HAVE you done it yet today? How did you feel? I don’t want to get too soppy about this, but putting a cross in a box in a national referendum should be an emotional experience. It is an issue of such importance that the government and parliament feel it is not a decision they can take themselves, and are asking you personally. With that little cross, you are having your say in the future of the country. It is democracy at its most sacrosanct.
Yes, I believe in referendums – just not this referendum. It is, you see, the wrong sort of referendum. This is not democracy at its best, but at its worst. And, as a result, if you haven’t done it already, I urge you to vote no.
Plenty of people have eloquently put the case against AV. My point is that we shouldn’t be having this referendum at all. Let me explain.
I have never before had the chance to vote in a national referendum – the last one was on whether we should leave the Common Market (as was) back in 1975, when I was eight.
In recent years, the prospect of a national referendum has been dangled before us twice – on whether we should ditch the pound, or sign up to the European Constitution. But both times we were denied it. But they would have been good referendums - asking people like you and me about issues we care about, such as relations with Europe.
But unless I missed something, before last year, no one actually cared about AV. I never heard anyone talk about it down the pub; not even in the most highfalutin London dinner parties did it muster enough interest to be worthy of discussion.
There were no marches for AV in Jarrow, or angry meetings in Bangor. This referendum is not about an issue that members of the public wanted to be asked about; it is rather politicians forcing a Westminster village debate onto the long-suffering public in order to pursue their own sectional interests.
That is why even a referendum-lover such as myself is so annoyed at this vote. I wait half a lifetime for the chance to have a say in a national referendum, and I end up with AV, of all things.
Now the only way to make sure this abuse of referendums doesn’t happen again is to punish those who demanded this referendum by hitting them with a thundering defeat – and that means going out en masse to vote no.
A marginal victory isn’t good enough – it will just encourage them to have another go. So, even if you haven’t made up your mind on AV, just vote no. This isn’t the question politicians should be asking us.
Anthony Browne is a senior adviser to London Mayor Boris Johnson