AV campaigns able to spend more than £11 million

Today’s Financial Times reports:

Campaigners for and against electoral reform will be able to spend a total of more than £11m in a blizzard of promotional material and advertisements in the run-up to next year’s referendum, the Electoral Commission has confirmed.

Under the law, the Yes and No campaigns on the alternative vote (AV) system can each spend £5m of private money as well as £600,000 apiece of public funding. The two sides will also be given free use of public rooms such as council buildings, a TV broadcast and free postal delivery to households across the UK of 20m leaflets each.

The paper reckons this will offer an in-built advantage to the ‘No’ campaigners, arguing “City figures with deep pockets and conservative leanings are thought more likely to favour keeping the first-past-the-post system.” And it notes that “the only party that will campaign wholeheartedly for AV is the Liberal Democrats, who raised only £3.7m in total in party donations in 2009”.

Though both statements are true, I would expect the campaign to be more evenly matched than this suggests. For a start, well-networked and well-financed organisations such as the Electoral Reform Society, though still committed to proportional representation, are supporting the Alternative Vote.

On the other hand, I would be surprised to see the Lib Dems directly financing the pro-AV campaign, except in-kind through campaigning literature. Nick Clegg has said he will not be the flag-waver of the Yes campaign, partly out of respect for the Coalition, and more importantly because political leaders are not the ideal standard-bearers for a campaign that will divide parties and unite opponents in surprising ways.

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9 Comments

  • “Nick Clegg has said he will not be the flag-waver of the Yes campaign, partly out of respect for the Coalition, and more importantly because political leaders are not the ideal standard-bearers for a campaign that will divide parties and unite opponents in surprising ways.”

    Current party advice is to feature Nick on literature as he is still extremely popular so this seems like a bad decision.

    If it is being done “out of respect for the Coalition” it is deeply and irredeemably stupid.

  • can’t remember where the article was (it was linked here so someone will pull it out) but the example of the New-Zealand referendum on voting and others showed that it’s better for a yes if political parties stay at a distance.
    The risk with Nick Clegg taking too much centre-stage is that AV will just be associated with us, and it’ll be seen as a vote on us, not on the issue.

    The 2005 European constitution referendum in France was lost not because the French rejected Europe, but because they used the referendum to kick the government (even though the opposition was also mostly campaigning for yes).

  • David Morton 11th Aug '10 - 8:56am

    AV is a minor reform to something most people don’t think about a lot and which hardly anyone is in favour of as their first choice solution to a problem which they may or may not think is a problem in the first place. It has no discernable USP, no entrenched institutional support to provide GOTV infrastructure in most of the country and few “emotional” arguments in its favour other than the very vague “choice”. It’s been tied to the very odd boundary review which muddies the waters. The referendum has a sign on its back saying not so much ” Kick me” as ” reframe me ” which will be quite easy as it will take place at the start of epochal, society reshaping public spending cuts.

    If Labour hold steady and most of their ground machine and the union political funds mobilise against it combined with the tory right and anti coalition tabloiuds then its very difficult indeed to see a YES vote.

  • How is it decided who the YES and NO campaigns are? With each being entitled to £600,000 this is an important issue. Also, are we (as local parties) meant to be worrying about the proportion of our literature that features the fairer votes messages, and do we need to report that to someone? Guidance, or at least reassurance, would be helpful from someone . ALDC?

  • RE my last comment – just to clarify, I mean how much we are spending on literature featuring the AV referendum and whether that needs to be reported to someone.

  • @Sandra “The risk with Nick Clegg taking too much centre-stage is that AV will just be associated with us, and it’ll be seen as a vote on us, not on the issue.”

    Which is why I am sure I read before he will be taking a back seat

  • Anne Waters 14th Aug '10 - 9:52am

    I shall not be voting for AV as this is not what I voted Lib Dem for. that was PR. Many like myself that DID NOT vote for a Tory government will make sure that you lose. The prospect now that with AV there may be more Lib Dem MP’s is not what we want. The informed electorate will try and ensure that a party that has been complicit in attacking the poor and vulnerable will never be able to do this again. WHY did you do this? The bankers have got away with it and are laughing in their bonuses. We expect it from the Tories and yes even Labour but you have now shown your true colour, blue. How power corrupts.

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