Now the demeaning little farce of the AV referendum is over, we can appreciate just how absurd was the pretence that tinkering with our voting system might somehow have given us any greater degree of “democracy”. In no way did it address the real crisis of our politics, which is that any real semblance of democracy in how we are governed has all but drained away.
It is not just that the political class which has allowed us a referendum on this trivial sideshow has denied us one – despite its promises – on the far more significant abdication of our power to govern ourselves that is implicit in the Lisbon Treaty, aka the EU constitution.
As I seem to frequently have to say to people who talk in this tone "yes, and that's terrible, now what practical fucking solutions can you find to change it?".
The problem of blaming the political parties for being pro-EU is that it's as futile as blaming a lion for chasing you when there's no gazelle around for lunch. Blaming the lion isn't a solution. Running away, getting in a car or shooting it are.
The thing is that I've looked long and hard at politics and watched elections, and seen the vote share diminish over time, and I've looked at comparative facts, considered incentives, looked at how parties have acted and basically the ONLY way you'll get anything done about the EU was to have supported the AV referendum.
Let me try to explain:-
1) Duverger's Law. This means that people will generally tactically vote which means that people will vote to keep the other side out.
2) Duverger's Law. Which means that parties focus their efforts on the voters at the centre because they know that the hardcore voters will vote for them anyway, even if they'd prefer the other guys. The result being that they pick watered down policies that are a fag-paper's width apart.
3) Duverger's Law. And because people tactically vote, it signals to people that other people would like that party, leading to people voting for those parties again and creating something of a vicious cycle.
At some point parties will grow enough that people might think it's worth backing them to try to push them up to win, because they have a chance. How long does this take? Well, it took the SNP about 33 years to get 1 seat. They now have 6 seats after being in existence for 70 years. The Green Party have 1 seat after 37 years. Plaid Cymru have 3 seats after 85 years. UKIP have 0 seats after 17 years.
I'm not going to make any claims that electoral reform will deliver an EU referendum. That would be dishonest. But I will say this: you absolutely, positively, definitely won't get an EU referendum without some form of electoral reform for half a century.