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Alternative Vote referendum: The YES side is staring at defeat

August 22nd, 2010 Posted in AV referendum by

Guest post by Mark Littlewood.

The news today that Matthew Elliott is to spearhead the NO campaign against the Alternative Vote should send shudders through the pro-electoral reform lobby. There is a very long way to go before next May’s referendum – and it is not yet a nailed on certainty that the referendum will even take place – but the early signs are very ominous for supporters of electoral reform. My judgement is that the NO side are now clear, although not overwhelming, favourites.

The YES side face a number of substantial strategic and tactical hurdles and it’s not yet obvious that any of these have been satisfactorily addressed. Or, in some cases, how they can be.

1. The referendum on AV is, of course, a compromise. It is virtually no one’s ideal electoral system. Most of those supporting a YES vote will actually be committed to a more proportional voting system – most commonly STV. This isn’t to say that Nick Clegg shouldn’t have settled for the coalition deal, but it does raise problems for electoral reformers. Inevitably, people campaign harder – and are willing to give more money – to something they really believe in rather than towards a second best option. I expect the NO side to easily raise and spend the £5m expenditure limit and to have an impressive network of activists – these guys really and passionately believe in First Past the Post.

2. Slow progress to date. It has been known for well over three months that there was going to be a referendum on AV (although admittedly not the timetable).Of course, these are the early stages of both campaigns – but looked at another way, we are already nearly a third of the way to polling day. Peter Facey – head honcho at Unlock Democracy – assures me that the YES side will have a website soon and that staff recruitment is already being organised. It can’t happen too soon. The websites of Unlock Democracy and the Electoral Reform Society are yet to focus on AV to the exclusion of other issues. The NO side isn’t much further advanced, of course. But in fairness they started with a much less impressive national infrastructure.

3. Matthew Elliott’s appointment. This is the single clearest sign yet that the NO lobby is going to be deadly serious and superbly organised. Matthew is one of the sharpest operators and most successful campaigners on the British political scene. Not only is he certain to be an effective leader of the NO side, the mere fact that he has taken the job is significant. He would not have done so without copper-bottomed guarantees about the level of political and financial support he can call upon. Contrary to popular belief, he is not a Conservative and he has a proven record as a coalition builder. Of all possible leaders of the NO campaign, Matthew Elliott is the most daunting possible opponent.

4. The YES side looks set to be run largely by Liberal Democrats. This needs to be avoided. The reason is very simple. On virtually all analyses of AV, the LibDems are set to gain the most – perhaps more than 30 seats. LibDem activists, members or politicians advocating a YES vote will find it very hard to dodge accusations of special pleading. At the very least, the YES campaign should be wholly independent of Cowley Street.

5. The polls show a clear movement of public opinion to the NO side. This doesn’t mean an awful lot at this stage, but it does mean something. The latest polls show the two sides neck and neck, which amounts to a measurable shift against AV in recent months. The polls also show that the elderly are more opposed than the young and, of course, the former have a measurably higher propensity to vote. If the drift away from the YES camp continues, so do the diminishing odds on a YES victory.

6. Body count. The Conservatives and many of the larger trade unions are going to put their weight behind a NO vote. The combination means there will be a strong grassroots presence for the NO campaign in virtually every area of the country. The Liberal Democrat party machine is tiny in comparison, with LibDem membership now averaging less than 100 per constituency – and party membership is heavily concentrated in a few dozen, maybe a hundred, seats. The great imponderable is how the Labour Party might jump, but even if they were united and enthusiastic YES supporters, I’d expect the NO campaign to have many more troops on the ground.

7. The NO campaign may be able to position itself as the anti-establishment, anti-politician option. Electoral reform is not a high priority for a large percentage of the electorate. Being asked to vote on what many will consider a fairly obscure and technical issue – especially during difficult economic times – could well encourage a two-fingered salute from many voters. Expect the NO side to consistently argue that the referendum is only taking place because the LibDems have demanded it in order to promote their own narrow electoral interest.

8. Because AV isn’t proportional, some of the key moral arguments are harder to put. For all the dreadful downsides of party list systems, at least the argument can be made that if you get 18% of the vote, you should get 18% of the seats. This is the sort of principle that voters can easily grasp. The NO side can even say that there might be a case for a proportional system, but that’s not what is on offer.

9. Because AV is fairly technical, the NO side just need to raise sufficient doubts, whereas the YES side need to actually prove a complex case. For example, I expect the NO campaign to argue that if you are a BNP voter, your vote will count twice (because it will be transferred) but if you vote Conservative or Labour it will only count once (because it often won’t be transferred). The argument is spurious, but is superficially powerful. The NO side will benefit from confusion and uncertainty. A confused and uncertain electorate can be expected to vote NO.

10. The newspapers are likely to be overwhelming opposed to AV. The Guardian and Independent will be in favour – and possibly the Mirror. Pretty much everyone else will be against and quite possibly, vociferously so. Newspapers have a declining influence and a declining readership, but in a campaign in which many people do not have a strong view either way, the editorial position of popular newspapers could potentially carry more sway than in a General Election.

I had often assumed that securing a referendum on electoral reform would be the hardest part of the task. Now I am considerably less sure. As things stand today, I think the NO side may well win.

Mark Littlewood was Director of Liberal Vision from September 2008-December 2009. He is now the Director General of the Institute of Economic Affairs. He writes here in a personal capacity.

75 Responses to “Alternative Vote referendum: The YES side is staring at defeat”

  1. Dave B Says:

    The Conservatives would campaign for FPTP, but UKIP might well campaign for AV.


  2. alister Says:

    Rather than having this debate about FPTP or AV or STV or whatever please can we address some issue that are current?

    1 – The “West Lothian Question” – still unaddressed after 10 years

    2 – the number of electors in each seat. The 3 smallest are less than the largest. In fact the smallest is about a fifth the largest. This is preposterous in a county were each vote should count equally.

    The second point could be addressed in the AV proposals but I doubt it.


  3. Alex Says:

    I am a Tory but I support AV. Quite frankly, if I lived in Liverpool I would vote Lib-Dem since voting Tory would be a wasted vote when what I wished to achieve was to keep Labour OUT! AV gives me the chance to vote my principles and then vote to keep out the party I least like.

    A good idea is a good idea is a good idea..!!!

    This is a very negative article. Personally I believe that Tories who oppose AV are being short sighted.


  4. The Remittance Man Says:

    I continue to believe that this whole AV thingie is just another scam by the political class. It may appear more “democtratic” but in reality it will do nothing but strengthen the hold of the political elite. If people were genuinely concerned about making the elected ore responsive to the wishes of the electorate a more useful approach would be to examine the fundamentals of the British constitution.

    To start with, how about addressing the issue of separation of powers? Back at the start of the 18th century* powers were distinctly separate. The King ran the country with his cabinet of ministers. Parliament curbed any excesses by being the only body able to legitimise laws, taxes and expenditure. Since then parliament has slowly accreted executive power to itself, leading to the unhealthy situation we have now.

    Instead of being concerned with the opinion of their voters, MPs are more worried about staying in the good books of their party leaders because these august people hold all the keys to their future advancement and increased renumeration.

    No system can be entirely free from the evils of patronage and favouritism, but if one wanted to design a scheme that specifically worked to enhance these undesirable features, one would be hard pressed to find a better one than that in place in Britain today. Fixing that basic flaw is, in my opinion far more important than any tinkering with the voting system.

    *ie when our system was designed and put in place


  5. Richard Laming Says:

    The most obvious demonstration of the unfairness of the current system, that the Lib Dems might have got more votes than Labour but fewer seats, was predicted by many of the polls during the election campaign but did not in fact happen. That has denied the YES side its strongest argument. The 2010 general election was not as strong a constitutional breakthrough moment as many people thought at the time.


  6. Conor Says:

    There are a number of points we need to address:

    You’re right, supporters of reform are in danger of losing this battle before it has begun. We have to get out ahead and make the case for AV. It is up to us to do the running as it is us asking for the change. There are a number of easy to understand points we need to make.

    AV is our traditional system.
    I support AV rather than STV as AV retains the constituency link better, the traditional system in the UK. AV isn’t a big change but now you’d now need 50% of the voters to back you in an area – most constituencies don’t have MPs with 50%of the vote so easy for the public to understand that MPs are being elected when a majority of local people might not want them.

    The opponents of reform are just out for themselves.
    Labour and Conservatives against reform just want to keep “safe seats” rather than face the people. Do we want the establishment dishing out seats to “friends” in the way they have in the past (Zac Goldsmith, Ed Balls etc) or should the people not decide?

    You can actually vote with feeling under AV.
    Under AV people can hold MPs to account but avoid the crazies getting in i.e. you can vote for someone else because your MP has embezzled expenses money but with AV you can avoid that switch allowing someone you like even less getting e.g. the BNP, by reluctantly voting for the embezzler with a transfer.

    The current system is the selfish choice of most politicians.
    There might be more coalition governments under AV. The opponents say this is a bad thing but shouldn’t politicians just have to get on with each other (no one likes tribal politics) and make compromises? Why is a coalition bad? After all, most people have to work with people they don’t like so why should we have a voting system that only suits Politicians’ rather than the public’s preferences?


  7. Graham Thomas Says:

    Is there anyone that believes that AV or any other system would deliver better government? Really, truly?
    I’m afraid I don’t. There are far too many vested interests, old boy networks, back room deals, etc, etc, for any cosmetic reform to have the slightest effect so what’s the point?


  8. Simon Foster Says:

    “1. Inevitably, people campaign harder – and are willing to give more money – to something they really believe in rather than towards a second best option.”

    If this really was the case, then why are there over 20+ Take Back Parliament groups that have been created up and down the country since May? The activity on the ground simply doesn’t support this claim. There are plenty of us who believe in Voting Yes and will campaign hard on it.

    We’re still looking for the No group in Birmingham (we fancy a debate with them sometime – if such a group is formed).

    2. Slow progress to date….The NO side isn’t much further advanced, of course. But in fairness they started with a much less impressive national infrastructure.

    2a) Arguing that the Yes side had more national infrastructure to start with isn’t a reason for saying that their will be a no vote in the referenda.

    2b) See my comment about 20+ local groups be set up above.

    2c) At the time of writing, we are still waiting to see a facebook page for a No to AV campaign.

    3. Matthew Elliott’s appointment.

    I think the writer is really getting desperate when they say just because 1 person is running a campaign they will win it.

    4. The YES side looks set to be run largely by Liberal Democrats.

    4) a) This is a prediction, not yet a fact. Let’s see what happens with the appointment of a leader for the Yes campaign, and where the Labour party finally ends up before jumping to conclusions.

    5. The polls show a clear movement of public opinion to the NO side.

    But not a clear majority supporting the No Camp. The truth of the matter is that this referenda is wide open. A week is a long time in politics – we’ve got months to go yet.

    6. Body count. The Conservatives…

    6a) …couldn’t win a majority at the last election against a very unpopular Labour government. This is the same campaigning machine whose strength is being touted as an argument for a No vote being a foregone conclusion? This overstates the Conservative party’s strength, which is strong, but not unstoppable.

    6b) The grassroots trade unionists may not support the No campaign.

    7. The NO campaign may be able to position itself as the anti-establishment, anti-politician option.

    7a) I think you’ll find this territory occupied by the Yes campaign. After all, it’s the current system that’s part of the establishment, and has elected the current politicians.

    7. Electoral reform is not a high priority for a large percentage of the electorate.

    A recent opinion poll showed it being the 4th highest priority.

    8. Because AV isn’t proportional, some of the key moral arguments are harder to put.

    Like….

    8a) It still maintains the constituency link.

    8b) It is a simple system avoiding the complexities of some systems like STV.

    8c) It is fairer than First Past the Post, allowing people to express more preferences than First Past the Post.

    9. Because AV is fairly technical….

    9a) It isn’t. You just number the parties in order of preference, and you need 50%+1 of the votes to win. Most people can easily grasp that.

    9b “The argument is spurious but is superficially powerful”

    leads me to respond:

    “No campaigners admit to using spurious and superificial arguments.”

    Thanks for that headline!

    10. The newspapers are likely to be overwhelming opposed to AV. The Guardian and Independent will be in favour – and possibly the Mirror.

    10a) And the FT I believe. Hardly everyone against.

    10b) “Newspapers have a declining influence and a declining readership”

    I think the author is arguing against himself here.

    A much stronger conclusion would be:

    “With months to go and fluctuating opinion polls, the referenda campaign is wide open.”

    Regards,

    Simon Foster
    Lecturer in Politics,
    Member, Take Back Parliament Birmingham.


  9. janet Says:

    I have always supported FPTP. However, my experience of the coalition government to date has changed my outlook. I think it is refreshing to see two political parties working together for the sake of the country. No electoral system is perfect and yet I am now prepared to vote for AV. this view is shared by many I know as contrary to media reports we are still supportive of the coalition government.


  10. Arthur Coustou Says:

    Mr Clegg
    Give me a vote on the EU and I’ll give you my vote on AV!!


  11. It doesn't add up... Says:

    AV is the wrong answer to the wrong question. I agree with The Remittance Man. Our democratic deficit is not primarily a function of the voting system at general elections. The political elites determine who the candidates for election of the major parties are. Many are in safe seats (a fact that wouldn’t be changed in the slightest by switching to AV or STV: it would just change the party balance of safe seats). Our Parliament is in hock to narrow political elites, and is no longer a servant of the people. The whips rule. Independence of thought is discouraged (yes, even in the Lib Dems). There are no proper checks and balances. Most opposition is unthinking, blind adherence to dogmas that were drawn up to create an often artificial dividing line.

    The one potentially good thing about the coalition is the opportunity for some genuine policy debate away from sterile party positions. The danger from the old habits is that the compromises reached fulfil the proverb “a camel is a horse designed by a committee”. AV is one such.


  12. Rob Says:

    To address point 4, of course the reform will benefit the Liberal Democrats; they’re massively underrepresented in Parliament. Pretty much the only electoral reform which wouldn’t benefit them would be to ban the party outright! They may be motivated by self-interest, but it’s easy to argue that it would be justified.


  13. Dave Says:

    I’ve got here from Guido’s site, so have no particular axe to grind.

    Prior to the election, I would have voted YES either PR or AV. Now, having seen the results that we would get every election, in action, and seeing policies jettisoned, and leaders claiming to have changed their minds on important issues, but neglecting to tell their parties of that fact, I would vote NO.

    I havent spoken to anyone, who thinks it’s such a good idea anymore.

    Sometines selling your soul, isnt the best plan Nick !


  14. Ben C Says:

    The comments that the Yes campaign is lacking in terms of grass roots organisation seems to totally ignore all of the increasing levels of activity around the country & online for Take Back Parliament. I see a lot less evidence of actual activism for the No camp- apart from poor soundbite journalism


  15. Another Dave Says:

    Dave,
    “but neglecting to tell their parties of that fact”
    Really Dave?
    That is precisely why we DO need PR


  16. dave thawley Says:

    av is the wrong answer to the wrong question but in the real world we find ourselves the question we must face is not one of idealism over stv vs av and conversations now based on this are a waste of time. the only question worth asking now is ‘is av more democratic than fptp’. when this question is anwered from a fact based position the answer is yes of couse it is. putting any political bias aside the facts say people should vote yes. the no campaign can only ever justify a no vote by missing out facts – i.e. by deliberately misleading the population so that those who benefit from fptp will still benefit, and those who loose out – the 95% of normal people like us still miss out. for me then the no campaign is thereforr run by self centred people who are trying to coldly manipulate people for personal gain. forget all the crap, this is the truth. i can see some people here are interjecting the crap. all as i can say is stop it. go and find the truth out. av is not perfect but it is better than fptp because it gives us a little bit more power and them less. after finding the truth out you too will be able to see the fabrication being constructed by the no’s. our job as decent people is to try and get people to find the truth out. once they do this they will vote yes.


  17. John Stevens Says:

    Good post. I also agree with Richard. The last GE was a big missed opportunity for serious constitutional change. We might be better off focusing on a swift move to an all-elected House of Lords, or, perhaps, a directly elected PM? Both, incidentally, enjoy much more real support in Conservative circles than AV. It is possible the economy may precipitate a crisis which would re-animate a radical agenda, though the potential scenarios are all somewhat hairy. In the absence of high drama, Mark is right, the AV “Yes” camp looks doomed.


  18. Mark Littlewood Says:

    Lots of stuff to respond to, but am focusing on Simon Foster’s post – as his was the most extensive:

    ML: “1. Inevitably, people campaign harder – and are willing to give more money – to something they really believe in rather than towards a second best option.”

    SF: If this really was the case, then why are there over 20+ Take Back Parliament groups….

    ML: My point is that it’s going to be harder to set up pro-AV groups than pro-STV/PR groups. This doesn’t mean there aren’t 20+ groups at the moment. Just that you could expect the groups to be more numerous and larger if the referendum was on a different system.

    ML: 2. Slow progress to date….The NO side isn’t much further advanced, of course. But in fairness they started with a much less impressive national infrastructure.

    SF: 2a) Arguing that the Yes side had more national infrastructure to start with isn’t a reason for saying that their will be a no vote in the referenda.

    ML: It’s a reason to expect the YES side to be faster out of the traps than the NO side, that is all I was implying.

    SF: 2b) See my comment about 20+ local groups be set up above.

    ML: See my answer above.

    SF: 2c) At the time of writing, we are still waiting to see a facebook page for a No to AV campaign.

    ML: As explained, they will be slower out of the traps. They have had no real national infrastructure. Now they’ve appointment a campaign manager, the facebook pages etc will follow swiftly.

    ML: 3. Matthew Elliott’s appointment.

    SF: I think the writer is really getting desperate when they say just because 1 person is running a campaign they will win it.

    ML: That wasn’t my argument. It’s simply a sign of how serious the NO campaign will be. Anyone who thought or hoped the Tories would go softly, softly on this is wrong. Matthew’s appointment is a major boost for the NO side, but I wouldn’t (and didn’t) argue it guarantees them victory.

    ML: 4. The YES side looks set to be run largely by Liberal Democrats.

    SF: 4) a) This is a prediction, not yet a fact. Let’s see what happens with the appointment of a leader for the Yes campaign, and where the Labour party finally ends up before jumping to conclusions.

    ML: Correct. It is indeed a prediction. That is why it is phrased as a prediction and not as a fact(hence the phrase “looks set” rather than “is certain to be”) – although also based on some inside knowledge. It’s not just about the leader, it’s about the balance of spokespeople/advocates. It does not constitute “jumping to a conclusion” to raise probable LibDem dominance of the campaign as a weakness.

    ML: 5. The polls show a clear movement of public opinion to the NO side.

    SF: But not a clear majority supporting the No Camp. The truth of the matter is that this referenda is wide open. A week is a long time in politics – we’ve got months to go yet.

    ML: Yes, I make this point explicitly. But moving from being 10% ahead to a dead heat is a clearly measurable, negative movement against AV. It’s not definitive, it’s not conclusive. But it is bad news for the YES side.

    ML: 6. Body count. The Conservatives…

    SF: 6a) …couldn’t win a majority at the last election against a very unpopular Labour government. This is the same campaigning machine whose strength is being touted as an argument for a No vote being a foregone conclusion? This overstates the Conservative party’s strength, which is strong, but not unstoppable.

    ML: I haven’t said the outcome is a foregone conclusion. Quite the opposite. But the Tory party machinery is a very major asset for the NO side, and will be deployed heavily. It dwarves both the LibDem party infrastructure and certainly dwarves the current Take Back Parliament local group network. Again, it’s not decisive. But it is very significant.

    SF: 6b) The grassroots trade unionists may not support the No campaign.

    ML: They may not. But the union barons will be encouraging them to. The weight of the union movement will be anti-AV. This doesn’t mean individual trade unionists are mandated to campaign for a NO vote. Of course not. But it’s another impressive piece of infrastructure. And brings in cash. I understand the GMB is reported to have earmarked £500K already.

    ML: 7. The NO campaign may be able to position itself as the anti-establishment, anti-politician option.

    SF: 7a) I think you’ll find this territory occupied by the Yes campaign. After all, it’s the current system that’s part of the establishment, and has elected the current politicians.

    ML: I can see this is the way that pro-reform people would like it to play out, but I don’t think it’s obvious it will play out that way. The NO side will portray the AV referendum as cooked up in a smokeless room by a handful of senior LibDems and Tories for the needs of Westminster party politics, and particularly for the needs of the LibDems.

    ML: 7. Electoral reform is not a high priority for a large percentage of the electorate.

    SF: A recent opinion poll showed it being the 4th highest priority.

    ML: I’m guessing that’s a rogue poll, but I honestly haven’t seen it. Or maybe it’s a bit like the old claim that the Iraqi army was the 4th largest in the world. There’s a BIG drop-off after the top three. I can see “political reform” being a highly salient issue, but that’s very different to the narrow question of AV.

    ML: 8. Because AV isn’t proportional, some of the key moral arguments are harder to put.

    SF: Like….

    8a) It still maintains the constituency link.

    8b) It is a simple system avoiding the complexities of some systems like STV.

    8c) It is fairer than First Past the Post, allowing people to express more preferences than First Past the Post.

    ML: 8a and 8b aren’t moral points. 8c may be true, but is hard to articulate in a way people understand.

    ML: 9. Because AV is fairly technical….

    SF: 9a) It isn’t. You just number the parties in order of preference, and you need 50%+1 of the votes to win. Most people can easily grasp that.

    ML: You seem to be confusing “technical” and “complex”. I didn’t say AV was complex. Something can be technical and simple. But technical issues tend to solicit less enthusiasm than more emotive issues (ban the bomb, save the whale, ban abortion etc)

    ML: 9b “The argument is spurious but is superficially powerful”

    SF: leads me to respond:

    “No campaigners admit to using spurious and superificial arguments.”

    Thanks for that headline!

    ML: Well, they’re hardly likely to admit it. For the avoidance of doubt, I’m a YES voter. Just a pessimistic one. Have done some work with and for Charter 88 in the past and have supported electoral reform all my adult life. If you’re likely to press release a comment from me as an official statement from the NO campaign – or put it as a headline on your leaflets – then the YES campaign really does need some SERIOUS media help.

    ML: 10. The newspapers are likely to be overwhelming opposed to AV. The Guardian and Independent will be in favour – and possibly the Mirror.

    SF: 10a) And the FT I believe. Hardly everyone against.

    ML: Nope. Not everyone. But a pretty measurable majority. especially in terms of readership.

    ML: 10b) “Newspapers have a declining influence and a declining readership”

    SF: I think the author is arguing against himself here.

    ML: Not at all. Just because something is declining in influence doesn’t mean it lacks influence. Newspapers are declining, but are still very influential. And may well be more influential on this issue than on a general election. I don’t think this is either a technical or a complex point.

    SF: A much stronger conclusion would be:

    “With months to go and fluctuating opinion polls, the referenda campaign is wide open.”

    ML: I don’t think your conclusion and mine are entirely contradictory. I think it’s now more likely than not that the NO side will win. But it’s not in the bag. I also think Chelsea will win the Premiership, but I don’t think the Premiership is a foregone conclusion either.


  19. Richard Laming Says:

    Given what Mark has just written, the headline of the piece is obviously excessive. But it is also correct that the No campaign is going to make a fight of it. The Yes side needs to flesh out two arguments:

    (1) makes fewer seats safe (compare how many seats change hands in UK elections as opposed to Australian, and how many have never changed hands)

    (2) forces parties to cooperate in public. We all know that they have to cooperate after the election, but under FPTP have to deny it. Under AV, they are rewarded for cooperating explicitly and encouraging their voters to use their second preferences one way rather than another.

    The narrative is that AV forces parties to be honest, unlike what we have had in the past. Conservatives and Labour people on the No side are simply defending their own narrow party interests, rather than putting the voters’ interests first.


  20. John77 Says:

    One reason why most proposed changes to the electoral system are undemocratic is that they transfer power from the people en masse to small cliques in the back rooms of party organisations and these latter are more easily influenced by rich people with commercial interests (particularly, sad to say, among the parties elected to represent the poor because they are frequently short of a bob or two). For instance, it is reckoned that left-wing media attacks on Lord Ashcroft in the run-up to the 2010 election cost the Tories tens of thousands of votes and a handful of seats whereas in the aftermath of the 1997 election Bernie Eccleston got an exception to the ban on Tobacco adverts for Formula 1 racing from New Labour (and kept it after they repaid his donation because they otherwise would have to admit it was a blatant bribe).
    The model of coalition government that is most frequently presented is that of the Federal Republic of Germany but that is hardly the best example of “power to the people” since in the first forty or fift years of the Federal Republic the Chancellor was never changed by a general election but only part-way through a Bundestag term by a back-room deal between the then opposition and the FDP, by which the latter changed sides.
    A lot of defeatist Liberals favour PR/STV/AV because they think the party will only ever regain power in a coalition, forgetting that the last majority Liberal Government was a huge success that is still celebrated whereas all four anti-Tory* coalitions in which they participated in the twentieth century had disastrous outcomes.
    *The wartime ones and the post-31 National Government weren’t all much fun either, but the situations tended to concentrate the minds wonderfully.
    I expect Simon Foster is totally sincere but my experience of emails from “Take Back Parliament”, after expressing sympathy with something that they support, makes me believe that they want to take back parliament from the guys/gals that the other 60-odd million people in the UK elected.


  21. dave thawley Says:

    i’m going to change direction. we need av because it is faierer, we all need to get behind the av campaign because it will benefit us. this type of comentary does nothing useful. what would be useful is that if people reading this are not members of tbp and ers then go over and join them , get into a local group and use your energy productively. the no campaign have got some tosser to front them. we knew they would. the press are supporting their corrupt mates – i wouldnt expect anything less. a lot of tory mps are againt it – no grest suprise. the yes side haven’t started yet so the nos are getting public opinion – its not blindingly un-obvious. if they win we can say goodbye to any form of democracy for another generatiojn perhaps. if the population win and get av then there is chance of better things for us. the writing isn’t on the wall for us at all we are where we would expect to be. we also have two things going for us the no campaign hasn’t – the truth and the fact we have the populations genuine best interests at heart. this is why we must campaign like crazy and its why we have the best chance of winning. it is up to us though, if we don’t do it no one will and the corrupt mps and their millionare mates will continue to take the pi@@. it really is up to us and WE CAN DO THIS


  22. Adam Bell Says:

    To be honest, Elliot’s appointment is something of a double-edged sword for the No campaign. Can you see trade union leaders working with the TPA? The unions are spending this year railing against the Tory party – suddenly moving over to support it is going to look and feel extremely odd.

    The factor that’s yet to come into play for this campaign is the Conservative opposition to AV. The Tory leadership has largely been silent – when Cameron starts publicly opposing it, the Yes campaign’s message can become ‘Vote Against The Tories’. The effect of that on the result will be interesting indeed.


  23. Mark Littlewood Says:

    For those inclined to place a bet, Ladbrokes are quoting on the question of whether the next General Election is held under AV (which isnt quite the same thing as whether there is a YES vote in the referendum). The odds are NO 2/5 YES 7/4. I’d say thats about right.


  24. Roger R Says:

    Surely the Alternative Vote is merely advancing democratic representation just as much as enlarging the electorate so that all men and women had a vote.

    Until the emergence of the Labour party at the start of the 20th century nearly every constituency contest was a straight Liberal v Conservative fight. In Wales, for example, in 1910 only Swansea had a three cornered contest.

    With straight fights every winning M.P. had 50% or more of the vote. Today with no constituency enjoying a two candidate contest and many having a multitude of candidates very few have the backing of 50% of their voting constituents. THAT is one reason why AV goes part of the way to restoring a situation in which in each constituency a majority of the electors will have a hand in electing their M.P.


  25. Simon Foster Says:

    Thanks for the quick response Mark.

    My main point is that I think the headline to your article is considerably overstated, for the reasons I outlined above. Staring defeat in the face implies that the campaign is almost lost for the Yes Campaign, whereas I believe the referenda is wide wide open.

    To me, there is a large difference between the two positions we’ve taken.

    I think we should remember that this is going to be a marathon, not a sprint and the finish is still a long way off.

    To those who do want to do something, I’d say do get involved in the Take Back Parliament Groups that seem to be springing up all over the place (or the No Campaign, if you’re on that side of the argument).


  26. Chas Says:

    “4. The YES side looks set to be run largely by Liberal Democrats.”

    I can explain that. Libral Democrats are the only people who support AV or any other sort of electoral reform. And the reason is simple: AV, STV and all the other bad ideas would benefit the Liberal party, and only the Liberal party. That is why Liberals have supported proportional representation for as long as anyone can remember, and why they are now supporting AV now. Apart from the fact that Liberals would gain seats, perhaps someone could explain to me the merits of AV. I should be grateful.


  27. John77 Says:

    Dear Chas,
    PR would also benefit UKIP, BNP and would have benefited the British Communist Party.
    The Liberals were not vocally supporting proportional representation when I was a child.
    I do not support AV, but I wish to put forward VALID arguments when I am discussing it.


  28. Mark Littlewood Says:

    @Simon. Actually, in campaign terms, I think it’s a sprint not a marathon. This isn’t like a 5 year Parliament for a political party. Polling day is about 250 days away.

    @Chas. I don’t think that’s true. There are lots of supporters in the Labour Party and, to some limited degree, in the Tory Party too.


  29. John77 Says:

    Er – why has my reply to dave thawley been suppressed when my response to Chas ha been accepted?


  30. Chas Says:

    OK, I should have said that the Liberal party is the only party with any MPs that would benefit from electoral reform, and AV would not be of any use to the BNP or UKIP. Also, do you really want a system that lets nutters like the BNP win seats? In some countries it is the fruit-cake parties which hold parliament to ransom as coalitions need to include them to form governments.

    There may be some people in the Labour party who support AV or other electoral reform, but largely because they are a) stupid, b) destructive, c) living under the misapprehension that it would benefit them. Gordon Brown resisted it for 13 years before his unexplained death-bed conversion. There are some loonies in all parties (except the Liberal party which comprises only loonies), and those in the Tory party will entertain AV. But they are few and far between.


  31. John77 Says:

    To repeat
    Mark Littlewod is concerned precisely because Matthew Elliott is NOT a tosser.
    The most vocal opposition that I have read from an MP comes from Tom Harris, a Labour MP who habitually gets over 50% of the first preference votes so has NIL vested interest in preserving FPTP, since he would win under any reasonable system except the pure “party list”
    dave thawley *thinks* that he has the truth on his side: he does not seem to know what the “truth” is in this case, and claims that the press “are supporting their corrupt mates” – which might be plausible if there were a lot of corrupt press-friendly MPs who were expected to lose their seats under a switch to AV. In the real world, a switch to AV is estimated to give the LibDems an extra 20-30 MPs, less than 5% of the total: I do not know how many of the 20-30 who would lose their seats are corrupt – probably not very many as I do not know of a single one.
    There is freedom of speech and there is abuse of this freedom – may I suggest that you ask “dave thawley” whom he is accusing?


  32. John77 Says:

    Dear Chas,
    No I do not want BNP to win any seats, but that was not why I opposed STV.
    In Israel it was the Shas – not the fruit cakes – who held the government to ransom


  33. John77 Says:

    “I think it’s a sprint not a marathon. This isn’t like a 5 year Parliament for a political party. Polling day is about 250 days away.”
    Mark – if you want to make athletics analogies, try running a few races first! A 5,000 metre race (whether track or road) is NOT a sprint and the tactics are far closer to those for a marathon than a sprint


  34. dave C Says:

    Chris, so you think democracy is a bad idea ? How come you found your way to a liberal page then, just to make stupid comments ? If you had any other intention I’m sorry to say you failed. You are looking at which party will benefit but you are not looking at which system will most benefit the population rather than self serving party political crap. What I seem to read is ‘I don’t want it because it doesn’t do what I want’ Very selfish and very stupid. If I have got you wrong then please forgive me as it was a genuine mistake after reading your posts. If I am write I say selfish because, well that be obvious. I say stupid because (if I have read the situation right) you seem to actually believe your party is better for you than anything else. Both labour and conservative (and to a lesser extent the lib dems) have shown in the past (labour the very recent past) they say one thing and do another – for example lying to the population to invade iraq killing 600 000 innocent people. Allowing bankers to take the piss and then making the population pick up the pieces, increasing the gap between rich and poor, getting caught red handed selling privileges which damage us or 3000 pounds per day, allowing MPs to claim ridiculous expenses and then deliberately trying to cover it up, frigging the unemployment figures buy putting everyone on the sick etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. etc. If we had more control over our MPs then we could start to real them in – if you want to preserve a system which allows them to take the piss like this then you really are stupid.


  35. John77 Says:

    Roger R is being highly selective to verging on suggestio falsi.
    I have been given to understand that in 1910 the Conservatives gained more votes than the Liberals


  36. John77 Says:

    Can anyone tell me where to find “Chris” against whom dave c is ranting?
    I might be able to supply a sober rational criticism


  37. dave C Says:

    Sorry, I am arguing with someone on another page and posted this here by mistake :-( please forgive me for any confusion I’ve caused and Chris here please don’t think I was firing this at you


  38. John77 Says:

    @ dave c
    Many thanks – I didn’t like to think that I was going blind or insane (or, even worse, both)


  39. Roger R Says:

    My argument is NOT regarding the total votes cast throughout UK but of the 50% obtained in each constituency when in the early part of the 1900s the contest was mainly Liberal v Conservative. Every M.P. is such a contest would obtain 50% of the vote.


  40. John77 Says:

    @ Roger R
    Have you never heard of Independents? Please do your homework.
    “mainly” is not the same as invariably.
    In the 19th century many constituencies had 2 MPs so if one was highly popular, the second MP might be elected with a relatively small percentage vote.


  41. Roger R Says:

    True a few constituencies eg Merthyr Tydfil had two M.P.s but in straight fights and please check these out for yourself no candidate could succeed with less than 50% of the vote. The last of the double member constituencies like Stockport, Oldham, Southampton, Derby and Norwich disappeared after 1945. But these are outside the area of my argument which relates only to the vast majority of seats which until the beginning of the 20 th century had one M.P. The Alternative Vote will ensure that no candidate succeeds without 50% support.


  42. John77 Says:

    Roger R lives in an alternate universe where every voter dutifully turns out to vote and there is a beautiful slate of candidates so that every elector supports, to a greater or lesser degree every single one of them (or, in a few cases, all but one). I live in the real world.


  43. Andy Says:

    No one should vote for AV. It is a silly system. If they had proposed ‘run off elections’ (like in the French Presidential elections) that would be fair, but AV isn’t fair. I would never vote for the BNP nor the Labour Party, so why is my vote worth less than that of someone who votes BNP ? Their second preference votes are counted: mine are not.

    A more useful reform is equalising the size of constituencies. Seats like the Isle of Wight have over a 103000 electors: seats like Hackney South it is 57000 electors. In Wales the smallest seat is a mere 43000. In Scotland not one seat has 80000 electors and one has a mere 21000 and another 32000. Seats ought to be of equal size and we do not need over 650 MPs.


  44. Roger R Says:

    Sorry to come back on this – my final throw !- but if John 77 consults the results of the 1945 election in double member constituencies he will see that electors did vote for the party line – TWICE . AV isn’t the best but better than FPTP !


  45. dave thawley Says:

    Andy you are completely and utterly wrong with your glib statement on AV. Everyone should vote for AV. AV is fairer and is the only system on offer. The choice is really vote for AV or vote for FPTP. If you vote for FPTP you won’t be voting against AV you will be voting for FPTP. If you do and your vote actually makes us keep this system you may well be destroying our chances of a better democracy for a generation. AV isn’t great but it is far far better than FPTP. If you want another type of system the only way to get it is to move away from FPTP first and that means voting against FPTP next may.

    The choice is really the following

    ———————————————————-
    1) Don’t want FPTP – vote for AV (this is the logical decision of any normal position)
    2) Want AV – Vote for AV (I could understand this position as well)
    ———————————————————-

    ———————————————————-
    3) Want to keep FPTP for the next 20 years – vote for FPTP (This is an illogical position for normal people unless they only listened to the biased rubbish given out by those with a vested interest in keeping the FPTP at the expence of everyone else without finding out the truth – perhaps your case)
    ———————————————————-

    It really is this simple.

    Also I’d ask you to please find out about AV properly because I don’t think you have yet. In fact I know you haven’t just from what you have said :-) AV is a better form of democracy that FPTP, if you had studied it properly you would know this (hence my knowing that you haven’t). The choice we have isn’t ‘is AV the best’ but ‘is AV better than FPTP’. The answer to the first question is obviously no but that isn’t what we will be asked. The answer to the second question (which is what we will be asked) is obviously yes.


  46. Simon Foster Says:

    @Mark “Actually, in campaign terms, I think it’s a sprint not a marathon. This isn’t like a 5 year Parliament for a political party. Polling day is about 250 days away.”

    We’ll agree to disagree then there Mark, because:

    a) as I’ve pointed out before a week is a long time in Politics.

    b) The opinion polls are volatile (you yourself originally pointed out the movement in them to date) – I do not expect them to stay still.

    @Chas “Liberal Democrats are the only people who support AV or any other sort of electoral reform.”

    Factually incorrect. In terms of parties:

    The Greens – traditionally in favour of AMS, their MP has spoken out against AV before now, AV is being debated at their conference (watch this space).

    UKIP – Traditionally in favour of AV+ (add AV to the additional member system – AMS). Their deputy leader and one of the candidates to become the new leader is hostile to AMS.

    Labour – manifesto commitment to have a referenda on AV, awaiting results of leadership election. Against the bill containing the referenda because of the boundary changes proposed, we’ll have to wait and see which direction the new leader and the Labour party go in actual terms of the referenda.

    I don’t have the policies for the nationalists in Scotland and Wales to hand, but I know they’re against the timing of the referenda on the same day as the Scottish and Welsh elections (anyone in Scotland and Wales want to comment on this?)

    Northern Ireland – again, I don’t have the policies to hand (anyone out there know)?

    In terms of who would benefit, you state just the Liberal Democrats. AV could also benefit independent candidates who stand without the support of a party machine, nationalists Scotland and Wales, and various parties in Northern Ireland. I suspect it would boost the chances of the Green MP in Brighton being re-elected. Support for minor parties across the board would rise, as you could safely vote for your first preference, and then state a second preference if your minor party did not win.


  47. Simon Foster Says:

    Typo – I meant to write that the UKIP’s deputy leader is hostile to AV, not AMS!


  48. dave thawley Says:

    i read something in the papers last week from a ukip supporter – total hostility and a lie but no facts at all to support it.


  49. Mark Littlewood Says:

    @Simon

    I don’t really buy the “week is a long time in politics” cliche when it comes to campaign management. The phrase is usually used to describe unfolding events – e.g. the week after the general election was obviously very significant. But it’s not a long time in terms of establishing a local groups network, expecting your website to have an impact, raising money etc.

    On the impact of AV on minor parties (and I’m not sure whether this is an argument for or against…or if it’s neutral), I suspect that the vote share for minor parties will rise but (a) there will be virtually no impact on Parliamentary representation and (b) it may actually diminish the impact of minority candidates.

    Point b sounds like a contradiction – how can influence diminish if vote share rises? But take UKIP as an example. The threat they can presently use to run hard against soft Tories is diminished as they aren’t splitting the vote in a dangerous way. Same goes for running as an independent Liberal/Labour/Tory candidate in a marginal seat because of some point of disagreement with the official candidate. Official candidates no longer need to worry about this threat – as they are likely to mop up second preferences.


  50. dave thawley Says:

    @mark i am sure all 3 main parties would agree with simon after the shifts that occured in the last days before the election.
    wrt minor parties. there is no info about that i have read about the impact of av- we can all guess but what people will actually do could suprise us. my guess for what its worth will be that people friendly small parties may fair slightly better. in the grand scheme though we are all speculating what the population will do when they have more choice but not talking about the more importaint issue – is more choice under av better or worse than the corrupt fptp system we have now. i argue that the way people will vote under av is of less significance than letting us have the choice to start with. the fact is fptp is not democratic. the fact is av is more democratic. it could be a lot better but it is better than fptp.


  51. Simon Foster Says:

    3. – With regards Matthew Elliot’s appointment there’s an interesting article here – http://bit.ly/aSYyTv (Mark you’ll be interested as they’ve referenced you!)


  52. John77 Says:

    I wasn’t around in 1945 so I’d take your word for it – EXCEPT that in the first multi-member constituency of which I heard in my youth A P Herbert was elected and re-elected (including 1945) as an Independent MP in a two-member constituency.
    I could go on about multi-member local government elections but we’ve drifted from the main point.
    A truly sophisticated voting system would not give the same weight to second preference votes as they do to first preferences (otherwise it would be “first-equal” preference) so I find the “50% support” argument unconvincing


  53. It doesn't add up... Says:

    AV does NOT ensure that a candidate has 50% support. Even in Australia where ranking all candidates and voting is compulsory that isn’t true. It only guarantees that the votes that remain standing are between two candidates in the final analysis.

    AV is a system that relies on persuading people to vote tactically (i.e. not for their first choice) to secure winners who can’t command a high level of first choice support. It’s interesting to note that of the seats won at the election, Lib Dems had the lowest proportion of outright 50% + wins among the major parties.


  54. youngdegsy Says:

    I simply don’t buy that Matthew Elliott is an effective campaigner at anything. He has founded an organisation whose primarily role is to snipe, whinge, complain and achieve precisely nothing, which is why he’s a perfect fit to lead those marshalled against democratic reform.

    The premise in the press release announcing his appointment was that FPTP has “served us well”. This is the soft underbelly of the No campaign. That premise could be ripped to shreds in minutes by an infant. Really, served us well? Do you remember the winter of discontent? The Miners’ strike? The poll tax? The Iraq war? The expenses scandal? The lies and the spin? Have you been asleep for forty years?

    FPTP gives the political class exactly what it wants – safe seats. Safe seats which mean there’s no incentive for politicians to behave (either on expenses, or against the yah boo political culture). Safe seats which means the political class can ignore the vast majority of the public ALL the time, even during elections.

    The pro-change camp has to be sharp and ruthless. “THEY stole YOUR money – now they’re fighting to save the corrupt system that preserves THEIR privileges. Fight back and vote for change.” “They want to save the system which gave us the POLL TAX and the IRAQ WAR. Don’t let them get away with it – vote for change.” “[picture of MP with fingers in ears] La la la la I’m not listening – No more. Vote for change.” Five minutes, with no advertising background, and already I’ve come up with three messages that are better than anything Elliot could ever dream of. And I know we can still do better than any of this.


  55. Mark Littlewood Says:

    @youngdegsy. Underestimate Matthew Elliott at your peril. You may disagree with his arguments, but he is very effective indeed.

    I think a big question for the YES side if how much to big up the difference AV would make. Would it really have stopped the Iraq war? (a majority of the public and a vast majority of MPs supported the war at the time)


  56. Mark Littlewood Says:

    @dave thalwey. You’re right, it is guess work on how people will vote, but not unreasonable guesswork. People do change their behaviour according to the electoral system – which is one reason why e.g. minor parties do better in the Euro elections.

    I’m not sure AV gives more choice – in the sense that I imagine there will be same sort of type and number of parties on the ballot paper. It does interpret choice in a different way though – and in a better way than FPTP in my view.


  57. Simon Foster Says:

    @Mark

    I agree with you that I don’t think it would have stopped the Iraq War at the time.

    I do think that AV would have fundamentally changed politics if introduced at previous elections, and altered the political landscape. This would have included John Major’s Government losing its majority through by-elections much earlier in the 1992-1997 Parliament, or possibly not having a majority at all in the 1992 election, for example.

    I can see the Lib Dem vote changing in the past – with about 8% of Lib Dem supporters voting Green first and Lib Dem second, and so the Greens gaining more credibility and possibly capturing Brighton Pavillion earlier (2005) than they did (2010) (I’d have to go and check the figures). My basis for this is the drop in support for the Lib Dems at Euro-elections and the corresponding rise in support for the Greens, as a PR system is used here.

    Net, I would see the Lib Dem vote going up (based on up to 46% of people from a number of opinion polls voting Lib Dem if they thought they could win), and thus winning more seats and having greater influence. The extent to which it would go up, however, is highly debatable (I’m not saying it would be 46%, I think it might be higher than 25% though).

    Northern Ireland would probably change considerably – with people able to express preferences amongst Unionist and Nationalist politicians, and across the sectarian divide.

    I think the nationalists in Scotland and Northern Ireland support would rise and a few more seats would have been won by them.

    For UKIP, I think their support would rise and we’d see the truth in how many people on the right support UKIP first and the Conservatives second. This might turn UKIP into a campaigning force outside of Euro-elections which is able to mount a serious challenge in a number of highly right wing seats (in south-east England?)

    I see more independents winning seats and for longer terms – I’m not convinced John Bercow would be speaker under AV.

    The biggest change I think would be a difference in the tribalism of politics. Instead, as AV rewards cooperation, I think we would have a more consensual form of politics.

    Finally, I think the 2010 election result under AV would have meant that the Lib Dems would have had a much stronger negotiating position in a hung parliament, and the numbers and the ability to do a realistic deal with Labour.

    In which case we could have ended up with a Labour/Lib Dem coalition.

    Overall, I think AV would have and will fundamentally change UK politics, for the better, if implemented, IMHO.


  58. Simon Foster Says:

    Ops. I meant to write nationalists in Scotland and *Wales* in the above article – the dangers of typing fast! ;)


  59. Dave Thawley Says:

    @mark
    “I’m not sure AV gives more choice – in the sense that I imagine there will be same sort of type and number of parties on the ballot paper. It does interpret choice in a different way though – and in a better way than FPTP in my view.”

    Sorry for my imprecise words. I was attempting to say that AV will allow people to give more information which increases their choice over the available candidates. I agree that there will most probably be no increase in the number of candidates. The extra choice via ranking though will give each voter the chance of more representation. As @itdoesntadup alluded to (although the language s/he uses appeared to me to be misleading) there are mathematical permutations which could possibly allow a MP selection on slightly less than 50% of the vote but from my understanding this would be extremely unusual and in most cases of these statistically abnormal events would be driven by a lot of individuals not using their right to chose more than one candidate. After all if everyone gives just one preference under AV then the result is of course FPTP which would then include all of its inherent unfairness just the same. i do find it ironic that FPTP supporters criticise this fact of the AV system. In fact i would find it humorous if this wasn’t such a serious topic. What the discourse along these lines is really saying is – don’t vote for AV because it can be made to work like FPTP which is crap – so stick with FPTP lol, in fact I have to laugh.


  60. Dave Thawley Says:

    @itdoesntadup I was going to comment on your comment about AV encouraging tactical voting. The fact the referendum will be AV versus FPTP. I think you are distorting the facts so much that black has become white. From my understanding of the no campaign this seems to be the way forward for them so I hope you are not just believing the rubbish they are putting out. If you are not then you must be aware that what you are saying is contradictory and in which case may I ask you have actually typed it in. I’m sorry but this type of misinformation gets my goat.


  61. Mark Littlewood Says:

    I think AV might well encourage tactical voting, but of a very different type to FPTP. FPTP has a strong tendency to encourage people to vote tactically against their least preferred candidate, rather than for their favourite candidate. The LibDems use this aspect of the electoral system very astutely, persuading Lab voters in Lib-Con marginals to switch to them to stop the Tories or Con voters in Lib-Lab marginals to vote LibDem to stop Labour.

    I suspect – but it’s only guesswork – that a new form of tactical voting may emerge under AV. This might be called “the flippant first preference”. A deeply eurosceptic Tory voter, might choose to vote 1. UKIP 2. Conservative. A socially libertarian LibDem might vote 1. Legalise Marijuana 2. LibDem. In both cases, the “honest” first preference choice of the voter is for the party they actually put second. They don’t actually want UKIP/Legalise Dope to win. But they use the mechanics of AV to send a “nudge” to their preferred party, knowing their vote can start on a “protest pile” but end up counting for the candidate they really want to win. I’m not saying this is a bad thing, just that it might well happen.

    Another guess is that the LibDem national vote share would tend to fall under AV. This is because a large number of LD votes under FPTP would actually be second preferences under AV, but becaue of tactical considerations, people use their X to vote for the least bad candidate rather than their genuinely favoured candidate. So, for example, the Labour vote share would probably rise to its “natural” level in seats like Winchester, Eastbourne, Wells, Bath etc., at the expense of the LibDem share. The end result in these seats would probably be the same though, as the swelled ranks of Labour voters would presumably see their candidate eliminated and their 2nd prefs would then go to the LibDems.


  62. Dave Thawley Says:

    Hi Mark

    I agree that AV can allow the type of nudging you have suggested and there may be more complex ways of tactical voting but what ‘go my goat’ was to quote this out of context. The far more widespread negative type of tactical voting people use nowadays would stop which is a definite benefit. If it was replaced with the type of protest first then serious second type of voting I would be all or it. At least the person would be list their serious votes in order of preference. At the moment people get one vote and many (perhaps millions) vote for their second preference and since they have only one cross they can’t vote for their first preference. AV of course gets rid of this by allowing us to vote for our first preference higher than our second preference but still giving us the option of voting for our number 2 – a far better state of affairs because the system has allowed us to show our real choice and then our second preference. Even if this comes down to a ‘I want A (mark as one) but I definitive don’t want B (so place candidate C number 2) AV is still far better at expressing public opinion than the current system even if local public opinion is against a particular candidate. saying this I seem to be framing this in the negative but if your MP has just spent your money on a house for his ducks then I think people have every right in making sure he doesn’t get in again. Even if he does carry a 35% minority (which under FPTP would ensure he and his ducks say in residence). AV would allow the population to evict them all.


  63. Simon Foster Says:

    @Mark You orginally wrote:

    “The YES side looks set to be run largely by Liberal Democrats. This needs to be avoided.”

    Looks like the fightback has started:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-11083354

    “He(James Graham) said the Yes to AV campaign was also keen to counter the impression that it will be a Liberal Democrat “front” organisation – stressing it will be a cross-party, non-partisan organisation and not run out of the Lib Dems’ Cowley Street headquarters as some bloggers have claimed.”


  64. Simon Foster Says:

    @Mark

    The opinion poll that I mentioned on political priorities:

    http://www.politicshome.com/uk/article/8953/coalition_talks_voting_reform_is_the_publics_fourth_priority.html

    Interesting to see electoral reform 4th at 37%. Of course what we need to see now is some up to date polling on this issue by a range of organisations, before drawing conclusions. Still, interesting to see this.


  65. Simon Foster Says:

    @ Mark

    I can see the Lib Dem vote falling in places like Winchester, but rising in the West Midlands for example, where the Lib Dems often come third.


  66. Mark Littlewood Says:

    @Simon

    Delighted that James indicates the YES campaign won’t be LibDem run. I think that would make it very hard to win, which is not a reflection on the merits or demerits of LibDems as campaigners – it is just a positioning point on outreach.

    The poll is interesting. Although I suppose devout FPTP supporters might be in the 37% (they might think “reforming the electoral system” is an important issue because they devoutly don’tr want it to happen). These sort of “salience” polls are difficult to interpret. You’d get different results if people were asked to list just one issue – or as many as, say, ten.

    I still think my original point stands – there will be a charge that the AV referendum is an unwelcome distraction from the economic problems the country is facing.

    You may be right about the LD vote increasing in seats where the party is third. Interestingly, the SV system for London mayoral elections seems to point in the opposite direction – but I’m not saying that’s at all definitive.


  67. dave t Says:

    @mark

    “I still think my original point stands – there will be a charge that the AV referendum is an unwelcome distraction from the economic problems the country is facing.” The problem is I can see the no campaign forcing this down peoples throats without telling the truth – in 10 years time the economic situation will be over and another one will be brewing but if they have their way we will still have this duff electoral system. To be honest I hope the no camp do think this is a distraction – to the point they all stop at home and read how bad the economy is while we go and get ourselves a fairer deal :-)


  68. Mark Littlewood Says:

    @dave t

    The economic situation is never “over”.

    I think the truth is that in a referendum people will vote for all sorts of reasons one way or the other. I’m sure this is true in representative elections too.

    Nevertheless, it’s a stone cold fact that if Nick Clegg is a wildly popular politician next May, this will help the YES campaign. And if he’s almost universally loathed, it will hinder the YES campaign. Intellectually, Nick’s popularity should be irrelevant in deciding whether we want FPTP or AV. But it’s futile to believe that is so.

    A large number of people will vote on grounds of an ill-defined “feel for it”. That depends a lot on personalities etc.

    All that said – and although I welcome a lot of what James Graham said in his recent interview – I am nervous about some of the campaign’s apparent approach. These were well outlined by Ian Martin of the Wall Street Journal http://blogs.wsj.com/iainmartin/2010/08/25/yes-to-av-team-promises-fun-not-angry-campaign/

    I’m not against fun and music, but I do hope that no one thinks Billy Bragg can somehow busk the reform campaign to a YES vote.


  69. Mikey21 Says:

    TO GET YOUR EU REFERENDUM VOTE.

    1 Cross out the AV question on the referendum.

    2 Insert alternative question
    ” Do you wish to leave the EU ? YES NO

    3 Select your desired answer.

    4. Place in referendum ballot box


  70. dave thawley Says:

    @Mike

    And then your paper will be removed from the box, looked at by the counter, marked as a spoilt paper and thrown in the bin. Your protest will not be registered and will not be reflected in anything + you will have supported those in power to keep the power they have instead of voting for AV which will give the us a chance to start getting the MPs to do what we want. In your case it seems getting a referendum on Europe I important. Your protest won’t achieve that –in fact it won’t achieve anything at all apart from potentially letting the MPs carry on doing what they want to (i.e. not giving us a referendum on Europe). I suggest you use your chance to get a fairer voting system – this starts with AV next year which may allow you to get what you want. Protest positively – protest in a way which will allow you to have more leverage with those in power – AV is the only way.


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