given is just a way for them to talk up their own importance and legitimacy; in reality, the people refused to give a verdict at all.

And by the way, thank you to anyone who might have decided to spoil their ballot or not vote influenced by anything I might have written on the subject. The politicians may ignore or misread the message we’re sending them; but for me, our silence is DEAFENING!

It’s a bit like the old ‘is he waving or drowning?’ syndrome. We’ve sent them a V-sign of contempt, rejection and indifference; but they think it’s a ‘V’ for victory for the established order.

Well, England says No: not just to AV but to Westminster itself.


One Response

  1. Funny how it’s all odd numbers.

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