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Vote No To AV on May 5th!

May 4, 2011

You should vote No on May 5th because:

Under AV MPs don’t need 50% to Win

The AV system being offered in May makes the ordering of preferences optional. Most voters would not work their way through ballot papers, exhausting every preference. In a survey of Conservative voters only 44% would not use a 2nd preference, 72% wouldn’t use a third preference. Therefore a large number of MPs would win with less than 50% of the vote.

Research by electoral experts Prof Rallings and Thrasher has shown that ‘more than 4 out of every 10 MPs would still be elected with the endorsement of less than 50% of the voters’. Pg. 8 The Electoral Commission’s impartial information booklet also makes this clear, saying: ‘Because voters don’t have to rank all of the candidates, an election can be won under the “alternative vote” system with less than half the total votes cast.’

AV won’t tackle a job for life

AV would make no difference in nearly 300 safe seats where the sitting MP has 50% of the vote, or is close to it. And AV will actually create new safe seats where some voters’ second preferences consistently protect one candidate (e.g., third place Conservative voters supporting a Lib Dem). So-called safe seats aren’t necessarily that safe anyway. Neil Hamilton lost a 15,000 majority in 1997 to Martin Bell who replaced it with a 11,000 majority of his own.

AV can’t end swing seats winning elections

Elections will always focus on the most competitive seats – political parties will always put their resources into the seats they are most likely to win. Parties would  just concentrate on those 2nd and 3rd preferences in marginal seats, which is exactly what happens at the moment.

AV will not end wasted votes

There will always be winners and losers in any contest, elections are no different. Even in a seat won with 51% of the vote, can we really describe the other 49% of ballots wasted? Surely every vote, no matter if it’s a winning vote, every vote legitimises the final election result. Moreover, AV will increase the real ‘wasted’ votes: spoiled ballots. In Australia, where they use the alternative vote, five times more ballots are spoiled and thrown away than the UK.

Tactical Voting won’t become a thing of the past

AV wouldn’t eliminate tactical voting, it would reinvent it. Under AV, the challenge comes in working out the order in which candidates are eliminated, and ordering your preferences accordingly. Dr. Roger Mortimore from Ipsos MORI puts it, “under AV there is a real incentive for tactical voting.”For example, in a three way seat where both Labour and the Liberal Democrats were in danger of coming last, a Conservative might be tempted to give their first preference to Labour, for fear a Labour elimination would mean a hefty vote transfer to the Lib Dems.

 AV will not end negative Punch and Judy politics

You only have to look at Australian politics to know this isn’t true. Here’s the verdict of the commentator, Tim Colebatch, on the 2010 election in Australia: “A negative campaign, where the leaders stood for less than ever before, and insulted voters’ intelligence more than ever before. Both sides asked us to vote against their opponent, rather than giving us reasons to vote for them.”

AV won’t increase turnout

In Australia, turnout fell dramatically after the Alternative Vote was introduced. In the election preceding the use of AV, turnout hit 78%. In the first election under AV, this fell to 72%, and then fell further to 59% in the second AV election. As a result of this dramatic fall, Australia ended up making voting compulsory. Furthermore, there are also more than five times as many spoilt ballot papers in Australia than in the UK.

AV will not help smaller parties

Hardly. Not a single constituency has been identified as likely to fall to a small party under AV. One study in Wales suggests Plaid Cymru could even be wiped out, losing all 3 of its current seats. As Professor K.D. Ewing and Dr. Graeme Orr found, “a small party is unlikely to win any seats under AV.” In Northern Ireland the Green Party stated AV ‘will have a particularly detrimental impact… it will reinforce sectarian voting and increase polarisation. It will effectively eliminate centre parties and reduce each constituency to a sectarian headcount. Australia: Only two 3rd party MPs have been elected at a general election in the past 90 years. The Greens won their first seat in the House of Representatives in 2010, the same year as in the UK under First Past the Post.

AV won’t shut the door on extremist or stop the BNP

No extremist party (including the BNP, National Front and BUF) has ever won a seat under the current system.

While we hope that AV wouldn’t lead to extremist parties winning win seats, it has in Australia. Under AV, the far-right One Nation Party won 11 seats in the Queensland state legislature, whereas they would have only won 8 under First Past the Post.

Regardless it would certainly give them more influence – BNP second preferences alone could swing at least 35 seats. Moreover, they will gain legitimacy from a greater vote total. Fringe parties could expect their first preference vote to be higher than it is now, giving them more support and legitimacy. And mainstream politicians would pander to the extremists to try and win their second preferences.

FPTP didn’t lead to the expenses scandal

The expenses scandal had nothing to do with the electoral system and everything to do with a lack of openness. MPs were able to get away with it because their claims were kept secret. The think tank, Policy Exchange found that “MPs’ expenses were statistically linked to length of service but not to the safeness of an MP’s constituency, as is often supposed.” In 2009, the day after the Speaker Michael Martin resigned in the Expenses scandal, Australia also suffered an expenses scandal. Details emerged that over a fifth of Australian MPs were self-funding mortgages by falsely claiming travel expenses. One MP, Peter Slipper, who was caught fast asleep in Parliament, clocked up $640,000 in false expenses.

AV can’t end Safe Seats

In the 217 seats where the winner got more than 50% of the vote in 2010, AV will make no difference. In another 74 seats where the winner had a majority of more than 20%, AV would almost certainly have no impact, making a total of at least 291 seats that would be unaffected. AV only affects seats that are already competitive, because these are the seats where second and third preferences can potentially make a difference. Studies of the 2010 election confirm this; the 43 seats where AV would have made a difference were almost all already competitive seats (marginals such as Cardiff North and Dudley North).Moreover, AV risks creating new safe seats. There’s no reason to believe that the order of voters’ second preferences will be any less consistent than their first preference; therefore an MP who wins by receiving 40% of first preferences and 20% of second preferences could be in a new ‘AV safe seat’.

AV isn’t a step towards Proportional Representation

If you want a proportional voting system, the Lib Dem Roy Jenkins’s independent commission warned that AV can be ‘disturbingly unpredictable’ and ‘even less proportional’ than our existing system. The Electoral Reform Society said that “AV is not a proportional system, the Society does not regard it as suitable for the election of a representative body, e.g. a parliament”

Reruns of the last 7 elections for Newsnights found 6 would have been more disproportionate under AV. And in landslide elections, AV would have dramatically exaggerated the winners’ majority. For example, in 2005, Tony Blair would have had a majority of 88 MPs under AV, despite only getting 35% of the vote.

No country has ever used AV as a stepping stone to PR, If AV proves popular, there won’t be demand for further change; if electoral reform proves unpopular, and voters will demand a return to first past the post. Examples from Canada show provinces that changed to AV changed back to FPTP when dissatisfaction increased. Six out of ten voters in Australia say they want to return to first past the post, not a change to PR. Polls ahead of New Zealand’s referendum on whether to keep PR show that first past the post is the leading alternative.

By contrast, many countries have moved directly from first past the post to PR, including New Zealand, Ireland and Scotland. That’s the change we should be demanding. As Lord David Owen, founder of the SDP, the forerunner to the Lib Dems, says in his ‘No to AV, Yes to PR’ campaign, ‘a new voting system has to be tested for a substantial period of time – otherwise it will destabilise our political system and encourage cynical attempts to change the system for partisan gain’. Constitutional change doesn’t – and shouldn’t – happen regularly.

A vote for AV risks saddling the UK with a system that is less fair and less proportional than the system we have at the moment.

And a No vote wouldn’t prevent any further reform

Obviously the defeat of AV will not immediately trigger a referendum on PR, but a progressive ‘No to AV, Yes to PR’ can keep the door open. The reasons for PR won’t go away after a NO vote; the pressure for PR won’t go away after a NO vote; the fragmentation of political parties won’t end after a NO vote. It’s our job to capitalize on this and put real reform on the agenda after the referendum.

And the organisations that have – before their road to Damascus conversion to AV – campaigned for proportional representation won’t disappear after a No vote. As the Electoral Reform Society stated, ‘The electoral reform movement is not going to go away after AV and accept a permanent settlement that is not based on proportionality’. There will be future opportunities for real reform, whether for the House of Lords, local council elections, or, perhaps after another hung parliament, Westminster.

Implementing AV, however, would end the reform process, burdening the UK with an unfair, disproportional system for the foreseeable future.

So join with the millions of people all across Britain, join with the diverse group of people, parties and organizations saying No to AV:

Labour: a majority of Labour MPs, 6 Shadow Cabinet members, 23 Labour Council Leaders and Mayors, 4 out of 5 Labour councillors, 2 out of 3 members of the Lords including the former DPM John Prescott, John Reid, Margaret Beckett, and David Blunkett. On top of the thousands of rank and file Labour Party members, the majority of whom according to LabourList and polling from YouGov will be voting No.

Others: Conservatives, DUP, TUV, UUP, BNP, RESPECT Party, Green Party of Northern Ireland, Communist Party of Britain, Socialist Workers Party, the Socialist Party and Jury Team. Polling shows majority of UKIP voters and nationalists will also vote NO defying their party endorsed lines.

Trade Unions: GMB, ASLEF, Community, Alliance and the Prison Officers Association are all urging their combined membership to vote No, as well as leafleting and providing the funding for the campaign. Unite, Britain’s biggest union – with 1.5m members – is also campaigning against the alternative vote although it is not officially part of the alliance.

Think Tanks – Policy Exchange

Newspapers: The Sun, The Express, The Daily Mail, The Times, The Evening Standard, City AM, The Telegraph and The Economist

Famous: Professor Robert Winston, William Roache, Esther Rantzen, Paul Heaton (beautiful south), historians David Starkey and Anthony Beevor, Ross Kemp, “Rik” Mayall,  James Cracknell – Double Olympic gold medallist, six times world champion and adventure racer, Darren Gough – record-breaking England cricketer and Strictly Come Dancing winner.

And the millions of non-aligned, average, hard working men and women who are going out to vote on May 5th in council, devolved and mayoral elections. The choice in this referendum: AV or First Past the Post.

This referendum is a choice between our current system, which gives everyone an equal say, one person, one vote, it delivers clear outcomes, it quick to count, cheap to administer at only £1.75 per person, it’s simple to understand and comes bottom of the table for invalidated votes, coalitions are an abnormality rather than the norm and MPs are held accountable by the voters who can chuck out any MP it wishes.

The alternative on offer, is no alternative. Just ask Nick Clegg, Chris Huhne, Caroline Lucas, Pam Giddy, Ben Bradshaw and Peter FaceyAV is expensive, its complicated to vote and difficult to count, coalitions rule the day and it propels the third party into the king makers giving them the power, NOT the voters. AV is an unfair political fix.

We have a clear choice in this referendum and that choice should lead you to Vote NO to AV on 5 May. 

Philip Cane

Editor of Vote No To AV


The Electoral Reform Enigma That Is Andy Burnham

April 20, 2011

Andy Burnham speaking to the media in Oldham

Andy Burnham is so far the only big hitter left in the Shadow Cabinet not to declare his hand on the AV debate. The MP for Leigh since 2001 and die hard supporter of Everton, held various positions such as; Chief Secretary to the Treasury, Secretary of State for Culture, Media and Sport and Secretary of State for Health in the Brown Government. He was a candidate in the Labour Leadership Election and now is Shadow Secretary of State for Education and Election coordinator for Ed Miliband.

We can all agree that Burnham is moving on up in politics, but something we can’t agree on is whether he is against electoral reform. During the Labour Leadership election of 2010 he gave a variety of interviews on every topic imaginable and as such electoral reform cropped up.

Burnham first expressed his feelings towards electoral reform in July 2010 when he told The Guardian:

…voting reform was “a peripheral issue” and added: “It is not my party’s job to prop up the Liberal Democrats by helping them win a referendum that is important to them.”

Burnham, a long-time sceptic about voting reform, said he was leaning towards reform, but the party could not officially take sides. He said: “The party nationally couldn’t campaign for any one position – you know, it really couldn’t. Those who are calling for retention of first past the post are making an incredibly important and legitimate argument.

He added: “Let’s not get obsessed by this issue, because it really is irrelevant. It’s a kind of fringe pursuit for Guardian-reading classes.

Burnham expressed all the classic signs of a No to AV’er; the case for FPTP, ‘fringe issue’, irrelevant and that its only what the Lib Dems want. Later on in July 2010 he gave an interview to The New Statesman he was asked whether he though electoral reform was irrelevant:

…I don’t believe any of my constituents would put it in their top ten most important issues. Whereas if the world of Westminster becomes convulsed and obsessed by this debate, then it could quite easily cement an impression that many people have out there: that Labour is out of touch and talking about things that are not the everyday concerns of people.

Asked to clarify his position in Leadership hustings Burnham stated;

…I have been on the record as saying I’m tending towards a change to AV. I think it’s not sensible right now to hitch my cart to any particular bandwagon. I’m not wanting to close down that debate, but let’s keep it in perspective.

Nearly a year on Vote No To AV can find no such comments definitive comments apart from AV maintains the constituency link:

I’m a big believer in the constituency link… That sense of rootedness that British politics has is a great strength and we should never give that up. Obviously, we can keep that with AV.

In November 2010, post leadership election Burnham was made Election coordinator and declared that Labour would not campaign on AV:

The Labour party machine will not campaign in favour of the alternative vote in next May’s referendum but will instead concentrate on the Scottish, Welsh and local elections on the same day… Burnham said the party machine and activist network could not help the yes campaign.

He then went on to attack Nick Clegg for selling out electoral reform campaigners, a position he repeated on Sky News and in every further interview. In December 2010 in an interview with The Guardian, he was again asked about his support for AV:

I’m not persuaded. I’m still thinking about it. I can see a case for change. But I’m not yet persuaded.

Asked whether he would vote Yes or No he replied:

Yes, genuinely, I’m not sure.

At this point in the research Vote No To AV was convinced that Burnham was leaning towards a Yes vote, but just saw through the mist of the Westminster bubble and Yes to AV smoke screen, to see that it was irrelevant to the real Joe Blogs on the street. But then the last question turned this hypothesis on its head:

Question: So, can I infer from that that if the no camp win, you won’t be too bothered about it?

Answer:  I think there are more important issues. And with AV, I’m not yet persuaded whether or not it is better to have people in parliament on the basis of a coalition of people, some of whom think “that person is my first choice” and some of whom think “they’re not my first choice, but they’re better than that person”. I also look at a seat like Brighton Pavilion, where the Greens won, and wonder whether the Greens would ever get an MP into parliament again under AV. I’m pretty tribal in my loyalties. But actually, you do have to question, could AV just reinforce a two-party system? And is that desirable in the long term? It’s an open question.

Significantly there wasn’t an no, Burnham wasn’t closing the door for any future come back on FPTP or against electoral reform in general. Further he brings up key arguments of the No Campaign; coalitions, preferences, small parties excluded and whether it would really change politics.  Viewing his past record on Public Whip he received only 39% support for Proportional Representation, making him moderately against.  According to The Times in 2008:

…require the straightforward introduction of the proportional representation voting system that would end the dominance of the two main political parties and make every vote count at election time. Bizarrely, there is no record of Burnham speaking up for this.

His record on Proportional Representation meant he wasn’t even in the top 3 out of Labour respondents who support the introduction of PR in a LabourList survey. Further to this the Herald Scotland reports that at hustings all five candidates including Burnham in the leadership came out against PR.

The New Statesman listed Burnham on electoral reform as the following:

Burnham admits that there are severe weaknesses to first-past-the-post but argues that Labour should be wary of “rushing headlong” towards the alternative vote. Has said that Labour should only support AV if it is in the long-term interests of the party.

So what can we learn from the enigma that is Andy Burnham? He see the severe  flaws in FPTP, but also sees the strong argument made in favour of its retention. He likes AV because it maintains the constituency link yet is unsure of coalitions, the ranking of candidates, whether it would help smaller parties or Labour and whether it truly would change a two party political system. He is against proportional representation and Nick Clegg.

Overall I think Andy Burnham is representative of the electorate at large, they can see flaws in FPTP yet can’t see how AV would improve them or more to the point, AV would make them worse. Critically he is like the majority of the public who see this as irrelevant and uninspiring debate. We should also take note that Burnham is someone who should have been easily converted by the campaigns, yet the Yes camp failed to turn his moderate support into a firm vote, and the No camp has failed to build on his suspicion of AV.  Though for the record I still believe that Burnham will be out in a polling station in Leigh with a Everton scarf putting a cross down for No To AV.

Shadow Cabinet Members, 130 MPs and 700 Councillors Are Voting Labour and Voting No

April 19, 2011

Following John Reid’s stellar performance yesterday, when he appeared alongside David Cameron at a NO to AV press conference yesterday, today the Labour NO to AV campaign have announced a number of new Labour figures who will be voting ‘no’ on 5 May.

Three more Shadow Cabinet Members, 130 Labour MPs and over 700 Labour Councillors, join BAFTA awarding winning Ross Kemp in voting Labour and Voting No. Kemp stated:

The Alternative Vote is unfair and unpredictable. It gives the supporters of fringe and extremist parties the opportunity to have their votes counted several times. I believe that equality is important, which is why I support One Person, One Vote. On 5 May I will be voting No, I hope you do too.”

Furthermore Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary, Shaun Woodward and Shadow Defence Secretary Jim Murphy declared their support for the campaign. Writing for Labour Uncut this morning the Labour MP for East Renfrewshire said:

“The main reason I have decided to vote ‘No’ is that the supporters of changing the system haven’t made a convincing enough case that this is the right kind of change. They have struggled to make a persuasive argument about why the country’s politics would be better with AV.

“Some of the arguments made by the pro-AV campaign are, I think, counter-productive. To use the entirely justified public anger about MPs’ abuse of expenses as a driver for an AV voting system risks further alienating the public from the political process because everyone knows AV wouldn’t deal with that problem. The idea that AV would have prevented previous misuse of expenses is wishful thinking.”

Also Voting Labour and Voting NO on 5 May will be former Chief Whip, Nick Brown, and former Defence Secretary Bob Ainsworth; as well as Shadow Junior Foreign Office Minister, Emma Reynolds, Lisa Nandy, MP for Wigan, Shadow Junior Business Minister Chi Onwura, MP for Newcastle Upon Tyne Central and Iain Wright, MP for Hartlepool.

There are also now over 700 Labour councillors across the country who will be voting ‘no’ – that has doubled in under a single week.

A poll by ICM for the Guardian has put a ‘No’ vote 16 points ahead among those likely to vote, within that a majority (53%) of Labour are voting No.

In addition, YouGov polling released by Channel 4 News a week ago found that, under current polling conditions, the Alternative Vote would disproportionately harm the Labour Party, more than any other political party. Labour would lose 13 seats under AV

Joan Ryan, Director of Labour NO to AV and former Vice Chair of the Labour Party, said:

“There can be no doubt, the Labour Party is making up its mind and it is voting NO to the expensive and unfair Alternative Vote system. If we want to return a strong Labour Government, Labour members and supporters should defend One Person, One Vote on 5 May.”

UPDATELabour List have updated their own Labour running totals and found 130 MPs will be voting No

Labour Peer John Reid No to AV Speech in Full

April 18, 2011

PM David Cameron listens to Lord Reids speech on No to AV

The Prime Minister, David Cameron, was joined by the former Labour cabinet minister John Reid in backing the cross-party No to AV campaign. In a shared speech in Westminster today they outlined their reasons why they want to protect One Person One Vote and keep this principle at the heart of British democracy. I have published Lord Reid’s speech below as it was the most powerful and relevant to not only Labour supporters but those all of all parties and especially to non-aligned voters:

This is a rather unusual event. There’s no doubt about that.

As the Prime Minister said, no one is pretending that he and I agree on everything.

There are some issues so important that they transcend party politics. Where we should rise above personal differences. Issues on which people expect politicians to put aside their differences aside for the sake of the people, the country and the public interest.

Foremost among those issues is the right of the British people to decide their government — and to do that in a way that is fair, equal in weight, one to the other.

This campaign is about defending the right of one person, one vote – a system that has been the foundation of our democracy for generations. A system that gives exactly the same voting rights to every single person, irrespective of background or station in life.

That is the British way, it is the fairest way, and it is the best way.

An issue like this is too important to let party rivalries take precedence.

It is outrageous to try to secure a change to the electoral system for tactical party advantage, by usurping the right of all of our citizens to an equal vote? But there is a growing and well-founded suspicion that is exactly what the Yes Campaign and the leadership of the Lib Dems want – not a change in the public interest, but one based on narrow self-interest.

A change like that should never be about face-saving or self-interest or advantage for parties or personalities. Of course, every system has winners and losers. That is the nature of elections. The answer for the losing parties is to work harder to win more votes — not to demand that their voters get more votes than anyone else…..not to introduce a system that tries to change losers into winners. And a system where the first votes to count twice are the votes of the least popular candidate!

That’s one – only one – of the reasons that AV has always been rejected for choosing our government. This AV idea is not as new a suggestion as some people would have us believe. Back in the 1930’s, our greatest Prime Minister (and possibly the most famous ever Liberal Cabinet Minister) Winston Churchill was asked to consider it. He concluded that not only is AV “the stupidest, the least scientific and the most unreal” voting system – his words not some Labour attack dog – but he said that that it means that ultimately elections “will be determined by the most worthless votes given for the most worthless candidates.”

And just as tellingly, he warned that should it ever become our way of choosing a government: “respect for Parliament will decline lower than it is at present”.

Maybe some of our politicians could learn from Churchill.

But maybe they could learn even more from non-politicians; people like the sportsmen and women who represent this country. When they lose a contest or race, they pick themselves up, get back into the game and come back to fight another day. They don’t moan on about moving the goalposts to make things easier next time. And they don’t expect gold medals for finishing second, third or fourth or fifth.

In politics, as in sport, we all lose sometime. Like David I have had my disappointments. During my time in politics I have seen days when the Labour Party did extremely well and I have seen days when Labour did extremely badly. When you lose elections it isn’t a nice experience. But you take it on the chin. You accept the will of the people. What you don’t do is try to change the rules of the game to suit yourself.

Because, in our democracy it is not up to the Government to sack the electorate, or change the electoral system just because they, the politicians, don’t like the result. In a democracy it works the other way round.

So we will put the case for our present system every single day until the 5th May. It may not be perfect – first past the post – few things are. But it is clear, fair, decisive and it treats all our citizens equally. It has served us well precisely because it is built on the bedrock of our experience as a democracy.

The case for the Alternative Vote has been built, I believe, on a mountain of sand.

They say MPs would work harder because it would end safe seats. This is totally absurd. In fact, it would have no effect at all on the scores of seats where MPs already get 50% of the vote, or even more, when they get close to it. And of the MPs supporting Yes I haven’t yet seen one step forward to say they don’t work hard at present – it must be everyone else! I think the electorate might be sceptical about that. There are things we can do to make MPs deliver – such as giving constituents the right to sack their MP — but AV would not make a jot of difference.

They say MPs would no longer have a job for life. I think Michael Portillo in 1997 and Lembit Opik last year, and hundreds of others, might have something to say about that. The current system doesn’t guarantee jobs for life – but hard work helps.

They say every MP would have majority support under AV. Again, not true. This could only happen if you made it compulsory for voters to mark a preference against every name on the ballot paper. And even then someone might be elected who was the first choice of only one in four voters.

They say it would increase turnout. But when AV was introduced in Australia turnout fell sharply, and they ended up making voting compulsory. Is that what we want – compulsory AV? Do we really think people want to waste their time in polling booths pondering whether the Monster Raving Loony Party deserves their sixth or their seventh preference?

They say it would end tactical voting. The opposite is true. In reality AV would reinvent tactical voting, because the order in which candidates are eliminated is vital in determining the result.

They say it’s a step towards proportional representation – but it can deliver results less proportionate than now.

And the biggest myth about AV is that it will make every vote count. I have to tell you that there will always be winners and losers in any election. What we need is a system that ensures that everyone has an equal vote and that some votes shouldn’t count more than others.

And on top of that the AV system is complex, confusing and costly – which is why it has been rejected almost everywhere else in the world for choosing a government.

But above all it is not fair, not equal and not British.

That’s why I stand here today alongside David Cameron calling for a No vote.

I also stand alongside more than 200 Labour MPs and Peers, hundreds of Labour councillors up and down the land, thousands of rank and file Labour Party members, and my Labour colleagues, like Margaret Beckett, John Prescott and David Blunkett, and several members of the current Shadow Cabinet, all of whom are voting No to AV.

But most importantly I stand with those ordinary people of this country who have no party affiliation at all, but who want to defend their own right to an equal and fair say in choosing their government. That is what this campaign is about.

So my message today is simple. It’s your vote. Your right to a fair say – a say and a vote equal to everyone else. No more, no less than any other voter in this country. Don’t let them take that right away. Vote No on the 5th of May.

Diane Abbott MP Hits Out At Flawed Yes Campaign & Leaflets

April 11, 2011

Screenshot of Diane Abbott's Twitter Page

Diane Abbott, the Labour leadership candidate and former This Week star used twitter to criticise the Yes campaign and the Alternative Vote last night. The member of Parliament for Hackney North and Stoke Newington supported the Alternative Vote during the leadership campaign and is listed in the Labour Yes Campaign endorsers.

Yet her nine tweets about AV are less then supportive. She stated that AV would lead to more representation for the Liberal Democrats but would fail to change the political landscape that the Yes campaign claim:

AV does not have far-reaching effects it’s fans claim. It WILL mean more Lib Dem MPs. That’s the main thing… Under AV 22 more Lib Dem MPs at the last election. A good thing? You be the judge.

She went on to suggest that:

AV was in Labour manifesto. I felt obliged to support it, have stuck to that. But… Labour Party Conference has never actually voted to support AV.

Further on she hit out at the ‘flaws’ of the Yes campaign:

I will actually be voting yes to AV. But I just got my “YES” leaflet through the letterbox. Don’t think much of it… The problem is the YES leaflet does not really explain how AV works. Leaflet is just anti-MP and anti-politics. Sad.

The leaflet in question is presumed to be the controversial Yes campaign leaflet which airbrushed the black poet Benjamin Zephaniah, out of leaflets outside London. He was removed and replaced with Tony Robinson, there were no other differences in the leaflet apart from Benjamin’s removal.

A No to AV spokesman commented;

‘Why are Yes to AV ashamed to have the support of Benjamin Zephaniah in places like Cornwall and Hampshire?

The leaflets which have been delivered across the South and Midlands made no mention of Benjamin. The story which was brushed away by the Yes campaign quickly spread and was eventually reported by over 200 different news organizations. While virally the Yes campaign causing controversy on Twitter, after the official Yes to AV twitter page called users; “sad”, “silly” and “mathematically challenged” and proceeded to accuse one user of spending their time smearing and using innuendo.

Returning to Diane, she was questioned by Yes supporters as to why she was hitting out at the campaign to which she replied that:

…I will be voting Yes to AV. Doesn’t stop me pointing out some flaws in the Yes campaign.

Her last tweet on the topic was:

It is difficult to be inspirational about AV. On balance there is an argument for voting YES. But it is not a cure for cancer!

Ed Miliband appointed Abbott Shadow Health Minister after beating her in the leadership election, there have been rumours of her support for FPTP in the past and was expected by some in the No campaign to back them.

Vote No To AV has uncovered evidence that Diane Abbott is agnostic to electoral reform. After the 2005 General Election, Diane Abbott the then Secretary of the Socialist Campaign Group of Labour MPs in Parliament wrote a blog called; ‘PR will do nothing to revive politics’ in which she stated:

First-past-the-post (FPTP) stands accused of inducing a near-crisis of democracy. Wasted votes, inflated majorities and foregone conclusions are blamed for disincentivising public participation and undermining the democratic process. The catch-all solution: proportional representation (PR).

However, I maintain that our electoral system is not wholly culpable. Political apathy, the absence of a written constitution, ballot fraud, the erosion of civil liberties and the introduction of compulsory ID cards have all contributed to growing public distrust of politics and democracy. Changing the electoral system would do little to address these more fundamental catalysts of public disengagement… If PR would help reconnect people and politics and boost democracy it is worth considering, however, I remain unconvinced that this is sufficient for invigorating the health of British democracy.

Further more in 2010 during the leadership election she told the New Statesman the she was:

Opposed to proportional representation as it would involve candidates being appointed from the centre and would break the constituency link. Supports the introduction of the Alternative Vote (AV).

She then went on to tell Total Politics (in 2010) that she believed that the:

Alternative voting may not be the ultimate solution but it will certainly be fairer than the system we currently use… It is obvious that the current voting system is unpopular with many people… This is one of the reasons the decision should be taken to a referendum, giving everyone the chance to have their say.

So its obvious you cry, that FPTP has some faults but is not the route cause of the problem, she doesn’t support PR as that has no answer to the problems of FPTP and thus AV must be the answer!… NO

Speaking to Open Democracy (in 2010 as well) regarding PR she stated;

I have an open mind on PR…

So we can therefore concluded… well your guess is as good as mine. But there is a constant theme developing that those who tell us to vote Yes really don’t seem to want AV at all.

Preview of Tomorrows Political Broadcast from No To AV

April 10, 2011

Tomorrow the usual pattern of normality on TV will be broken as the BBC News ends and millions wait for the One Show on BBC One, they will not have to endure a Party Political Broadcast on behalf of the English Democrats or SNP.

Instead the regular election cycle will be broken by Political Broadcasts for the Alternative Vote Referendum, on Monday the No campaign will be first. Vote NO To AV has got a preview (above),  the unique take on the standard (often channel hoped) Party-Political Broadcast comprises of three short films which explain the complexity, failures and obscurity of Alternative Vote (AV).

The first short film features the return of Rik Mayall and his Bafta and Emmy award winning character, Alan B’Stard MP. Mr B’Stard, former Tory and then New Labour MP returns to politics because the new AV system will allow him to say anything to get elected. In a very suggestive nod to the recent behaviour of Nick Clegg and the Liberal Democrats over the tuition fees increase (and other broken promises), Alan B’Stard remarks that once he gets elected, all he need do is “blame the other lot and say we had to do it in the ‘national interest’.” But that wouldn’t happen would it?

The second features a horse race narrated by renowned actor and comedian John Sessions, in which ‘Labour Lad’ appears to have pipped ‘Tory Boy’ to the winning post, only for both jockeys to be told that the third-placed horse, ‘Lib Den’, has claimed an unlikely victory.

The final film, and perhaps the most important and convincing is shot in a classroom using real students from South Devon College. There a teacher tries to explain how AV works and preferences are recycled. The sea of blank and befuddled faces which I’ve become accustomed too since becoming involved in the referendum is the real deal .

Matthew Elliott, Campaign Director of NO to AV, said:

For our referendum broadcast, NO to AV have tried to highlight the important issues at stake behind this admittedly dull subject. While the Yes campaign preach about the merits of a system they were dismissing as a miserable little compromise this time last year, our broadcast gives the British people a sneak preview of life under the Alternative Vote. AV is complex, unfair and a political fix: that’s why we’re urging the country to keep One Person, One Vote and vote NO on 5 May.

You can see the broadcast tomorrow on all 5 terrestrial channels (or Sky/Virgin/Freeview if your sad enough record it and watch it again):

Monday 11th April 2011:

  • BBC ONE                  6.55pm
  • ITV ONE                    6.50pm
  • CHANNEL 4             7.55pm
  • CHANNEL 5             7.25pm


99 Reasons To Vote NO To AV From The Yes Campaign

April 9, 2011

Yes to Fairer Votes Consider AV A Laughing Stock

Not to long ago, Vote No To AV unveiled the Voting Yes but Saying No page, a collection of over 30 quotes from 16 key players in the Yes campaign. These ranged from the high profile politicians such as Nick Clegg and Caroline Lucas, to the campaign staff themselves. Today we concede defeat and must bow down in front of the No campaign.

The No camp have unveiled  ‘99 Reasons To Vote No To AV… Told By the Yes to AV Campaigners‘, this 36 page document details at great length the hypocrisy of  the Yes campaign. From staffers, to directors, to politicians and celebrity backers, none are sparred the embarrassment of seeing their past wisdom about why AV is so awful in print.

The highlights of the document include the two page spread of Pam Giddy, Chair of Yes to AV Steering Committee saying:

(AV is) “a system hand-picked by ministers which allows voters to rank candidates but would do nothing to end the unfairness in the current system. This is no way to rebuild trust.” (Pg.22)

Neal Lawson, Director of Compass and Head of Campaigns for Yes to AV saying:

Is AV enough? The answer is no… Given the scale of the problem, is this rather minor reform worth bothering with?

Peter Facey, Director of Unlock Democracy and Yes to AV Steering Committee member stated:

AV … is not proportional and a mere baby step in the right direction (… )Parliament will remain as unrepresentative and subsequently unresponsive as ever

James Graham, Press Officer for Unlock Democracy, and Yes to AVCampaigns and Communications Manager was on message saying:

Superficially (AV) sounds like a big deal, but in most elections it will probably only change the result in a handful of seats.

Outside of the Yes campaign there is of course our old favourites of Nick Clegg, Chris Huhne and Caroline Lucas as well as the Electoral Reform Society, but also from Wayne David MP, Spokesman for Labour Yes to AV:

I am convinced that first past the post is the mostappropriate method of election in this countr y for all tiersof government

There is a whole wealth of quotes to use in leaflets, local papers, on the doorstep and online to highlight how the Alternative Vote is barely anyones first preference and for the Yes campaign… well I don’t think they’d even rank it as a preference.