Almost a years worth of campaigning is over and the public have had their say on voting reform. But what did the people of Ipswich in particular have to say? 36,287 votes were cast in Ipswich for the referendum, representing a 35.9% turnout. 10,859 voted yes, 25,428 voted no giving a 30/70 split.
The Yes campaign significantly outspent the No campaign. There were direct mailings, billboard posters, leaflets, stalls in town centres, online adverts and telephone campaigns. The Electoral Commission sent out an impartial guide describing the differences between the voting system. The referendum was all over the media; on the TV, in newspapers and radio almost everyday for weeks. I was so satisfied with the level of publicity that I did very little campaigning myself.
So what went wrong? Talking to non-political friends during voting week I discovered that they still did not properly understand the AV system, let alone the issues prompting the call for change or the potential impact for the future of British politics. A poll taken in March showed a small lead for the Yes campaign with a significant proportion of ‘don’t know’s. Over April and into the first days of May, it appears all of those ‘don’t know’s became ‘no’s. If you don’t know what the change is, then you probably vote for the status quo.
The first referendum for 36 years, a massive advertising spend and significant media interest. It was still not enough to encourage every potential voter to engage with the issues and make an informed decision. A strong democracy needs an informed and empowered public. Clearly there is a lot of work to be done!
You don’t ‘do politics’? You don’t vote? Then read this report from Friends of the Earth regarding palm oil in Indonesia. Palm oil is a cheap vegetable oil used in your supermarket doughnuts for example. As with everything cheap, somebody somewhere else is paying a high price on your behalf. Surely there should be laws against this sort of thing happening? Who passes these laws? Politicians that you elect (or not).
Get off your backside and make a change. Don’t like what any of the political parties are standing for? Then stand for election yourself, it’s a democracy, use it or lose it.