Labour grandee Lord Mandelson, a keen supporter of electoral reform, told the BBC: “It is going to be a very decisive No vote against changing the electoral system to AV.
“I think that’s very disappointing, but I’m equally entirely unsurprised by it. Nobody could have foreseen the extent to which the whole vote over the last 24 hours has become a referendum on the Liberal Democrats in general and Nick Clegg in particular.
“We paid a big price for combining the AV referendum with the first elections to be held following the general election last year.”
Lord Mandelson was critical of the handling of the Yes campaign: “The ground work was not done for this referendum. I think that the public felt the thing had come out of the blue as the result of some arrangement between the coalition partners and they didn’t see why AV was such a big deal.
“I don’t think they felt AV was the solution to many of the problems they feel are in our political system.”
When the history of the AV referendum campaign comes to be written, much ink will be spilled about the different messages and strategies of the Yes and No teams.
But for those interested in the digital war, it’s been a fascinating, real-time example of just how to use – and not use – the internet.
I’ve talked to both campaign teams and it’s worth giving a small snapshot of what’s been happening online. In a nutshell, Yes for Fairer Votes seemed more of a field-based collective, No2AV were more of a traditional political party.
As the #NotoAV campaign looks set to win
Whatever the result and despite the vitriol, both sides have a lot of respect for the different ways they engaged with the voters and their supporters. All three main political parties will be itching to get a full debrief at some point from both Yes and No.
Ultimately, as in any election, the campaigns may have been secondary to the core political messages on offer. You can have all the fancy social engagement and advert blitzes in the world, but it won’t mean a thing if the punters don’t like your policies.
Yet in a way, despite the expected low turnout, both Yes and No camps generated significant followings. Whatever view you take of the merits of AV, it would be a real shame if all this activism just came to a sudden halt.
See also, The Guardian: 10 reasons why the AV vote was lost.