Something to say with Keith Newbery: No wonder people are wary of the alternative vote

DESPITE the best efforts of both sides to drum up some interest - with a motley selection of unlikely bedfellows being paraded across the media - the referendum on the alternative vote is dying a slow death.

It’s not that people aren’t interested, they simply fail to see what real difference a change in the voting system would make.

Whether the future of democracy in this country relies on first past the post or the first candidate to amass 50 per cent of the votes, the results are likely to be much the same.

We seem certain to end up with an undistinguished mish-mash of centre-left operators, all allowing their ‘principles’ to bend with each passing breeze as they cling to power.

Look at the state the country is now in thanks to consensus politics.

We have a so-called alliance which is unravelling from within as natural-born martyrs like Vince Cable and Norman Baker pretend to sacrifice their ministerial careers (which they never really wanted anyway) to save their principles.

We have a vacillating Prime Minister desperately juggling with the aims and ambitions of the right wing in his party and the left wing of the Lib Dems.

And we have messages emerging from Number Ten which are not so much mixed as positively perverse.

Firstly, David Cameron (with an impressive disregard for facts) lashed out at Oxford University for accepting only one student of black Caribbean origin last year.

It turned out that there were 26 of black origin and 14 of mixed black descent. But the figures are irrelevant. When our top universities start recruiting on the basis of skin colour rather than academic excellence we might as well all pack up and go home.

Within days (and feeling suitably upbraided) Cameron started blathering on about ‘controlling mass immigration.’

It was a ludicrously mischievous and inflammatory remark because he knows only too well he is helpless in the face of the influx from EU countries (27 and counting). However, it had the desired effect of sticking a barb under the Lib Dem saddle and won him a few brownie points from his own party for irritating the saintly Vince.

But if such pointless contortions are a mark of consensus government, no wonder people are wary of the alternative vote.

I HAD high hopes of Baroness Warsi - the feisty solicitor who was quickly elevated to the Lords. She came from working-class stock and gave the Conservative party a reminder of the straight-talking, no-nonsense characters it once cherished.

Now we hear she took advantage of a government trip to Pakistan to attend a family wedding - which meant a 160-mile round-trip with her security entourage in tow. When it comes to dipping into the public purse, it’s not in the same class as the ingenuity displayed by some ‘honourable members’ now languishing at Her Majesty’s pleasure.

However, the extent of the benefit her ladyship received depends on the answer to one simple question. What was organised first – the official visit or the wedding?