The ‘Yes to AV’ campaign: let the post-mortems begin


4:12 pm - May 7th 2011

by Rupert Read    


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We already know the result. Now we need learn the lessons and do it much better next time, when that may be.

Some obvious and crucial points first.. Clegg was of course an albatross.

Plus, the right-wing-press simply decided that it wasn’t going to tolerate AV. They had more money (still undeclared) and money can be used to buy votes.

The plain lies of the No campaign and senior Tories to confuse the voters as much as possible seems to have paid off.

But the failure of the Yes campaign to make much progress is also down to various factors, over which there should be a little more breast-beating.

Some of these are the responsibility of the official Yes campaign; some are more widely-distributed around the ‘progressive’ movement:

» The deep overall failure to message adequately, as my colleague Matt Wootton has argued here on LC. The problem began with the failure of the YES side to establish that there was a profound problem with FPTP. That’s the first step any campaign needs: ‘Here is a serious problem that needs fixing’. YES failed at that first hurdle. (more here)

» The official YES campaign was over-centralised. Large numbers of leaflets etc. were dumped with relatively little warning onto people ill-equipped to utilise them in a timely manner. We thus had the terrible irony of the side with less money (Yes) ending up with large numbers of undelivered letters/leaflets – the printing for which had of course been paid for out of that thin war-chest…

» The YES campaign made a horrendous mistake in not doing a freepost leaflet to the whole country, instead focussing its resources extremely selectively. For just half a million pounds, everyone could have received a substantial focussed high-production-values leaflet, to counter the unpleasant propaganda that the official NO campaign DID push through every letterbox in the land.

They told me they had decided to spend their money elsewhere. Bad decision. As it was, there were many people who had been convinced by the NO material that they had received, and who simply had nothing from YES to counter it or to reframe.

» The failure of HopeNotHate to endorse the #Yes2AV campaign: such an endorsement was said to be ‘in the pipeline’ but never materialised. HopeNotHate’s gargantuan email list could have greatly bolstered the Yes campaign, instead of being frittered away on short-termist efforts to campaign against the BNP in particular localities.

» The failure of 38degrees to endorse the #Yes2AV campaign: This is the dreadful fence-sitting job they came up with in the end.

» The preponderance of the NO voice in Labour, which raises a serious question: IS there really a ‘progressive movement’ in this country? Electoral reform – a referendum on which Labour itself promised in its manifesto – is a sinequanon of a site like Liberal Conspiracy, a pluralist centre-left, a potential rainbow ‘progressive alliance’. LabourNo’s squatting tribally in its way, and providing thereby some ‘legitimate’ cover to the Murdoch-Dacre-Elliott-Griffin-Cameron alliance leading the fight against reform, was depressing in the extreme.

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About the author
This is a guest post. Rupert Read is a Green Party councillor and ran as a MEP candidate in Eastern region in 2009. He blogs at Rupert's Read and Comment is free
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Reader comments


If the result was a NO win 55/45 or 60/40 even then the failure of the campaign would be entirely down to poor campaigning. 70/30 suggests something else. I am more worried about more complex issues such as climate change. Also, whisper it quietly, maybe technical improvements in the voting system aren’t the best thing to have referendums about.

Nothing to do with AV being a rubbish system then? AV would encourage negative campaigning. It does little to address poor voter turnout or address the disenfranchisement felt by many because of the similarities between the major parties. And that it was a sop to the LibDems after being kippered by the Tories was well understood by the electorate, who undoubtedly took the opportunity to tell Clegg were to go.

The problem began with the failure of the YES side to establish that there was a profound problem with FPTP. That’s the first step any campaign needs: ‘Here is a serious problem that needs fixing’.

But was AV even the solution? If you honestly believed as I did that AV wasn’t really that much of a change, that the problem wasn’t going to be addressed by the proposed solution, how on earth can you find it within yourself to argue about the profound problem of FPTP?
I actually only ended up voting yes because of the dishonesty of the No campaign and because it’d annoy a tosspot at work. Belief in AV didn’t even factor in.

Great piece, hit the nail on the head.

Written a bit more here from the perspective of a campaigner:

http://hackeryblog.co.uk

5. Chaise Guevara

@ 2 Jk

“Nothing to do with AV being a rubbish system then? AV would encourage negative campaigning.”

How on earth would a system predicted to create more coalitions – and that therefore would require interparty co-operation – encourage negative campaigning?

“It does little to address poor voter turnout or address the disenfranchisement felt by many because of the similarities between the major parties”

It would have made it realistically possible to elect minor parties to power, which should deal with both of those problems to an extent.

You’re right about Clegg being a liability, but your attempt to show that AV is a “rubbish system” has actually just listed two problems with FPTP that AV would have improved.

Just once, it would be nice to hear someone criticise AV without lying.

6. Tom (iow)

Clegg was sold a lie from the start, as I’ve been saying for a few weeks.

The Tories insisted on AV as the only option they would consider. Clegg went for this on the understanding it was a compromise. A compromise implies the Tories believed AV was better than the other alternatives.

The Tories then (predictably) pulled a bait and switch, and attacked AV as “unfair and undemocratic”, “a miserable compromise”, and the worst possible system (along with a package of factual untruths) despite the fact that it was they who wanted AV as the option. It is now clear this was always the game plan: it was never really a compromise at all, it was a set up. I always thought of William Hague as a bit better than the others but it is clear he was highly implicated in this stitch up.

Clegg should have either accepted a compromise on AV on the condition the Tories backed it as a compromise, OR insisted on a referendum on his own choice of system (PR).

7. Margin4error

As others have said – while the campaign was rubbish – the result suggests something much bigger at work.

I believed at the time it was signed that the coalition deal wiped out support for electoral reform because it meant its core left wing rump, which felt it would ensure more left wing government in future, suddenly felt that wasn’t true any more.

It is one thing to back a system that benefits an anti-tory (and so left wing)majority. It is quite another to expect the same backing for a system that suddenly appears to benefit an anti-labour (and so right wing) majority.

Of course I also think Clegg knew that but didn’t care that he sold electoral reform down the river. He got a ministerial car and a nice office and got to be the tory he would always have been anyway, had he not been barred from their upper eschelons by his pro-eu opinions.

8. Bruce T Brown

The slogans “Make MPs work harder”, and “Tackle jobs for Life” did not really get to core of the message may have been far from appropriate. They missed the point. They provided a target for MPs generally.

Perhaps someone should have been brave enough to call the PM a “liar” in a public arena and challenged him to describe, with sample ballot papers, how redistributed votes counted under AV are “tallied” (if not physically counted) a different number of times.

Opinion polls show that the youth vote favoured AV (in Australia as well). I put it to NO Conservatives that this referendum was a vote for our children. They must engage with their politics. There has to be greater interaction between politicians and youth. AV provides a means of doing so.

I believe that FPTP is incompatible with the government’s localism agenda and have told my MP so. When unpalatable decisions have to be made for us MPs making those decisions must be more representative of their constituents than may well be the case with FPTP.

I believe that the Coalition deep cuts are necessary and it can be argued that only a Tory government may have had the nerve to do this. This could be an argument for a decisive government elected under FPTP BUT does any political ever have the right to pompously assume that it is the natural party of government? Definitely not.

AV is not that different to AV. The Tory party ought not to have rejected it out of hand. I am not sure that PR is the right forward. A move to AV would have made it easier to stop the PR tide. That tide may now be unstoppable.

9. Charles Wheeler

The ‘Yes’ campaign was doomed because it was promoting a system no-one had any enthusiam for!

When you’re reduced to telling confused enquirers that you’re voting for it because, although it’s not what you wanted, it’s a little bit better than what we’ve got, won’t be much fairer, isn’t proportional, but might take us, one day, a step nearer to the kind of proportional system we did want (or, might put the whole issue down the agenda for another generation, depending who you speak to), you know you’re on a sticky wicket.

‘So you’re voting for YES to AV?’
‘Yes’
‘But it’s not what you wanted?’
‘No’
”But better than FPTP?’
‘Yes’
‘But not fairer?’
‘Well, a bit… candidates will have to get 50%+’
‘But only with second preferences?’
‘Yes’
‘Is that fairer?’
‘A bit.’
‘But I don’t have a second preference.’
‘Well you don’t have to vote for one.’
‘So it doesn’t affect me?’
‘Well, not directly, but indirectly.. but it will help smaller parties.’
‘Like the BNP?’
‘No’
‘So, you think it might lead to PR?’
‘Well, it could, yes.’
‘On the other hand?’
‘On the other hand it might be difficult to change the system again for a few elections.’
‘How many?’
‘Three or so.’
‘So, another 20 years before another system comes in?’
‘Maybe.’
‘Might we not get PR by then anyhow if this system is so bad?’
‘Possibly.’
‘Hum… what’s on telly?’

Clegg had the opportunity to push for PR and blew it – the Tories had to agree if they wanted the chance to dismantle the welfare state as a quid pro quo – instead of which they’ve got just about EVERYTHING they could have dreamed of. Some ‘compromise’.

10. Ellie Cumbo

I just think they focused far too much on stupid, extraneous ideas, like that AV would “make MPs work harder”, or get rid of safe seats, or prevent expenses fraud, all of which is nonsense.

For me the arguments were simple: AV allows voters to communicate more about the candidates at the ballot box, and means MPs have to be basically acceptable to more than 30-odd per cent of constituents . FPTP means less choice for voters and less legitimacy for MPs. We simply didn’t hear enough about this, when it should have been at the core of the debate.

11. Stuart White

Thanks, Rupert – all relevant points, I think.

Some other possible factors:

(1) AV didn’t enthuse the reform constituency. Most of the people who are enthusiastic for electoral reform support PR and AV of course isn’t PR. While most of those who support PR saw AV as a first step towards PR, the fact that is was only AV may have meant that many would-be electoral reformers just didn’t give the campaign the priority they otherwise would have done.

(2) Campaigning against the cuts took time and energy away from the AV campaign. With the best will in the world, we all have only so much time and energy we can devote to campaigning. I know that in my own case I have probably devoted about 95% of my campaigning time and energy since last autumn to anti-cuts and related campaigns, giving only very little – in an absolute sense, far too little – time to electoral reform. To what extent did the Yes campaign fail to take off because many of its potential foot soldiers were quite understandably more focused on other important challenges?

I’m not saying these are the two most important factors, but they might also have played a part in this very disappointing result.

12. Chaise Guevara

@ Ellie Cumbo

“I just think they focused far too much on stupid, extraneous ideas, like that AV would “make MPs work harder”, or get rid of safe seats, or prevent expenses fraud, all of which is nonsense.”

You’re telling me. I never worked out the logic behind claiming that AV would get rid of safe seats. Safe seats would be unaffected by AV, as far as I can work out.

A quick scan of the self-indulgent twaddle post on this website over the past few months on that very issue might give you a few ideas for ‘what went wrong’.

The reason that Yes lost, and by a thumping margin, was that AV is not a good idea and no amount of leaflets or emails would have changed that.

I also deeply resent the assumption that all progressives should have voted for Yes like sheep. I’m as left-wing as anybody I know but voted No because I looked long and hard at AV and rejected it. I’m not a fan of FPTP but AV is worse. And 70% of the voters know that too.

@ 10:

Yes, those were probably factors, although more important I think was

(3) The Yes campaign seemed to rely very much on a “core vote” strategy: a lot of the arguments seemed to centre around AV leading to perpetual left-of-centre government, and of course there’s the fact that pretty much all the major celebrities supporting the campaign were liberal-left types. This sort of thing would appeal to the left-liberal voters in the country, but these people were already likely to support AV anyway. To win, they would have had to win over more conservative voters, which they didn’t really attempt to.

16. Mr S. Pill

@12

Yup, that’s why all contributers and commenters on this very website have such huge influence and are constantly being referenced in the MSM.

Erm…

@ 11:

Yes. In fact, I believe that Australia has a higher proportion of safe seats than Britain does (53% vs. 44%, off the top of my head).

In terms of tactics/strategy, rather than messaging, I’d say that not using the freepost scheme to get a leaflet to every home was the biggest mistake, as a massive chunk of the population had no exposure at all to Yes arguments.

Also, making it coincide with elections means that a lot of people were unable to be Yes activists because they had to focus on their election campaigns. Add that to the need to use your activists to leaflet because you’re not using freepost, and your ground campaign suddenly becomes a lot less effective.

And the messaging was entirely useless. It needed to focus on the actual reasons why AV is a superior system to FPTP, and directly counter the lies that the No campaign were campaigning on, not waffle on about irrelevancies.

Also, the fact that the Electoral Commission didn’t have the same supervisory powers that it has over elections needs to be addressed. Any future referendum bill on any subject has to make sure that it is given those powers, otherwise you’re guaranteed a dirty campaign.

Thanks everyone – great comments. Real food for thought. For once, it seems, I don’t have to spend loads of time and energy defending myself against misinterpretations, confusions, etc. 🙂
For the real geeks, there is a longer version of the post over at
http://rupertsread.blogspot.com/2011/05/yes2av-where-it-all-went-wrong.html

Btw, I agree with many of the points about PR: I think that a referendum on PR will in many ways be much easier. I think the points made by Tom(iow) are particularly pertinent, in that connection.

I completely agree. I think this is a fair assessment. I was shocked to see the fence-sitting from the 38-degrees group. I expect this is down to not wanting to isolate themselves from many Daily Mail reading supporters they had picked up from the anti forest sell-off campaign.

Labour’s tribalism was disastrous, as was Ed Milliband’s reluctance to bring his party into line.

But this referendum was flawed from the start. It should have asked a simple question – should we move away from FPTP to another democratic system?

Charles Wheeler and Matthew Rees hit the nail right on the head. AV was a half-baked compromise that no one wanted created to hold together a half-baked coalition that no one wanted.

Trying to justify the marginal advantages of AV left the Yes campaign floundering from the start and the series of errors the LD leadership made about timing, the framing of the question and the association of the issue with Glegg sank the ship.

The public absorbed all this. It wasn’t fear of voting reform that persuaded the people of Scotland and Wales to reject AV on the same day they used proportional systems to elect their national parliaments to precisely nuanced effect.

The LD leadership, through their bad/stupid/venal decisions are responsible for betraying the “progressive majority” just as much as those Labour figures who oppose any change.

If the half million pounds was there, then it is such a wrecker that we should ask if the campaign was infiltrated. I have been arguing that the referendum was illegit on disparity between the campaigns because Yes was not specifically resourced to mailshot the whole country and No was. In 1975 the Labour government had a sense of fari play enough to arrange a mailshot booklet for both sides. that should have held as a constitutional precedent for every referendum.

At least because AV was only a half measure meagrely grumpily granted by the Tories, no reformers are fighting for a replay of the same referendum. We can perservere in exposing the campaign’s illegitimacy – unless it comes out that it was our side’s fault all the time and the missing mailshot was affordable, as this article suggests.

@6 Marginforerror: “It is one thing to back a system that benefits an anti-tory (and so left wing)majority. It is quite another to expect the same backing for a system that suddenly appears to benefit an anti-labour (and so right wing) majority.”

There is an anti-Tory majority in this country, there is also an anti-Labour majority. There is no left wing majority nor right wing majority; the median voter thinks the Tories are too right and Labour are too left.

My own view is that AV failed because it wasn’t radical enough. The opinion polls initially showed a lead for Yes, which fell back as the campaign went on. Obviously there were many reasons for that, but one of them, I think, is that understanding of what AV actually was improved, and once they understood it, voters decided AV wasn’t worth switching to after all.

What that does suggest, though, is that there is an underlying support in this country for some kind of change to our electoral system, but it has to be the right kind of change. AV was doomed, because it wasn’t that.

Why AV lost:

It was a compromise system. Most of the people campaigning for it didn’t want it, they wanted PR. As Tom (@5) notes, the Tories played on this brilliantly. Incidently, the no vote isn’t a rejection of electoral reform, it’s a rejection of AV.

The Yes campaign was crap. As Rupert said, they should’ve used the freepost leaflet to explain the advantages of AV.

They should also have forcefully made the point that all the Tory and Labour no campaigners are members of parties that use AV or systems like it internally, and painted them as hypocrites. Most voters believe politicians are lying hypocrites anyway, so it would be easy to persuade people of this.

In right wing areas especially, the Yes campaign should’ve made an effort not to present itself as left wing and to reach out to UKIP supporters (who would benefit greatly from AV).

In left wing areas, the yes campaign should have pointed out that AV would prevent another 18 years of Thatcherism, unless that’s what the electorate genuinely wanted.

Excellent commentary Rupert.
We got the referendum as a result of the coalition government, which is supposed to last 5 years. But why did they rush into the referendum only a year after the General Election? It might have helped some if they had chosen a date in 2012 , give people longer to mull it over. Just a thoiught, but a lot of people seemed to feel this was somehow a beauty contest between Clegg and Cameron. And the left of the Labour Party thought it was some kind of bargaining chip.
38 Degrees thing is yes terrible, but not many people will have seen it, but it’s indicative of the confusion that goes even to people that are supposed to be well informed.

27. Charlieman

@23. Andy: ” The opinion polls initially showed a lead for Yes, which fell back as the campaign went on.”

The early polls demonstrated that there were a lot of “don’t knows” and that Yes won amongst those who did know. The ultimate poll, conducted after the campaign to convert the “don’t knows”, shows that most of the “don’t knows” voted No.

Conventional electoral campaigning wisdom is that when there are a lot of “don’t knows”, the incumbent loses.

Interim polls and gut instinct should have made the Yes campaign aware that they weren’t converting “don’t knows”. Sadly the organisers did not have the ability or intelligence to change the campaign.

Thanks for the recent comments: very useful.

@Tern (21): This is absolutely crucial. I am sorry to have to say that I am very confident of my information. It was a deliberate decision from on-high in the Yes campaign NOT to resource a full-scale freepost. Now, a freepost IS of course the main resource that the state makes available to campaigns like this. The decision not to use it was an extraordinary one. My understanding is that the decision was made on the grounds that the impact of a freepost is ‘overrated’. But my experience of the campaign itself (this is on the basis not just of my own experience but of that of many Yes campaigners) was that many people were convinced by the No freepost. The fact that that was all they had – that they simply heard nothing from the Yes campaign, in quite a lot of cases – left them convinced. End of story.

The main problems were surely as follows:

1) Timing – the Tories are still in their honeymoon period and Cameron has considerable authority.
2) Association with the Lib Dems – this was always going to make it into something of a referendum on Nick Clegg and makes it very hard to have a coherent Yes movement when Labour supporters of AV are furious at the Libs and they in turn are arrogantly insulting to Labour.
3) AV itself – most AV “supporters” don’t really support it. We’ve had the Jenkins Commission, we know that hardly any countries use it, unlike PR. We were forced to support something we don’t really want because it might be slightly better than FPTP and might maybe make PR more likely in the future.
4) Capitalism – inevitably a cause supported by the Tories will have access to huge amounts of money and blanket support from the right-wing press. Capitalist democracy isn’t a level playing field – it’s always an uphill battle for the left.

And here’s my piece [a guest post, obviously!] on LibDemvoice, the top LibDem blog, on what’s next: http://www.libdemvoice.org/the-independent-view-how-to-implement-full-lords-reform-now-that-the-referendum-is-lost-24070.html

“Yup, that’s why all contributers and commenters on this very website have such huge influence and are constantly being referenced in the MSM.”

The attitude not the articles (or comments) themselves.

The number of whinging Lie Dem cabinet ministers is just very, very weird. It amazes me how many people are in politics, who know nothing about politics. Vince Cable talks about tribal Tories. HELLO, What fucking planet have you been living on for the last 50 years Vince? Nobody is more tribal the tories.

If you date a thug, don’t be surprised when you get your face kicked in. But it is not just liberals. All those Labour voters who voted no , either to stick it to Clegg or because they wanted proportional representation. Well good luck with that. You have just put constitutional change back a generation.

Until the left and the liberals can work together I am afraid we are in for tory domination. Made much easier after Clegg gave Dave the gerrymandering he wanted without even asking for a referendum on a reduction to 600 seats. Message to Clegg, you knew it was not about saving money when Cameron was stacking the House of Lords with his lackeys.

Sorry to repeat, but you never do deals with brown shirts, you never enter govt with them , and you never trust them. Oh, and you always do what they want least. I wish I though this lesson had been learned, but I doubt it.

34. Andrew Mell

I’m afraid I have to contradict the first point. Clegg was not the issue and despite the No propaganda, it looks like voters did not use AV to hurt Clegg.

The issue that has hurt Clegg’s popularity the most is tuition fees. We won in Cambridge, and we won in Oxford, two areas with high concentrations of students, if there was going to be an anti-Clegg vote, it would have centred on the students and the student towns and cities. I’m afraid we can’t blame this one on Clegg.

Think the key point was the messaging. But as well as pointing out the problems of the current system, we needed to be much more positive about AV. Not explaining AV from the beginning was our biggest mistake. While our literature did try to explain the benefits of AV, this lacked credibility without an explanation of how those benefits would materialise.

“The issue that has hurt Clegg’s popularity the most is tuition fees. We won in Cambridge, and we won in Oxford, two areas with high concentrations of students, if there was going to be an anti-Clegg vote,”

Well done! Could it be that disproportionately high percentages of Oxbridge students come from home backgrounds where the higher tuition fees aren’t too much of a concern? Good to know that LibDems are comfortable with knowing that support among affluent students is rock solid.

36. An Duine Gruamach

“The preponderance of the NO voice in Labour, which raises a serious question: IS there really a ‘progressive movement’ in this country?”

Yes, but alas many influential Labour figures are not part of it.

Or perhaps we can just take things at face value and assume most people don’t want a change to the voting system.

This thread shows the Yes campaign won’t learn any lessons from the campaign whatsoever. It’s just a continuation of the ivory tower “we know what’s best for you” mentality.

Tim f.
Supporter of tabloid information.

(Assuming he carries on his logic in a non-hypocritical manner.)

I’ll stick up for AV even if nobody else will. It was never a miserable little compromise for me, it was a vast and incredibly significant move forward from FPTP. It may not have been a truly proportionate voting system (and if you think we’ll be offered the list system or any other form of PR now, you’re living in cuckoo land), but I like AV because it addressed tactical voting in a way that no other system does. With full PR, I would still probably vote tactically. And full PR wouldn’t have changed things significantly in the last election – yes the share of seats would be different, but look at the overall vote share. There’s a strong probability we still would have ended up with a Tory/Lib Dem coalition.

The thing about AV is this: it enables you to effectively cast your vote AGAINST your least favourite party if that’s what you want to do. I would love it if I could use my vote to get the Green Party into power (unlikely, under any system), but my main priority will always be making sure my vote is effectively used against the Conservatives. And for vast swathes of Northern England, that’s what we want from our voting system. We want to get the Tories out and keep them out – who actually wins is a secondary concern. For years, the centre-left vote has been split between Labour and the Lib Dems – PR doesn’t really address that problem, but AV does.

For all these reasons, I think AV is actually a very good voting system and I would put the referendum result down to several things – an ineffective Yes campaign (if you typed AV into Google, they didn’t even come up on the first page of results), lies and smears spread by the No campaign, the association with Nick Clegg, the split in Labour over AV and finally, and not insignificantly, the fact that the Electoral Commission sent leaflets to every household containing an overly complex explanation that made AV look more complex than the insides of a nuclear reactor.

Sorry, I don’t understand your point.

I’m suggesting most people who voted weren’t taken in by the half-truths offered up by either the yes or no campaign, and made their own minds up based on how they felt about the voting systems.

The whole “the electorate fell for the No2AV lies because they’re stupid but we’re intelligent so we saw through them” seems to me to be a continuation of the patronising idea that it’s impossible to have a different opinion on electoral reform for principled reasons.

That last comment aimed at Cylux, not Vicky.

42. Political_Animal

What went wrong? AV is a crap system and the electorate are not stupid, despite the assertions of the media to the contrary and so gave AV a wide berth.

Incidentally, I voted NO to AV. If the referendum had been on PR, I would have voted YES.

Well it might just be the warehouse I work in, but the majority of my co-workers actually DID believe the lies told by the No2AV campaign, I even had one co-worker parrot the line of “people died in wars for one person one vote”, which was apparently under threat…

But on the plus side I apparently get to be in an Ivory tower. Result!

Entirely agree with Tim F.

“HopeNotHate’s gargantuan email list could have greatly bolstered the Yes campaign, instead of being frittered away on short-termist efforts to campaign against the BNP in particular localities.”

The idea that parts of the Yes campaign/”movement” (no real signs of the latter, eh?) think that a technical change to the voting system is more important than tackling the politics of the far right goes part of way to showing why many people (including a very large number of Labour people) found the Yes analysis deeply problematic. Either a campaign to “shield” the Lib Dems, or just generally rather pompous, rather elitist and rather metropolitan.

No number of bitter and offensive retrospectives will change that. Nor will the fact that no raking over the ashes will matter. I am afraid that the case for change to the electoral system is in the long grass for at least a couple of decades. If you think otherwise and try to get some rump Liberals to pressure Labour into a new referendum, I think you will face the full fury of both the Labour Party and the electorate.

Now, please, suck it up and get over yourselves. Those who disagree with you are not automatically right wing or out of touch with some urgent concern. Rather the opposite.

45. Strategist

“many people were convinced by the No freepost. The fact that that was all they had – that they simply heard nothing from the Yes campaign, in quite a lot of cases – left them convinced. End of story.”

Yes, my experience. Virtually the entire leaflet was played back to me by people who had consumed it entirely. I think Yes campaigners should mostly study how the No campaign succeeded as a very clever propaganda campaign.

Many many people went out to “vote no today to save democracy in this country”, and to “defend the principle of one person one vote”.

The money & marketing skills that went into the no campaign will next be being made available for the Tory re-election campaign, so the left really needs to think long and hard about how we fight back.

46. Paul Brown

It will be instructive to see the declared expenses of the No to AV campaign. I am aware of personalised addressed 4 fold maildrop in the Yes campign’s purple colour scheme plus single A5 personal addressed “On Thusday May 5th Vote no to AV”. All this was on behalf of No Campign Ltd.
Then there is the No to AV content in Conservative local election leaflets.
Is it possible that this expenditure or income has exceeded the £6million?? expenditure limit? Presumably in 35 dyas we will see?

47. Ken Clarke

uuuu

48. Ken Clarke

Greetings from Sydney, Australia.Followed the results from Brighton & Hove with
great interest……….in Sydney, two councils, Marrickville & Balmain have NOC, but the Greens have the the majority of councillors with 5/12 and 6/12.
Although the tories got 18 seats and finished 2nd to the Greens, they did that with
29% of the vote ! Labour’s 13 seats by comparison came with 32% of the vote.
The AV system is a long way from perfect but, 1st by the post is a joke – it leaves
EVEN MORE people disenfranchised.
In reference to the lib/dems, their “twins” over here, the Australian Democrats got
too close to the conservative parties and have been obliterated at recent elections
as a result of this. (They used to hold the balance of power in the Senate, the 2nd
chamber here.)
Nowadays, the greens are easily the 3rd party and growing stronger but, the ALP
and it’s falling vote base is not a good thing of course.

49. patricia roche

I am a labour voter and voted yes as did many people I know. Please stop targetting the labour party as they are practically the only opposition left now that the lib dems have turned Tory and are dismantiling our services and creating mayhem and poverty,

And the yes to AV website has been taken down already, without so much as a word of acknowledgment.

Many good points raised by this thread, I think. AV is dead and gone, next time it must be a proposal for PR.

Thanks Ken Clarke. What you say of course just underlines what a tragedy it is that we lost the referendum.
@Ben (43): You have completely missed my point. HNH could have delivered lots of votes and some airtime and crucial backing of the ‘AV is the best way to stop extremists’ line; they didn’t. If they had have done, it would have been FAR more significant than what they actually did do over the last several weeks, in terms of combatting extremism in Britain. They missed an open goal.
In other words: I was saying that IN THEIR OWN TERMS HopeNotHate messed up badly here. They missed a big chance to progress their objectives. As Simon Darby, Vice-Chair of the BNP put it: “We would never get out feet under the table, under AV”.

As has been pointed out already (http://liberalconspiracy.org/2011/05/07/the-yes-to-av-campaign-let-the-post-mortems-begin/#comment-266773
“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. There is a whole story beyond the point alluded to be sorge (@49). Here are some highlights (sic.!) from it, to my knowledge:
>YES’s SEO was very weak, 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.

@48 patricia

If Labour are the answer, perhaps the question is badly phrased? As a Labour supporter you may be confident of their ability to lead the forces of opposition; forgive many of us if we aren’t convinced at all given recent experience.

Given the implosion of the LD’s, and the defeat of AV, perhaps we are returning to 2 party politics….. if an unreconstructed “Newer” Labour is one of those, then God help us all.

This article betrays the same sense if entitlement.- to unqualified support from all progressive forces – that has characterised the yes campaign from day one. Let’s be clear, AV is not in any straightforward sense a progressive reform, nor is it straightforwardly a step towards PR and genuine democratic reform. There Serb good reasons why progresses, who by their nature want a radical, society shifting, politics might object to a parliament elected on second preferences. Hope not hate is a broadly based single campaign to stop the far right. There is no good reason why it should be expected to alienate parts of its base on both the right and left by endorsing AV. The argument that it is “their” issue because because it will help keep out the BNP is a weak one – the BNP have never got close to parliamentary representation under FPTP.

By focusing on “labour tribalism” – a tremendously arrogant and patronising term which has been bandied around far too much – Rupert fails to acknowledge that AV split the left for political reasons. Hence opposition to it from numerous far left groups, who have no hope of monopolising government like labour can under FPTP. Speaking for myself I am a labour member, and PR supporter, who publicly opposed AV when labour put it in their manifesto, and opposed it at this referendum.

To make support for FPTP a retrospective condition for entry into the “progressive alliance” is simply not grounded in reality. Who after all are the progressive forces in Britain beyond labour. The lib dems no longer fall into this category. The greens do, and their support for AV was by no means univeraal. And the groups to the left of labour who largely opposed it. I dare say that the 10s of thousands of labour members who voted might outnumber those in progressive organisations who voted yes. Any rainbow alliance that begins by declaring most of those organised on the left of centre to be squatters is barely worthy of the name.

An absolutely disastrous campaign that palpably failed to land any hits on a very vulnerable enemy, instead engaging in a load of irrelevant battles noone else was fighting. A massively wasted opportunity, and on the face of it a terrible week for UK democracy.

Still, I think the whole argument that constitutional change has been put back for ever and a day has been dramatically overstated. It just shows that work needs to be done to lay a much deeper grassroots movement for change away from the frontline political process, particularly targeting the young – after all, the diehard enemies of change are a dying constituency, as they are strongest amongst the old. Next time a big opening for change arises, the forces of progress need to be ready and armed, with a strong non-partisan base laid down already. And I think, despite the doom and gloom, such an opening will not be that long in the coming – the fundamental structural factors that led to this referendum have not gone away and are set to return with increasing frequency – the big two’s haemorrhaging of votes isn’t going to go into permanent reversal soon, if ever – another hung parliament or majority govenrment on a ridiculously meagre plurality and we can start talking about it again.
The fact that turn out was only in the 40% range means that although it was a crushing defeat for AV, the proposal that it is a massive endorsement of FPTP can also be attacked, much though it is guaranteed to be spun that way wherever possible. The fact that a no to AV, yes to PR campaign existed and that a large angle of attack related to the fact that AV was a compromise that noone wanted means that when the time is right, the right-wing spin that noone wants electoral reform of ANY KIND should at least have a pretty robust and credible answer.
Pretty disgusting to hear BBC presenters now shrilly pumping out the line that ‘its a no to any electoral reform for like, ever and ever’ all over the place, I expect that sort of nonsense from the right wing media, but …. oh, yeah.

56. Margin4error

@22 Phil Hunt

Well obviously there is an anti-majority for any party – no party polls support of 50% (except in rare instances such as Labour at Tony Blair’s height of popularity)

But that’s somewhat irrelevent.

Support for a more proportional system of electing MPs was built on left wingers believing it would result in left wing governments more often than not. This was because they saw labour and lib dems as an anti-tory block – and with the greens likely to add to that, it would be a solid social-democratic base that would be hard for the right to ever dislodge.

Clegg destroyed that basis for support last year – and it is unlikely ever to recover.

So having wiped out a massive part of the support for electoral reform – Clegg has left those who want reform for more high-minded reasons (which is a small constituent remember, most support the system that suits their narrow party interest) with a mountain to climb to rebuild widespread support.

AV didn’t lose because of campaigns. It lost because the coalition deal, by nature of its existance, undermined the single largest part of support for reform.

The reason the Yes to AV campaign failed was due to AV not being proportional. I think a lot of people could see what a non-choice it was.

@Reuben (53): Green support for AV was in the end virtually complete – probably over 95% of members. Some Greens who had initially opposed it eventually came around.
One reason that they did may have been the clarity enabled by seeing all the major figures who were lining up against AV: a checklist of everyone worth despising in British politics and press. Every elected politician (and faction) that I respect in Labour voted Yes; every one that I don’t voted No. It was remarkable. As has been said earlier in the string: what the referendum demonstrated was how there is clearly a large chunk of Labour that is simply not ‘progressive’. For amplification of this point, see Andrew Pearmain’s excellent new book analysing New Labour from a Gramscian point of view. See also Matt Wootton’s recent pieces at Green Words Workshop, for explication of how the Yes side was based in Lakoffian ‘nurturant’ political morality, and the No side in its opposite.

@Joe (54): Yes, the hypocrisy of the Beeb in explicitly calling the result a defeat for electoral reform WHEN THEY HAD REFUSED TO CALL AV ELECTORAL REFORM THROUGHOUT THE CAMPAIGN ITSELF was truly sickening and mind-blowing.

Rupert – yes, I have put a moratorium on listening to the BBC for a while before I end up throwing my radio out the window. The Beeb seems more reactionary every time I turn it on.

The “Yes To Fairer Votes” group shouldn’t escape criticism either.

I signed up to their site in about January (I think) and got spammed every other day – a weekly email would have been sufficient. What’s the point of preaching to the converted? I also sent them a cheque quite early on (because I couldn’t spare the time to help), but that never got cashed. They also seemed to be some nonsense about sending some large purple flag around the country – what was all that about? Shouldn’t those flag-wielders have been canvassing instead?

Lastly, as pointed out in the right-wing media, the ‘Yes’ campaign had an ideal anti-establishment high-profile political candidate to whip up a storm and split the Tory ‘No’ vote – Nigel Farage of UKIP – but he was largely sidelined.

Tellingly, all the “Yes’ effort seems to have been in some web-based campaign and I haven’t seen any concerted effort made in approaching those who were over 35. As mentioned by the article writer, the ‘Yes’ group didn’t bother sending a mailshot out to every household in the land – the end result was a lot of people (particularly older people) who didn’t know a thing about AV other than it would let the BNP in and would mean more dead babies.

For all his faults, Nick Clegg can’t be blamed for this farrago because the Clegg Factor was something the ‘Yes’ campaign knew about even before Day 1, and they never tried to implement a countermeasure of any sort.

Idiots. There’s no other word for it.

62. Margin4error

Martin

It is interesting to hear how they sidelined Farage, given that he was their only chance of winning around new support.

The winning argument for reform was once that it would result in innevitably left wing coalitions dominating British politics. The left thus largely backed it and it led in most polls.

Then the formation of a right wing coalition crippled that case and destroyed much of that support.

The yes campaign, instead of childishly attacking their fellow lefties for recognising the evidence in downing street, should have looked for new areas of support. ie right wing support.

After all – right wing opposition was largely about a fear of innevitable left wing coalitions. The coalition is clear evidence that that is balony. So that fear can now dissipate and a case for reform can be made.

Farage, as a hardline and charismatic right winger, could have helped make that happen. The largely left-leaning yes camp probably still (bizarely) believe reform would benefit the left though. So they ignored that option.

And it cost the campaign dearly.

Margin4Error

Good point about the right-wing coalition. I heard (second-hand, admittedly) that early in the campaign that there were some Conservatives who weren’t particularly scared of AV and that one was prepared to join the ‘Yes’ campaign. But the ‘Yes’ group weren’t particularly interested or welcoming, so there was no follow-up to the initial overtures.

Sometimes there is the need to reach out to political opponents. I am really, really disappointed that the senior figures in the ‘Yes’ campaign were simply unable to do this.

64. Margin4error

Martin

I don’t think they couldn’t reach out. I think they made a strategic decision not to.

They were still convinced by the old and utterly flawed argument that reform would benefit the left because coalitions would reflect a natural left wing majority. The fact that this argument was clearly destroyed as a winning argument by the coalition deal in May last year was deliberately ignored.

Instead they continued to kid themselves that reform was a left wing agenda – and so deliberately sidelined all right wing support in case that put off left wing supporters who still imagined it would innevitably benefit the left.

Having Tories and UKIP playing a prominent part in the yes campaign would have been good tactics. It would have helped win roung new support from the right, to help replace the support from the left that the coalition deal killed.

But it didn’t fit with the old and out of date thinking that much of the reform movement is still clinging to.

65. Margin4error

Also – I should add that my criticism is of the activist classes – not the MPs.

Although the party leaderships got things wrong, they were understandably constrained in their efforts by the timing of the referendum.

Ed Miliband clearly couldn’t share a platform with Nick Clegg while at the same time pursuing a strategy in local elections of targeting past-libdem voters over their “betrayal”. That would have undermined his party’s local election message entirely.

Nick Clegg himself clearly couldn’t take a prominent role in the proceedings while at the same time being less popular than a lovechild of John Major and Gordon Brown. Indeed had he done they might have lost even more local council seats.

Meanwhile the Greens have just one high profile figure, she’s relatively marginal in national politics – and with an historic opportunity to take over a number of councils, she was also way too busy to direct a referendum effort.

The activists were left to run this campaign – and they got it badly wrong.

66. mapman1984

It was a pretty rubbish campaign all round – the No campaign was vile and the Yes one was incompetent, if what this article says is true.

But like other people have said, I think the main problem was AV. Firstly, given that the main problem with our system is lack of proportionality, and AV isn’t a proportional system or even, in many cases, a more proportional system than FPTP (in some cases indeed it is a less proportional system) the Yes campaign couldn’t use the basic ‘fairness’ argument. And seeing as ‘AV as stepping-stone’ wasn’t a compelling argument, they had to come with things that no-one really thought were very big issues for AV to supposedly ‘solve’.

Personally I voted No because I don’t like the concept of preference voting. Hopefully this defeat will lead a reformed, Proportionally elected House of Lords as Lib Dem consolation prize.

67. Margin4error

mapman

Given the resounding result though, do you really think PR would have won?

To get a change made you need to convince people that they will win as a result of the change – or at least that they won’t lose. Hence the traditional position of Lib Dems (like reform cos PR benefits them) Tories (dislike reform cost PR hurts them) and Labour (ambiguous because it has less impact on their prospects)

I just don’t see, with a right wing coalition in government, how enough of the left can be convinced they would win – and no one tried to convince the tories they wouldn’t lose out.

A real-life conversation between two people on a bus on Wednesday when one passenger had stated they were voting No; the other’s response:

“So you’re happy with a system that allows the majority of MPs to be elected with the minority of votes?”

Her reply:
“I never thought about it like that”

The Yes2AV campaign failed that women.

i was a no2av yes to pr er right up to literally the last minute ie i changed my mind in the polling booth. im still not sure if i was even right to do so but that is academic now. I have a proposal that could unite the electoral reform movement again that the torys might just allow. what about asking for the right to demand a referendum on how your council elects its self on the same basis that you can demand an elected mayor. the choices couldd be ones that you dont have to pay for boundary changes for ie av, fptp or dhont with the whole council as one constituency. such referendums could be won in places like oxford and cambridge it wouldnt bother the torys to much but could be an acorn that sprouts roots.

70. Margin4error

FlipC

FPTP allows people to elected with less than a majority
AV shatters the principle of equal voting rights.
PR means voting for a party machine rather than a local individual.

So none is utterly democratic. Indeed the voting system is a tiny aspect to democracy.

Hence the winning argument for reform is “your side will win more often”

And the coalition deal undermined that argument fundamentally for many past supporters of reform.

71. Margin4error

Jsmes

Trouble with your proposal is what we’ve seen in the USA.

Some states have moved to a more proportional allocation of their electoral college votes. This means instead of the winning presidential candidate getting all the college votes of the state – he gets only the share proportional to his vote. The losing candidate gets his smaller share as well.

What this has resulted in is a nationally funded republican campaign for a referendum on doing just that in California. Their thinking (rightly) being that if they split the biggest democrat state’s votes – they would ensure republicans win nationally more often.

That has in turn turned a lot of democrats against the more proportional structure.

Doing this with local authorities in the UK is pointless.

It would similarly feed local “I want change so I can win” movements – but do nothing for the national “I want change so I can win” movement, because it would build resentment towards those pushing such transparently self-interested change.

At present at least we have the pretence that each party holds its position on reform based on principle – even though those of us who follow politics know it’s all about self interest.

@70
I hope you’re just arguing the side taken not your own opinion with these statements. However just in case:

FPTP allows people to elected with less than a majority

Correct

AV shatters the principle of equal voting rights.

Incorrect. AV is the equivalent of holding multiple elections one after the other with a reduced candidacy list each time. If you choose to participate in each your vote has the same value as every other voter’s.

PR means voting for a party machine rather than a local individual.

Correct only for a closed party list. Incorrect for an open party list which is what has been proposed.

Incidentally all of them are “democratic” because all the elected candidates are placed in that position by the ‘people’ and are held accountable (supposedly) by them through such.

But yes the message taken by the parties and spread by the No2AV campaign is that under reform ‘party [x] will win more often and you/we don’t want that’

73. Margin4error

FlipC

Your “just in case” was not needed. I’m not arguing those three statements as fact – I’m just stating them as the reason why fairness or democracy are not particularly winning arguments – just useful rationalisations for self interest, which is the real winning argument for reform. (The fanchise was never expanded on the back of equal. It was expanded on the back of self-interested alliances between those who wanted a say, and those who thought that say would benefit them – each using rights as rationalisation, and working with those who genuinely were motivated by the notion of equal rights).

The winning argument is clearly to convince most people that their side will win more often with the new system.

Hence AV was never going to happen so soon after its rump of left-leaning support was undermined by the formation of a right-wing coalition (cripplng the self-interest built on an assumption that left wing coalition was the natural result of a proportional system).

And for those who imagine it is mainly about principles – the party alignment on the subject surely discredits this utterly.

@73: Well I’m glad about that; you never know sometimes 🙂

As for the selfishness argument. Most certainly in the case of the parties and their supporters it was less about which system is fairer, better or more democratic and more about which system gives us the better chance of winning.

But what about the vast majority who are more aligned with the 50% plus who didn’t even vote? The Yes2AV ran a partial selfish message in that AV would make MPs more accountable to ‘us’ (whether rightly or wrongly) and that we would have the power.

The No2AV campaign on the other hand reversed the power argument by stating it would give power to extremists and the Liberal Democrats.

The messages seemed to be that Yes voters said it would give you more power over MPs whereas the No campaign claimed it would make things worse.

If this is the case then from this vote it suggests that in this arena we the mob are less willing to risk something failing even if it could make things better.

As a conclusion I would say that selfish negative campaigning wins over selfish positive campaigning if the benefits of something new aren’t shown to outweigh any failure. Given what appears to be general apathy regarding politics the result could almost be predicted.

75. Margin4error

I disagree about the difference between the selfish negative and selfish positive campaigns. They are one and the same.

The selfish negative campaign is largey aligned to the traditional Tory position and basically says “FPTP means we win more than if we had a proportional system” – ie it is positive self interest.

Likewise the selfish positive campaign is largely alighed to the traditional lib dem position and basically says “reform means we win more than we can under FPTP” – ie it is also negative self interest against FPTP.

They key was Labour self interest.

The split in labour was because reform would mean less Labour government alone, but more Labour led government through coalition. It is a trade off.

The arguments largely won labour rather losely around to thinking lots of left leaning coalitions would be the best option for them – so there was some broad but weak self interest at play.

But the coalition deal delivered a right wing coalition – with a party on which labour’s weak self interest depended on being left wing.

As such the negative self interest for labour quickly became “Reform means the tories win more” or “FPTP means we win more”.

As I say – my view of it – and the result – and the polls over the last two years – suggest the campaign was irrelevent. The coalition deal utterly destroyed support for electoral reform. Campaigning now has to start again and build up again from scratch over the next couple of decades.

What it can’t do though – is try to rebuild a left-wing self interested support. That case has been lost since May last year.

And talking of self interest – don’t imagine that Clegg didn’t know what he was doing. He knew full well that entering the coalition deal would destroy electoral reform for a generation. I wrote as much at the time and most analysts could see the likely consequence. He’s not stupid. He chose Lib Dem self interest (being in government) over electoral reform – ie he chose FPTP over AV.

FlipC,

Given what appears to be general apathy regarding politics the result could almost be predicted.

According to the Power Inquiry, the main reasons for disengagement from mainstream politics appear to be that:

citizens do not feel that the processes of formal democracy offer them enough influence over political decisions – this includes party members who feel they have no say in policy-making and are increasingly disaffected;

the main political parties are widely perceived to be too similar and lacking in principle;

the electoral system is widely perceived as leading to unequal and wasted votes;
political parties and elections require citizens to commit to too broad a range of policies;

many people feel they lack information or knowledge about formal politics; and,
voting procedures are regarded by some as inconvenient and unattractive.

The Philip’s review of party funding said that,

Trust in politicians at a national level and trust in political parties are both low, and have been subject to a long-term decline. Polling research indicates that people feel distant from parties, and they feel that parties are only interested in them at election times. According to research undertaken by Ipsos MORI for the Committee on Standards in Public Life, trust in “your local MP” is relatively high at 48% while trust in “MPs in general is at 29%”

Of those reasons for disengagement, AV appears to address only one: “the electoral system is widely perceived as leading to unequal and wasted votes” (and the voting procedure might make it more unattractive). I know that AV is not even intended to address the other concerns; my point is that it might look like tinkering round the edges while there is a huge issue of distrust (for example).

@75 Margin4Error – You’re dealing with the minority that is Party and followers. From the majority point of view it’s been:

No – You don’t want AV it will make things worse for you.
Yes – You should vote AV it will make things better for you.

Both are selfish arguments but the former is negative and the latter positive.

@76 UKliberty –

it might look like tinkering round the edges while there is a huge issue of distrust

I agree in some respects this could have been presented as the first step to more change rather than as a change in and of itself. The first problem with this was that it was being presented politically rather than from a neutral third party.

In essence the people ‘we’ don’t trust were asking us to change something so we could trust them more; yet how can we trust what they’re offering?

Add in all the political splits and emotional caterwauling from the No2AV campaign and it just looks like more of the same ending with the old anarchist/cynical view that if voting changed anything, they’d make it illegal.

The main problem, unfortunately, was Ed Miliband’s lack of leadership on the issue. Seeing so many left wing groups and people not sure where to go, and ultimately following the words of those like Prescott and Reid because they respect them feels like the reason we lost. It was always going to be about how Labour voters voted in the end.

This isn’t to say the Lib Dem factor wasn’t a huge influence, but a better Labour campaign would have more than nullified any negative influence the Lib Dems bringing this forward to the table could have. Hell, it could have helped Labour in the eyes of reformers as people willing to draw a line on their past of not fulfilling their promises on reform!

As it stands it’s not just our voting system that looks stagnant again now, but the progression of the three main political parties in this country who you have to look at right now and say… have they really evolved in the last decade and through the expenses scandal, because there’s not much evidence they have.

79. Margin4error

FlipC

What evidence do you have that the majority don’t follow one or other of the parties?

My perception is that the majority in this country still fall broadly into line with one party or another. They are not unthining automotons. They disagree with “their” party quite often and even don’t turn out for it or vote against it on occasion.

But most people broadly consider themselves to be more one party than another – and more left wing or right wing than the other.

80. Margin4error

Lee

you’re a funny guy.

To pretend that the main problem was something other than the forming of a right wing coalition in 2010 is surely such obvious idiocy

@79 While I agree that people tend to align with one party over another they’re not card-carrying members. As such although they may have some tendency towards that party it’s obviously not enough for them to actively participate in it.

Accepting that then any argument regarding better/worse for ‘their’ party will likely have only the slightest of influences on any decisions made by them compared to better/worse for them or the system entire.

82. Margin4error

FlipC

I disagree there. I’d suggest that the massive immediate drop in support for reform when the coalition deal was formed suggests that actually, millions and millions of people were strongly influenced by their loose affiliation to one side or the other.

I tend to have talked in terms of parties – because we are discussing a campaign run by parties, and because the three positions fit quite neatly into the three parties.

But in reality the division is probably more two way than three way. It isn’t that lots of people who thought themselves Labour immediately stopped wanting refrom. It is that millions of people who thought themselves left stopped wanting reform. Remaining Lib Dems were probably least likely to do that – because they are least left wing and their party self interest remained unchanged.

But lefty lib dems who abandoned the party – along with labour supporters and floating lefties – realised their self interest as lefties was no longer aligned with reform.

They might be wrong in some wider context. Maybe reform would still result in more left wing governments than the present system. Or they may be right and it would result in fewer.

That is rather irrelevent. Their perception of that changed utterly – and the yes campaign ignored that and just attacked them for being superficial and petty – when in fact they were not just bashing clegg, but reflecting a change in strategic view.

83. Margin4error

Also – I’ll add – I feel a little vindicated partly because I predicted all of this a year ago. So my analysis is of course tainted by the instinct we all share to want to be right and clever. (just as many of those who always throught reform would benefit the left – still want to believe that because it means they were still right and clever before things changed)

But I also feel a little vindicated in my voting decision. I voted no in part because I thought a no vote was more likely than a yes vote to bring down the NHS bill.

So far the arguments and news reports suggest that might prove true. Hurting the Lib Dems might save the NHS.

84. Watchman

Interesting thread – although some commentators seem to believe the No campaign won by lying (I have never actually seen said lies – I have seen alternative views of how things work, but that is a different thing). Surely if they were, the Yes campaign should have made great hay from this by proving it – however biased the ‘right-wing press’ and the BBC might be, I think they would have to lead on a campaign deliberately and proveably lying. So if there were lies, Yes’ great failure was to allow them to exist unchallenged.

But more likely, Yes allowed No to seize the initative and convert most of the originally undecided voters (the main reason Yes had an early lead was that most voters were undecided – be interesting to know why so many shifted from Yes to No though for working out what went wrong), and treated No’s arguments as lies rather than trying to do something about them, or even better, putting a case for AV (the assumption that change must be a good thing was rather strange).

Above all though, Rupert’s original post was interesting in assuming Hope not Hate and 38 degrees had to support the Yes campaign. Since neither group has any particular commitment to electoral reform, and to AV in particular, why should they have helped? And would they have made any difference – I suspect that activists and supporters of such groups were slightly more likely than average (to put it mildly) to support Yes, and are politically savy enough to make up their own minds anyway.

85. Watchman

M4e.

But I also feel a little vindicated in my voting decision. I voted no in part because I thought a no vote was more likely than a yes vote to bring down the NHS bill.

Whilst I appreciate you feel strongly about the NHS bill (which will probably happily wander through anyway quite soon – since there is not really that much in there which is against the Liberal part of the Liberal Democrats (i.e. the bit which still votes for them)), was a referendum on how we conduct our democracy really the place to be applying blatant political calculations?

86. Radicalibral

Might I make a suggestion on a way forward. May 5th 2011 could become a landmark date for radicals, and reformists for all the wrong reasons. The decimation of the Lib Dems, and the No vote in the AV referendum has set back the progress that has been made thus far by progressives. Not even the Greens benefited from the vacuum that was left by the Lib Dem demise. Instead it was yet another victory for the forces of dogmatic protestant conservatism which has permeated our political system since 1979.

The lost opportunity for voting reform has meant that the Lib Dems cannot put forward any further options on this subject for the lifetime of the Coalition. Clearly even supporters of the Yes Campaign within the Labour Party such as Jack Straw have now no appetite for further discussion on this subject. If voting reform especially through the advocates of PR is now going to be taken forward it has to form part of the agenda of political parties, or even one party’s manifesto which would not necessarily require recourse to another referendum to take it forward. So how can this be done?

I believe the only way forward may be the creation of a new political party alliance or even a new political party to progress the issue. A rainbow coalition of progressives coming together whos sole campaigning issue will be to introduce PR. Once this alliance gets elected there should be an immediate General Election under the preferred new PR system.

Irronically, exactly 30 years ago the famous LimeHouse Declaration set up a new political party called the SDP. This laid the foundation for the creation of new political parties, and the realigning of old ones. It was this event that brought about the pressures we have today of an existing First Past the Post Electoral system trying to support a multi party political system.

I believe it is time for the equivalent of a new Limehouse Declaration to set the wheels in motion “now” to start what may be a long road ahead campaigning for the introduction of PR into Westminster, and Local Council Elections in England. I am very keen to know what the strength of interest there is in this idea. I would be grateful if people would contact me either on email radicalibral@hotmail.co.uk, or on Twitter @radicalibral

Correct me if I am wrong, but not one person here has wanted to face a terrible prospect;
That most voters don’t want a reform of the voting system!

The theme of the thread seems to be that anybody opposed to AV or PR is either stupid, right wing or both.

We can blame the nasty No camp, or the poor message delivery, or the lack of support from this group or that, OR we can start listening to the public for the first time in while and find out what they want rather than telling them what we know is good for them.

88. Margin4error

Watchman

Because the public don’t like the bill because the nurses and doctors despise it.

That being the case the Lib Dems can use it – whether the agree with it or not – to pretend they have real influence in government – and the tories are not so committed to a bill they didn’t put in their manifesto or the coalition agreement that they won’t ditch most of it if it is expedient to do so.

89. Margin4error

radicaliberal

It is an interesting proposal – though it would achieve nothing now that the coalition deal has scuppered widespread left-leaning support for reform.

As I said – support didn’t just decline as the lib dem polls gradually slid. Support in polls suffered a one off drop off a cliff after the coalition deal was signed. (read above for why)

90. Margin4error

Lee

You are utterly wrong. I’ve been sayng that the public don’t want reform all the way through. Indeed while that theme you mention was true of the campaign – it has not been true of this thread.

You should try reading before procrastinating.

@87,90

Most polls show that it is strongly favoured by younger voters. But opposed by older ones. Older people are more likely to vote, hence the defeat of the referendum.

Support can only grow in strength as time goes on (assuming the younger voters don’t change views as they age), especially as the deficiencies in the present system are continually laid bare. So to drop it from the agenda now would be short sighted in the extreme.

92. Margin4error

Graham

In may last year support dropped from around 60% typically to around 40% typically.

Complacently thinking we just have to wait 40 years is nuts. It completey ignores that half the polled support for reform dissapeared as a result of a right wing coalition forming.

@ M4E

If as seems likely. Support for the three main parties continues to drop, it makes it more and more likely that there will be more occasions where no party wins a majority, and there are more coalitions. Or parties win majorities on a derisory share of the vote.

This would undermine the main argument put forward by FPTP supporters that it produces “strong government” and “decisive outcomes”. This may well put electoral reform back on the agenda sooner than anyone expects. We may not have to wait 40 years.

Best explanation of why we lost, much as it pains me to say it, comes from Tim Montgomerie over at ConHome. Seriously, I recommend everyone interested in campaigning in future prints out that lengthy multi-part post and pays close attention to the tactics and the timeline. We were outgunned; what Monty has done there indirectly, however, has explained how not to make those mistakes again. Clausewitz, anyone?

95. Margin4error

Graham

Again – you seem to have some nice wishfull thinking there for the reform movement – but…

in 1992 the three main parties polled 91% of the vote.
in 1997 the three main parties polled 91% of the vote.
in 2001 the three main parties polled 91% of the vote.
in 2005 the three main parties polled 90% of the vote.
in 2010 the three main parties polled 89% of the vote.

Now if you are planning for the day when that hits 60% (at this rate some time in the 24th century) then even that is flawed thinking.

After all – coalition killed the pro-reform case – not the anti-reform case.

The fact is principle and debate doesn’t win this one. self interest does. Left wing self interest used to assume coalition would be left wing. now it doesn’t and that’s killed support for reform among large swathes of naturally left wing supporters.

And quite understandably so. Most people back reform based on what is best for their political allegience.

@82 M4e

suggests that actually, millions and millions of people were strongly influenced by their loose affiliation to one side or the other

If a football player projecting a strong clean family image turns out to have multiple mistresses it’s possible to condemn them for their hypocrisy without previously knowing who that player is, or having any interest in football.

Now take a party on the ‘left’ shacking up with a ‘right’ wing party. You don’t need to have any form of affiliation no matter how loose to find that hypocritical.

So the LibDems betrayed their principals and this reform comes from them, how can I support that? Nothing to do with the party, it’s detailed policies, or the reform itself. Just a vote No is a vote against that turncoat Nick Clegg.

@87 Lee

That most voters don’t want a reform of the voting system!

And if I thought that the majority of people who voted did so after careful consideration of the arguments on both sides thus coming to a rational decision I’d shrug and say “Damn, but the people have spoken”. But how many voted to ‘teach the LibDems a lesson’, because they believed in ‘one person one vote’; that the money needed to run AV would be better spent elsewhere; that AV would lead to more hung Parliaments and all the other misinformation pumped out by No2AV?

Do I think that they’re stupid? No I think they’re people who have better things to do than wade through political arguments and consequently base their judgements on the most easily digestible message that comes from either side. Which leads me to

@84 Watchman

however biased the ‘right-wing press’ and the BBC might be, I think they would have to lead on a campaign deliberately and proveably lying.

No they wouldn’t. They have no such responsibility at all unless forced in court or by the PCC to do such.

Sure some of the press took the time out to demonstrate the sheer rubbish coming out of the No2AV camp, but that was in the newspapers who already supported AV and thus most likely to be bought by AV supporters who’d already made up their mind. You’re not going to catch papers like the Sun highlighting the dodgy sums used in the No2AV ad that they front-page headlined the previous day; it’d make them look like right idiots.

So you’ve got the No2AV campaign with the skywriters and marching bands shouting ‘Lie Lie Lie’ and the Yes2AV campaign standing in the crowd amongst their own like-minded supporters muttering ‘But that’s not the truth’.

@95 M4E

But core support for the three main parties has been in decline for a generation.

According to this: http://www.charter2010.co.uk/fewer-bother-vote-and-mainstream-party-support-fragments-too

However, both the Tories and Labour have suffered a six to seven per cent drop in core support compared with 1983, the year of the first British Social Attitudes survey. The Liberal Democrat base has shrunk in similar proportion.

Contrast this with the “don’t knows” and those who claim allegiance to no particular party – they now account for roughly one quarter of those interviewed, almost double the tally in 1983. Meanwhile commitment to parties other than Conservative, Labour and Liberal Democrat has risen from one per cent to six per cent.

It is also woth noting that at the last two elections no party won more than 40% of the vote. Now if the collapse in Lib Dem support continues it could push support for Labour and the Tories up by a few percentages. But it hardly suggests that the British public is wildly inspired by the political choces on offer from the main parties.

If this trend continues it can only increase calls for voting reform.

@97 Graham

If this trend continues it can only increase calls for voting reform.

Provided the big three parties still poll the majority they won’t care. If the ballot decrease to the point of absurdity they’ll introduce compulsory voting; because it can’t be anything the politicians are doing wrong causing it.

Fyi: 2 fairly senior staffers from the YES campaign have contacted me (separately) privately to say that they agree with most of my criticisms and with some of the other comments made in the string here. It will be interesting to see what comes of this. Hopefully lessons WILL be learnt.
In positive terms, we, unlike NO, have at least now built up a kind of grassroots movement-base that could be mobilised e.g. to fight for PR-based Lords reform (on which, see my guest post over at LiBDemVoice.

100. Margin4error

FlipC

I disagree that it was just about kicking clegg. Support for reform (not just AV) dropped off a cliff in May last year. Lib Dem support slid much more slowly. That suggests a significant change in thinking.

I would suggest the most likely explanation for that is the one I’ve given.

Graham

Although FlipC has offered the most pertinent response – The rise of a small green contingent hardly constitutes a significant decline in the share of the vote gained by the main parties. Core support for democracy has declined more severely than core support for the main parties. (Hence the millions who now routinely don’t bother voting because they don’t care)

That’s not about the main parties – that’s also not about the system. It is about the managerial nature of modern politics and is evident in every western nation.

Hoping that in one hundred years time that “trend” might deliver electoral change is a waste of time.

@95 Margin4Error.

FPTP is a two-party system, it works well for two parties but breaks when there are more than two, so the trend to look at is this:

Share of the vote for the two-main parties:
1955: 96.1%
1959: 93.2%
1964: 87.5%

1997: 73.9%
2001: 72.4%
2005: 67.6%
2010: 65.1%

Source: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/6/6e/UK_parliamentary_elections_from_1950_graph.png

It’s clear that the trend is away from the duopoly. FPTP cannot cope with this and it will give more and more perverse results which do not reflect the will of the electorate.

also, your point @100 that support for electoral reform fell off a cliff last year couldn’t be further from the truth. It was the perverse outcome of the May 2010 general election that led to thousands protesting outside parliament and bore a new movement for democratic reform. There are now thousands of grassroot activists who are signed up to the issue. The case, and the will, for electoral reform is greater now than it has been for decades.

102. Watchman

FlipC,

No they wouldn’t. They have no such responsibility at all unless forced in court or by the PCC to do such.

Sure some of the press took the time out to demonstrate the sheer rubbish coming out of the No2AV camp, but that was in the newspapers who already supported AV and thus most likely to be bought by AV supporters who’d already made up their mind. You’re not going to catch papers like the Sun highlighting the dodgy sums used in the No2AV ad that they front-page headlined the previous day; it’d make them look like right idiots.

So you’ve got the No2AV campaign with the skywriters and marching bands shouting ‘Lie Lie Lie’ and the Yes2AV campaign standing in the crowd amongst their own like-minded supporters muttering ‘But that’s not the truth’.

Hmmm. The problem here is that you seem to equate dodgy sums and lies – and to have forgotten that what sells papers in politics is scandals not consistency (see the Daily Telegraph for a recent example). Basically, I know you do not like much of the No campaign’s material, but it was not actually lies – just an alternative perspective (their maths stack up – it was the underlying assumptions that cause you to characterise them as dodgy). If they really lied, there was a political goal waiting to be hit, and the Yes campaign missed. I doubt they were that bad…

Also this narrative ignores the major problem Yes had and voting reform will have again, which is that people don’t see the need. Perhaps next time, illustrating there is a need would be a good idea?

@102 – Watchman

The problem here is that you seem to equate dodgy sums and lies

I equate stating as fact something that they knew wasn’t as lies.

AV will cost £Xmn – lie
AV will mean some people getting multiple votes – lie
AV will allow extremist parties into power – lie
AV will lead to more coalitions – lie
AV will allow the loser to win – lie.

That’s what their campaigners said, that’s what their posters said, that’s what their ‘adverts’ said. As for the Yes campaign missing the chance to expose those lies; two problems. Firstly if you call them outright lies they can try to press a libel or slander case against you (regardless of the facts) and secondly you still need mainstream distribution of the story which the big newspapers won’t cover.

@100 M4e

I’d suggest that the massive immediate drop in support for reform when the coalition deal was formed suggests that actually, millions and millions of people were strongly influenced by their loose affiliation to one side or the other.

Support for reform (not just AV) dropped off a cliff in May last year. Lib Dem support slid much more slowly. That suggests a significant change in thinking.

Those affiliated with the LibDems only slowly lost their support, but their actions affected the non-affiliates when it came to what was seen as their proposals regarding reform?

104. Margin4error

Dicky

Claiming the recent “rise” of the lib dems since it formed is part of a wider trend doesn’t really work so well when the next election is likely to see a snap back towards two party politics.

105. Margin4error

R.Read

the one small bright side is indeed that there is at least a movement in place for campaigning for reform – with email networks and activists signed up.

When the time comes to rebuild wider support that will prove invaluable.

FlipC

Agreed – those aligned to the lib dems still saw self interest in backing reform. Those not aligned to the lib dems suddenly saw a massive failure in their previously percieved self interest.

@101 Dicky

I agree that FPTP is set up for a two party system but sadly you do still have to look at all three major parties when calculating these trends. Trying to do so for a two-party system discounts the ability for the third party to replace one of the other two to maintain the majority of shares.

Given that your own source shows the relative third party polling around 50% of the comparative vote since the mid-70s they can’t be discounted from the running.

@104. Margin4error

Where did I say it was the rise of the Lib Dems? Even so, have you any evidence to suggest that disgruntled Lib Dem support will go to the two main parties at the next election? Or any real way of predicting that the Liberal Democrats will vaporise?

The main point to note is that voters want more choice now, and FPTP is a system that prevents this.

Another way of showing this trend that also give no mention of the Liberal Democrats:

Share of the vote for “Others” in general elections:

1959: 0.9%
1964: 1.3%
1966: 1.6%
1970: 3.0%

2001: 9.3%
2005: 10.4%
2010: 11.9%

FPTP is a terrible system when there are more than two parties and as support shifts from the main two it will produces more disproportionate results.

108. Chaise Guevara

@ 103 FlipC

I agree with everything else on your list of lies, but what’s your justification for the coalitions one? Saying what governments we would or wouldn’t get under AV is conjecture in any case, but for my money the people saying we’d probably get more coalitions seemed to be on the money.

@107 Dicky

Which using a simple linear projection means that the “Others” will gather 50% of vote around 2185. Yay I can’t wait.

@105 M4e

Given the sudden drop of interest in reform in May there are two reasonable causes that can be considered:

1. After the mess that was the creation of the coalition the electorate thought nothing could fix this; or
2. After the ‘betrayal’ of the LibDems the electorate wouldn’t trust anything they proposed.

Allowing the first to be true means that the electorate had no preference for either FPTP or AV (both being useless in their eyes) therefore the positive claims that AV would be better fell on deaf ears leaving only the negative claims of FPTP that AV would be worse.

Allowing the second to be true meant that the electorate could not trust a proposal that originated from within the LibDem camp and that therefore the only correct action was to oppose it.

Assuming I’ve covered the main points the No vote was fuelled by lies and/or the wish to ‘show’ Nick Clegg.

If you can submit arguments fitting the trends that would show the No vote being based on the rational facts behind each I sincerely would like to hear them.

@107 FlipC

Why do you need 50% support of the others? I’m merely pointing out that FPTP does not suit the way we vote, and that the growing trend of support for non “big 2 parties” means that FPTP will continue to fail us and indeed fail more badly over the coming years.

The IPPR made this report on that exact subject: http://www.ippr.org.uk/articles/?id=4301

@108 Chaise

The studies by BES, the IPPR and the ERS which suggest that either a) the likelihood of hung parliaments would increase for either system or b) it’s impossible to say. Therefore stating as fact that AV will increase such is either a lie or an omitted truth.

Another item to consider is basic statistics. Each ward elects one and only one MP. Using the No2AV argument the election of Candidate A under FPTP would change to Candidate B under AV thus leading to chaos and anarchy :-).

Except all other things considered the likelihood of either candidate being elected is equal. This particular ward could just have easily elected Candidate B under FPTP or Candidate A under AV.

So the likelihood of a hung Parliament under either system is identical.

@110 Dicky

And I agreed. I was pointing out the flaw in trying to trend two-parties with a third major party ready to be swapped in.

The latter was my attempt to tie this (I should have said, my apologies) to Graham’s observation of the system changing once the major parties starting losing support i.e. once their combined totals are no longer the majority.

Jumping back and forth between comments making me dizzy can’t we get a tree view 🙂

Ha! I agree with that! We need comment reform now!

114. Chaise Guevara

@ 111 Flip C

“Another item to consider is basic statistics. Each ward elects one and only one MP. Using the No2AV argument the election of Candidate A under FPTP would change to Candidate B under AV thus leading to chaos and anarchy .

Except all other things considered the likelihood of either candidate being elected is equal. This particular ward could just have easily elected Candidate B under FPTP or Candidate A under AV.”

That doesn’t follow; AV obviously increases the odds of some candidates being elected (hypothetically, imagine a ward where historically Labour has gotten 45% of the vote, Tories 40%, and UKIP the remainder: no betting shop would give you as high odds against the Tory candidate under AV as they would under FPTP).

My understanding of the “AV makes coalitions more likely” argument is that it has the chance of increasing the representation for small parties. The more MPs for small parties, the fewer for the big parties, hence reducing the odds of a big party getting an outright majority, hence increasing the chances of a coalition being formed.

The fall of the Lib Dems may mean that all bets are off for now, but it does seem to me that AV is structurally more likely to return coalitions than FPTP. In fact, that’s its key attraction to me: it boosts the odds of smaller parties getting a say.

@104 M4E

Claiming the recent “rise” of the lib dems since it formed is part of a wider trend doesn’t really work so well when the next election is likely to see a snap back towards two party politics.

Perhaps to some extent. Support for the Lib Dems will probably stabillise to the party’s core support at around 10-15% of the electorate (about what the old Liberal party used to get before it merged with the SDP)

Given that the Lib Dems have been winning around 20% of the vote on average in recent elections. That means that only 5-10% of the electorates votes would be redistributed to other parties. But there’s no guarantee that Lib Dem voters will switch to the two big parties. A significant number might switch to the Greens. And there’s no guarantee that the Lib Dems current unpopularity will be permanent.

That would still leave around a quarter to a third of the electorate disenfranchised by FPTP.

In the 1950s the number of people who didn’t vote either Tory or Labour was insignificant. Less than 5% or thereabouts so FPTP worked well. But when a very significant proportion of the electorate cease to support the two main parties it’s legitimacy starts to breaks down.

What if we continually get situations where governments are elected on 35% of the vote like in the last two elections. What if the number of people not supporting the two main parties reaches say 40%.

This can only increase calls for reform.

@114 Chaise.

AV obviously increases the odds of some candidates being elected

However you need to look at the final result rather than the process whereby it was reached. In your example there’s nothing stopping the FPTP electorate having a mass conversion and electing the UKIP candidate.

In other words you can only prove an increase (or decrease) in the likelihood of a coalition under another system if you can demonstrate that it will produce a result that the other can’t.

To take this consider the + of AV+ or a full PR system.

Imagine 6 wards (Ward 1-6) that each elected one MP (MP A-F) under either AV or FPTP. Under PR these 6 wards are now merged into one Super Ward that elects six MPs. Numerically an identical result however due to this merger it’s now possible that MPs A-C all derive from Ward 1 and MPs D-F from Ward 2 a result that’s impossible to have under either of the previous systems.

117. Chaise Guevara

@ FlipC

Yes, but I’m not talking about proving anything, I’m talking about likelihoods. You could easily introduce AV and then see the exact same results as under FPTP, and there’s no way to prove whether that’s going to happen or not. However, as in the example I gave above, there are instances where the likelihood of each candidate winning changes dramatically. The fact that it was not physically impossible for the same candidate to win under FPTP doesn’t matter.

So if the No2AV campaign said “AV will lead to more coalitions”, that’s a lie, because the “will” in that sentence indicates a degree of certainty that they cannot have before the fact. If they said “AV will increase the likelihood of coalitions”, or something similar, that’s conjecture, but it’s based on pretty sound reasoning. I’m pro-AV, and I took it as read that AV would have that effect before the No2AV campaign was founded.

@117

because the new AV system will lead to more regular hung parliaments

Source

119. Margin4error

Graham

The indication in England – certainly based on the recent election results – but also on the Ashcroft report a few months ago – was that much of the “lost” lib dems had been “found” by Labour.

Not all – obviously – but I believe the report indicated around 80%.

Flip

you are forgetting first principles.

Why was it lefties were in favour before and righies were against?

It is all well and good pretending that it is because electoral reform is a left wing cause by nature – but that is simply untrue when you look at proponents around the world – and when you look at the BNP and UKIP (Both in favour of a shift to a proportional system)

Everywhere in the world support for reform largely aligns with self interest.

That is why Lib Dems were pro-reform. It is why the Tories were against. And it was why Labour were ambiguous but more inclined than disinclined. (I’m talking the wider voting support here, not the activists alone)

Ignoring that the forming of a right wing coalition utterly undermined the self interest in lefties supporting reform ignores that the single most likely cause for anyone to support reform is that it benefits the party or parties they support.

(Note – BNP were opposed to AV in the referendum but profess to be in favour of real reform – mainly, like all parties, because of self interest)

120. Margin4error

Dicky

You didn’t mention the lib dems – but you offered stats that correlated to their period of existence and rise in popularity.

I’ll add as well – FPTP works perfectly well with many parties – so long as those parties divide largely into lots of two party contests.

The rise of the “others” which coincides with the creation of the green movement – and the rise of nationalism in the UK – has seen this played out.

For the Greens it doesn’t work because they are simply one of the “other” options everywhere.

For the SNP it is different. They are one of the two parties where they compete.

121. Watchman

FlipC,

I equate stating as fact something that they knew wasn’t as lies.

So do I, but can you prove they knew anything? Especially as the following list seems rather short on clear fact.

AV will cost £Xmn – lie No – different set of figures based on different estimates – wierdly, No went with a maximal interpretation, Yes a minimal. Funny that…
AV will mean some people getting multiple votes – lie Depends on how you look at it – no-one ever convinced me this was not the case, albeit the extra votes were only used when earlier candidates had backed out. My wife (who is essentially non-political) saw this as the major flaw in AV, that it undermined one person, one vote (as she pointed out, it seems a bit odd for liberals to be undermining what the suffragettes fought for). You might be technically correct as people only have one vote and multiple preferences, but I do not think this is a lie so much as an interpretation.
AV will allow extremist parties into power – lie And it would be, if it was said. What was actually said was that AV would allow supporters of extremist parties disproportianate influence, which seems undeniable (their votes would be the most likely to be redistributed).
AV will lead to more coalitions – lie I think this is wrong to, although the only detailed analysis I saw (Daily Telegraph’s) suggested on a pretty questionable model that the Liberal Democrats would do better at the last election under AV. Interestingly though, some early supporters of AV claimed it would lead to more coalitions (as a selling point), although they mysteriously went quiet.
AV will allow the loser to win – lie. It allows anyone to win who did not come last in the first round of voting – so whilst the absolute loser cannot win, in the eyes of many people there is only one winner (the one who came first). Of course, this is nonsense if AV is accepted, because the winner is the one who wins under AV, but since by definition the No campaign did not accept AV, then they cannot be expected to see things in those terms.

I accept you disagree with all these statements and see them as false (and perhaps demonstratably so), but they are all defensible from an anti-AV position (or simply a political campaigning position). And focussing on the lies forgets the fact that even if these were lies, lies only work if people are receptive to them – Yes had the early initative (by definition again – difficult to say No to something not yet defined to most people) and failed to grab it. If you think the campaign was stolen from you by dishonesty, you miss the key fact that any chance Yes had (and it may have had one…) was probably lost by their failure to address the issues properly, as identified in the original post.

122. Chaise Guevara

@ 118 Flip C

“because the new AV system will lead to more regular hung parliaments”

Fair enough. Although I was going around telling people AV would make it easier for small parties to get elected (a statement with the same degree of certainty), so I better not criticise too loudly myself. I don’t think the No2AV claim about coalitions was in the spirit of a lie. Everything else on your list was.

123. Chaise Guevara

@ 121 Watchman

“No – different set of figures based on different estimates – wierdly, No went with a maximal interpretation, Yes a minimal. Funny that…”

There’s a difference between erring in favour of what helps your side, and just making shit up. The No2AV estimate included the cost of the referendum, which you could chalk up to being part of the cost of AV if AV got in, but given that it was used to convince people how to vote is the moral equivalent of a lie. And about half of the estimate was the price of voting machines that only existed in No2AV’s head. It’s lies.

“Depends on how you look at it – no-one ever convinced me this was not the case, albeit the extra votes were only used when earlier candidates had backed out. My wife (who is essentially non-political) saw this as the major flaw in AV, that it undermined one person, one vote (as she pointed out, it seems a bit odd for liberals to be undermining what the suffragettes fought for). You might be technically correct as people only have one vote and multiple preferences, but I do not think this is a lie so much as an interpretation.”

Sort of, although I think it becomes a lot clearer (and seems fairer) if you visualise AV as a series of seperate run-off elections.

“And it would be, if it was said. What was actually said was that AV would allow supporters of extremist parties disproportianate influence, which seems undeniable (their votes would be the most likely to be redistributed).”

No. Really, no. The fact that someone else’s vote is redistributed does not mean yours is discarded. If you vote for the leading 1st-round candidate and nobody else, your vote will still be counted against those who put your candidate’s closest opponent as their second and third choice.

@119 M4e

Why was it lefties were in favour before and righies were against?

Because they thought that it would lead to more or less of their candidates being elected. Just because they think that though doesn’t mean they were correct to do so.

It’s the same logic presented @114. You look at the vote percentages and then declare that AV would change them. It might it might not, but you can’t know until after an AV election is held and you can only play the percentages judging by FPTP.

Keeping it very simple consider birth and death rates in a ward. Within the five year period between elections roughly 6% of the electorate didn’t vote previously. Then add in those that move into or out of the area. Given the often slim differences between winning and losing to what degree of satisfaction can anyone predict the voting habits of a ward based on previous elections? Particularly predictions for a voting system that has no historical data to examine.

@121 Watchman

So do I, but can you prove they knew anything?

Given that they continued to repeat such claims even after reports, figures, etc. were produced clearly countering them they were either supremely ignorant or lying.

“AV will mean some people getting multiple votes – lie” Depends on how you look at it

Yes it depends if you understand how AV works, or you don’t. Claiming that some people would get multiple votes in AV is like claiming some people get multiple votes under FPTP; because that’s what AV is – multiple FPTP elections with multiple winners being passed to the next election. I didn’t see the No2AV campaign complaining that I got to cast three votes in my district election.

“AV will allow extremist parties into power – lie” And it would be, if it was said.

You’re correct was actually said was that

But for me [Warsi] personally, there is an even bigger problem with AV: It gives more power to extremists.

Except it doesn’t. The argument presented is that as these are the most likely votes to be redistributed the majority parties would pander to them to gain second preference votes. However consider a FPTP where a majority party panders to an extremist candidate not to stand and to encourage their voters to vote for them in exchange for a greater say in things. How would that be any different?

“AV will lead to more coalitions – lie” I think this is wrong to

That’s fine except all the independent evidence suggests otherwise.

AV will allow the loser to win – lie. It allows anyone to win who did not come last in the first round of voting

You make my own point for me. The No2AV crowd used FPTP terminology to describe AV despite it making no sense. Consider their boxing poster depicting only two opponents with the knocked-out one being declared the winner. If you don’t want to consider this outright lying would you concede to serious misleading?

lies only work if people are receptive to them

As I’ve said most people don’t have time (or possibly inclination) to start investigating claims from either side so if all you hear are the lies (because that’s the agenda some media sources are pushing) what else are you going to believe?

You miss the key fact that any chance Yes had (and it may have had one…) was probably lost by their failure to address the issues properly, as identified in the original post.

I quite accept that the Yes campaign failed to put their point across; however the inertia of the current system allied with the sheer sustained negativity pushed out by the media must be taken into account.

125. Margin4error

FlipC

You are absolutely – the left was wrong to think reform would benefit the left by resulting, inevitably, in left wing coalition governments.

The coalition deal does indeed prove that wrong.

But the fact it is wrong hardly helps the case for reform. My entire point is that support was based in large part on that perceived left wing self interest, and that the perception of the left benefiting from reform was proved a fallacy to many by the coalition deal.

So it seems we agree. The failure of the “yes” vote was largely down to the collapse in support for reform among left wingers – who on seeing a right wing coalition form – realised reform didn’t benefit the left.

And overcoming that meant either convincing the left that it was still in their interests (some still kid themselves, though others are now more aware that the results of reform are unpredictable) – or convincing more of the right that it wasn’t against their interests (which is at least now possible that a right wing coalition has formed).

On a side note

I can predict with 100% certainty that East Ham will vote Labour at the next general election.

East Ham will see higher changes in population than almost any seat in Parliament in the five intervening years. It has done for generations. But being a poor, working class, ethnically diverse area – it will vote as it has done since before World War Two.

Pretending that voter behaviour patterns are entirely random does not make your case for some things being unpredictable.

@125 M4e

Never said they were random just that historical precedent of voting isn’t an exact predictor. You do indeed have to throw in the social situation, family allegiances etc.but all these can shift as radically in five years.

127. Margin4error

FlipC

If they can shift radically in five years – they can only do so with a massive change in circumstance.

Otherwise why do they so rarely shift radically?

@127 M4e

I agree. It’s because the changes tend to even out that wards ‘stick’ to a Party. However now predict a “massive change in circumstance”.

Would you consider the closing of a single part of one hospital to be such? Resulted in a two term win for a non-main Party MP in Wyre Forest. Similar closures happened elsewhere yet it was only here that the big three got trounced.

129. Margin4error

FlipC

Massive change is variable and often local. Closing a hospital in Bethnal Green and Bow would most likely not lead to Labour losing the seat. Going to war in Iraq and then having a Jewish woman (Oona King) as a candidate did (to a racist and anti-war George Galloway)

But such shifts are invariably short term. Longer term gradual change does take place (gentrification of Islington and Camden for example, have decreased votes for Labour and increased them for Tories and Lib Dems)

But again – that reflects the movement of relatively static voting profiles rather than a change in anyone’s outlook. (Middle class people tend to vote tory and lib dem more than working class and poor people)

And with something like electoral reform – it is largely about one issue. It is largely about “how does my side benefit”

The “side-less” need to be won around – but allienating a large part of the core support for reform – by creating a right wing coalition – was indeed a one-off massive shift in voter outlook.

And it will take a generation to gradually shift things back unless something radical happens too.

@129 M4e

Mad as it sounds I think we’re saying the same thing just in opposite ways.

To recap

It cannot be stated that AV would lead to more coalitions because it cannot be proven given only the historical data from FPTP elections and the possibility of a swing purely through natural means.

It is possible to attempt to predict the results if elections were held under AV and the parties picked sides according to what they thought would be the best outcome for them.

131. Margin4error

FlipC

I started to think that too.

It is impossible to predict exactly how reform would pan out – and even the assumption of more coalitions is limited.

But I arrived at that position only from the point of view that a lot of left wingers liked it for that reason – since they thought the coalitions would mostly be left wing – and the coalition deal last may wrecked that support.

Reform needs a new argument. It needs to build a new base. Not because of the AV referendum, but because the coalition deal last year changed the playing field dramatically and wiped out a relatively broad support among the left.

132. crossland

I also voted no for the reasons margin4error gives as did many other labour members I know who would place themselves ‘on the left’ of the party.
Its been like a badge of honour over the last couple of months – I think people worried that they were alone in decidng to vote no and increasingly felt relief to discover there were others.

The damage the coalition can do in the short term is more relevant to me than any percieved benefit (as i saw it) of AV.

my pref for AV is weak – I’d probably vote yes if it was a Labour majority putting it forward but that would (as M4e points out ) depend on my perception of the LD’s.

128/FlipC: Similar closures happened elsewhere yet it was only here that the big three got trounced.

Strictly, the big two got trounced. The first time he stood the Lib Dems withdrew their candidate, which will have helped him considerably. (And the second time he had incumbent advantages, of course)

In other constituencies the Lib Dems (or other parties) didn’t withdraw in favour of a plausible independent, so they lost.

(Also compare Martin Bell in 1997 facing just the Conservatives with Martin Bell in 2001 facing all of the big three)

This sort of locally strong independent (or minor party candidate) taking advantage of unusual circumstances is, I think, the one case for which AV would have made a big difference.

134. Watchman

FlipC and Chaise,

You both picked up on something like this:

Yes it depends if you understand how AV works, or you don’t. Claiming that some people would get multiple votes in AV is like claiming some people get multiple votes under FPTP; because that’s what AV is – multiple FPTP elections with multiple winners being passed to the next election. I didn’t see the No2AV campaign complaining that I got to cast three votes in my district election.

Thing is, in FPTP, even in multi-member seats, no-one is excluded from an election – you can vote for any candidate, and have a full choice of candidates. To try and pretend second rounds and beyond under AV is the same as that is nonsense – because you cannot vote for your choice of candidate (and just because they are not getting support from others is no reason to say someone can’t vote for who they want). So this looks to be analogous to a run-off system – it is not FPTP because it excludes candidates for reasons of popularity – which gives a simple choice of all remaining candidates to the voter every time, and asks them to vote on them. In run-off systems, therefore, you have another round of voting in which you can change your vote if you wish. In AV you do not have repeated votes as in a run-off system, but only one. So what we have is repeated rounds of something that is neither a run-off (because you do not get to decide on the candidates by judging the remaining field) nor FPTP (because candidates are excluded). In effect, the only people who get to vote in the ‘run-off’ are those whose candidates were eliminated, which means they do have unusual influence, as being the only people allowed to determine an election (your analogy is that these are repeated rounds of voting – but if only the supporters of minor candidates are allowed to decide how to cast their vote, that is clearly undue influence).

And your objections seem to assume my wife (who is married to a political anorak remember) did not understand AV – she’d say however she saw through it. My key point in all of this is that Yes supporters were so sure they knew what was true and what wasn’t that they missed the fact that there were other ways of looking at things. At work and in the pub all I ever felt the need to do was to question the tenants of belief held by supporters of AV – because people, if given alternative ways to think, will often consider things from multiple angles. But I like to think I did my bit in getting some people to vote against AV (and probably some for it – I did explain how it worked mechancially perfectly honestly when asked, and that wouold open up the AV way of thinking to people who might not have had it previously).

@132 Crossland

I also voted no for the reasons margin4error gives as did many other labour members I know who would place themselves ‘on the left’ of the party.
Its been like a badge of honour over the last couple of months – I think people worried that they were alone in decidng to vote no and increasingly felt relief to discover there were others.

The damage the coalition can do in the short term is more relevant to me than any percieved benefit (as i saw it) of AV.

my pref for AV is weak – I’d probably vote yes if it was a Labour majority putting it forward but that would (as M4e points out ) depend on my perception of the LD’s.

And how exactly did you and people like you suppose that voting no will weaken the coalition? A yes vote would have caused Cameron to try and give more away to the tory right to pacify them. Thus proagating more barmy unpopular policies which could only damage the Conservatives, and push away the Lib Dems, making them more likely to split from the coalition. A yes vote would have caused the coalition far more trouble.

Unfortunately I know loads of people like you who were blinded by your hatred of the Lib Dems to think clearly, and voted no for misguided reasons.

@134

In effect, the only people who get to vote in the ‘run-off’ are those whose candidates were eliminated, which means they do have unusual influence, as being the only people allowed to determine an election (your analogy is that these are repeated rounds of voting – but if only the supporters of minor candidates are allowed to decide how to cast their vote, that is clearly undue influence).

Your logic is flawed. AV means you end up with the candidate being elected who is acceptable to the majority of the elctorate. Rather than (as often happens) whoever wins the largest minority of votes under FPTP. What is wrong with that?

Supporters of minor candidates, merely have to adjust with their other preferences to be in line with the majority candidate who they would find most acceptable. If you are already a supporter of a majority candidate then there would be no purpose to counting your vote several times.

By your logic all run off elections are undemocratic.

137. Margin4error

Graham

Surely you can see the sense of a no vote putting pressure on the lib dems to overturn or at least mitigate the worst aspects of a bill that the coalition deal doesn’t force them to compliantly vote through.

Now I’ll grant you that I think the Lib Dem leadership quite like the NHS Bill – and that’s why it has progressed as far as it has.

But with such immense opposition from nurses, doctors and the right thinking majority of this country – it presents that same leadership with a chance to pretend they are independent and principled and will stand up to the tories.

A no vote makes that a more likely calculation for them as they seek to save their sorry hides. A yes vote would lessened the Lib Dem need to overturn legislation as it would have enabled them to claim “It’s all worth it – we got reform like we promised” and so carry on with unpopular policies they quite like because they don’t need to prove independence.

@133 Cim.

My apologies I forgot that the LibDem didn’t stand; although this partially makes my point @124 regarding power.

@134 Watchman. This is why it’s called an instant run-off it assumes that if your candidate is still standing you won’t change your mind and want to pick someone else – why would you?

Your logic is that in an FPTP election if for some reason the candidate I wanted to vote for doesn’t stand I shouldn’t get a vote.


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