Here are three things that have contributed to the awkwardness surrounding the referendum campaign.
- Governments don't like referendums (the last and only other UK-wide referendum was in 1975) in case we cast a vote about them rather than on the issue. But this government is unusual since it's a coalition and the Conservatives and Lib Dems are split on this question. Heads or tails?
- Many supporters of Yes are only lukewarm about the alternative voting system (AV) because though it may be a bit fairer, but it's still not proportional. Most, though, would not go along with Lord Owen who advocates a No vote because he's holding out for proportional representation.
- Those campaigning for No don't want the public to realise that they're almost all Conservatives, hence their enthusiasm to put forward former Labour cabinet ministers. But where has the money for the campaign come from?
My verdict? I think the No campaign has been the more effective and may have succeeded. They've learnt some lessons from US politics and have played to people's fears. Negative campaigning appears to work.
Me? I'm voting Yes. Remember how you felt over the MPs' expenses scandal? Most of the worst excesses came from MPs with 'safe' seats. If you support tribal, binary Labour-Conservative politics, then the status quo has suited you well. But for many of us (and for Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland) politics is much more than a binary choice. So get used to ranking candidates by preference (or simply voting 1 instead of an X if you must).
What of the cost issue (the main thrust of the negative No campaign? By this argument, we'd dispense with all elections whatever the system because they're also expensive. So it's Yes to democracy. Make sure you vote on Thursday.