Coverage of the alternative vote referendum may have been massively overshadowed by first the royal wedding and then the death of Osama Bin Laden – but yesterday and today national newspapers have been nailing their colours to the mast on the issue.
Only three of the Fleet Street nationals this week urged their readers to vote ‘yes’ to AV in today’s vote: The Guardian, Independent and Daily Mirror.
The FT does not mention the vote in its leader columns this week – but the Lex column does state that there is no economic reason not to vote in the new system. The FT did however back AV with a leader comment on 25 April.
The Independent has campaigned for electoral reform since 2005, and urges readers to ‘just say yes’, claiming AV will be a step towards a more fully democratic voting system.
“The polls point to substantial lead for the no campaign, [but] there are still 24 hours left to change the system.”
The Guardian claims AV is a fairer alternative that will help to put the majority rather than the minority in charge.
“The alleged complexities of the alternative vote have been overstated. What’s not to understand about one, two, three?”
The Daily Mirror urges a ‘yes’ in today’s referendum, even though it says the yes campaign has been poor and “ineffective”.
“The temptation to give turncoat Mr Clegg a kicking is understandable. Resist it. David Cameron – the Prime Minister who prefers to leave his hapless mini-me to carry any political can – should be the real target.”
The Financial Times said (on 25 April): “This newspaper does not see change as a panacea. But there is a case for Britain switching its existing first-past-the-post system – which offers a simple choice but has become less representative in an era of multi-party politics – for the alternative vote.”
‘Make it a resounding no”, says the Daily Express.
‘Remember to vote on Thursday or a noisy minority may still sneak a thoroughly undeserved triumph.”
The Sun says the alternative vote system is too difficult for anyone to understand:
“Hardly anyone understands AV. And hardly anyone wants it apart from flaky Lib Dems. But to kill it off, it’s vital you turn out and vote NO in tomorrow’s referendum.”
The Evening Standard yesterday split with its Alexander Lebedev-owned stablemate The Independent and said ‘no’, sharing the Sun’s view that AV is too complex.
“A yes vote could change a simple and universally understood system to a much muddier one.”
“The reason why we are having this referendum at all tomorrow is not because the issue is of burning urgency to most voters. We are voting on AV because […] it was the price of the Lib-Dems’ participation in the Coalition; voting reform matters to them because of their position as the perpetual bridesmaid of British politics for most of the past century.”
The Daily Telegraph worries that the yes campaigners could win by default, as reformers are more likely to take part in the referendum than those who don’t care. The Telegraph urges voters to put a stop to the “destructive meddling” of a “clique of political insiders”.
“This referendum is a thoroughly unwelcome distraction from the far more pressing matters facing the nation […] It is important […] that all those opposed to AV go to the polls.”
The Times shares the Telegraph’s concern that if those who are indifferent do not turn up to vote, it will lead to an unwanted change in our electoral system.
In a leader comment headlined “Just Say No”, The Times says: ‘A serious democracy ought not to sleepwalk into changing its electoral system, especially when the case for change has not been made.”
The Daily Mail urges all its readers to vote ‘no’, and refers to Winston Churchill calling AV the “stupidest and the least scientific” of voting systems. According to the Mail, surveys show that the more people know about the Alternative Vote electoral system, the less likely they are to support it.
‘The campaign was slow, decidedly lacklustre and…poisoned by the lies, cynicism and personal insults of the desperate yes camp.”
“Don’t wake up in a few days’ time to find out that the country has sleepwalked into disaster. Vote no.”
Note: This story previously said that only three UK nationals were backing AV, having missed the FT leader column of 25 April.