Whenever those opposed to the adoption of something new – like decimal coinage, temperatures recorded in degrees Celsius, metric weights – have expended all the arguments against change, there is always one trusty old chestnut left, and that is that whatever represents change was Not Invented Here.
So when Labour’s John Reid stands up and declares the existing First Past the Post (FPTP) voting system as a “British” system – with the emphasis that the proposed change to the Alternative Vote (AV) would not be British – those shaking their heads and suggesting that the old bruiser has lost his marbles could not be more wrong.
Reid’s stance is utterly deliberate, and is one of the oldest dog-whistle ploys in the book. AV is being painted as “foreign”, as something that is coming to get us, something that will take away our rights, and is being imposed on the UK against its will. This approach speaks to the paranoid, the ignorant, the insular.
FPTP, on the other hand, is something of which Reid says we can be proud – more dog-whistling – and which we gave the rest of the world, which for some reason didn’t mind it being invented elsewhere, or being “foreign”, or imposed unfairly.
Reid doesn’t make sense on the logic of his approach, and it’s quite possibly a sign that the No campaign has not only reached the bottom of the barrel but also has started scraping, but it is an utterly deliberate and calculated approach.So let’s not be fooled, just because we can’t hear the dog-whistle.