Nick Cohen Nick Cohen

How angry are Conservatives going to be?

I worry that Coffee House sometimes fails to enrage readers sufficiently, so let me run a scenario past you, suggested to me by Rafael Behr, the Observer’s brilliant leader writer.

The AV referendum is going to be the oddest vote. Turnout will be low, but how low will depend on where you live. Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales are having elections for their devolved assemblies. One would expect turnout to be reasonably high in all three countries, and the voters to state their preference in the AV referendum while they at the polling stations.

The English are only voting in local elections, where turnout will be lower, and there will be no elections at all in London, Cornwall, Durham, the Isle of Wight, Wiltshire, Northumberland and Shropshire, as well in eight cities and towns, including Oxford, Cheltenham, Hastings and Nuneaton. Turnout for the referendum in all of the above is likely to be very low indeed.

Suppose that AV wins on a lowish turnout and by a small majority, not an unreasonable assumption, and that the votes of the Celtic fringe carry constitutional change over the winning line. How angry will Conservatives MPs and voters be if Scottish voters appear to have imposed an AV system they hate on England? A trifle irked, seriously discombobulated or volcanic with rage? 

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