Channel 4’s Factcheck slates No2AV campaign’s claims

The FactCheck blog has been running its eyes over the claims made by No2AV about how much introducing the alternative vote would cost (the subject too of my letter published in yesterday’s Independent).

Here’s what they conclude:

No to AV claims that the combined costs of a referendum, implementing electronic vote counting and educating voters will cost Britain a cool £250 million. And just over half of this will be splashed out on shiny new electronic vote counting machines, the campaigners say…

The problem is however, that there are no current plans to implement electronic voting machines in the event AV passes…

No to AV needs to keep the fight for voters clean.

You can read the full FactCheck piece on the AV referendum campaign here.

Of course, this isn’t exactly the first time the No campaign has been attacked over the honesty of its claims. The Director of the No Campaign, Matthew Elliott has come under fire from American electoral reform campaigner Rob Richie, who has said, “Matthew Elliott utterly distorts what I said in my talk in London last month about the rise of the Alternative Vote in the United States.”

Another example of their deliberately misleading claims is Matthew Elliott’s statement, in the post which Rob Richie made the above comment on, that:

When we’ve introduced preferential voting in recent years – STV in Scotland; SV in London – the change was accompanied by the introduction of electronic vote counting.

Why did I say misleading? Because we’ve introduced preferential voting in recent years in several other elections too (Mayoral elections in several places around the country) without any electronic vote counting.

Why did I say “deliberately misleading”? Because when I pointed out the misleading nature of the statement to Matthew Elliott (and asked whether, for example, it was a case of poor sub-editing) he stuck by it.

(And that’s without even getting into the much longer history of preferential voting in Northern Ireland, with even the more complicated STV counts conducted without voting machines.)

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52 Comments

  • Let’s hope Ireland’s recent election is heavily reported, along with the fact that we will know the result in a few days and that counting machines weren’t used

  • Stuart Mitchell 26th Feb '11 - 1:51pm

    According to this article …

    http://www.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/6727833/exclusive-what-the-yes-to-av-campaign-doesnt-want-you-to-know.thtml

    … the UK’s leading commercial supplier of electoral services, Electoral Reform Services Ltd, believes that a Yes vote may bring it “increased business opportunities”.

    Given that ERSL is majority owned by the ERS, which has supplied over £1m (and a Chairperson) to the Yes campaign, I think we really ought to be told what these “increased business opportunities” are expected to be before we dismiss the No campaign’s claims out of hand.

  • Depressed Ex 26th Feb '11 - 2:07pm

    I’m afraid the fuss that’s being made about this doesn’t reflect credit on either side – like so much of the campaign.

    There may be “no plans” to introduce electronic counting if AV is introduced, but having no plans to do something is very different from having plans NOT to do it.

  • @Stuart

    A non-story. ERSL, as the name would imply, runs non-FPTP votes and ploughs the profits into the ERS. ERS promotes electoral reform and therefore (from FPTP at least) AV and therefore the referendum. Outstanding stuff, a company does what its name would imply and funds pressure groups campaigning for electoral reform. Excuse me for completely failing to understand what the controversy about this is supposed to be.

    As far as “increased business opportunities” – private organisations (companies or trade unions) have to outsource any elections by law to ensure impartiality to companies like ERSL. ERSL presumably doesn’t do FPTP elections but presumably does do AV elections – a yes vote to AV brings wide publicity to the voting system and presumably increased usage. Just a guess? If you’d like to sketch out an interpretation of “increased business opportunities” that’s both realistic and somehow dodgy then by all means go ahead, but I fail to see anything hugely exciting here.

    @Depressed Ex Lib Dem

    In this context having no plans to introduce something and having plans to not introduce something aren’t hugely different. If No2AV want to include the cost of counting machines in the cost of a yes vote then it’s up to them to show the burden of proof that they are actually to be bought and used. It is not the job of anyone else to prove that they’re not going to be used, particularly given that it’s already stated that there are no plans to use them and that where AV is used counting machines are not used.

  • We have to compare what AV will cost with those who already use AV (Australia) and it is quite a shock, cost per vote 2004 Australian election – their most expensive contest to date – cost a total of £74.2 million to conduct as opposed to a total cost of around £82.1 million for the UK election.

    If we then take the number of votes cast…
    Australia 11,714,835 votes, cost per vote = around £6.32 (hand counted, I believe)
    UK 29,691,780 votes, cost per vote = around £2.76

    So if we assume the same counting costs in the UK we’re looking at £187 million, of course we do have to compare cost with a country who is already using an AV system or are we going to guess and then say sorry afterwards?

    Then if we do use electronic counters the cost could well go higher, so 250 million is a fair estimate taking into account the usual miscalculations government cost estimates have.

  • Jim, you are seriously mistaken on both the points you make.

    FPTP elections in other countries that use FPTP will undoubtably cost very different amounts per vote cast compared to the UK. So what?

    Can you give any reason why AV elections in the UK should cost materially more than FPTP elections? The only thing I can think of is that some of the counts will take slightly longer to carry out than at present. Or have you got something else in mind?

    Also, why would we want to use electronic counters in AV elections but bot in FPTP elections?

  • Stuart Mitchell 26th Feb '11 - 4:47pm

    DunKhan :-

    @Stuart

    “A non-story. ERSL, as the name would imply, runs non-FPTP votes”

    And the rest – they are also the leading provider of electoral services to local authorities for FPTP elections.

    “and ploughs the profits into the ERS.”

    Do you have any information on exactly where the profits from ERSL go? I’d be interested to see it.

    “ERS promotes electoral reform and therefore (from FPTP at least) AV”

    ERS certainly have no track record for promoting AV – on the contrary, it’s well known that they declared AV as unsuitable for Parliamentary elections. Now they are making out it’s fantastic.

    “If you’d like to sketch out an interpretation of ‘increased business opportunities’ that’s both realistic and somehow dodgy then by all means go ahead”

    Perhaps you should ask *them* what they mean by it, it’s their claim.

    Obviously, if a new counting system *were* introduced – and nobody is ruling out the possibility – then ERSL would be well placed to profit from it. They have already been awarded a contract to administer the electronic counting for the 2012 London Mayoral election.

    “I fail to see anything hugely exciting here”

    We have a situation here where the main organisation behind the Yes campaign has a long track record of saying that AV is garbage – but a self-declared commercial interest in seeing the Yes vote succeed. Of course the ERS have every right to back the Yes campaign for whatever reason they see fit – all I’m saying is that they should be completely up front with the public about the extent of their commercial interests in the vote, and explain what those mysterious “opportunities” actually are. Then we can all judge for ourselves whether it’s dodgy or not.

  • Paul Griffiths 26th Feb '11 - 5:16pm

    @Jim

    Australia is more than 30 times the size of the UK. And voting is compulsory. I wonder if those features could affect the costs in some way.

  • Depressed Ex 26th Feb '11 - 5:40pm

    DunKhan

    All that we know is that there are no plans to use counting machines. But of course that doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t be used. Considering they’re used for most preferential voting in the UK at the moment, it seems pretty likely that they would.

    Anyhow, it’s rather like the situation during the election campaign when none of the parties had any plans to raise VAT, but the Lib Dems ran a poster campaign saying how much the Tories were going to raise it by.

    It turned out that both the Lib Dems and the Tories were able to rectify their lack of plans extremely quickly, once the polls had closed!

  • @Stuart Mitchell

    I am sure you share my concern at the “smear tactics” as used by the Spectator.

    You are obviously interested in this, so can you tell us what sort of extra business you think ERSL could gain from any move from FPTP to AV, because I reckon the rest of us can’t?

  • Depressed Ex
    “All that we know is that there are no plans to use counting machines. But of course that doesn’t mean that they wouldn’t be used. Considering they’re used for most preferential voting in the UK at the moment, it seems pretty likely that they would.”

    I’m not sure it would necessarily bother you, but that’s actually untrue, isn’t it?

  • Stuart Mitchell 26th Feb '11 - 6:13pm

    “can you tell us what sort of extra business you think ERSL could gain from any move from FPTP to AV, because I reckon the rest of us can’t?”

    The claim was not mine – it is ERSL themselves who have apparently spotted commercial opportunities in a switch to AV. Believe me, I would love to know what these opportunities are, but it’s something only ERSL themselves can answer!

  • Stuart Mitchell 26th Feb '11 - 6:20pm

    @Olly:

    I accept most of your points, but would just take issue with this one :-

    “In the highly unlikely event that a local authority thought it necessary to buy electronic counting machines to deal with AV, ERSL would not stand to gain financially as it does not manufacture, sell or supply electronic counting machines.”

    ERSL already makes money from electronic counting, so it’s perfectly reasonable to assume that an increase in this type of counting would be lucrative for them. See :-

    http://www.drs.co.uk/news/2010/09/10/London%20Elects%20gears%20up%20for%202012%20Mayor%20and%20London%20Assembly%20Elections.html

  • @ Simon Shaw
    Of course it is easy to dismiss, and a typical response, I don’t know what the costs would be, that’s why I was comparing to a country that does know, and what it costs Australian tax payers.

    @ Paul Griffiths
    Of course they will add a little to the cost, I think the transport cost was around £6 million, off hand I don’t know what the UK transport cost is, but it is likely to be a little less but not by much as fuel costs are very different to UK prices (cheaper)…..

    The whole point of my post was to show no one knows the real cost, or the only speculation of £250 million is just ridiculed, and if you do compare the cost; then the obvious to compare with is Australia, if the yes campaign want people to believe them they need to cost it out and tell the public what it will cost.

    But I suspect that they don’t really want to do that.

    If we ever do use AV I think we will not be happy with the cost or the excuses.

  • Depressed Ex 26th Feb '11 - 7:07pm

    I’m not sure it would necessarily bother you, but that’s actually untrue, isn’t it?

    Well, Scotland and Greater London have a combined population of nearly 13 million.

    Are you suggesting that there are hand-counted elections using preferential voting elsewhere in the UK in places with a combined population of more than 13 million?

  • @Jim
    I take that to mean, that like me (and everybody else who has posted on this thread), you cannot come up with a single reason why in the UK the cost of an AV election should be materially more than the current FPTP election.

  • Depressed Ex 26th Feb '11 - 7:12pm

    Mark Pack

    I might just as well ask you – if you’re saying it’s UNlikely counting machines will be used – why you think they ARE used in Scotland and London.

    No one knows the future, so it’s a nonsensical argument. I don’t agree with the “No” campaign stating this as a fact when it’s not, but as I indicated above nor did I agree with the Lib Dems making up their own “facts” about VAT during the election campaign – and as I recall you were quick enough to defend that nonsense.

  • @Depressed Ex
    You are not by any chance including Scottish council STV elections, are you?

    That would be highly misleading, wouldn’t it?

    After all, in terms of complexity, AV is far, far closer to FPTP than to STV.

    Are you disputing what Mark Pack said at 6.17pm?

  • @Depressed Ex
    “nor did I agree with the Lib Dems making up their own “facts” about VAT during the election campaign – and as I recall you were quick enough to defend that nonsense.”

    Similarly I don’t agree with you making that false allegation. It has been raised here repeatedly – and dealt with repeatedly.

  • Depressed Ex 26th Feb '11 - 7:27pm

    Simon

    I meant what I said – “preferential voting.”

    But if you want to fly in the face of Mark Pack’s arguments above by excluding STV, of course the same will be true, because the London mayoral contest, which uses the Supplementary Vote, is machine-counted.

    You’d better look to your own conduct before implying other people are being dishonest.

  • Depressed Ex 26th Feb '11 - 7:32pm

    Simon

    And the parallel with the Lib Dem VAT poster during the election campaign is so perfect that it’s uncanny.

    The Tories said they had no plans to raise VAT. Nevertheless the Lib Dems went ahead and said not only that they WOULD have to raise it, but that they would have to raise it by a specific amount, and quoted that figure. That’s precisely the same as what the “No” campaign has done, and what you’re complaining about now.

  • @Jim

    Comparison with Australia is completely invalid. They’re a huge country, have compulsory voting, use a system of AV where you have to rank every candidate and exhaustively count their ballots until every . None of this applies to the UK, under AV or FPTP.

    The £250m figure isn’t ridiculed, it’s debunked. Because it’s wrong. There’s no particular reason why AV should be significantly more expensive than FPTP.

    @Depressed Ex

    The Electoral Commission isn’t made of politicians, it’s made of civil servants. They’re not there to grab votes and don’t have any particular interest in what way the referendum goes. They were also denying rumours of counting machines – in the general election campaign Vince Cable explicitly said that he wasn’t ruling out a VAT rise, just that he wasn’t planning it at the time.

    More importantly, why would they introduce counting machines in a time where there are huge budget cuts? Particularly when STV counts, which are far more complex, are done by hand elsewhere in the UK.

    The 13m point is a red herring. If you have a larger electorate you have more people counting in the first place. Plus you should really compare each counting rather than total electorate anyway, you’d have different people counting in each constituency in Ireland anyway.

    @Stuart

    I’m afraid I’m heading out soon but Olly’s already said most of what I would want to say. So, quickly going over what I was going to say in list form:

    1) The ERSL states that they are a business of the ERS on their website, which implies that they make money for them.
    2) Has it occured to you that perhaps the ERS thinks that AV is preferable to FPTP even if it’s not their favoured system? I’m think their old website said as much, though I’m not 100%. And it’s pretty clear by their very existence that they consider FPTP an unfit system for parliament.
    3) Your posts imply wrong-doing on the part of the ERSL in their tone. Everyone is innocent until proven guilty, so the onus is on you to show evidence of wrongdoing rather than just implying wrongdoing without having any concrete basis for it and demanding a response. So, prove that these “business opportunities” are shady rather than just implying through your tone that they are.

  • @Depressed Ex

    Very quickly. Mayor of London elections – a count of around 7.5m people, effectively a single count. Election under AV – 600 counts of 76,641 people, plusminus 5% for most of them. Election under STV – multiply 76,641 by the number of MPs per constituency – even if you assume huge numbers of MPs per constituency (say 7 or 8, which is really at the limit) for every count you still have much smaller counts needed than in London mayoral elections. Or even Birmingham mayoral elections, which are done by hand, I think.

    No reason to assume counting machines involved in any of the later ones, particularly AV.

  • Depressed Ex
    “But if you want to fly in the face of Mark Pack’s arguments above by excluding STV, of course the same will be true, because the London mayoral contest, which uses the Supplementary Vote, is machine-counted.”

    But what Mark was saying was that of all the mayoral elections around the country – which use the Supplementary Vote – only one (London) uses counting machines.

    Are you saying Mark is wrong?

    If you accept Mark is correct, do you also accept that it completely undermines your argument?

  • Depressed Ex
    “Nevertheless the Lib Dems went ahead and said not only that they WOULD have to raise it, but that they would have to raise it by a specific amount, and quoted that figure.”

    No they didn’t!

    Why don’t you read what the Poster actually said, rather than what you think it said.

  • Depressed Ex 26th Feb '11 - 7:57pm

    Simon

    For heaven’s sake, it said “YOU’D PAY £389 MORE A YEAR IN VAT UNDER THE CONSERVATIVES”!

    And you wonder why people think politicians are liars!

  • Depressed Ex 26th Feb '11 - 8:07pm

    Simon

    Regarding mayoral elections, I assume Mark Pack knows what he’s talking about (unlike some of the people here who have suggested counting machines weren’t used in London!)

    But at the risk of repeating myself – no one knows whether counting machines would be used, and it’s a waste of time for any of us to pretend that we do. I’m certainly not going to waste my time arguing about the likelihood.

    Suffice it to say that what I said about most preferential voting in the UK being machine-counted was perfectly true, despite your offensive suggestion to the contrary. The one thing that’s absolutely clear about this is that Simon Shaw badly needs to learn some manners.

  • @Depressed Ex
    Up to your normal tricks? Please quote the whole of the poster, not just selectively.

    After all, we are talking about less than 40 words in total.

  • Depressed Ex 26th Feb '11 - 8:43pm

    Simon

    You’re suggesting that the huge lettering that said “YOU’D PAY £389 MORE A YEAR IN VAT UNDER THE CONSERVATIVES” didn’t accurately reflect the message of the poster? That to get the real message you have to read the tiny writing along the bottom – the writing you know damn well no one was intended to read? And YOU accuse ME of “tricks”!

    If anyone needed to know why the party has become a byword for political dishonesty, then this is the perfect illustration. The poster itself was bad enough, but your duplicitous attempt to defend it really IS gutter politics.

  • @Depressed Ex

    Your continued insistence on quoting selectively speaks volumes.

    DunKahn has already pointed out the error of your claims over VAT, but it’s worth restating the facts.

    For example, Vince Cable specifically declined to rule out an increase in VAT on BBC1’s Politics Show over 3 weeks before the election.

    On the 11 April Politics Show, the BBC’s Jon Sopel asked Vince “Would you rule out raising VAT?”

    Vince’s reply was “No, I don’t.”

  • Stuart Mitchell 26th Feb '11 - 10:15pm

    @Olly: “I can understand the confusion but if you look into it I am sure you will find that DRS, as the supplier of electronic counting machines, that will benefit from any extra use of them, not ERSL.”

    It’s confusing all right, because the DRS web page I posted a link to is crystal clear that ERSL are themselves heavily involved in (and presumably profiting from) electronic counting :-

    “…London Elects has [awarded] an electronic counting contract to IntElect, a joint venture between DRS Data Services Limited and Electoral Reform Services Limited. Both companies have a track record of success in electronic counting… ERS have undertaken postal voting administration and electronic counting for a number of local authorities.”

    I don’t doubt you that DRS physically supply the machines, but clearly there is an important role for ERS in the process as well.

  • Surely the obvious cost to compare would be the count of a Northern Ireland by-election run by AV compared to the cost of a British by-election run by FPTP as these would have comparatively similar costs (transport, teller pay etc etc and similar constituency sizes (i.e. a similar number of votes to count)

    The costs in Australia will be totally different to in the UK tranport costs will be much more, they might have much larger or smaller constituencies (in terms of population,) they presumably will have more polling stations per elector (so as to reduce the distance voters have to travel to vote to reasonable distances) and so on

  • Depressed Ex 27th Feb '11 - 9:18am

    Simon

    So what? Of course they didn’t rule out a rise. The formula was “no plans,” just as in the present case. That’s the whole point I’m making!

  • Stuart Mitchell 27th Feb '11 - 9:21am

    Simon:

    “On the 11 April Politics Show, the BBC’s Jon Sopel asked Vince ‘Would you rule out raising VAT?’
    Vince’s reply was ‘No, I don’t.'”

    That’s a bit rich given that you have said in the past that Labour would have raised VAT – despite Gordon Brown stating categorically (also on the BBC) that he ruled out such a rise.

  • Stuart Mitchell 27th Feb '11 - 9:44am

    @Olly: “Surely if allegations are being made about ERSL benefitting financially from the introduction of AV then it is incumbent on those making the allegation to provide details of why this is the case.”

    I really can’t see where you are coming from here. It is ERSL themselves who have said that they may “profit as a result of a YES vote (increased business opportunities).” Nobody else has made the accusation, they have made the claim for themselves, so only they can provide details of what they mean. I’ll drop them an email and ask them what they mean – will let you know if I get a response.

    Of course there is a tiny possibility that the Spectator journalist has invented that quote himself – but if that’s the case, then surely the ERS/ERSL will waste no time in saying so, since it has now been so widely reported (in the national press and on the No2AV web site).

    Sadly the full Spectator article is not available on-line unless you subscribe, but there is more about it here :-

    http://www.spectator.co.uk/coffeehouse/6728913/a-dodgy-damascene-conversion.thtml

    I may buy the mag today if I get the chance to see what these “leaked documents” actually are.

  • Stuart Mitchell 27th Feb '11 - 10:45am

    @DunKhan: If you can’t see a story here, then fine. But when an organisation spends years saying AV is unsuitable for Parliamentary elections, then suddenly deletes all that information and starts campaigning enthusiastically for AV in Parliamentary elections, I think there’s something interesting going on and the No campaign are perfectly entitled to ask just what on earth is going on here.

    As for whether there is anything “dodgy” going on… I haven’t said that, and I don’t doubt for one moment that everything the ERS and ERSL are doing is 100% legal and 100% within the rules of the referendum. In that sense they are doing nothing wrong.

    I think there’s a much bigger issue here than ERSL’s hopes for future “business opportunities”. It is reported that ERSL is providing services to administer the referendum itself. If this is true, then I am absolutely astonished that the rules allow them to fund one side of the campaign – in my opinion any organisation involved with administering the referendum should be truly independent from it. Again I am not saying that ERSL are doing anything wrong here – I am saying that the rules which allow this to happen are ludicrous and completely fly in the face of commonsense notions of fairness and impartiality. Who would be happy with the next election being administered by David Cameron Electoral Services Ltd?? I know I wouldn’t.

  • Stuart Mitchell
    “That’s a bit rich given that you have said in the past that Labour would have raised VAT – despite Gordon Brown stating categorically (also on the BBC) that he ruled out such a rise.”

    That’s because Vince is clearly more honest than Labour politicians.

    Labour proposed an increase to 19% VAT. I wasn’t aware that Gordon Brown stated what you suggest, but if he did, that is obviously a matter for his own conscience.

  • Depressed Ex
    “The formula was “no plans,” just as in the present case. That’s the whole point I’m making!”

    You need to read what Vince actually said (and which I quoted).

    He didn’t tell Jon Sopel that he had “no plans” to raise VAT. He said something much more honest.

  • Depressed Ex 27th Feb '11 - 2:12pm

    I wasn’t aware that Gordon Brown stated what you suggest, but if he did, that is obviously a matter for his own conscience.

    Presumably you weren’t aware what Nick Clegg stated on 8 April either:
    “I’ve said that we won’t put up VAT because we don’t need to”
    http://thescotsman.scotsman.com/news/General-Election-2010-Rivals-round.6214842.jp

    I look forward to being told how that’s completely different, but maybe you could at least try to be a bit less pompous next time.

  • Depressed Ex 27th Feb '11 - 2:23pm

    Simon

    This has been discussed so thoroughly that I can’t believe your confusion about it can be genuine. In fact, both parties used almost identical language about not having plans to raise VAT:
    Clegg: “Our plans do not require a rise in VAT”
    Osborne: “I will do everything I can to make sure that we get the effort done through public spending restraint, and I’m pretty confident we can do that, so that’s why I say we have got no plans to increase VAT”

    Maybe your own reading skills need a bit more practice?

  • Depressed Ex 27th Feb '11 - 2:29pm

    I don’t suppose it’ll do the slightest good giving it to you straight from the horse’s mouth, but here goes:

    Cable: “Through the election campaign, all three prospective Chancellors were asked about VAT, and we all answered in exactly the same way: we have no plans to raise it, but we cannot rule it out.”
    https://www.libdemvoice.org/vince-cable-why-the-vat-rise-had-to-happen-20039.html

  • Stuart Mitchell 27th Feb '11 - 5:03pm

    Simon: “I wasn’t aware that Gordon Brown stated what you suggest”

    Well you’re certainly aware now, but apparently it doesn’t make much difference!!

  • Stuart Mitchell 27th Feb '11 - 5:29pm

    Depressed and Simon: Here’s Jeremy Paxman trying manfully to get a straight answer on VAT from Clegg during the election campaign :-

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/newsnight/8616726.stm

    Excruciatingly painful few seconds at the end as Clegg tries desperately to sound like he’s ruling out a VAT rise but not ruling it out at the same time.

  • @Stuart Mitchell

    Are you saying you believed Gordon Brown? Really?

    According to what Depressed Ex said, either Gordon Brown or Alastair Darling wasn’t telling the truth.

  • Depressed Ex 27th Feb '11 - 7:41pm

    According to what Depressed Ex said, either Gordon Brown or Alastair Darling wasn’t telling the truth.

    I presume you mean according to what Vince Cable said.

    You do realise, don’t you, that by precisely the same token either Nick Clegg or Vince Cable wasn’t telling the truth?

  • Matthew Huntbach 28th Feb '11 - 10:23am

    AV is much easier to count manually than the three-vote first-past-the-post system used in London Borough and some other local government elections. The manual tallying of all those electors who did not vote the straight party line (for anyone who has not been at the count of one of these things often a surprisingly high number) takes an age. In LB Greenwich they were still doing it as dawn broke in last year’s borough elections.

  • Stuart Mitchell 28th Feb '11 - 5:35pm

    “Are you saying you believed Gordon Brown? Really?”

    Sure. I tend to give people the benefit of the doubt in the absence of any evidence they are lying to me – that’s just basic civility.

    For example I was perfectly happy to believe Vince Cable’s pledge on tuition fees – right up to the moment he broke it, that is. Given your faith in Cable I can only assume you’ve just returned from a six month news-free holiday on the moon.

    “According to what [Vince Cable] said, either Gordon Brown or Alastair Darling wasn’t telling the truth.”

    Not really. Brown and Darling’s disagreement on VAT is extremely well documented. Darling wanted to raise it, Brown didn’t, Brown was in charge, Brown got his way, and (I’m sure you’ll find) virtually nobody in the Labour Party would have wished it otherwise. “Alistair Darling” and “Labour” are not the same thing you know.

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