UPDATE: The final result is in: No 67.9 per cent, Yes 32.1 per cent. A crushing defeat for AV.
The final result won’t be known for a while but it’s now official: Britain has rejected the Alternative Vote. The No camp has just passed the 50 per cent threshold (9.8 million votes) and is on course to win a landslide victory.
The Lib Dems have had plenty of time to prepare themselves for defeat but it’s still a desperately painful moment. The dream of electoral reform, and with it that of a permanent “progressive majority”, has been banished for at least a decade. Those who voted No to AV in the hope of securing a more proportional system in the future couldn’t look more foolish tonight. The debate is over.
The result is a significant boost for David Cameron, who chose to put himself at the centre of the No campaign after realising the damage that a Yes vote would do to his leadership. His ruthless interventions coincided with the dramatic rise in support for a No vote.
Cameron’s relationship with his backbenchers is often an uneasy one, but they are singing his praises tonight. Mark Pritchard, a secretary of the 1922 Committee, summed up the mood earlier when he said: “The Prime Minister has once again proved he is a first-class campaigner. There is no doubt that without his involvement the AV result may have been very different indeed.” Cameron has enjoyed one of his best days since becoming Prime Minister.
As for Labour, the prospect of an emboldened Conservative Party fighting the next election under first-past-the-post, having redrawn the constituency boundaries in its favour, is not a happy one.
I’ll post the final result as soon as it’s announced.