I've been meaning to write about this for a little while, but it seemed too trivial to occupy blog space in the run up to Easter. But now the referendum draweth nigh, and we must all make a decision.
I will vote no.
I realise that this will come as no surprise to anyone. As a Conservative, it was always likely that I'd be saying no. And if I'm honest with myself, I recognise that one factor in the decision making process for me has been that deep instinct to resist change which lies in the heart of every Tory. I hope, however, that this has not been the only or indeed the most weighty factor. I hope I am not deciding on purely party lines - although I do recognise that the Tories arguably have the most to lose under AV. I hope, as well, that I am not making my decision on the basis of so much of the campaigning from both sides, which has been thoroughly negative throughout. Frankly, the No campaign has sickened me, and the Yes campaign has also left me faintly nauseous.
To be clear: I am not voting no because I think AV would benefit the BNP - it wouldn't; I am not voting no because I think AV would be too complicated to understand - it isn't (although it is more complicated if one wants to vote tactically, but one ought not to do so in my opinion); I am not voting no to spite Nick Clegg - I rather like him; I am not voting no because AV would cost too much - if it were really better, it would be worth spending the money.
I should also point out that I am a Tory in a seat where a Tory hasn't stood a chance of winning for 20 years - one of the 'safe seats' which the Yes campaign have been talking about. It is frustrating for me. But I just want to point out that it is absolutely not true that my vote 'doesn't count' because of this circumstance; it counts just as much as anyone else's. It's just that not enough people agree with me to make a difference in the outcome. If I was really that bothered, I should get out there and try to persuade them, not complain about the voting system.
And that brings us to the heart of it for me. It's about what sort of politics you want. The Yes people have been saying that AV would force MPs to work harder, to appeal to a broader range of people. Doubtless that is to a certain extent true. Except that it strikes me that very often the best way to appeal to a broad range of people is to be vague, bland, unexceptional. I think AV favours that sort of MP. It encourages non-ideological politics. Now, you may think that is a good thing. There would be more consensus. But I think that politics is about having a vision of a better society and persuading people to get on board with it. Political differences are not, after all, purely a product of circumstance - it is not that those less well off must support Labour, whilst the wealthy support the Tories, and the wealthy with a bad conscience support the Lib Dems. These differences are about ideas - huge, significant ideas, about humanity and society and morality. And ideas need arguments. They need arguments to showcase their grandeur.
I think AV would stifle that. To pick up second preference votes - and in many seats, that is what will matter - you're best off being the guy the others don't object to all that much. I think it's a shoddy way to choose MPs.
But I invite you to show me why I'm wrong...