Charles Kennedy MP: No2AV ads “shocking and outrageous”

Charles Kennedy MP has urged Liberal Democrat members and supporters to take action by registering their disappointment and disgust at the advertising tactics of the No2AV campaign.

The No campaign recently took out a two-page advertisement in the Birmingham Mail claiming that a sick baby “needs a new cardiac facility NOT an alternative voting system”. The ad misleadingly implies that the public must choose between an alternative voting system and frontline services.

Here’s what Charles said in his email this morning:

Over recent days No2AV have published a series of ads in local papers that can be described as distasteful at best, shocking and outrageous at worst.

The premise behind the ads is that the country can’t afford the alternative voting system. That by saying Yes to AV, voters will be taking £250 million away from sick babies in need of care, or soldiers in need of armour.

I say this kind of behaviour shows exactly why the UK can’t afford to say no to AV.

It’s clear that the No campaign don’t have the integrity to regulate themselves, but this is our once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change politics in the UK. We mustn’t let the country get distracted by the No campaign’s cheap tricks.

Yes to Fairer Votes are calling on the Advertising Standards Authority to issue guidance on this campaign – and fast. Please add your name today.

The No campaign are building their arguments on scaremongering. They are doing a massive disservice to the voters of the UK. This is a serious subject and we need them to engage in honest, open debate.

This debate must centre on the future of politics in the UK, re-engaging voters and giving a voice to people, this is too important to be sidelined by petty backbiting and cynical campaigning.

UK voters are entitled to decent, honest and truthful advertising campaigns – these adverts fail on every count. Join us in calling for the ASA to step in today, so that we can get on with the debate the country deserves.

We can’t waste this opportunity.

Charles Kennedy

If you receive Charles’s email today, why not forward it to friends and colleagues who’d like to add their voice to the campaign?

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  • Jack Holroyde 25th Feb '11 - 11:55am

    I say here what I replied to the email:
    “This is outside the ASA’s remit. They’ve already had complaints and said that their remit does not extend to political campaigns.
    Sort it out, central office. Suggesting something like this is unprofessional and shows you havn’t done your research – which is precisely the sort of reason why so many people thought we couldn’t make a credible government.
    This will do little to reassure LibDem members.”

    On the ASA website, they even quote:
    “Political advertising
    All complaints of political bias in TV or radio advertising should be made to Ofcom (

    For reasons of freedom of speech, we do not have a remit over non-broadcast ads where the purpose of the ad is to persuade voters in a local, national or international election or referendum. Please contact the Electoral Commission.”

  • Jack – the ASA used to adjudicate on political advertising (they upheld complaints about the Tories “devil eyes” adverts) but subsequently decided not to rule on them with no reason publicly given, although privately I understand that it was because they simply couldn’t be bothered with the flak. They don’t actually have to change any rules to do this – just their practice. As an example, they opted out of regulating website advertisements in around 2000 but have just announced recently that they will regulate them again – for the same reasons!

  • Chris Keating 25th Feb '11 - 12:54pm

    Skewer the No campaign’s arguments by all means, but mobilising people to complain to a regulator which has no jurisdiction is really the definition of futile.

    There are plenty of useful things the Yes campaign can be asking people to do, there’s no need to resort to this kind of slacktivism. Success isn’t measured by the amount of self-righteous anger generated in the people on your email list.

  • Isn’t the Yes campaign’s argument that the Electoral Commission don’t have any jurisdiction over it either (it being a referendum, rather than an election), so they are contacting those who used to oversee?

  • Paul Griffiths 25th Feb '11 - 2:04pm

    Here’s my response: A donation to Yes2FairerVotes and a matching donation to Birmigham Childrens’ Hospital.

  • Firstly the advert is appalling, and i say that as one who is not in favour of AV. The trouble is that so far I’ve seen plenty of outright untruths from both campaigns. To give two examples, Clegg promising AV mean no votes are wasted, patently untrue and the No campaign saying electronic counting systems were a requirement, equally untrue.

    The No campaign has plumbed new depths but the yes campaign (whilst not stooping to anywhere near the same level) needs to get it’s own house in order…

  • Old Codger Chris 25th Feb '11 - 5:09pm

    I’m opposed to AV but I can’t decide whether the people running the No2AV campaign are (a) thick (b) malicious or (c) secret supporters of AV who will produce ever more laughable claims – AV will corrupt your children, AV causes global warming, AV gives you bad breath.

  • So far no one has commented on the statement ‘The ad misleadingly implies that the public must choose between an alternative voting system and frontline services’.

    I think that the current draconian cuts imposed by this government propped up by the LibDems has made the public think exactly in these terms as every Government Minister keeps saying there is no option to any of the cuts – the public have just got to accept them.

    I’m quite sure many people will be wondering why we are spending hundreds of millions at such a bad time economically when people are losing their jobs, homes and services on something that really boils down to a vanity LibDem project.

    Personally if it came down to how scarce resources are allocated I would rather see it spent on a cardiac unit than a useless voting system no better than the one it replaces.

  • I was disappointed that he didn’t also mention that the £250m price-tag is complete fiction.

    £130m for vote-counting machines: no such purchase is planned. No2av insist that they will be necessary but AV has always been counted manually in Australia and London.
    £83m on the referendum itself : well that’s a cost regardless of the result!

  • I’m sure Cameron mentioned vote counting machines giving his NO pitch but you can’t believe a word that comes out his mouth – must have caught that from the LibDems 🙂

  • Depressed Ex 25th Feb '11 - 11:50pm

    AV has always been counted manually in Australia and London.

    Not more of this nonsense about AV having been used in London! Do you people have an allergy to the truth or something?

  • Paul Griffiths 26th Feb '11 - 9:06am

    @ Adam

    In relation to the London Mayoral election, I think you mean SV. Still no need for counting machines, though.

  • Depressed Ex 26th Feb '11 - 12:04pm

    Well, not only is the London mayoral election not done using AV, but also counting machines ARE used.

    In fact, following allegations that a large number of votes had been miscounted at the last election, London Elects said “This is the biggest single election in Britain, and the scale and complexity means that e-counting is the only option.”

  • Stuart Mitchell 26th Feb '11 - 1:31pm

    Both campaigns are peddling misleading claims, and it’s pretty ridiculous for either of them to attempt to claim the moral high ground. There is no moral high ground to be had as far as I can see.

    Though the No campaign, odious as it is, can at least claim one virtue. The people running it genuinely like FPTP and believe it to be a suitable system for Parliamentary elections.

    By the way, Depressed Ex, there is an interesting mention of the use of electronic counting machines in London in the following (rather eye-opening) article :-

    Turns out that Electoral Reform Services Ltd has been awarded the contract to administer the 2012 Mayoral election using electronic counting machines. Guess who the majority shareholder of ERSL is? The Electoral Reform Society.

    The article goes on to quote internal documents from ERSL which allegedly state that “it is possible that ERSL will profit as a result of a YES vote (increased business opportunities).”

    Of course the ERS’ chief executive, Katie Ghose, is the chair of the Yes campaign. The ERS has also donated over £1m to the Yes campaign.

  • Paul Griffiths 26th Feb '11 - 1:54pm

    @Depressed Ex

    My sincere apologies. You are right and I am wrong.

  • @all My apologies re. London mayoral elections. You are correct, they don’t (quite) use AV and they have used automated vote-counting. Poor knowledge and judgement on my part.

    But that does not change the fact that counting machines are not needed for AV and that even if such a purchase were necessary, that’s a small price to pay for a much better voting system.

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