Rule Britannia

BNP rally in full swing

Stiff upper lip and all that.

Two weeks ago, the eyes of the world fell on our dainty island and watched, tearful, as a pair of over-privileged socialites tied the knot in an exorbitantly expensive and somewhat incestuous marital ceremony. Many flags were waved and much alcohol consumed (at least it was in my case, mostly as a coping mechanism). The Union Jack was displayed in such force that it began to shed some of its nationalistic overtones. A bizarre patriotic mania gripped the country, and for one day, our streets were full of parties instead of stabbings. Despite my cynical assessment, the Royal Wedding stood tall as an example of absolute, undiluted Britishness.

One week later, and another more alarming British trait could be observed: the recent tendency to make shockingly poor decisions in elections. In retrospect, the warning signs were apparent on the wedding day. The proletariat masses, the same people whooping and guffawing as them there pretty people got married, were about to be asked if they'd like to make a relatively simple change to the electoral system to make our democracy fairer. They were asked, and they answered incorrectly.

Obviously, like any sane person whose skull contains a brain and isn't just an empty cavity full of spider webs and badger farts, I wanted AV to win. I am angry that it didn't. I have calmed down a bit since Friday night, when I returned home, pissed, and binge-ate a whole tub of olives in frustration at the result (although mostly because I like olives). Furthermore, I take a fairly dim view of anyone who voted No. Whilst I would stop short at calling EVERYONE who voted no an idiot, I would quite happily tar the majority with that brush. The remainder, those who possessed enough nous to form a coherent opinion, yet still inexplicably voted to condemn our democratic process to the dark ages for another generation, are guilty of no less than intellectual treason.

It may sound unreasonable to label the majority of the British electorate as either mentally destitute or treacherous scum, but I struggle to find an explanation which is equally compelling and succinct. The No campaign shamelessly exploited this stupidity, decrying the system as 'too complicated' and offering up all sorts of contorted bullshit metaphors to prove their asinine point. "Under AV the loser can win," was a common catchphrase you'd hear dribbled from the gaping gob of a No campaign dullard. Well yes, you could conclude that if you interpreted the results from one set of rules in the context of another, like winning a game of Monopoly with a royal flush, or triumphing in Guess Who by being the first person to ejaculate.

If you say so! Derp de derp!

A coherent argument which made perfect sense.

None of the other ridiculous arguments from the No camp should have stood up to even a second's scrutiny from anyone with more critical thinking skills than an illiterate horse rapist. "It gives people more than one vote" was the argument championed by those who either didn't understand the system or stumbled at the point in the process when votes are actually tallied to decide the winner (hint: it only happens once). "It's too expensive" was a bare-faced and cynical lie, exposed by a modicum of fact-checking. "It's not used anywhere else" was a shameless appeal to collectivist groupthink, the sort of attitude whereby you refrain from unblocking the toilet because none of your housemates have done it either. This happened to me once in university halls and it was unpleasant.

But the "it's too complicated" argument was by far the most disingenuous. AV is not a complicated system, but the way the No campaign portrayed it made it sound like the fucking Voyager space programme. Even if we generously conceded that the process of ranking candidates was significantly more complex than simply picking your favourite, my response would still be: so what? Life is complicated, the democratic system more so. How do people who struggle with AV cope with the trains? Imagine the scene at the ticket office. "I require a single train, which departs at any time, and takes me to any destination. Change at Basingstoke you say? Change at Basingstoke! That's far too complicated to be BRITISH. My grandfather didn't fight the Germans so I'd have to change at Basingstoke!"

The Yes campaign was far from blameless for its own demise. They failed to tackle any of the No campaign's bollocks head-on, instead puking up lukewarm, unconvincing tosh in lieu of actual arguments. This left it to noble mercenaries like me to go around threatening anyone who didn't vote Yes with horrific physical repercussions, including my own mother. I should have been in charge of the Yes campaign. It's very easy to make AV apply to everyday real-life situations, like purchasing a murder weapon from a hardware store (maybe they're out of your first choice, hacksaws, but there's a solid deal on claw hammers), or deciding which orifice to penetrate during sex ("The votes are in honey - I'm afraid it's the nostril again. The vagina narrowly lost out in the second round."). And so on.

The Yes campaign may have been ineffectual, but just as the truism tells us that you can't polish a turd, so too can you not persuade a group of turds to vote for you, no matter how polished you are. It's an unavoidable fact that human beings naturally fear change and tend to gravitate towards small-c conservatism, which I am willing to accept as a piss-weak reason for voting No. But some pundits hypothesised that a lot of No voters were casting their votes purely as an act of sabotage against Nick Clegg and his not-so-merry men. This sort of infantile 'fuck-you' voting was definitely apparent in the local election results, in which the Lib Dems took a pounding for their numerous imagined parliamentary transgressions. Like that MP who proposed an extra bank holiday just for paedophiles, or the one who wanted to criminalise Sunny Delight. Probably. I don't remember the details.

The thought that people actually vote like that, with such myopic ignorance, genuinely sickens me. I am burdened with that thought as I walk to work; the thought that anyone I pass may have voted No to AV because they reckon Nick Clegg is a sexual deviant who gets aroused by sewerage, or because he's got a face like a clinically depressed llama, or because they thought AV was some sort of disease the gays have. One day, when it all gets too much, I will be walking along and will suddenly wretch, violently ejecting my stomach contents over pavement and pedestrians both, my digestive system succumbing to a physical impulse which has been manifesting emotionally for years. I will collapse to the floor, onto my hands and knees, mucus and bile dripping from my face, and I will stare at the earth and feebly proclaim, "you people make me sick!" This will probably result in me being subjected to some sort of mental health assessment, during which I will do nothing but shout, "BUT WHO IS TRULY INSANE?" repeatedly, with the same intonation. Hopefully after that I'll make a full recovery.

So, the British public are, overall, cretins. That is neither an original nor a particularly insightful conclusion, but it is a simple one, which I believe lends it a poetic air given the tone of the debate which surrounded the AV referendum. I have honestly tried to reconcile this pithy conclusion with the thought that the vote on AV was merely an invitation to express an opinion, and surely everyone is entitled to an opinion. Am I narrow-minded for castigating those whose opinion differs from mine? Perhaps. I am also narrow-minded for a variety of other reasons. But ultimately, this referendum was about more than opinions, privy as they are to retrograde partisanship and inane prejudices. It was about how we move forward as a democracy, in an increasingly diverse and despondent society. Whilst not perfect, I sincerely hold that AV was what we needed, and we fucked up, collectively. We won't get this chance again. We blew it.

Boys don't cry, Nick.

Thanks a lot, Nick.

Permalink || Posted 8/5/2011 by Pete


  1. Ken Bigley - 8/5/2011 - 7:53pm

    If I'd of been alive I would have voted yes Peter. Unfortunately my head gt chopped off :(

  2. Fat_Kev - 8/5/2011 - 11:45pm

    I couldn't agree more with this.

    Today I found out my mother and father voted no :(

  3. Elliott - 9/5/2011 - 11:44am

    Our politics in a nutshell:

  4. Heston Blumenthal - 9/5/2011 - 9:35pm

    The penultimate paragraph right put me off my meal.

    But then I realised I was eating vomit, mucus and bile and I chuckled to myself and gobbled the whole thing up.

  5. danny - 9/5/2011 - 10:32pm

    I could not have wordes it better. Best written article i have read in a long time.

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