This morning I joined colleagues in the sun, manning our 'No To AV' stall in Harold Hill. We set up at the Hilldene shopping centre, an area that is reasonably busy with locals on a Saturday morning. In addition to the usual leaflets we had flags for St Georges Day and helium balloons which proved very popular.
Chris Philp who is coordinating the London campaign, joined us and we also had Angela Watkinson MP and local councillor Keith Wells in support. This is traditionally a Labour area but Keith is very popular, having ousted his opponent in 2006 and remarkably retained his seat against the trend last year.
We experienced a very positive response. All morning I only met one person in favour of AV, and I also met someone who refused to take part because the country is run by 'Freemasons and Israelis', a state of affairs that he felt would remain the same regardless of the voting system.
The people here are sceptical of politicians, and with good reason. Traditional Labour supporters, they were abandoned by Tony Blair and feel betrayed, particularly over employment and immigration. They have a historical suspicion of Conservatives too. Many said that we were 'all as bad as each other' but when we explained that this was a vote about policy rather than electing individuals the most unlikely people became engaged. Often they were surprisingly well informed about the choices on offer and the political reasoning behind them.
And perhaps we have stumbled on something here in Harold Hill? Would more referendums encourage public involvement? Voting systems are not exactly riveting so how much more engaging could other subjects be? A vote on European membership would certainly turn them out. What about a vote on support for the banks? Or a vote on the content of a new British Human Rights Bill?
I think that when you give people real power they will take more notice. When they feel their votes matter they will consider their options, and quite possibly take unpopular decisions. Perhaps they will turn to the news pages when they pick up the paper in the morning, rather than celebrity trash and sports results.
Perhaps something valuable will come out of this unpromising exercise after all - whatever the ballot result.