The nation went to the polls on Thursday to determine whether to replace the First Past The Post electoral system with the Alternative Vote, in only the second ever national referendum.
Kathleen Shields, former co-chair of Oxford University Labour Club, is against AV despite the fact that it is supported by many top Labour MP’s including Ed Milliband. OULC have also taken the formal position of being pro-AV.
She commented, “I stand by FPTP because I believe that the candidate with the most votes should win, not the runner-up who has scraped the most second preferences….a switch to AV would be an expensive reform that Britain just can’t afford.”
However, Robin McGhee, the Oxford University Liberal Democrat’s Co-chair deemed AV, “an essential step to truly revolutionary change.”
He added, “It’s been really brilliant to work alongside passionate Labour activists for democratic change. For Labour supporters opposed to change, I really can’t say anything that isn’t very sweary.”
A study carried out by the Electoral Reform Society last year suggests that had the 2010 General Election been held under AV, the Lib Dems would have gained 79 seats rather than 57, with the loss of 26 seats for the Conservatives, and Labour’s result almost unchanged.
Oxford would have had two Liberal Democrat MPs if the last General Election had been held under AV, according to a study by academics at Essex University.
Angela Cummine, a PhD student at New College said, “Interestingly, the majority of second preferences of both Conservative and Labour voters would go to the Lib Dems”.
Outside the polls yesterday, Bex Hall, a first year Geography student at Jesus told Cherwell she was voting no because “It’s a huge waste of money while the country has bigger issues to be tackling.”
Her friend Megan Lynch disagreed, saying, “It is important to vote yes because constitutional reform underpins everything else you do. If we change the voting system then we can also change the ‘bigger issues’.”
On the road with YES
The Yes to AV campaign, organised in Oxford by Fairer Votes Oxfordshire, had campaigners leafleting the crowds on Cornmarket Street on Sunday, trying to get their message across of “fairer votes” and “real democracy”.
On Tuesday supporters gathered to see stand-up comedian Eddie Izzard on a “mad-dash around the city centre on a tricycle”.
One supporter offered Eddie a set of cupcakes spelling out ‘AV OR DEATH’. Another derided the No campaign, calling it full of “misinformation” and “scaremongering nonsense”.
When asked by Cherwell how he felt the campaign had gone, he commented on the positive responses that he had received “when you get out to talk to people – when you explain how simple it [AV] is”.
Izzard also associated the No campaign with the Conservative party, calling them, “the dementors from Harry Potter”.
On the road with NO
As Thursday’s referendum on the Alternative Vote drew nearer, and the polls showed a considerable but by no means conclusive lead for the No camp, the Oxford No to AV campaign had certainly not given in to complacency.
Campaigners were handing out leaflets on Cornmarket Street throughout the weekend, while the Oxford University Conservative Association, which described the proposed change as a “ludicrous reform” in a recent message to its membership, has organised campaigning in Abingdon on Monday, and throughout Oxfordshire on the day of the referendum itself.
Sam Robberts, a member of OUCA who planned to canvass for a No Vote on Thursday, emphasised the fact that the current First Past the Post system, by which MPs are elected, retains the idea of “one person, one vote”, which he claimed to be a historical principle on which British democracy is founded.