Senior Liberal Democrats were this evening poised to admit defeat in the British referendum on electoral reform as the first results delivered large majorities for the No camp.
Lib Dem minister Jeremy Browne acknowledged that the Yes campaign had failed to make “a sufficiently compelling case” to dump the first-past-the-post system for electing MPs and replace it with the Alternative Vote.
Counting was taking place in 440 local areas across the UK in the first national referendum since 1975, with the Electoral Commission saying that initial figures showed turnout across the UK ranged from 35.4% to 50.7%.
But long before the bulk of the votes were counted, post- mortem examinations were beginning on a referendum which some campaigners believe has put back the cause of electoral reform by a generation.
By chance, some of the first results in the AV referendum came in areas held by Liberal Democrats at Westminster – all of them delivering an emphatic rejection of the constitutional change which the party has championed.
The Isles of Scilly was first to declare, with 65.3% support for No, followed by the Lib Dem-held Orkney Islands, with 60.2% for No. The No campaign won all of the first nine areas to declare, with a thumping 70.27% to the Yes campaign’s 29.73%.
Mr Browne told the BBC: “It already looks like there is a pattern in place. I do think there is an onus on the people who want to make a change to make the case for the change, and the Yes campaign ultimately didn’t make a sufficiently compelling case.”