Posts Tagged ‘AV referendum’

Some people still believe in democracy

05/05/2011, 07:00:35 AM

by Peter Watt

When you are involved in politics in an active way it can be quite easy to forget what really matters.  The fight becomes more important than the victory. Scoring points and getting one over on your opponents become what really matters. Of course losing is tough – but it is all too often actually losing, rather than the consequences of losing, that hurts the most. It is easy to see why this happens; politics can be an emotionally bruising affair. Getting on involves hours of leafleting, meetings and door knocking. You take to the stump armed only with your credibility and after all those hours spent on a single endeavour – winning – the outcome is obviously going to be felt pretty personally. All in all, politics can be a pretty nasty addiction if you get seriously hooked.

The AV referendum campaign has been a particularly classic case of a campaign fought between addicts. It has felt exclusive, otherworldly and somehow just not important. The key campaign messages seemed to be more point scoring between people in an elite club. There was a certainly a lot of shouting and calculation of the most tribally beneficial outcome. Yah-boo politics of the worst kind. As a result, the campaign has passed most non-politicos by. In fact, it has passed many politicos by as well.

It certainly hasn’t been the celebration of democratic renewal that I suspect the Yes campaign hoped for – whatever the result.


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Thursday News Review

05/05/2011, 06:54:33 AM

Super Thursday

Voters across the UK are set to go to the polls in a series of national and local elections as well as a referendum to decide the way MPs are elected. Elections for the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly and the Northern Ireland Assembly will be held as will polls in 279 English councils. The public will also be asked if they want to keep the first-past-the-post system for Westminster elections or switch to the alternative vote. Polls open at 0700 BST closing at 2200. In addition, local authority elections are being held in Northern Ireland while there is a UK parliamentary by-election in the constituency of Leicester South. Contests are also taking place to elect mayors in Leicester, Mansfield, Middlesbrough, Torbay and Bedford. The BBC weather forecast suggests that most of the UK will remain dry on Thursday with above average temperatures, but that there is a chance of rain in Northern Ireland. – BBC News

D-Day for AV

Today is the day we collectively say there is a better way, there is a fairer alternative to miserable ConDem austerity. Labour is the only political party with the interests of low- and middle-income families at its heart. It is the only political party which recognises the value of public services to ordinary families. We recommend a vote for Labour and, buoyed by winning hundreds of seats, we hope leader Ed Miliband will take the fight to the Conservative-led coalition. And a Yes vote in the nationwide referendum on how we elect MPs would say No to David Cameron. A Yes would shackle the Conservatives, the fairer Alternative Vote system making it less likely the Tories could ever rule alone. That is a prize well worth seizing. We understand the temptation to vote No to give turncoat Mr Clegg a deserved kicking. But this is a once-in-a-generation chance to adopt a better electoral system. Vote Labour and vote Yes for fairer votes. – Daily Mirror

The Referendum on whether Britain should switch to the fiendishly-complicated Alternative Vote electoral system has been a truly depressing affair. The campaign was slow to begin, decidedly lacklustre and — in recent weeks — poisoned by the lies, cynicism and personal insults of the desperate Yes camp. The result has been widespread public apathy. The crucial final few days have been utterly dominated by the Royal Wedding and the killing of Osama Bin Laden. Turnout is expected to be pathetically low. The Daily Mail is urging all its readers to vote tomorrow – and vote NO to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg’s AV proposal But make no mistake: the outcome of the referendum could not be more vital for the future of this country. That is why the Mail urges all our readers to vote tomorrow, whatever their misgivings about the campaign — and vote No. – Daily Mail

Liberals face wipe-out with Labour set to gain in England

The Liberal Democrats are bracing themselves for the loss of up to 600 seats in Thursday’s local elections in England, prompting fears that their activist base across the country could be devastated. The elections for 9,000 seats in 279 English authorities are being seen as the first electoral verdict on the coalition’s spending cuts, with Labourexpecting major gains and senior Lib Dems admitting they face punishment in some areas for the role they have played in the coalition. Richard Kemp, leader of the Lib Dems in the Local GovernmentAssociation, said: “We’re doing well against the Tories, not so well against Labour. We will make losses as any governing party does. We will clearly, undoubtedly lose seats. 300 would be a good day, 600 would be a bad day.” Labour is expected to make major gains across the country, symbolically taking control from the Lib Dems in Sheffield, where Nick Clegg has his constituency. It has also targeted Newcastle upon Tyne and Hull. Tory-held North Warwickshire, Trafford, Dudley and Walsall are believed to be vulnerable to Labour, which has also put efforts into Dover. – the Guardian

Party leader Nick Clegg’s city of Sheffield is Labour’s number one target, with a swing of only four per cent needed to capture the council. Newcastle-upon-Tyne, Bristol, St Albans and Kingston-upon-Hull are all also vulnerable following the Lib Dems’ recent collapse in the polls. Overall, Liberal Democrat chiefs are preparing to lose at least 400 councillors, and privately fear that as many as 600, a third of those up for election, could be kicked out of town halls around the country. Opinion polls suggest that the Conservatives are also likely to lose hundreds of councillors, but as they start from a far higher base, with more than half of the 9,400 seats being contested, the losses will represent less of a bloodbath. More than 31 million voters are eligible to take part in today’s elections, which cover around half of all the council seats in the country, the biggest round of local elections of the cycle. The last time the same seats were up for election, in 2007, the Tories won 40 per cent, with Labour on a low of 26 per cent and the Lib Dems on 24 per cent. Labour is hoping to win back as many as 1,000 from both of the Coalition parties, with a particular emphasis on taking advantage of Mr Clegg’s current unpopularity to capture key councils. – Daily Telegraph

Mixed picture for Labour in Scotland and Wales

A YouGov poll released yesterday shows Alex Salmond’s party on course for a comfortable victory. This replicated another poll the previous day, but Labour’s deputy Scottish leader Johann Lamont claimed the survey showed almost two million voters had still to make up their minds. “With over half of all voters undecided how they will vote, this poll shows it is all to play for,” she said. “The SNP are arrogantly slapping themselves on the back before a single vote has been cast, but the only poll that matters is polling day and every hour until the polls close Labour will be fighting for every vote. Yesterday’s poll showed Labour would remain on 46 seats while the SNP would gain seven, taking them to 54. It also suggested the Liberal Democrats would drop nine seats to be left with just seven while the Conservatives would lose one seat, leaving them on 16. The poll figures suggest the Green Party would gain three seats, bringing them to five, and there would be one Independent, almost certainly Margo MacDonald – Daily Herald

Whatever chance there might have been of the National Assembly election campaign focusing on Welsh issues was blown away by the result of last year’s General Election. Even before Labour’s defeat last year, some of its senior AMs in vulnerable seats were expressing the view that the arrival of a Tory-led Government at Westminster imposing public sector spending cuts would prove to be their salvation. Things would have been so much different if Gordon Brown had snatched victory from the jaws of defeat and himself been in the position of imposing cuts. As it is, the prediction of those Labour AMs last year seems likely to come to pass. Labour supporters, both core and soft, have a traditional enemy in power at Westminster to vote against. The party has been able in Wales to capitalise on the fear of cuts in a nation that has a disproportionately high number of public sector workers. Another astute factor in Labour’s campaign has been its presentation of Carwyn Jones as a national leader – almost, dare it be said, a Welsh nationalist leader. Certainly Plaid Cymru has been left at a disadvantage by Labour’s appropriation of rhetoric formerly its own. Who at a previous election would have expected any party but Plaid to use as its campaign slogan, and as the title of its manifesto, “Standing up for Wales”? – Western Mail

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The AV referendum result

03/05/2011, 04:54:12 PM

by Dan Hodges

The No campaign has won. On Thursday, the bid to change Britain’s voting system will be swept aside on a tidal wave of apathy. Babies, soldiers and policeman will sleep safely in the their beds once more.

To those Yes supporters lunging towards your keyboards, save your energy. Your moral outrage at the nature of the No campaign is wasted on me.

You wanted this stupid referendum. You were the ones convinced a grateful nation would make a small change and usher in a  big difference. That sweeping away our venal, corrupt Parliamentary system would be as easy as one, two, three.

You blew it.

There’s nothing I’d like better than to claim it was Hodge’s killer baby adverts wot won it. But I wouldn’t be able to maintain that façade for long.

It wasn’t the adverts. Or the “Tory millions”. Or the right-wing press.

The No campaign didn’t win the referendum. The Yes campaign lost it.

It didn’t begin to make a case. Not even close. In fact, it couldn’t manage to get as far as putting on its wig and gown.


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The grotty, anti-politics, Yes to AV campaign deserves to lose

02/05/2011, 05:00:51 PM

by ffinlo Costain

The Yes to AV campaign is flagging dismally in every poll and will almost certainly lose the referendum on Thursday. No wonder. From the start its organisers failed to understand that they needed to fight and win a single issue campaign, not an election.

Crucially they never understood that the No to AV camp had the easier task. No-ers didn’t have to win the case for first past the post (FPTP) – they simply had to convince people the case for AV was unproven.

The referendum will provide Britons with a once in a lifetime opportunity to make the electoral system a little bit fairer – but instead of making the case for AV, the Yes campaign has been a cheap and tatty, anti-politics affair. If the only reason to change the electoral system is that all politicians are scumbags, then why not just bring on the revolution?


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Cameron: I’m loving your election campaign, Labour

27/04/2011, 07:00:39 AM

by Rob Marchant

In the Labour party, we’re very excited about AV. In Westminster, of course, it’s easily crowding out debate on the (not unimportant) Scotland, Wales, Northern Irish and English local elections.

Ooh, the Yeses. The Noes. It’s all that analytical, wonkish, procedural stuff that we love to debate. We seem to have spent the last month or so monopolising the media and the Labour blogosphere with this one issue. To be fair, there are some sensible arguments on both sides, such as this one from Anthony Painter, a fine analytical piece from normblog and a lot of lowest-common-denominator ones. Also there is the delightful “meh2AV” campaign for those who, like Uncut’s own Mike Dugher, feel that it’s been a complete waste of time.

Any change to the constitution is important. Fair enough. And we got the referendum that we, after all, asked for (although, as various people recently observed, it is remarkable how we have gone from all supporting AV as a manifesto commitment, to split down the middle in less than a year). And the referendum is now upon us, so we have to make up our minds, and vote or campaign according to what we decide. So far, so good.

A note of caution: outside political circles and the metropolitan media, this issue is hardly dominating people’s thoughts. They have more mundane concerns: getting their way through the month with a sluggish economy and some nasty public service cuts.

But we Labour folk, on the other hand, are working ourselves up into a frenzy. We’re so excited about it that we’re happily knocking chunks out of each other. Every other article is making personal attacks on figures from the other campaign. (more…)

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The No to AV campaign is too unpleasant to support, even if you wanted to

25/04/2011, 07:30:52 PM

by Conrad Landin

In the forthcoming referendum, voters will consider contrasting factors when deciding where to place their crosses.

Some will vote on the merits of the alternative vote system, others on the basis of a long-term quest for proportional representation, for a third group, perhaps “basest of the three”, outlook on the current government will doubtless play a role.

Though there remains the under-discussed likelihood that Nick Clegg would use any Yes outcome to serenade a vindication of the coalition deal between his party and the Conservatives. And vindication it would be – this was, after all, the deal which saw every promise bar electoral reform sacrificed.

But despite my strong feelings on the issue, I can’t bring myself to join the campaign against the reform.

Figures in the Yes camp have suggested that their opponents come from a political spectrum narrower even than the Conservative party. With Labour heavyweights such as Ronnie Campbell and John Prescott weighing in with their endorsements of the campaign, we can see that this is far from the case. Yet there is something about the campaign’s tactics which makes one question whether the critics have it right. (more…)

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What will the Guardianistas do if we defy them and vote “no”?

20/04/2011, 07:00:14 AM

by Dan Hodges

I’m starting to feel sorry for the Yes campaign. Genuinely. They’ve got some good staffers. People with a sincere commitment to their cause.

But they haven’t got a prayer. And the reason they haven’t got a prayer is too many of their  own supporters don’t actually care whether they win or they lose.

Watching the Yes campaign from afar is like watching the Labour party in the late eighties. By then, the harder edges of dogma and ideology had been blunted. There was a realisation that the principle meant little without power. But while there was an intellectual acceptance of the need to secure office, the hunger was lacking. We wanted to win. But not quite enough.

It’s the same with those who are supposedly fighting for a change in our voting system. They’re not actually fighting at all. They’re pontificating. Posturing. Striking a pose.

Get hold of  yesterday’s Guardian leader. “Reformists have just 16 days to transform things”, it warns, “by countering a campaign of unremitting negativity, whose garish posters are explicit in saying that because the NHS matters, democracy doesn’t, and carry the implicit message ‘vote no or the baby gets it’”.

It then points out, “Dismal as the pitch is, it is making in-roads”. No shit Sherlock. You mean negative campaigning actually works? Who’da thunk it? (more…)

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The Old Politics case for AV

08/04/2011, 07:44:40 AM

by Atul Hatwal

What a strange situation. Secretaries of state facing-off at cabinet meetings; shadow cabinet members at loggerheads and rival gangs of activists squaring up, hoping one of the other lot will spill their pint.

Who knew electoral systems were so emotive? It’s enough to make you want to shout “leave it, Lee; it’s not worth it”.

Like many, I find myself looking on, bemused. The intensity of the debate on the referendum on the alternate vote (AV) is in equal parts bizarre and disengaging.  Babies without incubators, Nazi fellow-travellers and a rag-bag of random celebrities are all part of the carnival of the absurd wending its way across our news pages.

In terms of the actual argument underneath the artifice, the case is finely balanced.

Most people get Cameron’s Usain Bolt analogy and intuitively feel it odd that someone finishing second in a race should end up winning. But, equally they understand that voting is about building legitimacy, and for most voters, a second best choice as MP is better than someone who the majority actively opposed.

As neither side has delivered the killer blow in their initial pitch, the approach of both campaigns has been to just shout louder. A ten-pints-of-lager strategy.

So they continue to brawl, while people, who are only now just beginning to look at the issue, feel a bit like they have walked into a taxi queue at club kicking-out time in downtown Croydon on Saturday night. (more…)

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Cock a snook at the Tory press: vote Yes to AV

06/04/2011, 01:00:26 PM

By David Seymour

Wake up, Britain, the Daily Mail exhorts its readers and I agree. If the people of Britain woke up and voted the right way in the AV referendum, they would strike a terrific blow for democracy and plunge a dagger in the heart of the anti-democratic forces that are taking over the country.

Where the Mail and I part company is that they want a No vote while I want to say No to the Mail and the other right-wing papers, which means voting Yes to AV.

It is an inescapable fact that referendums, like by-elections, give voters the chance to cock a huge snook at whoever they feel like teaching a lesson at that time.

The politicians are so split on AV that snook-cocking is particularly difficult this time. UKIP supports AV, the BNP prefers to stick to first past the post. Half the Labour party wants change, the other half doesn’t. Clegg wants it, Cameron doesn’t. Both sides have uncomfortable bedfellows.

There is one group, however, which is completely united and that is the Tory press. All are hysterical in their insistence that changing the voting system would mean an end to democratic life as we know it.

The Mail, the Express, the Sun and the Telegraph are as one in pouring out bile towards the Yes lobby and screaming at their readers to save the nation from AV. Magna Carta, universal suffrage and human rights are as nothing compared with the sanctity of FPTP.

What’s their panic? The reality is that a) first past the post is an unfair system which results in millions of people in hundreds of constituencies rarely if ever having a vote that counts; and b) the difference which AV would make is marginal – only full PR will properly modernise our electoral system.

It is true that a Yes vote on May 5 will create problems for Cameron, but the Tory papers dislike him anyway, so they ought to be pleased if that happens. Yet they have worked themselves into a lather at the prospect of “losing” the referendum.

It isn’t as if the vast majority of their readers care. In the real world there are genuine political crises which are causing turmoil in people’s lives, though the papers don’t like to accept that. They continue to insist that all public spending is profligate and all public-sector employees are lazy, over-paid lead-swingers.

Perhaps the referendum is a surrogate issue for them to get their fangs into. But that doesn’t explain the passion and fury with which they are pursuing it.

Their arguments are laughable. They say AV is complicated. Not for anyone who can count it isn’t. They say it will cost millions. Why? They say it is unfair when it patently isn’t less fair than the current system.

They claim it will be a historic deviation from the great British electoral tradition. By that measure, we should take the vote away from women and anyone who isn’t a property-owner. (Incidentally, did you know the president of the Tea party thinks people who don’t own property shouldn’t have the right to vote)?

It is being increasingly recognised that the answer nowadays to the question “Who rules Britain”? is: the media. Particularly the Mail and Sun.

If they succeed in getting a No result on May 5, they will be smugly confirming their conviction in their divine right to rule.

But if we can get a Yes vote, just imagine the tantrums, the screaming, the carnage in newsrooms on May 6. It will make the Dacres even more furious and desperate, but we will have won a crucial battle for freedom against the Fleet Street tyranny and the wind will be with us for the really big wars ahead.

David Seymour was group political editor of Mirror Group Newspapers for 15 years.

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Wednesday News Review

30/03/2011, 06:42:10 AM

Creep and compromise

After a day-long conference in London on how to move forward the political process in Libya, other developments included: An admission the Coalition did not yet fully know who made up the opposition, which came after Nato said American intelligence had shown “flickers” of al Qaeda among the rebels; A suggestion the Coalition would be prepared to see Colonel Gaddafi go into exile if a country was willing to take him; A claim by the Italians that several nations were working on a deal involving a ceasefire, exile for Gaddafi and a talks framework between Libya’s tribal leaders and opposition figures; Nick Clegg warning about the “danger of overreaching” during a speech in Mexico, but stressing liberal interventionism must be upheld. – Daily Herald

David Cameron today promised a “new beginning for Libya” was within sight as Britain held open the door for Colonel Gaddafi to flee into exile. He vowed that the UK and other allies would not abandon the people rising up against the dictator. Foreign Secretary William Hague had earlier made it clear that Britain may be willing to allow Gaddafi to flee into exile. Piling the pressure on the dictator, America and Britain also refused to rule out arming the rebels. Mr Hague signalled that Britain may be willing to allow the tyrant to escape to a safe haven as part of a deal to end the bloodshed. “We are not in control of where he might go. I am not going to choose Colonel Gaddafi’s retirement home,” he told BBC Radio 4’s Today programme. Italy has already proposed an exit route into exile for Gaddafi – and Turkey has offered to act as a mediator to end the conflict. – Evening Standard (more…)

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