John Sharkey to run Liberal Democrats’ Fairer Votes campaign

Liberal Democrat Leader Nick Clegg has announced the appointment of John Sharkey as chairman of the Liberal Democrats’ Fairer Votes Campaign – the campaign for a “Yes” vote in next year’s AV referendum.

Nick Clegg said,

I am delighted that John Sharkey has accepted this role.

This is a vital campaign for the country and I can’t think of a better person than John to run it for the Liberal Democrats.

John Sharkey is one of Nick Clegg’s closest advisors and a former MD of Saatchi and Saatchi, who worked on the Conservatives’ 1987 General Election campaign.

More recently, he chaired the Liberal Democrats’ 2010 General Election campaign.

Join the Liberal Democrats’ Fairer Votes campaign here.

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44 Comments

  • I voted libdem because I was in favour of electoral reform.

    This half-arsed effort at the cost of money taken out of education has persuaded me I made a mistake.

    I won’t be voting yes. I won’t support anything the repellent Clegg supports. Y’all had a great opportunity. You blew it.

  • >This half-arsed effort at the cost of money taken out of education has persuaded me I made a mistake.
    >I won’t be voting yes.

    Then you’ll be voting the same way as David Cameron and a lot of Conservatives.
    That’ll teach them to cut education all right.

  • Andrea Gill 5th Jul '10 - 9:31pm

    @Terry Kee: “This half-arsed effort at the cost of money taken out of education has persuaded me I made a mistake.”

    Someone has been reading a bit too much gutter press at the expense of facts.

    Would you seriously prefer that government legislate on electoral reform WITHOUT consulting the electorate? Had it been a Lib Dem majority government, there would have been a mandate for implementing STV without a referendum, however to expect a coalition government to implement a change in its voting system that was *not* in either party’s manifesto would for once be a truer example of gerrymander than Labour have been carping on about all day.

  • “Someone has been reading a bit too much gutter press at the expense of facts.”
    I dont actually read any gutter press thanks. Merely sharing my thoughts as one (of the many) who voted for your party this time round in the mistaken belief it might make a difference. What facts have I misrepresented ?

    “Would you seriously prefer that government legislate on electoral reform WITHOUT consulting the electorate? ”

    Not at all. Thats a straw man. I would like the opportunity to vote on PR.

    “Then you’ll be voting the same way as David Cameron and a lot of Conservatives.”
    You mean the way your MPs are doing ?

  • Richard Church 5th Jul '10 - 10:21pm

    I too voted Lib Dem because I was in favour of electoral reform. What is proposed is electoral reform.

    If more people had voted Lib Dem we might have got more electoral reform, but they didn’t. But, for the first time, most MP’s will have to appeal beyond their minority support to secure their election.

    Vote against it and get no electoral reform at all for another generation.

  • Grammar Police 5th Jul '10 - 10:25pm

    Don’t feed the Trolls!

  • Sad. I never expected the libdems to pull the whole “my party right or wrong”. But I suppose when you lie with dogs you get fleas.

    You won’t get this reform. You think you are going to attract the disaffected after your current show of “principles”. You also won’t ever get this degree of influence over policy again.

    That makes me, as someone in a very safe seat, who’s vote counts for naught very sad. I thought you were better than this.

  • Terry,
    If you believe in voting reform then vote for it, regardless of your opinion of the actions of the lib dems in government and even if you think that the proposed reform does not go far enough. It may be tempting to send out a message of your disapproval but it makes no sense because if voting reform is rejected this time, you can be sure that politicians will use the referendum as an argument each time the issue of voting reform is raised.
    As for “half-arsed”, no its better to think of it as part of the way to a fairer system (it is basically STV with single member constituencies) and an all or nothing approach will get nowhere.
    But if you think being able to rank candidates in order of preference (which is part of STV), and no mp elected with less than 50% of the vote is waste of time, then vote against it.

  • Terry, it’s very simple.
    If you ‘punish’ the Lib Dems by voting against electoral reform because of cuts you will be REWARDING the Conservatives who are proposing those cuts.

    You will be lying alongside the Tory dogs on electoral reform.

    >That makes me, as someone in a very safe seat, who’s vote counts for naught very sad.

    Vote how you like, but vote on the issue and the principal of electoral reform and what you believe is right on that, or you’ll be cutting your nose off to spite your face.

  • John Fraser 5th Jul '10 - 11:37pm

    there seems to be some Lib dem voters who voted for ‘Electoral Reform’ and some who voted for ‘Proportional representation’ . can anyone remind me which was in the manifesto (I suspect PR).

    The problem with the AV is that it is in no way guarenteed to be more proportional and is unlikely to help ANY of the other smaller parties apart from the Lib Dems . It may lose the Nationalist seats as they are kind of love them or hate them parties and may get few second preferences.

    It does have the neatness of giving each MP 50% of the votes but could screw up proportionality big time and look like nothing more than a reward for us keeping the Tories in power.

    Now I actually wanted to make politics fairer not just get a few more seats for us . Not sure how AV does that .

    Should we actually be enthusiastically campaigning for a system just for our own self interest ot weren’t we supposed to be somthing a bit different from that ?

  • Andrea Gill 5th Jul '10 - 11:56pm

    @John Fraser – Equal sized constituencies combined with AV WILL be more proportional though. AV was all there was on offer, take it or leave it.

    And make no mistake, voting against AV to spit your dummy because you wanted full PR will bury any hope of electoral reform for the Commons for a long time unless there is a significant movement that demands PR at the same time or, preferably, long before the referendum.

  • Voting for AV is voting to change FPTP, voting against AV is voting to keep FPTP…

    There is only one option open – change FPTP and move forward. We can then campaign for PR again later even more strongly with AV than without it.

    More power to your vote – vote for AV.

  • Andrea Gill 6th Jul '10 - 12:44am

    @Paul – Hear, Hear

  • @John Fraser,
    “AV is that it is in no way guarenteed to be more proportional and is unlikely to help ANY of the other smaller parties apart from the Lib Dems”
    Of course seats can’t be guaranteed but all the assessments of the impact of AV on voting outcomes of previous elections (e.g. the electoral society) are flawed because they do not, and cannot possibly take in to account the change of behavior in the way people vote. Being able to vote idealistically without repercussion could make a potential difference to the prospect of smaller parties winning votes.

  • Andrew Suffield 6th Jul '10 - 1:25am

    I voted libdem because I was in favour of electoral reform.

    […]

    I won’t be voting yes

    You’re in favour of electoral reform, so you will vote against it. I see. There is really no point discussing things with people who are so completely irrational.

  • You’re in favour of electoral reform, so you will vote against it. I see. There is really no point discussing things with people who are so completely irrational.

    What a ridiculous statement. AV is a lousy system. It’s quite possible to be in favour of electoral reform in general but against AV specifically.

    What was irrational was the Lib Dem leadership becoming so fixated on scoring a little victory out of a disappointing election result that they sold their party’s soul for the promise of a vote on AV – which you won’t win anyway.

  • Andrew Suffield 6th Jul '10 - 8:03am

    What was irrational was the Lib Dem leadership becoming so fixated on scoring a little victory out of a disappointing election result that they sold their party’s soul for the promise of a vote on AV – which you won’t win anyway.

    Dear Labour supporter: AV was one of your party’s manifesto promises in two successive elections, and is how you select your party leader.

  • Grammar Police 6th Jul '10 - 8:24am

    You’re right, IainM; but what will a “no” vote achieve?

  • It’s probably comforting to yell “labour troll!” at anyone who disagrees with you, Andrew, but you should try sucking your thumb instead because you’re way off the mark here. I’m very much a liberal, a former Lib Dem member, and still generally a Lib Dem voter. When I criticise (or support) the actions of the party or its leadership it’s on those grounds.

  • You’re right, IainM; but what will a “no” vote achieve?

    I guess if you were of the opinion that AV is no better or even worse than FPTP then a “no” vote would mean not replacing a bad system with an equally bad or even worse one.

    That’s not my own position, but it’s not an irrational one.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Jul '10 - 9:39am

    John Sharkey made a mess of our general election campaign. We started off well, but failed to capitalise on the initial big rise in the polls. Once again, Nick Clegg seems more keen on giving jobs to people who are his friends and who stand with him politically in the party than to people who are competent.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Jul '10 - 9:52am

    IainM

    What was irrational was the Lib Dem leadership becoming so fixated on scoring a little victory out of a disappointing election result that they sold their party’s soul for the promise of a vote on AV – which you won’t win anyway.

    As I have asked plenty of people who have made similar comments to this in these columns, what was the alternative?

    I have not yet had a reply from one of them.

    So, let us repeat the problem once again for the sake of the slow learners. The general election left us in the situation where a coalition with the Conservatives had the numbers to be viable, but a coalition with Labour did not even if Labour showed any willingness to try one, which they did not.

    All the signals were that any prolonged period of uncertainty about government would be extremely damaging to the country. If we had not formed a coalition, our very existence would be blamed for the economy deteriorating with “no one in charge”. This meant we did not have the luxury of being able to force that much through onto the larger coalition partners.

    In addition, our general election campaign as run by Mr Sharkey was a flop. We ended on a downward trajectory. As a result, we were not in the position to use the argument “don’t deal with us as we want and we’ll make sure there’s an early election”. Had we been going up, we could have done this. Going down means we would be the big losers in an early general election. As a result of this, “supply and confidence” to a minority Tory government but no coalition wouldn’t work – they’d call a general election early ion to get a majority. It would, in any case, mean sitting on our hands as worse goes through than it is with us having some say.

    To say the party had “sold its soul” etc implies this was a voluntary act and there were other things it could have done. IainM – what are those other things it could have done? We were forced into this by the way the country voted.

  • Matthew,

    I don’t agree with your conclusion because I don’t agree with your reasoning. While it’s true that the Lib Dems would very probably have been punished in an early election for not forming a coalition I don’t understand why you think you’ve avoided that fate by forming one. In my view you’ve just deferred it and you’ll be punished far more in 2015 (assuming the coalition survives that long) for being associated with the Tories’ programs (and worse, for getting so little out of it in return) than you would have been in 2011 and 2016 had you refused to enter it in the first place.

    I don’t mind if you disagree with that assessment, but you can take your “slow learners” crap and shove it.

  • Andrea Gill 6th Jul '10 - 10:40am

    @Matthew “we were not in the position to use the argument “don’t deal with us as we want and we’ll make sure there’s an early election”.”

    There is no way we could have afforded an early election, end of.

    With the two party squeeze in this crucial election, we stood to lose a LOT more seats than we actually did. For what we had available financially, we did pretty well.

  • IainM: Of course I wouldn’t call you a Labour troll.

    That would be doing a disservice to Labour trolls.

  • Jez,

    Thanks for your contribution.

  • Grammar Police 6th Jul '10 - 12:07pm

    You’re right that it wouldn’t be irrational to vote “no” if you believed that AV was worse than fptp. But if you think it’s a slight improvement, like I do, then what?
    Personally I think a “no” vote means that for a generation our opponents use it as an argument to say that there is no public appetite for reform.

  • the poor are getting hammered,new school buildings have just been cancelled and all the Lib Dems can talk about is the voting system.Well done, I hope the voters take note and reward you admirably in next year’s elections and referendum.

  • Personally I think a “no” vote means that for a generation our opponents use it as an argument to say that there is no public appetite for reform.
    And a “yes” vote will be used by our opponents to argue that we’ve already reformed parliament so there’s no need to do anything else. Reform is going to be off the agenda for a generation whatever the outcome of next year’s referendum. There’s certainly no way a “yes” will be a stepping-stone to STV, as some of the Kool-Aid drinkers in the party seem to hope.

  • Colin Strong 6th Jul '10 - 1:14pm

    I would prefer a proportional system namely STV but that is not on offer.
    What is on offer is AV or FPTP. Why shall I be voting for AV and against FPTP?

    AV allows voters to rank candidates in order of preference 1,2,3 etc
    This gets rid of tactical voting.

    AV means each MP has been elected by 50% +1 of the vote
    That is a good thing. Under FPTP you can elect an MP with say 26% of the vote or even lower.

    Apart from that AV and FPTP are the same e.g. one MP in one seat; no guarantee of one party government

    AV is also very similar to the exhaustive ballot where if no candidate is elected with 50% +1 of the vote the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and the next round of voting takes place. This means that those voters who voted for the eliminated candidate now switch their vote to their next preference. And so on.

    Can anyone tell me why the Conservatives are against AV when they use the exhaustive ballot system for open primaries and as the initial process in electing their Leader?

    Labour, of course, use AV to elect their Leader.

  • Thanks for the comments – the constructive ones anyway.

    I personally don’t think AV offers reform in any meaningful sense. I would love to believe that it offered a stepping stone to something fairer. But given recent experience I simply don’t trust Clegg to deliver.

    To grammar police and others. You may want to find out what the term “troll” means before you throw it around. The condescending attitude of the majority of the responses “spit your dummy” “irrational” “slow learners” is arrogant, condescending and hardly helps your cause.

    Remember, for every person like me debating (or at least trying to) there are many waverers reading. Arrogance and petty spite won’t win you votes.

    Forgive me for not toeing the party line.

  • Andrea Gill 6th Jul '10 - 3:01pm

    @Anders “. After all, the Conservatives never wanted it and Labour only agreed to it when they thought it might get them a few votes.”

    Indeed, in the Lib/Lab talks it came out that the negotiators for Labour didn’t think they could take even their own MPs with them on supporting a referendum on AV – which was in their own manifesto. http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8693309.stm

    So to think that Labour would somehow have managed to pull a better option out of the hat seems rather bizarre.

  • “So to think that Labour would somehow have managed to pull a better option out of the hat seems rather bizarre.”

    Did anybody suggest otherwise ?

    In case that was aimed at me (which would be truly bizarre)
    I don’t believe for one moment Labour would be in favour of reform. Even if they had been they still wouldn’t have got my vote.

  • Apologies Anders, that was a reasoned, rational response.

    Almost persuasive even.

    Getting distracted by petty tribalism is a danger, to reasoned discussion – and this vote. Overcoming that is a huuuuge challenge for us all.

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Jul '10 - 4:15pm

    Iainm

    I don’t agree with your conclusion because I don’t agree with your reasoning. While it’s true that the Lib Dems would very probably have been punished in an early election for not forming a coalition I don’t understand why you think you’ve avoided that fate by forming one.

    I cannot see anything in what I wrote that implies we have, and I certainly don’t think it at all. My comments were based on two things:

    i) Democracy
    ii) The national interest

    On i), we lost the election. The majority of those who voted cast their votes for the two big parties whose position is they support distortional representation on the grounds that a majority government by one of them is better than a coalition. Labour wants politics to beLabour v. Conservative, and putting it that way, Labour lost and the Conservatives won. I think we have to accept what the voters say – and they said “Conservative government”. A vote for the Conservatives says that, obviously, but so does a vote for Labour. A vote for Labour is a vote for the two-party system, and under that system if Labour loses, as it has, the Conservatives win. I don’t think you can say to the people “You are wrong, vote again” just months after they voted and gave the country a Parliament whose first job is to form a government.

    On ii), national interest meant we needed a stable government, While before the election I had sort of thought “vote on issues with a minority government” would work, after the election I could see it wouldn’t. Perhaps in a better economic climate it would, but we were left a disaster area thanks to thirty years of economic management. Letting things drift because we felt too precious to give support to the party which won the general election when viewing i as a Labour-Conservative voter views it would have been very damaging nationally. I certainly don’t think the Tories are the best to put things right, but they are what the people voted for.

    So, as I see it circumstances put us in a situation where we were forced to do something out of defence of democracy and national interest that, yes I agree with you, will be very damaging to us. Personally, I put democracy and national interest before party interest. Don’t you?

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Jul '10 - 4:31pm

    Terry Kee

    To grammar police and others. You may want to find out what the term “troll” means before you throw it around. The condescending attitude of the majority of the responses “spit your dummy” “irrational” “slow learners” is arrogant, condescending and hardly helps your cause.

    Well, answer the bloody question then. What else realistically could we have done?

    I throw the insults in return for the insults thrown. Words like “sell your soul” or “sell your principle” suggest there were realistic alternative choices we could have made. So if there are, name them. To make serious accusations against someone for doing what necessity forces is simply wrong, and I think “slow learners” is a rather mild thing to throw back at those who do it.

    I’m not happy with where we are now, and I’ve been talking about exit routes. I appreciate the only exit route Labour Party supporters are interested in is hanging on in opposition saying unrealistic things as if they had no responsibility for today’s mess, then see the Liberal Democrats wiped out when a general election has to come. Well, ok, but I haven’t been involved in third party politics for over 30 years to see a return to one-party government, especially under the thuggish anti-pluralist mentality that is at the heart of the Labour Party and is where it remains thoroughly socialist even if it has dropped everything that was decent about socialism.

    What I would like to see is a decent Labour Party which has ditched the one-party state mentality, and which is happy to work with the Liberal Democrats when we’ve ditched Clegg. If I can see that, I would be more willing to ditch Clegg. Silly tribalists insults thrown at us, and for all his faults I’ll defend him because I can’t see any alternative.

  • Matthew:

    Why ditch Clegg? He’s been the single best major MP championing civil liberties and electoral reform in living memory. What did he do wrong exactly?

  • Paul McKeown 6th Jul '10 - 7:48pm

    Make sure you let Tim Farron loose. On the Daily Politics he gave Daniel Kawczyinski a battering on AV. When I said that on Conservative Home, Tim Montgomerie had to agree: http://playpolitical.typepad.com/uk_conservative/2010/07/daniel-kawczyinski-mp-defends-the-current-voting-system-against-libdem-mp-tim-farron.html

    Well done, that man!

  • Matthew Huntbach 6th Jul '10 - 11:10pm

    Jez

    If Clegg is so good ,why did he and Sharkey throw away our election chances? We started off on a positive, people who hadn’t thought of us saw we were there and had something to say, but then it all flopped because, frankly, Clegg wasn’t that good and our national campaign as run by John Sharkey just didn’t impress people as it should have done given the awfulness of what else was on offer.

    As for ” He’s been the single best major MP championing civil liberties and electoral reform in living memory” that is absolute and utter and total crap. He’s done an okay-ish job at that, no more. I can so easily think of so many more effective lines in favour of electoral reform, some of which I have used in LibDem Voice, which Clegg could have used if he was the best ever promoter of this. I can think of plenty of more effective MPs on civil liberties as well, you don’t have to be that old to remember e.g. Roy Jenkins. Sorry, but Clegg is a pygmy (and sorry to be heightist shouldn’t do that I know being a short-arse myself) compared to the best of the past who many still remember. Look – the cartoonists and columnists (see Simon Hoggart today) portray him as an overgrown school-kid – cruel, but it wouldnt’ work if there wasn’t some truth in it. We’ll never get anywhere as a party if we aren’t honest on our failings, and we aren’t honest if we go in for a North Korean style adulation of whoever is currently the leader.

    Oh, but sorry, got a bit carried away there, none of the above actually answers your question. The reason why we might have to ditch Clegg is the same reason any party has to game plan and see into the future where it might have to ditch its leader – when the leader becomes a liability. This is just sensible risk analysis, nothing personal.

    If it happens that the coalition is clearly not working – the promised economic recovery is not happening and/or Clegg is becoming ever more and more the Tories’ emissary to us rather than vice versa, we may have to develop a new strategy and image to prevent us all going down the pan. Ditching Clegg and re-launching with a new leader seems to me to be how it would have to be done. I’m not saying we HAVE to do that, because if what the government tells us is true we will find it’s starting to look a bit better in a few year’s time and Clegg and the Cleggies can say to me and other sceptics “hah hah hah, you doubted our policies, but they worked”.

    Anyway, I’m prepared to wait and see and let him have his chance to prove himself, which is only fair – that’s why at present I’m strongly defending the coalition and sending insults to the “you lot sold out” types, who STILL haven’t answered the bloody question.

  • Andrea Gill 7th Jul '10 - 12:07am

    @Matthew – whatever you’ve been smoking/drinking/ingesting, can we all partake of it, as you seem to have some utterly bizarre fantasies of what this party ought to have delivered in an election that, in a rational assessment, likely could have lost half its seats to the two-party squeeze during such a crucial election.

  • Matthew Huntbach 7th Jul '10 - 12:59pm

    Andrea Gill

    I was a councillor in the London Borough of Lewisham from 1994 to 2006, for half of those years Leader of the Liberal Democrat group and Leader of the Opposition in the council. I have continued with activity in that borough, in 2010 putting much effort into Pete Pattisson’s attempt to become Liberal Democrat MP for Lewisham East.

    When I started in Lewisham, it was classic two-party squeeze territory, Lewisham East had a Tory MP who was part of the Tories’ majority, the Liberal Democrats were a poor third. In every general election since then including 2010, the Liberal Democrats have had a big increase in their share of the vote, coming second in 2010 in all three Lewisham constituencies with the Tories third in all three.

    I hope you can take it from this that I am not entirely detached from what it takes to win votes. In 2010 we had a rotten failed Labour government and the prime reason it failed was because it had abandoned most of what Labour voters used to vote Labour for in the past and it had taken over the rotten failed policies of the previous Conservative governments. By 2010 the crunch had really hit – a crunch that was easily predictable, the inevitable consequences of 30 years of economic mismanagement by a wealthy elite who care nothing for this country and who had conned us into supposing we could get by just by us all trading houses and shares with each other instead of doing real productive work. This was cynically kept going, building up more and more debt for ordinary people, while the fat cats who were the only real beneficiaries made plans to take their gains abroad.

    And you suppose, after this, that we did not stand a chance of picking up more votes had we run a stronger campaign, and that victory by the fat cats’ puppet party was inevitable?

  • t c thompson 7th Oct '10 - 3:03pm

    would like a summary of all this guff,I have always been a supporter of electoral reformand while pr is the beat bet ,av will have to do for now.I dont think throwing insults about will help when what is really wanted is very serious dicussion.thommo

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