No2AV ‘rallies’ a damp squib with empty chairs


by Sunny Hundal    
3:36 pm - March 10th 2011

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The No2AV campaign are currently going on a series of events across the country to rally their support and ‘build a grassroots movement’ against the referendum.

Except, it’s not turning out exactly as they’d hoped.

Pictures from the events show a rows of empty chairs and bored faces, sometimes filled with people who already belong to the No2AV campaign.

Pictures from yesterday’s event in Brent, London

and

.

A snapshot from Stratford

A comment underneath the album said:

The most interesting part was coming out and finding that someone had been stabbed in Stratford Town Hall lobby.

Ouch!

.

From Leeds

Oh dear…

What happened to the grass-roots movement?

but not to worry, I hear that Cameron’s money will soon deal with the problem.

Update: Let’s compare with with a Yes2AV rally:

and another one

Can you say ‘enthusiasm gap’?

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About the author
Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


You’d probably find a similar story at Yes2AV meetings. There aren’t many people who get excited about electoral reform full stop, let alone attend campaign meetings on either side of the debate.

There aren’t many people who get excited about electoral reform full stop

Wait till the Tory trolls turn up…

Shane is spot on, AV is failing to excite anybody. The people who should worry most about this are the Yes camp as they are need to convince people that a change is necessary. It’s unusual to get rallies demanding that things stay the same!

I’m not surprised few people are interested in this debate one way or the other. It’s tedious and procedural to anyone who isn’t a geek, and even to most of them. That should give the lie to those who argue that it will have a massive impact on turnout, or that Labour’s stance on it will matter to many voters in the May elections, still less by the time of the next General Election.

However, given these aren’t rallies, but debates with speakers from both sides, you have to wonder what the evidence is that the empty spaces are due to unexpectedly low “No” turnout, rather than low “Yes” turnout, or just general apathy.

Meanwhile the obsession on this site with a move to a system that would very clearly be bad for Labour, bad for Socialists within and outside the Labour Party, and in many ways bad for the democratic process, is increasingly puzzling.

5. Chaise Guevara

@ 3 Matthew

“It’s unusual to get rallies demanding that things stay the same!”

I normally say that as well, but it’s different when the status quo is not only officially under threat but could be voted out within two months.

Still, I admit I’m not blown away by a few photos of empty chairs in town halls. Apart from anything else, in two of the photos half of the speakers aren’t in their chairs, which hardly suggests that the meeting were in full swing.

6. Chaise Guevara

@ oldpolitics

“Meanwhile the obsession on this site with a move to a system that would very clearly be bad for Labour, bad for Socialists within and outside the Labour Party, and in many ways bad for the democratic process, is increasingly puzzling.”

Well, “bad for Labour” isn’t necessarily a bad thing, and it’s far from “very clear” that it would be bad for socialism and democracy – many believe the opposite!

“Well, “bad for Labour” isn’t necessarily a bad thing,”

It is given the available alternatives at any time in the foreseeable future.

“and it’s far from “very clear” that it would be bad for socialism and democracy – many believe the opposite!”

I know. I can’t seem to persuade them of the simple fact that under AV, large parties have a stronger incentive to move to the centre than under FPTP – since splinter voters to one wing come back to you in a way that splinter votes to the centre may not – and small parties with an ideologically polarising message are less likely to win seats.

oldpolitics – I’m afraid I’m not yet convinced that Ed Miliband, David Miliband et all want to harm the Labour party.

But if you want to continue banging that drum – go ahead! It doesn’t seem to be resonating with Labour voters according to the polls though

@Shane Croucher
You’d probably find a similar story at Yes2AV meetings. There aren’t many people who get excited about electoral reform full stop, let alone attend campaign meetings on either side of the debate.

Nail, head, enough said.

No one cares about AV.

10. Chaise Guevara

@ 7 oldpolitics

“It is given the available alternatives at any time in the foreseeable future. ”

Except the alternatives are more able to change under AV. Which is the point.

“I know. I can’t seem to persuade them of the simple fact that under AV, large parties have a stronger incentive to move to the centre than under FPTP – since splinter voters to one wing come back to you in a way that splinter votes to the centre may not”

Very true.

“and small parties with an ideologically polarising message are less likely to win seats.”

Completely untrue. Which is again the point.

FPTP makes voting for small parties seems like a mug’s game in many people’s eyes. AV would probably improve their chances greatly. At the very worst, it would be disappointingly ineffective, not actively harmful.

11. Chaise Guevara

@ 9 Bobski

“No one cares about AV.”

..and yet here you are, writing comments about it.

I particularly like the fact that there is the comment that the bored faces (normal when people are speaking about electoral reform surely?) belong sometimes to people in the no to AV campaign.

Because if these are no to AV events, it would be odd for them to be stocked by their supporters surely? No group ever normally has its supporters turn up to its own events – although I thought it was disgraceful the way the last Labour conference was fully populated by Labour supporters and members (and PR consultants…) on all the TV pictures…

“But if you want to continue banging that drum – go ahead! It doesn’t seem to be resonating with Labour voters according to the polls though.”

Latest YouGov has 56% of Labour voters opposing, with 29% supporting. ICM had 40% in favour, 40% against.

http://today.yougov.co.uk/sites/today.yougov.co.uk/files/YG-Archives-Pol-Sun-results-070311.pdf

http://www.icmresearch.co.uk/pdfs/2011_feb_guardian_poll.pdf

“oldpolitics – I’m afraid I’m not yet convinced that Ed Miliband, David Miliband et all want to harm the Labour party.”

Neither am I, I just think they’re mistaken.

Ed said at a recent NEC that he thought AV would help Labour because of Lib Dem and Green second preferences. I imagine he’s just been too busy to look at the polling, which shows Lib Dems breaking in favour of the Tories, and UKIP having 6 times as many second preferences on offer as the Greens.

Chaise@10 – So, you would argue in contrast to the official Yes line than AV might be good news for the far right, not bad news? I’m inclined to accept their view that the centre will hold better against the left and right in a preferential, single-member, system.

7/oldpolitics: since splinter voters to one wing come back to you in a way that splinter votes to the centre may not

But the short-term incentive to run to the centre is pretty strong under FPTP already (see: British politics 1990-2010)

If Labour moves rightwards and so takes ten votes from the Conservatives (ignore the Lib Dems for simplicity for now – assume this is in a Lab/Con marginal), they can afford to lose nineteen votes to the Greens, or Respect, or the Communists, in the same constituency, and still have a 1 vote net profit over the Conservatives as a result.

They can afford to lose far more than nineteen if some of the losses are in a different “safe” constituency instead.

The 2:1 bias – caused by there being no electable party left of Labour – means that they will tend ever rightwards if they only pursue short-term electoral gain, under FPTP. Likewise, the Conservatives will tend leftwards (at least just before an election) if they use the same strategy.

Under AV there’s a much greater chance that formerly safe seats will be vulnerable to a challenge from the outside than the centre – UKIP challenging the Conservatives, for instance – built up over a few elections. It gives much more chance for a left alternative to Labour to get started.

don – that is not the latest poll. That doesn’t ask the referendum question, but instead goes into detail with a question which confuses people.

when Yougov started asking the actual referendum question, a lot of No2AV support melted away

Funny, pictures from the YEs2AV rally don’t exactly look the same…

oldpolitics/14: So, you would argue in contrast to the official Yes line than AV might be good news for the far right, not bad news?

Since I’ve said much the same … no, I wouldn’t argue that. Both AV and FPTP have centralising tendencies, but if anything FPTP is better for the far right than AV (though neither system gives them much chance most of the time). Under AV, extremists will not pick up many transfers from anyone, even if they do manage to do well on first preferences. A moderate-left or moderate-right party could however pick up some transfers from centre-left or centre-right voters respectively (especially if the other centrist parties were eliminated early on)

Sunny, I’m confused. You criticise the YouGov poll that sets out what AV and FPTP are / how they work, because it “doesn’t ask the referendum question, but instead goes into detail with a question which confuses people.”

So, to be clear, your position is that AV is definitely not too complicated for voters to understand. That is patronising rubbish put around by the No campaign. So far so good. At the same time, these well-informed voters who will be completely fine understanding the mechanics of AV aren’t, in fact, bright enough to understand a description of what AV is?

How does that work, again?

“Funny, pictures from the YEs2AV rally don’t exactly look the same…”

They’re probably full of those hundreds of unpaid interns the Yes campaign keep advertising for on w4mp.

21. Owen Jones

I’m going to vote against AV, but – like most people – the whole subject bores me to tears and I’d prefer to stick pins in my eyes than attend a rally either for or against.

“I’m inclined to accept their view that the centre will hold better against the left and right in a preferential, single-member, system.”

fwiw, I think there would be two opposing factors – firstly more people would vote for UKIP and the Greens, but this wouldn’t help them win seats.

So UKIP might end up getting 9-10% of the national vote, but not winning any seats, while the Lib Dems might end up with 8% and 30-40 seats, and the Greens might end up with 6% and 1-2 seats.

This in turn would incentivise UKIP to appeal to Labour voters to help them beat the Tories, and the Greens to appeal to Tory/Lib voters to help them beat Labour (as already happens in some areas where the Greens are competitive locally).

@16 Doesn’t that imply there is something wrong with the referendum question? I find the idea that people are supportive when the question as set is asked but not when the details are explained rather troubling.

“that is not the latest poll. That doesn’t ask the referendum question, but instead goes into detail with a question which confuses people.

when Yougov started asking the actual referendum question, a lot of No2AV support melted away”

A lot of people say don’t know to the actual question because they’ve got no idea what the “alternative vote” might be. When it is explained, more people vote No. This is kind of troubling for the Yes campaign, although the encouraging thing is that it means that lots of No supporters aren’t going to turn up and vote.

In any case, ICM asked the actual question and found Labour voters tied 40-40.

Owen – I think you’ll find that if you asked ordinary people on the streets about the merits of letting John Hutton stay in the Labour party – they might be bored to tears too. #justsaying

23/Falco: Well, the referendum question should be both short and neutrally worded, which it is.

The question then is why providing an explanation makes the “No” vote increase. I can think of two possibilities:
1) The explanation makes it more clear to some voters that AV isn’t what they want.
2) The explanation is poor-quality, and so makes people less inclined to vote for change.

Certainly 2 is at least somewhat true – it’s badly-worded and doesn’t really explain how AV works in practice. I’d be surprised were 1 also not true in some cases, because the No campaign has been keeping very quiet on how AV works, and the Yes campaign isn’t very good at filling that gap either.

The Electoral Commission’s information booklet on the referendum is neutrally worded and contains a more detailed explanation of both FPTP and AV than the YouGov survey, so it’ll be interesting to see how (if anything) the polling shifts when that information is released to the public.

When Alastair Campbell asked the class at Jamie Oliver’s Dream School what they thought of politics, the answer came back …. ”boring”.
If this is what they think ‘politics’ is about, no wonder they said that.

What’s the benifit of AV btw? I haven’t really got the foggiest, and couldn’t care less.
It seems that you vote, and then the votes are taken away and counted, and deals are done behind closed doors ….. or something.
Is that about it?

28. Chaise Guevara

@ 14 oldpolitics

“Chaise@10 – So, you would argue in contrast to the official Yes line than AV might be good news for the far right, not bad news? I’m inclined to accept their view that the centre will hold better against the left and right in a preferential, single-member, system.”

Depends what you mean. I’m sure that far-right parties would get more (i.e. some) seats. But that doesn’t mean they’d get any real national power. Apart from anything else, I can’t see any of the current big parties agreeing to go into coalition with the BNP, even if they could compromise on policy. It’s be a PR fiasco.

29. Owen Jones

#25 – Sunny, I think the millions of public sector workers – i.e. core Labour voters – who face having their pensions trashed might have an opinion, actually. #justsaying

There are six million people who will undoubtedly have strong views on their living standards being attacked – not something that can be said about the merits or otherwise of AV!

30. Chaise Guevara

@ 29

“There are six million people who will undoubtedly have strong views on their living standards being attacked – not something that can be said about the merits or otherwise of AV!”

Well, no, because AV isn’t (directly) about standards of living. There are plenty of people interested in reforming democracy, though (including those who think it’s a bad thing).

I don’t really see the point of wandering around threads on a topic and complaining that it’s boring. Why go on the thread in the first place?

The Bristol debate was very different, but then it was advertised much more as an independent debate…the ability for the No camp to control who came or not was clearly not there, and in all fairness the majority of the people there were Yes supporters too.

As far as “Grassroots” goes, I think only one side can claim victory so far.

32. Owen Jones

@30 My point was that it’s hardly surprising that No2AV events are empty. Yes2AV campaigners are a mobilised group of people with a special interest in the electoral system; most No2AV people think the new system is undesirable, but have other more important political commitments.

Let the no camp convince those who don’t care about reform that it’s not worth turning up, I think you’ll find that it’s the Yes side that is motivated to go and win this. The idea that it is the Yes campaign that needs to get the vote out is extremely flawed if it is a truth that people don’t care about reform either way, that’s when the polling leads for Yes become more likely…when people are just ticking a box because they feel they should without any real information.

I may be wrong, but I think you will find the tory media will do the tories work for them in the last 2-3 days of the campaign.

By the time Murdoch and Mail have had their say, most tories will think that if they don’t turn out and vote no they will on a train to Siberia.

I still say this will fail. But we will see.

conjures up a big rally of Brownshirts just to please Sally…(noting that the Brownshirts also included most of the Socialists in the National Socialist movement, cos she is too thick to know that)

Sorry, what is the point of this post? The turnout of supporters and opponents of AV at particular rallies will have sod-all effect on the final result.

The central issue is simple. People may not normally care about the rather dry subject of voting reform but a lot of people care passionately about this coalition and how to stop it. And the AV vote has sadly due to the current context is perceived (possibly correctly) as an integral part of that struggle.

Generally speaking many of those with progressive and leftward leanings would normally be enthusiastic Yes2AV. And those people are needed badly to vote yes, if AV is to get a Yes vote.

The problem is those people are torn in two. For they are the many who despair at the incredibly right wing nature of this coalition, and wish to see its demise hastened with that probably the only hope at stopping a complete and total destruction of the welfare state and NHS. The best way for this to happen is for the LidDem party to split, with the leftward Social Democratic element realising that they have no support and are finished if they stay with the coalition. A NO2AV could deliver this outcome (its optimistic but plausible). At the very least it might weaken the LibDems in Government and thus weaken the Coalition. A YES2AV on the other hand would probably strengthen Cleg’s hand and ensure the survival of this awful coalition for another 4 years -with renewed vigour.

Voting reform is massively important but is it as important as the welfare state? And its not even like this is significant voting reform (although it might lead to greater things)

Sorry to post again but thought it worse addressing some misconceptions here

@ diogenes
“conjures up a big rally of Brownshirts just to please Sally…(noting that the Brownshirts also included most of the Socialists in the National Socialist movement, cos she is too thick to know that)”

I think I’m too thick to understand your comment. As a former student of German nationalism from 1800s till 1939, Despite the name the National Socialists (NAZI) did not include any socialists. They were a highly nationalistic and rightwing party with a loose ideology that is best described as fascist. The only remote similarity to socialism was a the promotion of a centralised and strong state (and even then it had peculiar divisions unique to Hitler). Crucially unlike socialism they did not centralise the economy or promote the role of the Workers in the means of production. Rather they were supported by and supported various large scale capitalists and business concerns. They also crushed the left wing trade unionism, socialists (SDP), communists (KDP), burned books of the liberal intelligentsia and implement various other rather rightwing policies that you may have heard of?
Sorry its a bit off topic though interestingly the Nazis are often used as an example against proportional representation (which is a powerful latent fear of many concerning any voting reform -look at the BNP comments) but the Nazis never achieved an outright majority and actually started to sharply decline in the last free election of Wiemar Germany but excessive (emergency) powers of the president enabled Hitler to become a Dictator

UKIP say yes to AV.
I always vote.
UKIP say yes.
I don’t spoil my paper.
UKIP say yes.
Liblabcon won’t allow a referendum on EU.
UKIP say YES WE WILL.
Now please all stop banging on about it!

40. Chaise Guevara

The above reads like an extremely drunk Adrian Mitchell.

He remained a beacon of hope in darkening times.
I drink to forget.
Upholland? me niether.
Thank you.

42. Chaise Guevara

That’s actually pretty good…

@ oh f***

This is a bit pedantic, but what the hell. I am not sure, but I think diogenes was referring to the fact that the SA, which is the formal name for the Brownshirts, were a more left-wing faction of the Nazi party. There is some background on wikipedia if you look up the page for the SA and the one for Ernst Rohm, who was the head of the SA.

“SS members generally came from the middle class, while the SA had its base among the unemployed and working class. Politically speaking, the SA were more radical than the SS, with its leaders arguing the Nazi revolution had not ended when Hitler achieved power, but rather needed to implement socialism in Germany.”

Apparently they helped workers on strike and attacked strikebreakers and stuff.

@ Chaise Guevara

“Still, I admit I’m not blown away by a few photos of empty chairs in town halls. Apart from anything else, in two of the photos half of the speakers aren’t in their chairs, which hardly suggests that the meeting were in full swing.”

Apparently the people who organised these No2AV “debates” were inviting representatives from the yes campaign to speak on the day of the debates, and yes have not been turning up as a result. That might explain this.


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    No2AV 'rallies' end up as a damp squib with empty chairs http://bit.ly/fyZdm8

  2. Tim Ireland

    RT @libcon: No2AV 'rallies' end up as a damp squib with empty chairs http://bit.ly/fyZdm8

  3. Gary Dunion

    AV referendum opinion polls must be read with this in mind: http://bit.ly/e4PA5T There's your enthusiasm gap right there. #yes2av

  4. Duncan Stott

    RT @garydunion: AV referendum opinion polls must be read with this in mind: http://bit.ly/e4PA5T There's your enthusiasm gap right there …

  5. sunny hundal

    No2AV 'rallies' end up as a damp squib with empty chairs. Tory money had better start flowing quick! http://bit.ly/fyZdm8

  6. Patrick Kingsley

    RT @sunny_hundal: No2AV 'rallies' end up as a damp squib with empty chairs. Tory money had better start flowing quick! http://bit.ly/fyZdm8

  7. Jane Phillips

    RT @libcon: No2AV 'rallies' end up as a damp squib with empty chairs http://bit.ly/fyZdm8

  8. bryan

    @scarlett5202 No2AV ‘rallies’ a damp squib with empty chairs | Liberal Conspiracy: http://bit.ly/dEgr5U via @addthis

  9. Michael Calderbank

    RT @libcon: No2AV 'rallies' end up as a damp squib with empty chairs http://bit.ly/fyZdm8

  10. Stew Wilson

    RT @sunny_hundal: No2AV 'rallies' end up as a damp squib with empty chairs. Tory money had better start flowing quick! http://bit.ly/fyZdm8

  11. Joe Taylor

    RT@libcon No2AV 'rallies' end up as a damp squib with empty chairs http://bit.ly/fyZdm8 > Oh dear, oh dear!

  12. Jeremy Rowe

    RT @trurojoe: RT@libcon No2AV 'rallies' end up as a damp squib with empty chairs http://bit.ly/fyZdm8 > Oh dear, oh dear!

  13. sunny hundal

    RT @garydunion: AV referendum opinion polls must be read with this in mind: http://bit.ly/e4PA5T There's your enthusiasm gap right there …

  14. Jessica Asato

    No2AV 'rallies' are a 'damp squib' says @sunny_hundal http://bit.ly/eAkHcJ #Yes2AV are rocking on the other hand: http://bit.ly/gG5HoU

  15. Duncan Stott

    RT @Jessica_Asato: No2AV 'rallies' are a 'damp squib' says @sunny_hundal http://bit.ly/eAkHcJ #Yes2AV are rocking on the other hand: htt …

  16. james head

    RT @libcon: No2AV 'rallies' end up as a damp squib with empty chairs http://bit.ly/fyZdm8

  17. Nick H.

    RT @sunny_hundal: No2AV 'rallies' end up as a damp squib with empty chairs. Tory money had better start flowing quick! http://bit.ly/fyZdm8

  18. SwissMac

    RT @Jessica_Asato: No2AV 'rallies' are a 'damp squib' says @sunny_hundal http://bit.ly/eAkHcJ #Yes2AV are rocking on the other hand: htt …

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