Those lovely folks at Ipswich Quakers are putting on a jam packed day of green goodness on Saturday 23rd of July from 10am to 5pm. See the Suffolk Quakers website for more details.
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!