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Would the Conservative Party "go demented with fury" if England rejects AV but "a Celtic yes" kills First-Past-The-Post?

Tim Montgomerie

I ask because Andrew Rawnsley posed the question in The Observer yesterday:

"The double nightmare scenario for David Cameron is that the result is swung in Scotland and Wales where there is a higher turn-out because the referendum coincides with the elections to the Edinburgh Parliament and Cardiff Assembly. Elements of the Conservative party will go demented with fury if England says no but a Celtic yes vote wins it for AV. The Thatcherite former Scottish secretary, Michael Forsyth, has already described such a outcome as "rigged", which implies he and other Tories might try to resist the introduction of AV on the grounds that the result was not legitimate. One senior Conservative MP on the right predicts that Tories will go "completely mad" if they lose the referendum – to the extent that they might even jeopardise the coalition."

"Demented fury" is not the kind of language I would use but if Wales and Scotland does vote "Yes" by a large enough margin to overwhelm an English "no" it would certainly vindicate those MPs who said that the referendum should not take place on the same day as the elections to Holyrood and the Cardiff Assembly.

A "Celtic yes vote" is more likely to overwhelm an "English no" if turnout in England is low - vindicating those like Lord Lamont who said there should be a 40% threshold.

Whatever the referendum result - and however it comes about - Ed Miliband will be able to get in the popcorn and enjoy the Coalition fallout. The Coalition will endure (neither party wants to bring the government down and face the voters) but either Clegg or Cameron will face serious internal party unhappiness. What we cannot have is any attempt to overturn the result. The rules for the referendum might not be as some of us would have wished but I can't think of anything more likely to increase disdain for MPs than if they vote to reject the people's decision. Let's leave that kind of thing to Brussels and EU Treaty votes.


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