This was real news to me, though in retrospect not all that great a surprise. I've seen enough going on in this business in my time, after all.
The Electoral Reform Society has pumped over a million pounds in cash, and a dozen staff and other "in kind" aid, to the Yes2AV campaign that is trying to persuade voters to go for the (ghastly) Alternative Vote electoral system.
That Society, though, has a very significant commercial interest in the outome of that referendum, as the largest provider by far of electoral materials. They'd do very well out of a change to a far more complex system and would make a lot of extra dosh out of AV than they do under the current system.
Unlike the "No" campaign, which has published its funding details openly throughout, the "Yes" outfit has been very secretive. Now we know why!
Now, one might perhaps try to find an extenuating circumstance or other get-out for both the Society and the Yes2AV campaign itself; but the latter has just pulled out of a debate due to be held in Leeds this evening, just after these revelations broke earlier today. They know they'd have been questioned about this and they know they have no satisfactory answer. It is the only possible conclusion one can draw.
With the "Yes" campaign seemingly farctionally ahead of the "Noes" in some recent polls (not all, admittedly) they must have thought they were well on the way to victory. This business must have a certain degree of impact on that now, though it is a side issue. It's that element of apparent impropriety that, at least in this country, can turn a result away from where it had appeared to be heading.
Let's hope it does; because the AV system is complicated, expensive, and allows fringe voters to have a more valuable ballot than a mainstream party supporter's ballot, as only the former will (after their first preference votes have already been taking into account) have the other preferences also counted in most seats.
It isn't a fair system, it isn't transparent, and it certainly isn't anywhere near "proportional". We don't need it here! Indeed, of the few countries that operate such a system, I understand that two of them are currently under significant internal pressure to abandon AV. It's dying out elsewhere, so why do we want such a ropey system here? I'm voting NO!