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The humiliation of the YES campaign

May 8th, 2011 Posted in AV referendum by

In any two horse political race, it is damned near impossible to poll less than 40% of the vote. You have to be spectacularly inept or obscenely unpopular to drop below this figure. For example, no Republican or Democrat Presidential candidate in recent US history has fallen this far. Even Barry Goldwater, Walter Mondale and Michael Dukakis – all famous for being electorally destroyed – managed to outscore the woeful YES percentage handsomely.

Yet somehow, the YES campaign managed to exceed even these extreme depths of campaigning ineptitude. It didn’t just lose. It was thrashed out of sight. It was humiliated. So appallingly bad has the YES vote been that any prospect of electoral reform has probably been obliterated for a generation.

The scale of incompetence by the YES campaign simply cannot be overstated. It is so vast and so staggering that it won’t merely fill column inches for days, if not weeks to come, it will be the subject of PhD theses for decades to come. It is unlikely that a wilful infiltration of the YES campaign by the NO side – at the most senior levels – could have resulted in a more calamitous result. The enormity of this professional political campaigning disaster is without parallel in modern British history.

All of this was predictable of course. In fact, it was pretty much predicted it here….last August. Most people on the YES side said the post was being overstated in its pessimism. If anything, it was far too optimistic. It did not say that the YES side would lose by more than a 2:1 margin.

The professional staff at the YES campaign should now apologise to their supporters. Don’t expect to see this happen, though. They are so producer-driven and blinkered and incapable of coalition-building that they will displace any blame to intangible, evil, external forces.

The preposterous Katie Ghose claims – even in her concession speech – that people were “shut out” of a national conversation about our democracy. How much more of a conversation do you want? Millions of pounds were spent, more media coverage was given to electoral reform than ever before and over 40 million people were entitled to vote. You get the feeling that Katie doesn’t really like democracy. In my lifetime, there will never be a bigger conversation about electoral reform. Following the conversation, only 6 million people agreed with Katie. And a fair number of them probably did so holding their nose.

This isn’t Katie’s fault, she insists. It is the fault of (a) the Murdoch empire or (b) the right-wing press more generally or (c) Conservative Party donors or (d) some other nebulous, ill-defined enemy of the people. No blame can be placed at the feet of Katie or the “movement” of democracy activists.

The truth is different.

The YES campaign was eminently winnable. But it ended up being run by readers of the Guardian for readers of the Guardian. Readers of this newspaper are about 1% of the voting electorate – and are also a statistically extreme group. Their views do not chime remotely with mainstream British opinion. There is no purist Guardian editorial proposition that could ever come close to winning a referendum in the UK.

From the outset, the YES campaign was all about the tiny coterie of people who feel strongly about electoral reform. The emphasis was on these people “having fun” and being invited to comedy evenings. In email after email from the YES campaign, the quirky behaviour of this “producer set” was celebrated and the “consumer set” ignored. So, some bunch of local activists who had written the letters Y, E and S in big letters on a beach were hailed as creative geniuses. Others were highlighted for running a particularly successful street stall. From the point of view of any observer, it was all about “them”(the micro-percentage of constitutional reform obsessives) never about “us” (the people). None of this self-indulgent madness won a single vote for the YES side, but it probably lost thousands.

Matthew Elliott’s NO2AV campaign took a totally different path. They realised who their base was and utilised them, but – quite brilliantly – reached out immediately to their key target electorate (essentially traditional Labour voters and supporters.) If Elliott had spent his first weeks in post writing to hard-core Tories about how marvellous and clever they were, he may have lost. He didn’t. He made it his number one aim to build a coalition with Labour and deployed his left-wing allies superbly. Ed Miliband was left looking like a weakened man who couldn’t control the more charismatic and compelling beasts in his party like John Reid. This ability to build a wider coalition from the outset, rather than retreat into the comfort zone of centre-right, free market politics was central to the NO campaign’s success.

In sharp contrast, John Sharkey and Katie Ghose failed to recruit or deploy a single, credible Conservative politician. In the absence of a senior Tory, they at least had Nigel Farage actively offering his assistance from the start of 2011. If there was a single, pro-YES populist politician who could chime perfectly with Mail, Telegraph and Sun readers, the UKIP leader was that man. Ghose and Sharkey should have ripped his arm off as he extended the hand of friendship.

Staggeringly, his offer of help was roundly ignored. Only with ten days to go was Farage prevailed upon by a desperate YES campaign to address some regional meetings. When he did, he was considered by most journalists present to be the star-turn.

I’m reliably informed that it took a furious letter from Farage’s office to the staggeringly complacent John Sharkey to trigger this involvement. I don’t know Nigel Farage particularly well, but I do know the Guardian and Independent are probably not his newspapers of choice. That meant he wasn’t “one of them”. The YES side wilfully ignored the one politician in the country that could appeal to the vote they desperately needed – radical, iconoclasts on the right-of-centre. This isn’t just incompetence, it’s an almost wilful determination to insist that the rest of the world thinks exactly as you do.

If there was one thing that nearly tipped me to voting NO (and I didn’t), it was the direct mail leaflet with the postal vote form. From recollection, the front page featured Joanna Lumley, Eddie Izzard, Tony Robinson, Colin Firth, Stephen Fry and other such celebrities. I may as well have been sent a leaflet saying “If you love the Guardian Arts supplement, then vote YES.” It showed a completely pitiful understanding of what most people – as opposed to most electoral reform professionals – care about.

This sort of mindset is reinforced by the entire YES branding. 10 hours after crushing defeat, the top item on the YES website was entitled “Are you ready to make history?”. It featured about a dozen hardened campaigners turning up in Trafalgar Square at 7am and unveiling a vast piece of purple bunting with the word “YES” on it. The video went on to say “We got our referendum and we say yes” (emphasis is mine). Note to wannabe communication professionals: if you use the first person possessive plural, make sure you aren’t using it to describe a handful of hardcore fanatics waving big pieces of fabric around at the crack of dawn. (I note now that website has been taken down – no doubt in some vain attempt to remove all evidence of the utter incompetence of those involved).

Possibly the nadir was the completely off piste broadcast showing hectoring “normal” voters wandering around with loud hailers shouting at supposed MPs for not working hard enough. As a slightly surreal opening scene to a new episode of Doctor Who, this might – just might – have worked.

As a piece of campaigning, it is perhaps the worst three minutes of material ever to be broadcast on primetime television.

John Sharkey is supposed to be a communications professional. Well, he might know what shade of green to put on the front of a box of washing powder, but he clearly has no idea about what to put on broadcast television in a political campaign. Never has a more confused, self-indulgent piece of rubbish made it to air in Britain. The YES campaign must have been “focus-grouping” themselves. And if you donated any cash – this is the sort of total garbage it was wasted on.

The lessons of all of this should be pretty clear. Never again allow a bunch of well-meaning, self-important Guardian readers to run a national campaign in which they talk to themselves and then blame their embarrassing naivety on external forces beyond their control.

And for anyone who cares about the future communications capabilities of the Liberal Democrats, that means making sure John Sharkey is kept as far away as possible!

Graphic thanks to Political Scrapbook!

88 Responses to “The humiliation of the YES campaign”

  1. NIch Starling Says:

    Excellent analysis.

    The comments about the style of the campaign, its poor direction, poorer literature and incorrect tone are all spot on.

  2. Dilettante Says:

    I went and watched that megaphone video on Youtube. It was utterly bizarre.

    I went into the referendum a campaign an ambivalent conservative, and I came out a committed FPTP purist. Elah.

  3. Richard Gadsden Says:

    This, astonishingly, isn’t the worst result ever for a referendum in the UK:

    Wales, 1979: Yes 20.3%, No 79.7%.

    And they won a Yes 20 years later. By the skin of their teeth, with the support of the most popular politician of the last 20 years (Blair, at the height of his powers) and the unified support of three major parties, and the opposition of the most hated party in the country – one of the most hated in recent British history (post Black Wednesday Tories).

    Line up every single possible advantage, and they just did it by the skin of their teeth.

    That is the state electoral reform is in.

  4. Chris Huang-Leaver Says:

    My heart sank when I watched the ‘megaphone’ ad. Then I get an email saying what a great success the video was.

    The most important point, in fact the only big benefit of AV over FPTP, mitigation of the spoiler effect, wasn’t mentioned AT ALL in the official campaign. To be honest with a good campaign we would have lost 55/45 because the referendum was on the same day as an election. (unconscious conflation of Nick Clegg and Yes to AV)

    I think the big failure was complaining that the NO team played nasty, this was about taking away the Tories right to rule with impunity, of course it was going to get nasty!

  5. BenSix Says:

    Good post!

    (With the proviso that the “No” campaign was still run by a bunch of shameless liars. If that’s what it takes for a campaign to be successful then you might at least admit it.)

  6. Jenny Says:

    Honest analysis. I just don’t think the Guardian metropolitan elite will ever learn, they are programmed to ‘educate’ not to listen.

  7. Matt Says:

    The Yes campaign was rubbish.

    “Here are a bunch of lovies telling you, you common, rather dense oiks, how to vote.”

    Thanks. I started out as a believer in electoral reform, saw who was on my side and changed my mind, pretty much.

  8. Red Dog Says:

    A few observations.

    1. The proposition that in a two horse race it’s near impossible to get less than 40% is flawed …. of course it is quite possible if the objective doesn’t jive with the electorate.

    2. The referendum itself was an ill-conceived bit of political jiggery-pokery – it didn’t appeal to the electorate who didn’t see it as a problem that needed fixing. It was an intellectual problem rather than a practical problem.

    3. The main problem as I seee it is that both AV and PR are widely seen as being more likely to deliver electoral results that lead to more coalitions rather than less …. and we can see from the last year what that leads to. If it had mattered so much to the LibDems they should have shown how coaltion politics could work and give voters a fantastic example ….. soemthing they failed to do. We have adversarial polictics and politicians – they simply can’t work together well enough to make this type of system work and voters have well and truly noticed that (you’d hav eto be blind not to).

    Frankly no wonder FPTP won handsomely as the die had been cast as a consequence of politician behaviour long before the campaigns started.

    Heartily agree that the Yes campaign was diabolical but it was never winnable in the first place.

  9. Simon Says:

    My favorite part of the campaign (locally) was the big “Cambridge Votes Yes” sign they hung from one of the college bridges at the University.

    Thanks for taking my vote for granted – you pillocks.

    Cambridge is also pretty safe ground for the Liberal Democrats – so perhaps you should have sold AV to the Tories – who are forced to vote tactically for the Lib Dems to keep Labour out.

  10. Ian Says:

    When I looked at the people endorsing the ‘Yes’ campaign; Ed Millipede, Nick Clegg, Balls, Eddie Izzard, is it any wonder that 70% of the population voted ‘No’!

  11. george Says:


    Are you sure you’re not ready to switch parties?

    Not being a Lib Dem myself, I was surprised at how crap they turned out to be in promoting “yes.” But after reading you analysis, it makes perfect sense. They didn’t want my vote for constitutional change because I am one of those “tribal conservatives” that your dick-head Cable attacked (again) today.

    How about we have a good 20 years before the LibDems suggest any constitutional policy innovations? How about we never again let your kind get anywhere near national government? As I said, it’s time for a sensible person like yourself to change parties, while you’re still young enough to do so. It’s time to reject the dangerous policies of cynical and glib politicians who aren’t mature enough to understand that they share the world with people who don’t think like they do.

  12. Mick Says:

    “We got our referendum and we say yes”
    if you use the first person possessive plural…


  13. Jedibeeftrix Says:

    Excellent analysis.

    I termed it the presumption of virtue, but it amounts to the same thing.

  14. Gentoo Says:

    I think that the article contains much valid analyis but still seems to be predicated on a common misconception, (regardless of the topic).

    I think the concept of failing/needing “to get the story across” was an invention of the Labour media machine, e.g., everytime a poll said “take your ID cards and stuff them up your arse” (or whatever) the political class assumed not that the electorate had understood enough and taken a view but rather they’d “failed to understand” because had failed to get the story across.

    One narrative of this referendum that might need more exploration is that the electorate like FPTP – perhaps they recognise that under a particular view of “fairness” FPTP is unfair, but they’ve looked at the basket of costs and benefits and decided they like what they get. After all a significant percentage of the NO vote must incude people from Lab/Con who don’t stand a snowflake in June’s chance of getting an MP of the ir political persuasion (but possibly expect any MP to help them with a specific problem)

    Regarding the Scottish election, I read on the BBC website that the system was “set up” to render the result they got impossible to obtain (I’ve no idea I’m just reading the words). “set up” (or whatever) send shivers down my back.

    I though it was only in banana republics the system was “set up” to achieve particular results. And don’t get me started about why postal voting was introduced.

    I think the LIbDems might want to read George Dangerfield’s book again.

    I wonder if the new “protest” party for those who don’t really want to protest is the Greens

  15. Kirsty Says:

    I voted yes, but this is what I wrote the night before, take a look?

  16. MeEd Says:


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

    proved himself to be very, very wrong back in August last year.

    ‘take back parliament’ – what at joke. Take it back from whom exactly?

  17. Mike Says:

    I worked for the campaign, and this post is spot on.

  18. Billy Blofeld Says:

    I loathe self righteous Guardian types – you’ve hit the nail on the head perfectly!

    Your left wing peers (please don’t count me among them) really should listen to you more often – but they won’t – because whilst pretending to care about others, they are actually ALL self obsessed.

    Once again – brilliant article. I’d say you’ll go far, except you won’t because you are surrounded by Guardian “producer” types.

  19. JF Says:

    The failure of the AV proposition for me was that they should have promised a ‘none of the above’ box on every ballot paper

  20. Major Plonquer Says:


    Just a note to bring you up to speed on another current ‘communications’ strategy.

    In future, the Liberal Democrats are to be rebranded the Living Deadocrats to more accurately reflect their current political standing.

  21. John Lister Says:

    The opening paragraph is undermined by the fact that the only other national referendum in the UK (EEC, 1975) was won with a 67-33 majority.

  22. Dr Pangloss Says:

    Adopting AV would have had precisely the opposite effect to that intended, by undermining one of the principal ideas behind our democracy: that it is “representative”. Our MPs are not delegates, they represent all their constituents even those who did not vote for them. AV was asking the British people to give our MPs a bogus mandate to act as a delegates exclusively for their own political side, (because whoop de do I’ve got more than half the votes.)

    If there is a case for AV, the YES2AV campaign team were too arrogant, stupid or lazy to make a case for it. Having all those has-been luvvies’ endorsement just looked bogus and the electorate thought so too.

  23. The Thirsty Gargoyle Says:

    The broad point is right, I think, as regardless of the No campaign lies, but the opening paragraph is poppycock. As noted above, the only other national referendum in the UK also saw the defeated side getting less than 40%, and of the 31 national referendums that have been held in the Republic of Ireland, the defeated side got less than 40% of the vote in 23 of the 31 contests.

    Curiously, a referendum on the introduction of divorce was defeated 63.5 – 36.5 in 1986, but just nine years later on a slightly higher turnout out, a second referendum on the introduction of divorce was narrowly passed 50.3 to 49.7.

    I really think people need to stop talking about electoral reform being dead for a generation. Stay on this. The next step is to do surveys to find out why people voted yes, why they voted no, and why they didn’t vote. The Irish government did this after Lisbon I and found that most people who hadn’t voted or who voted no had done so because they hadn’t understood the treaty; the second attempt saw them making a serious effort to explain it, and a few explicit guarantees being added, with the effect that Lisbon II was ratified by a landslide vote.

  24. John Hallett Says:

    Those who think this has killed electoral reform for a generation are wrong.

    It’s killed it off for 100+ years – and for one very good reason, which the article (and comments) fail to address.

    ONLY LDs WANT IT (ie 10-12% of the electorate).

    PLEASE get that into your thick heads – NO-ONE WANTS ELECTORAL REFORM (but you). The reason is simple – it benefits only the LDs, so any change to the voting system which benefits you is seem as self-serving (which it is).

    Thus, doomed to fail – always and forever.

    Now, individual voter registration
    Minimal postal voting
    Voter identification at the polling-station

    THOSE are ways to eliminate the corruption endemic in UK polling and would have very strong support – except in the ‘rotten boroughs’ where such gerrymandering is widespread.

    Here, LDs, Greens, BNP, UKIP and all other fringe parties would gain and only Labour would lose – so go ahead and press for THAT!

    Oh – and don’t even BEGIN to start on House of Lords ‘reform’, unless you mean reverting to the position of around 1950, which we’d all like as it was open and honest.

  25. Turning Point Says:

    Both campaigns were essentially background noise until one key turning point: the day the Electoral Commission supplied its literature to all voters.

    At that point, people could clearly see which system was a better option.

    “Yes” targetted well with its postal vore campaign. That is undeniable. The problem is, they had to advocate a flawed system that had no benefits in increasinr fairness. Also, they were figthing against the divided Labour party.

    The loss of the “Yes” had less to do with the campaign run by a strategist. There were too many other factors pushing it into automatic defeat.

  26. Marcus Aurelius Says:

    Next up a popular referendum on the UK quitting the EUSSR!

  27. Martin Says:

    Good article.

    In addition, the ‘Yes’ campaign didn’t even bother getting a Freepoat pamphlet out to every household in the land.

    And by concentrating resources on the Internet (YouTube ‘virals’ that didn’t work and Facebook apps) they shut out anyone over the age of 35 or without a computer.

    I don’t think they’ve just killed of voter reform for a generation; they’ve also killed off referendums. Why spend public money on referenda when the public will vote ‘No’ in such thumping numbers?

  28. Phil Says:

    Excellent article my only caveat is that this was not an issue that the electorate has ever felt strongly about in the current environment.
    The guardian affect is also a brilliant summary which the BBc would do well to inwardly digest, bearing in mind that they appear to be obssessed with its minority luvvie agenda but I suspect will totally ignore and may well wind up as their very own trojan horse.

  29. Mat Says:

    This article is spot-on.

    If I stand for election for anything ever, I’m not touching any of these people for campaigning with a barge pole.

    I was extremely depressed that my constant phone calls to them offering professional services for FREE for their marketing were never even returned.

    They utterly failed at spotting talent and leveraging it.

    Instead they pumped out video after video that seemed to exist only to serve the campaign itself. (e.g. They all ended with a plea for the viewer to pledge donations to the YES campaign. WRONG AUDIENCE PEOPLE!)

    No wonder half the British electorate were uninformed about what AV actually was until it was too late!

    Very angry that these upstarts ruined the chance we had for electoral reform.

    What a disgrace.

  30. David Herdson Says:

    I’m afraid it was all too predictable. I wrote this in mid-April

    but it could have been written a good deal earlier but for the view that surely the Yes campaign would move on to embrace a larger audience. It didn’t; it lost.

    FWIW, I was going to vote Yes myself and spent a good deal of time persuading to my local Conservative constituency Association to do likewise. In the end, I didn’t. Partly that was because it was obvious that No was going to win and in that context I thought it was more important that there was as big a winning margin whichever way to mitigate ill-will within the coalition as to the dishonest nature of *both* campaigns. A greater part however was the way in which the Yes campaign tended toward campaigning for Yes as the route to an eternal Guardian government. I know – and you know – that it wouldn’t but when people like me are so actively excluded and marginalised, I really don’t see why I should support a campaign which was obviously going down in flames, irrespective of the merits of the case it should have been putting.

  31. Tim Kent Says:

    This post does have some truth behind it but I think you are focusing on completely the wrong thing.

    As one of the regional staff we really struggled to get media coverage for electoral reform. Not all of us are as stupid as this post may like to presume so we had conversations with journalists on what they would cover and what they would not. They were clear that electoral reform was not interesting so we had to do visually interesting things to get media coverage.

    The YES in the sand took our Cornwall organiser 1 hour to do and got coverage in the local paper that has a penetration of over 80%. We got coverage in that same paper on polling day on page 2. In that constituency we did achieve over 40% of the vote.

    The mistake this post is making is to mix media stunts to get coverage for YES with messages. Now an attack on our messaging and wider communication strategy may have some more validity.

    I do accept the stunts were a little metro orientated – but to be honest we tried any idea people came up with to get press attention. I do find it easier to criticise after the fact.

    I apologise on my part that we lost. Clearly we did not have strong enough messages, failed to explain how easy AV was.

    We should have also gone for the Conservatives – ruthlessly. We were too concerned with trying to court a minority Conservative vote where the real battleground was the Labour vote (and some of the Lib Dem vote). We should have demolished Cameron and ripped in to him 10 times worse than they did to Nick Clegg. Then we may have won.

    The truth dear friends is that most Labour voters don’t care about voting reform. Why would they? They think the current system is fine. They do care about giving someone a kicking. We should have provided them with that chance.

  32. Andy Says:

    The article is almost spot on. The YestoAV campaign arrogantly assumed we, the people, would do as we were told and vote Yes. It was run by Guardian readers with all their bigotry and instinctive arrogance, so no wonder it was a disaster. But they wont learn.

    But many of us who voted ‘No’ did so out of principle. If you want to run off and vote for the BNP, well fair enough. But why should you then be able to vote for the Labour Party ? You either support the BNP or you don’t: you either support the Labour Party or you don’t.

    The second reason why I voted No is that looking at the Coalition Government and the behaviour of the LibDems why would anyone want to give this nasty set of morons perpetual power, which is what AV would in effect do. The mixture of arrogance and stupidity is quite breathtaking.

  33. Jeff York Says:

    It could be said that both campaigns failed. If you examine the vote in comparison to the size of the potential electorate you’ll see that approximately 13% voted “Yes”, 26% voted “No” and 61% voted “couldn’t give a monkey’s” by not bothering.

    The “Great British Public” (TM any politician out to garner votes) failed to engage in the whole process. They appear to be tired of politicians and tired of politics. With the venal shower that we’ve had for the last twenty-odd years it seems hard to criticise those feelings.

  34. John Stevens Says:

    Very good analysis Angela. The failure of Lord Sharkey to use the right, including UKIP was, I can testify directly, lamentable. There was a body of Conservative opinion open to AV but they were not even considered in any serious fashion. This, I think, is only another aspect of the total lack of understanding of Conservative and right thinking generally, by Clegg’s tight circle of advisors, which explains much of the disaster that has overtaken the Liberal Democrats over the past year.

  35. Eric Says:

    There is one other thing that hasn’t been mentioned.

    No came up with the brilliant One Person One Vote line against AV which won the argument intellectually. It’s actually an original argument and one I never read in all my university Politics studies.

    And you know, why should people who support fringe parties get to vote time and again when the majority who vote for mainstream parties only get to vote once?

  36. CouncillorRupertRead Says:

    Good points that I’ve also made about the failure to build a coalition of support beyond a centre-left-green base.
    There are also more humdrum practical ways in which the YES campaign was hopeless. I suspect that the fact they blew a lot of their budget on Blue State Digital was a massive mistake: given that they didn’t even get a strong online campaign out of it! The fact that it took folk like myself and my colleagues at GreenWordsWorkship to point out the obvious flaws in the SEO and internet marketing was shocking.
    In fact, as has been pointed out already (
    “an ineffective Yes campaign (if you typed AV into Google, they didn’t even come up on the first page of results)!”), the official online Yes campaign was weak in the extreme. Here are some more highlights (sic.!) from it, to my knowledge:
    >YES’s SEO was very weak indeed, despite strong advice from independent experts (including the pros from Obama’s campaign, from the States) and from my little ‘Green Words Workshop’ outfit.
    >NO swept up lots of domain names immediately, before the campaign had even got started: YES was seemingly asleep on the job. This put YES at a disadvantage from the very beginning.
    >Incredibly, YES didn’t use paid-for google ads! This is just extreme incompetence / bad decision-making. It says it all, really.
    And finally, there was too much emphasis on bloody focus groups, in constructing the YES message! They were what defined ‘our’ message, one that clearly did not resonate with voters.
    See for my full take, over at Liberal Conspiracy.

  37. Robert Eve Says:

    What a wonderful set of election results.

    NO2AV walks it.

    More Conservative councillors.

    A better chance that the Scottish lefties will leave the UK.

    What’s not to like??!!

  38. Del Says:

    Tim Kent.

    “We should have also gone for the Conservatives – ruthlessly. We were too concerned with trying to court a minority Conservative vote where the real battleground was the Labour vote (and some of the Lib Dem vote). We should have demolished Cameron and ripped in to him 10 times worse than they did to Nick Clegg. Then we may have won.”

    You just don’t get it do you. Your tribal politics kicks in when you scratch your skin. This was not about giving any party, this was asking the people to chose a voting system; their choice was not the one you wanted – get over it.

  39. Gentoo Says:

    And here we have it, Tim Kent, 9th May 8.00am

    “Clearly we did not have strong enough messages, failed to explain how easy AV was.”

    AKA we didn’t get the right result so it must be that we failed to get our message across.

    What about considering the possibility that you got your message across but most people disagreed? The arrogance of the political class never fails to amaze.

    Your approach is on the same spectrum as Maoist re-education camps.

  40. jack wales Says:

    Silly article. Assumes that the only issues are how well the PR and the tactics were done. People actually voted on the merits of the issue. Most people see that the main result of AV is to increase the power of party leaderships and the professional political elite relative to the general population. Governments would normally be formed and re-formed by back-stage haggling and trading. No voter can have much idea whether the policies he voted for will survive this process. No system of voting is perfect, or anything like it. FPTP is less bad than AV ( or PR ); so the result is sensible.

  41. Selohesra Says:

    The Yes lot need not give up hope – with the relentless ‘progressive’ bias of the BBC – whatever that really means in the context of AV they may eventually wear down the electorate to slip through some change which is neither fairer nor proportionate

  42. Dave Page Says:

    There’s a more significant point here – not only did Yes not engage people who weren’t part of the Guardianista clique, they failed to engage people who were!

    As a registered supporter of the Yes campaign, I was told about precisely two events in a fifty mile radius, out of the literally dozens which actually happened. The Yes campaign expected people to go back to the Yes website over and over again to check for new events in their area, rather than using the e-mail and phone details they had collected to actually contact people. On top of that, events were organised in my city which clashed with each other. Communication between paid staffers and volunteers was opaque, with no clear responsibility for promotion of events, media interaction etc.

    I compare this to No2ID, a campaign with which I was involved, which sent a fortnightly e-mail to registered supporters with every upcoming event they knew about. Sure, this got a little long and unwieldy at times, but it was a simple and low-tech solution which gave all the information to people that they needed to get involved. That Yes couldn’t even do this demonstrates their complete incompetence in grassroots campaigning.

  43. Colin Says:

    The Grauniads and metropolitan ‘elite’ (aka self righteous tw4ts) just don’t get it. It’s similar to the counselling boom we’ve seen in the UK over the last 15 years. If anything happens to you that others think (in their opinion) is traumatic, they say ‘you need counselling’. If you say you don’t, they tell you that you’re in denial. Admit that you do and they say, we knew it, you need counselling.
    That’s the same mindset shown by the YES campaign. You need a new voting system and if you deny it, we’ll tell you that you’re wrong because we know best and you are just a bunch of lackwit bumpkins. Anyhoo, if the best they could come up with was parading Eddie Izzard and Stephen Fry round the place telling us what to do, then that was reason enough to vote NO!
    Oh, and for the record, I didn’t vote for my current MP, I voted for the previous MP, but hey, she won fairly so I can’t complain.

  44. Man in a Shed Says:

    Great hind sight. Good insight. If you want foresight you might like to realise that these criticisms apply to a lot of Lib Dem policies, behaviour and beliefs.

  45. Tim Kent Says:

    Del – you do not get it. It is not about tribal politics it is about winning. That is what NO got right. They went for a win no matter what the message. If we wanted the Labour vote we needed to stand up and destroy the Conservatives. The irony of this article is it attacks ‘Guardian’ readers yet most of the comments are from people with a similar outlook.

    Conservatives (in the main) were always going to vote NO. The battle was for the Labour vote, most of whom do not want electoral reform. This means you need to motivate via another means. Nothing about tribal politics all about winning a referendum. Well done to No for seeing that.

  46. Kevin T Says:

    Speaking as a right of centre voter who initially backed Yes but eventually voted No, this piece is largely correct. The No campaign had little impact on me but I was increasingly put off by a Yes campaign that promised me that the right would be kept out of power and AV would deliver more “progressive” governments. I’m not sure I actually believe that, but a system that means more of Blair, Brown and Miliband – no thanks.

    Aother factor was a gobsmacking Daily Politics debate where Charles Kennedy (Yes) was promising AV would dramatically change the results of general electione while Tessa Jowell (Yes) was assuring us it wouldn’t. This is sort of crucial, isn’t it, and it gave the impression no one had a clue what effect AV would actually have. That or both were telling their parties’ voters what they wanted to hear – that Labour would retain its advantage and that the LibDems would do way better.

    But the biggest put-off for me was when it emerged that studies showed AV would have increased the disproportionate majorities of the Tories under Thatcher and Labour under Blair. Surely this is precisely what’s wrong with FPTP – that it lets parties which scrape past their rivals in terms of votes have huge parliamentary majorities? Why would we want to change to a system that actually increased those majorities?

    So what strongly came across, as this article says, was vote Yes because it will help the Left. No sale, sorry.

  47. Dorian Valentine Says:

    Excellent article. For me this summed up the problem not just with the Yes campaign, but with the entire campaigning strategy of the political far left: “we know better”. Sending such an alienating message to the public can only have one result, and the Yes campaign should have been smart enough to see it coming months in advance.

  48. FrankFisher Says:

    Pretty much bang on Angela – with the absence of a clear explanation of *why* they chose this disasterous route: arrogance. The Left have for so long believed that anything that they believe MUST be correct, simply because they believe it, that they have got out of the habit of constructing effective arguments. This arrogance shades very easily into an out and out moral fascism where the existence of other credible and tolerable moral frameworks is simply denied – if you’re not of the Left, you’re not only wrong, you’re evil. This disasterous campaign, run by the Left for the Left, demonstrates delightfully that these people are, as the Guardian itself now recongnises, on a different planet, and also that they still don’t realise it. The denial, the *fury* at the voters, the scapegoating … this is all archetypal leftyism, and just shows why they should never be allowed near the lever sof power. I’m thinking the notion – and reality – of a ‘progressive majority’ is utterly stone dead. Good.

  49. Martin Says:

    Gentoo Says:

    AKA we didn’t get the right result so it must be that we failed to get our message across.

    What about considering the possibility that you got your message across but most people disagreed? The arrogance of the political class never fails to amaze.

    Your approach is on the same spectrum as Maoist re-education camps.

    Gentoo – whilst you’ve accurately highlighted the standard response of anyone involved in politics, there is a grain of truth in this instance to the claim “we didn’t get our message across properly”.

    Guardian luvvies aside, the major failing of the ‘Yes’ campaign is that there were a huge amount of people in the country that they didn’t even bother speaking to.

    The ‘No’ campaign sent out a mailshot to every single household in the land. The ‘Yes’ campaign couldn’t be bothered to do the same.

    Basically, not sending something out to every voting person in the land is the classic definition of “not getting your message across”. In fact, I’d say it’s gross incomptence.

  50. Alex Says:

    I totally agree with this post and for me the failure of the campaign was sumarised in my intellegent, newspaper reading (not the Guardian though), full time working sister saying after the referendum ‘what does AV stand for?’. She knew what the arguments for and against were but the campaign could have been more explicit about exactly what you were voting for!

  51. David Price Says:

    Absolutely 100% spot on. The YES campaign was lefty luvvies telling other lefty luvvies how lovely it would be to have AV. The NO campaign went out on the streets and put the issues in stark, simplistic, easy to digest terms. Result, NO wins by a landslide and the lefty luvvies cry foul! “How dare you put things in non-intellectual, non-luvvie terms?”, they shout. “It’s outrageous; speaking to the common people directly, over our heads!”

    This was the moment for Farage to make his mark, and he could have put a big dent into that NO vote. But the luvvies said, “oh no he’s not one of us and aren’t UKIP racists or something like that?” UKIP are a radical liberal party with not a jot of prejudice inside them, but such is the blinkered, prejudiced mindset of the luvvies running the YES campaign that they didn’t even realise this… thus losing their greatest asset. Shameful!

  52. Hampshire voter Says:

    The defining point for me was Vince Cable saying vote “Yes” would exclude the Tories from ever winning again. A large proportion of the electorate are “tribal” and will stick with “their” party regardless. However, a significant proportion are not and have voted for a variety of parties in the past. To be told that you’ll always end up with a Labour/LibDem majority in Parliament is hardly reassuring.

  53. R M Chater Says:

    Though I completely agree with all the points you’ve made, I can’t help wondering if the Yes campaign was deliberately lacklustre.
    The Lib Dems never really wanted AV in the first place – why bother wasting the cash?

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

    It is unlikely that a wilful infiltration of the YES campaign by the NO side – at the most senior levels – could have resulted in a more calamitous result.

    So now do you understand why Miliband wanted to lead the show to the exclusion of Clegg and Farage?

  55. Ly nn Says:

    Well, as Kipling said:
    “Let us admit it fairly, as a business people should,
    We have had no end of a lesson: it will do us no end of good.

    Not on a single issue, or in one direction or twain,
    But conclusively, comprehensively, and several times and again,
    Were all our most holy illusions knocked higher than Gilderoy’s kite.
    We have had a jolly good lesson, and it serves us jolly well right!”

  56. AndyN Says:

    The “celebrity” endorsements typified YES’s condescending assumptions about the British public, namely that we’re so moronic that we’ll do anything as long as the right person tells us to.

    While some people might indeed buy a particular brand of shampoo because Cheryl Cole uses it, those same people also appreciate the colossal difference between buying hair products and voting for constitutional reform.

  57. listener Says:

    Interesting thread.
    I got really put off listening to Radio 4, where neither DC or DM were able to really able to fully talk about the AV voting process for fear of getting dragged into perceived mistruths – DM going as far as saying “I don’t want to get into the details” when discussing what really should have been the basics that voters need to know in order to make the choice. Without a sense of clarity from the political leaders even a few days before the vote, did a change from the status quo ever really stand a chance?

  58. Jules Wright Says:

    What a great piece. Absolutely spot on.

  59. Anon Says:

    You’re spot on. I actually campaigned with them in West London, and, in spite of the hard work of most of the volunteers on the ground, most of whom were completely aware of the campaigns shortcomings, any attempts to go ‘off message’ and appeal to actual voters were shot down.

    All the focus was on daft ‘events’ and making MP’s ‘work harder’. If a message didn’t stick, we didn’t abandon it, we just kept trying to ram it home. We made the classical campaigning mistake of thinking “if only the voters weren’t so stupid”. We didn’t meet people where they were, instead talking down to them. I’ve lost count of the number of times I was taken off calling and canvassing (ways of actually interesting other human beings) to attend some stupid photoshoot or write a press release.

  60. Adam Bell Says:

    I would agree, a fantastic post – and I say that as a local Yes co-ordinator. The number of invites I got to ‘gigs’ and ‘street stalls’ compared to the number of invites I got to canvassing sessions was appalling. It really was the intelligentsia talking to itself.

    I ran the campaign in Islington, which we won. Partly this was because of demographics, but also because on the day I had volunteers handing out leaflets in areas with a significant percentage of BME voters saying that the BNP was backing a No vote.

    The central campaign kept trying to stop these from being given out, because ‘people were complaining’. They actually ran out of them on the day. This was a campaign for wets, by wets.

  61. Andrew Says:

    Received no leaflet from the YES campaign.

    Their campaign was very fact-free. All they could say was what they hoped it would do really such as MP’s will work harder.
    The NO campaign was very dishonest—how can someone who comes second in a boxing match go on to be the winner?

    But I think there is a wider problem. If you read the ‘quality press’ then you often see letters from CND/Liberty etc. However, they never seem to bother with the bigger-selling papers. This is stupid.

  62. Fran Says:

    The intitial stages of the Yes campaign seemed to be preparing to mount an efficient and large-scale ground war. I don’t know how well that worked across the country. But for that to work there did need to be an “emphasis on these people ‘having fun’ and being invited to comedy evenings” in order to recruit the troops to mount this ground war. That was fair enough at the start of the campaign.

    However, I went to one of the comedy evenings. It was a lineup of Labour-supporting comedians like Josie Long essentially just spending a couple of hours slagging off the Liberal Democrats.

    Given that Lib Dem boots on the ground were always going to be important to the campaign, and that these Lib Dems made up a good proportion of the audience, the tone of the event seemed calculated to alienate even the supporters the Yes campaign did have!

  63. Mike Says:

    – Tim Kent

    I assisted on the Yes campaign in Cornwall before I went back home from University. We haven’t met but I phonebanked with the regional manager there.

    If we couldn’t win in a Liberal Democrat seat (where you had your Yes in the sand), where could we have possibly won. 40% in an LD seat is not an achievement, it’s a disaster.

    As to an attempt to court a minority of Tory voters: what utter rubbish. There was never any attempt to do so. With Nigel Farage we had a great opportunity to take a real bite out of them: Yes co-ordinators at the highest level simply didn’t want to because they falsely believed in their own ‘progressive majority’ dogma, bouncing off the walls of their Twitter echo chamber.

    Your comment about Labour and the Tories betrays another reason why this campaign was lost: we made it about political parties when it should have been about voting systems.

    I wanted us to win as much as anyone, but to be quite honest, blaming Labour is side-stepping the actual problem: the campaign was unconvincing, the system was unconvincing. This was our fault.

  64. guy Says:

    All good stuff.

    The thought I took away from the polling booth, after my NO THANKS vote was simple.

    One second I was expected to vote using a perfectly easy to understand BINARY selection. Yes or NO to any given councilor, and the next moment I was expected to state that the method I had just used was a nonsense….

    I think they call that cognitive dissonance or something like that.

  65. tony Says:

    For the first time in my opinionated life, I spent days agonising which way to vote and was firmly in the don’t know camp. Then I realised why. Both systems are crap! FPTP minority of votes, huge majority in the house, and AV, the loser can end up running the country. Talk about the evil of two lessers. Jasmin and Eddie made my mind up for me in the end. They wanted a yes vote, so I voted no.

  66. Chris JC Says:

    “So appallingly bad has the YES vote been that any prospect of electoral reform has probably been obliterated for a generation.”

    So we shouldn’t have bothered is what you’re saying? Don’t be silly.

  67. Jeff Todd Says:

    They want to run the country under full PR – Fine.

    But before I give our “POLITICAL ELEITE” that power, I want a country that they can run – not a hotch-potch puppet state run on behalf of the EUSSR Politburo.

    YES to PR, if YES to leaving the EU is part of the deal.

    There was nothing in the AV vote for me, just a chance for a few different breeds of pig to get their snout in the tax-free expenses trough.

  68. G Eagle Esq Says:

    Yes … ummm …. but ….

    Embarrassed schuffling von right talon to left talon …. and back to right talon

    …. but what about the Elephant in the Room

    Could it be – horribile dictu [horrible to suggest] – that the YES-Campaign failed miserably NOT because of the inept YES-Campaign but because AV is a Miserable Idea

    … and there were enough sensible British People to realize this and to vote accordingly

  69. Chris L Says:

    “The YES side wilfully ignored the one politician in the country that could appeal to the vote they desperately needed – radical, iconoclasts on the right-of-centre. This isn’t just incompetence, it’s an almost wilful determination to insist that the rest of the world thinks exactly as you do.”

    And yet this kind of intellectual arrogance and intolerance is found so often on the centre-left. Well this time it came back to bite them on the a***.

  70. Dr Pangloss Says:

    Looking at these comments, especially from some of the Yes2AV / Liberal Democrat sympathisers, several points come to mind.

    1) Liberal Democrat does not equal liberal; if Gladstone were alive today he would be a Tory.

    2) There seem to be quite a few thoughtful Conservatives and conservatives prepared to consider the case for Yes2AV (as well as UKIP, of course), whose campaigners were too arrogant, lazy and stupid to bother making one.

    3) On the margins by which No2AV won, it is delusional to suggest that a good campaign from Yes2AV would have clinched the day, even if the No2AV campaign had been as lamentable as that of Yes2AV.

    4) Yes2AV / Liberal Democrats bleating about “unfair” tactics should take a good look in the mirror, or put it another way, people in glass houses shouldn’t throw stones. And by the by, the involvement of the Electoral Reform Society in funding the Yes2AV campaign while standing to benefit financially from a Yes win stank.

    5) It is not immoral either to be a Conservative, to vote Conservative, or to hold conservative values: so long as the Left preaches at the electorate as though it is, it will continue to undermine its own arguments, and annoy a constituency who might otherwise consider giving it their vote.

    6) Cable and Huhne are an embarrassment to the Liberal Democrat party. It is their serial disloyalty to Nick Clegg, and their inability to accept the responsibilities that come with a cabinet position in a coalition government, which has persistently undermined the credibility of the party and its leader. They have made the Liberal Democrats look and poll like a party that is actively seeking political oblivion. Mind you, the same appears to be the case for most Liberal Democrat activists.

    7) The most pressing electoral reform is the Boundary Commission, since Labour at present has a built-in ten per cent head start. (Although perhaps it is too much to expect “Liberal” Democrats or the Electoral Reform Society to see the injustice of an unfair franchise these days).

    8) The voters are always right!

  71. stephen johnson Says:

    After the UK referendum it is going to be much more difficult to introduce a preferential system such as AV or STV into the UK. PR on the one hand, and simple voting and counting, and single member constituencies were the underlying themes.

    The consequence will be a shift towards systems more akin to AMS (additional member system), versions of which are in use in Scotland and Wales, as well as Germany and New Zealand, and advocated by the Green party. The main objections to AMS focus on additional members elected from the party list.

    Electoral reform is a long game, but finding the right system and building a consensus will take time, especially in view of the entrenched views of some reformers.

    DPR Voting is a variation of AMS caricatured as the Addition Member system without the additional members.

    The Electoral Reform Society lists five objections to AMS. The main four objections do not apply to DPR Voting. The fifth – some people are confused as to what to do with their two votes – seems a bit feeble.

    I would like the Liberal Democrats to rethink its commitment to STV. It’s time for fresh and unbiased thinking.

  72. dave tozer Says:

    I agonised over my decision and eventually voted NO to AV. Why because the thought of giving the BNP a preference on a voting form revolted me, and yet if I didn’t write a preference for the BNP, how ever small, then my vote in any reallocation would be ignored. It was clear that the YES campaign saw AV as a stepping stone to something else which they wouldn’t talk about or explain, and Alan Jonson’s assertion that FPTP was not used in any other country other then the UK was puerile and splitting-hairs.

  73. kininvie Says:

    Hi everyone…..

    Why all this breast beating? Come to Scotland where we have our lovely additional member system, carefully granted to us for our own good by a Labour Government in Westminster to keep the nasty people out of power. It’s taken the electorate three elections to get used to it, but now that we are used to it, we have found we can not only shaft the people who thought it would be good for us, but can use it in ways that its designers thought impossible (c.f. Aberdeen results)…..

    In short: Don’t bother trying to change Westminster; set up regional nationalist movements and make trouble…

    Good luck

  74. RichieP Says:

    Gentoo Says:

    “May 9th, 2011 at 8:47 am
    And here we have it, Tim Kent, 9th May 8.00am
    “Clearly we did not have strong enough messages, failed to explain how easy AV was.”

    Your approach is on the same spectrum as Maoist re-education camps.”

    Well said. And that’s the Guardian Government for you. What with the Conservatives, UKIP, climate sceptics and anyone who disagrees with Polly Toynbee or Herman Van Rompuy, they’ll’ll be able to fill the UK’s nicks many times over – and, of course, would cheerfully do so ‘for your own good’.

  75. Lotus 51 Says:

    Tim Kent
    “1. Del – you do not get it. It is not about tribal politics it is about winning. That is what NO got right. They went for a win no matter what the message. If we wanted the Labour vote we needed to stand up and destroy the Conservatives.”

    Well Tim, actually I think it is you who doesn’t get it.

    Initially I was enthusiastic about AV, figuring I could vote UKIP and then Conservative as a 2nd preference, but the Yes2AV campaign explained to me that the benefit of this reform was to have a perpetual left-wing “progressive” alliance in government….. so I voted NO.

  76. Laban Tall Says:

    Angela – this is spot-on, apart from para #1 as mentioned by others. Yes2AV needed to attract Alan Titchmarsh followers, not those of the transvestite Taff, nice chap though he may be.

    Dan Hannan writes in the Telegraph :

    “Before the last election, a high-profile Conservative MP rang the Electoral Reform Society to offer his support. He was subjected to a cross-examination by its campaigns director, Carina Trimingham, who took issue with a number of policy statements he had made in the past. Understanding that there was no place for Rightists who might support electoral reform for their own reasons, he dropped the issue. How different the Yes campaign might have been if it had made use of him, and others like him.”

    My take on the campaign is that the majority of activists in every party looked at their own electoral advantage.

    Lib Dems “Yes. We’ll get all those extra ‘at least it’s not the other lot’ votes from Labour AND Tory”

    Labour/Tory “No. We’re alright as we are. 35% of the vote each, but a lot more than 70% of the seats”

    UKIP “Yes. The Tories will crap themselves at the number of UKIP/Tory 1/2 votes, and move policy in a more UKIP direction”

    BNP – “No. If we’re ever in with a shout of winning, the others will gang up on us as they did in the final round of the French Presidential elections against Le Pen. Under FPTP we always have the possibility of straddling a split vote as Le Pen did in the earlier rounds”

    Now as a Tory voter who holds his nose and really prefers UKIP, I’d have gone for AV on grounds of short-term political expediency, because in the long term we’re all dead. But I saw little or no AV campaigning aimed at UKIP or the Tory Right, until Farage popped up near the end.

  77. Tom Says:

    Hi Angela. Interesting analysis. Tell me, what did you do to help win this referendum (other than blogging all your great ideas in hindsight)?

  78. Angela Harbutt Says:


    I would have liked to have helped more than I did. I voted YES by post as I was away from the country and displayed a YES poster in my front window.

    About five months ago, I was informed by a very senior Liberal Democrat that John Sharkey had “red flagged” me (their words, not mine).

    You will appreciate, this is a little dispiriting.

    Especially when Lord Sharkey has run such a poor campaign.

  79. Jack Hughes Says:

    You read it all here first on April 4…

    I saw the “luvvies-for-AV” campaign with Stephen Fry and Benjamin Zippedy-doodah and I just want to vomit at their look-at-me smugness

  80. Grzeg Says:

    Many of you are forgetting that “The Left” were broadly split of this issue. For all the hopeless flaws of the Yes Campaign and the deranged lies of the No Campaign, AV had zero chance of winning when well over half of Labour Party supporters were reportedly going to vote against it. The far-left and the trade unions also wanted a No while a final poll for ICM/Guardian suggested that even Lib Dem voters were split. There was very little the Yes Campaign could do about the fact that most progressives either wanted PR or that many, many Labour supporters would rather kill themselves than give a potential boost to the Lib Dems.

    Why the Lib Dems settled for a referendum on AV is extremely hard to fathom in retrospect. It was, as every wit under the sun has mentionied, no-ones first choice. Why not drive a harder bargain and push for AV Plus or a mixed system like in the regional assemblies? Anyway, too late now.

  81. State Police Brittan Says:

    The Purple Pomposity of YES is what lost it

    Their emails were so condescending and patronising I was almost tempted to Vote “NO”

    But I wised up and realised the bigger picture and the Tories have been extremely devious.

    Why a referendum on AV???

    It would have made more sense if there was a referendum on reforming the electoral system. Then choose the preferred electoral system after. Why on Local Election day?? -> guaranteed low turnout

    The Tories have outmanouevred them like the Liberals Dumbocrats (Clegg is a secret Tory used to work for Leon Brittan in EU – Hello!! )

  82. State Police Brittan Says:

    Also for the liberals to find themselves in a position of power and not to bring up PR is unimaginable so that explains why they went for the worst system AV

    You have been conned

  83. James Says:

    Outstanding article.

  84. Sam Roake Says:

  85. Nineveh_uk Says:

    If there was one thing that nearly tipped me to voting NO (and I didn’t), it was the direct mail leaflet with the postal vote form.

    Absolutely. I started the campaign pro-PR, but ignorant, and thus ambivalent, of the technicalities of AV. But though I could see the No campaign were charlatans, the Yes appeared to be patronising incompetants, and they certainly didn’t give me good reasons to vote Yes. I ended up voting Yes, just, thanks to my own research that suggested AV was probably not much worse than FPTP, and as a tactival vote for genuine PR. I didn’t Vote yes because I had a letter from Richard Wilson.

  86. Sean Blake Says:

    “The professional staff at the YES campaign should now apologise to their supporters. Don’t expect to see this happen, though.”
    I’m afraid the staff at the Park Street HQ didn’t seem to like hearing anything from their supporters. You got the feeling they didn’t actually like engaging with them. On a couple of occasions when I contacted members of the communications team they seemed disconcerted as to how I’d overridden the switchboard.
    As you said, the Yes to Fairer Votes website suddenly disappeared – there was no message to their donors and supporters, many of whom had been exhorted to donate up until May 5th, supporters whose suggestions and often helpful criticisms under the many pages of blogs and videos were virtually ignored as the operation started to fall away.
    Rupert Read has posted about the incompetence of the web campaign: his colleague Matt Wootton gave me occasional support on the two ‘Yes’ facebook pages when I pointed this out, but mostly I received the kind of reaction to my constant warnings about how the campaign was being run that the author of this excellent piece receives here from Tom (above). Her reply to him says it all and I’d like to go further in suggesting that Lord Sharkey has a duty to explain his strategy and that of campaign communications director, Paul Sinclair, both of whom were paid very high salaries for the privilege of dazzling their mediocre counterparts at the Electoral Reform Society rather than shining a light where it was needed. An encounter with ERS CEO and campaign chair, Katie Ghose and vice-chair, Jonathan Bartley at a recent debate left me reeling at their complacency and, I’m afraid, sheer inability to rebut the ‘No’ arguments on cost: this led to a member of the audience declaring enthusiastically that he’d be supporting the idea of spending £250m on voting machines!

  87. Anthony Miller Says:

    The YES campaign was not helped by not understanding its own statistical model.
    I’m afraid it isn’t as simple as 1,2,3 – it’s as simple as
    If the person in 1st place doesn’t get 50%
    then the person in 2nd or 3rd place can win
    and if the person in 2nd place gets between 25 and 33% then
    the person in 3rd place can win if they’re within a 14% statistical window
    and all the other voters combined 4th, 5th, 6th, 7th place candidates
    can just push the person in 1st place over the finishing line
    but they cannot push the party in 2nd place over the finishing line
    in any statistical permutation as the threashold prevents minor parties holding the ballance of power.
    No one in the Yes campaign seemed to have tested the model at all.
    Or have the answers to these questions to hand.
    (It took me about a week to work these things out from first principles)
    You can’t sell what you dont understand.

    And what on earth possessed them to send out leaflets of Tony Robinson and/or Stephen Fry to die hard Tory voters…?
    Durrr! The best thing I’ve got out of this campaign is a reminder of why I will never be a Liberal Democrat.
    The all time top prize for daftness must go to the quote
    “It has been our aim for the campaign not to be see through the prism of the coalition”.

  88. Anthony Miller Says:

    The ultimate conceit of the campaign was that it avoided the central issue. That it is not logical that, for example, the Liberal Democrats can increase their vote share by 1 million and lose 6 seats. Which makes a mockery of Nick Cleggs comment that “the way to get more Liberal Democrat policies is to vote for them”. I cant vote for him FPTP would mean it did him more harm than good.

    But the Yes campaign attempting to conceal the fact that this was about allowing the Liberal Democrats more vote share as that wouldn’t sell. It would have opened pandora’s box.

    The Argument about the BNP was not about the BNP it was about forcing the Yes campaign to reveal who the AV model would give power to – the one thing they didn’t want to reveal. Instead of running a “we think it is morally wrong the way we are treated” campaign they ran a “we want to avoid discussing the issue” campaign.

    Because if you give the Lib Dems more seats what the first thing they’re going to use that power to demand? More voting reform. Ending in PR. The problem with the AV campaign was that when the Conservatives said the “people campaigning for AV dont want AV” what they meant was “people campaigning for AV want PR”.
    Maybe Doctor David Owen got it right – if the whole thing’s a stitch up why waste money campaigning for something you’ll never win …if you cant beat them join them.