Tag Archives: av referendum

Opinion: Voting reform must take a back seat to maintain #LibDemFightback momentum

Standing at a North London bus stop the evening after Britain went to the polls, I overheard a man give his take, on David Cameron’s surprising majority, to a friend:

You see people that don’t live in cities just don’t understand…they’ll always vote right-wing.

As someone from the countryside who has now voted for a hat-trick of different parties, I took offence in a quietly British way to his throwaway analysis of the left’s failure to make gains outside of London. And yet of course he had a point, too.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 34 Comments

Why 40% is the magic number in the Scottish referendum

Brazil v Scotland 22For some reason, 40% is a figure which has long exerted political significance.

That devolution for Scotland wasn’t introduced in 1979 wasn’t because a majority of those who voted didn’t want it: by 52% to 48% the Scottish voted in favour of establishing a Scottish parliament. However, a Labour MP, George Cunningham, introduced an amendment to the Scotland Act (1978) specifying a minimum turnout threshold of 40% of the electorate. The actual turnout of 33% meant Scottish devolution had to wait a further two decades.

I was reminded of …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , and | 41 Comments

The compromiser’s dilemma: House of Lords reform

House of Lords. Photo: Parliamentary copyright images are reproduced with the permission of ParliamentYou propose something. Someone objects to it, giving many reasons. You offer to make some changes to meet some of the objections. A deal is made and progress is achieved.

A perfectly normal sequence of events, both inside and outside politics and whether the matter is as mundane as what to eat for dinner tomorrow or as public as the wording of Parliamentary legislation.

One big …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , , , and | 17 Comments

Q: What links the AV referendum, boundary changes & Lords reform? A: The Coalition Agreement

It appears the Tories are attempting a sneaky re-write of some very recent, and well-documented, history. What prompts me to say this? Let’s look at the FT’s Kiran Stacey’s report of Nick Clegg’s feisty performance at yesterday’s Prime Minister’s Questions:

asked why he was so focused on House of Lords reform when there were so many other more important issues to tackle. Clegg’s response was very telling:

There are other issues like changing the boundaries which I know are close to his party’s heart…

The Tories will absolutely hate that. They say the original agreement between the two parties was

Posted in News and Parliament | Also tagged , , , , and | 6 Comments

What part of Yes do you not understand?

We don’t normally republish lengthy pieces from other people’s blogs, but in the case of James Graham’s review of Don’t Take No For An Answer by Lewis Baston and Ken Ritchie, which doubles up as a detailed post-mortem on the AV referendum, we’re happy to throw those rules out of the window because of both the post’s excellence and the importance of the issues to future campaigning and hopes for electoral reform.

So here is a slightly revised version of the post which first appeared on James’s blogYou can also read Mark Pack’s (much shorter!) review of Don’t

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Don’t Take No For an Answer: Lewis Baston and Ken Ritchie on the AV referendum

The May 2011 electoral reform referendum is not a happy memory for Britain’s electoral reformers, which makes this book from two long-standing electoral reform campaigners surprisingly positive. As the title indicates, their view is that the overwhelming No vote does not signal the death of electoral reform in the UK.

In part the optimism comes from the gory details it gives of the appalling mistakes and mismanagement in the referendum Yes campaign. This was not a superbly organised push for electoral reform that got defeated; the weakness of the campaign gives some hope for a future if, as the authors express the hope, the book helps people learn from the mistakes made.

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Electoral administration lessons from the AV referendum: the Electoral Commission’s view

Last week, the Electoral Commission published its report into the administration of the May’s AV referendum. Despite the high political temperatures during the campaign, the administration got little criticism at the time and so the report rightly reflects that. However, amongst the details are some important pointers to issues that are likely to come up at future elections.

10pm cut-off for voting

Posted in Election law and News | Also tagged and | 3 Comments

Tim Farron MP writes… EU referendum: the Conservatives are not acting out of patriotism

This is not likely to win me any votes, but I am proudly pro-Europe and in favour of our continued membership of the EU. That doesn’t make me an apologist for every aspect of the EU: the EU could definitely operate more transparently, efficiently and effectively, and we as Liberal Democrats should say so more often and with more conviction.

Nevertheless, our main challenge has to be to win hearts and minds in favour of our broader membership of the EU, and reverse the completely poisonous anti-European narrative. So many of those who were so indignant this summer about Mr Murdoch’s …

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 36 Comments

Liberal Democrat May 2011 election review document

The Saturday morning of party conference sees a consultative sessions on the May 2011 elections and AV referendum. Ahead of that, a brief outline report has been published by the party which is embedded below. It is from James Gurling, chair of the party’s Campaigns and Communications Committee.

The party’s post-general election review has attracted criticism for being kept fairly low profile, both in terms of who was asked to contribute and the subsequent circulation of the lessons. The general election report has not been made public by the party or circulated very far internally. So it’s good to see that one year on the review this time is being done in a more inclusive way – but that only means much if people take the opportunities to take part in the review consultation, either at conference or by submitting views via email as requested in the report.

The experience of the general election report suggests taking part will be well worthwhile, as several key decisions the party has taken since (e.g. over introducing Liberal Democrat Connect) clearly followed on from that report’s recommendations.

The report asks 27 questions. Guest posts for The Voice about one or more of the questions would be most welcome. In the meantime, Liberal Vision has also blogged about the review and consultation.

Liberal Democrats Election Review: May 2011 elections and AV referendum

Posted in Conference | Also tagged and | 16 Comments

LDVideo: Preview of “Nicked – the Musical”

As we reported in February:

A hip-hop musical based on Nick Clegg’s role in forming the Coalition government is to be staged later this year.

The show (working title: “Nicked”) also features David Cameron in a “rap-off” with his backbenchers as well as the student demonstrations and the run-up to the AV referendum.

Here’s a preview of one of the numbers: Tinderbox, featuring “Nick Clegg” and “David Cameron” singing about AV. (Don’t miss “Ed Miliband” beatboxing in the background.)

Posted in YouTube | Also tagged | 8 Comments

Opinion: Constitutional reform? Time to look at it another way

I have read a great deal of liberal-left angst about the AV referendum in the last few days.

Everyone concludes that the Yes campaign was poorly led. Beyond that you pays your money and you takes your pick as to what the key factor was in the massive defeat. You might share the view that insider networks undermined the campaign (although to me this mainly seems to be about saying the wrong sort of insider networks were in control, an argument that factions on the left have relied upon since Trotsky). You might even indulge the conspiracy fantasists and …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 41 Comments

Opinion: we need an enquiry in the AV referendum

The Yes 2 AV campaign was a disaster. It was the worst managed political campaign since Michael Foot’s General Election campaign in 1983 and it probably means we will not be able to have electoral reform for many years.

There seems to be a growing tendency simply to ascribe our defeat simply to the lies of the No campaign but that would be too easy and in any case lies are hardly unknown in political campaigns. There seem to have been failures in the Yes campaign; from the highest level – formulating a coherent narrative about the need for …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 20 Comments

The Yes2AV campaign: an insider’s perspective


Yes to Fairer Votes – An Insiders View

Posted in News | 19 Comments

Nick Clegg’s irrelevance to loss of AV vote

How important was Nick Clegg to the loss of the referendum to reform the electoral system? Very important if you believe this anonymous source quoted recently in The Guardian (hat-tip to James Graham):

Last night a senior source in the campaign for the alternative vote admitted they knew “very early on” that there was no chance of winning the referendum and that Clegg had become part of the problem: “Every time Clegg spoke about AV our polling numbers went into free-fall. We knew from very early on, before the new year, that we couldn’t win, our message wasn’t getting

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 22 Comments

Learning the lessons from last week #6: Talking to yourself is not enough

There was a highly symbolic moment late in the Yes campaign when its final TV broadcast was made. The TV broadcast featured Dan Snow and was a remake of an earlier Dan Snow film, shot to higher production standards (understandable) and also, intentionally or not, featuring a cast that overall looked younger. From being a film that featured people of a range of ages it became one that primarily featured young people. That was the general tenor of the campaign – with an overall cast of talking heads (in online films, TV films and elsewhere) younger than the average voter.

Yet in a relatively low turnout (I say “relatively” because, once again, turnout was much higher than many of the auto-pilot electoral doom-mongers in the media predicted) election it’s older people’s votes who are vital.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 3 Comments

Opinion: 5 reasons the AV referendum lost

Here is my take on the five main reasons why the UK gave such a comprehensive thumbs down to AV, with one important lesson for the future:

  1. Tuition fees and trust – This is not the place to rehearse all the arguments on tuition fees. But there can be no denying that it was a significant turning point in public perceptions of Nick Clegg. Even though over 300 Tory MPs voted for higher fees, the Conservative-dominated No campaign ruthlessly exploited this as an argument against coalitions in general and Clegg in particular. While I believe the policy itself can be justified, Clegg clearly under-estimated the political cost of a U-turn, particularly in the context ofacritical referendum that needed to be won only a few months later.
Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 46 Comments

The Independent View: What now for any progressive alliance?

Rounding off our trio of post-election views from the other parties (see here and here), we have Compass’s Neal Lawson.

So what now for any progressive alliance? Let’s start with an honest assessment of the hole we are in. Labour is now as divided between pluralist and tribalists as it is between those who think the markets needs come before those of society and those who turned social democracy on it head under New Labour. Labour did OK in the North but badly in the South, it did OK in Wales and atrociously in Scotland. The Greens have …

Posted in Op-eds and The Independent View | Also tagged , , , and | 20 Comments

Learning the lessons from last week #3: Grassroots campaigns don’t win national elections

Liberal Democrats have long known that grassroots campaigns can win a ward, a council or a constituency – but they don’t win national election campaigns. It’s the knowledge that you need both the grassroots campaign and an effective national media and/or advertising campaign that explains why when Chris Rennard was the party’s Chief Executive not only did the Campaigns Department grow hugely in size – but so too did the national press team.

Yet at the heart of the Yes campaign in last week’s AV referendum seems to have been a big mistake: trying to run a grassroots campaign to win …

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged , , , , and | 41 Comments

The Independent View: Iain Dale on Nick Clegg and the Lib Dems

When LibDem MPs return to Westminster this week they could be forgiven for having a collective panic attack. In their 22 year history they have never had such an onslaught of the political heebie-jeebies as they experienced at the hands of 12 million grumpy voters this week.

Cleggmania has turned into Cleggophobia. Every policy Nick Clegg touches now is seen to be toxic.

Westminster pundits are already writing him off as a political busted flush. But then again, these are the very same commentators who didn’t see the SNP landslide coming in Scotland. They are the same people who predicted the Tories …

Posted in Op-eds and The Independent View | Also tagged , , , , , and | 54 Comments

Where does defeat for AV leave the dream of electoral reform?

The votes are in, and counted. The wait is over but for the YES camp it’s the bad news we’ve been dreading, and reform of Westminster elections is now lost for many years at least. So what does a NO vote mean for the future?

For the Liberal Democrats as a party, it’s undoubtedly a bitter pill to swallow having carried the flag of electoral reform for years. The referendum on AV was the jewel in the crown of the coalition concessions, the final offer that made coalition possible. For many activists a change in the voting system has seemed like …

Posted in Op-eds | 43 Comments

The LDV election results open thread

Here are the starting positions (as Stephen’s already described):

Scotland: the party is defending 16 seats (11 constituency MSPs, and five regional list MSPs), which was a drop of one compared to 2003. There are 129 contested seats for the Scottish Parliament.

Wales: the party is defending six seats (3 constituency AMs, and three regional list AMs), which was the same as in 2003. There are 60 contested seats for the Welsh assembly.

In the English local elections:

1,876 of the 3,948 Liberal Democrat councillors (48%) have been defending their seats today in –

Posted in Local government, Scotland and Wales | Also tagged | 29 Comments

Don’t use AV to vote in today’s AV referendum

A quick note about the correct way to complete your ballot paper in the referendum today.

The Electoral Commission states:

You show your choice by putting a cross (X) in the ‘Yes’ or ‘No’ box on your ballot paper.

Put a cross in only one box or your vote will not be counted.

Obviously, this referendum is not being conducted under the Alternative Vote system, but I’ve heard some reports of people wanting to emphasise their awareness of AV by actually using it to vote today. Thinking a little self-reference won’t go amiss, some have suggested voting in order of preference, with a 1 for Yes and a 2 for No.

Don’t do it!

Papers bearing a vote for both answers will be rejected:

Electoral Commission guidance for invalid ballot papers

Posted in Election law and News | Also tagged | 1 Comment

“Thursday is decision day” – Charles Kennedy’s eve of poll message to members and supporters

Charles Kennedy MP has emailed Liberal Democrat members and supporters with a “get out and vote” (and “get out the vote”) message, ahead of tomorrow’s elections and referendum:

Tomorrow you have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to have your say on how we elect our MPs to Westminster. Important elections are also taking place across the country for the Welsh Assembly, Scottish Parliament & local councils. Thursday is Decision Day.

When I was first elected in 1983, the idea of changing our voting system for Westminster elections seemed important, but the chance seemed remote. When the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly were established, neither

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LibLink – Chris Rennard: AV myths are behind MPs’ opposition

Chris Rennard, Liberal Democrat peer and the party’s former Chief Executive, writes today at the Guardian’s Comment is Free about the myths behind MPs’ opposition to AV.

The first myth, Chris says, is that the alternative vote system could lead to more hung parliaments, which has led to the Conservative hierarchy ferociously defending first-past-the-post:

The major misconception about the alternative vote system was expressed by former Tory minister Peter Lilley in the debate on the Queen’s speech that followed the coalition agreement. He supported the coalition “because a hung parliament makes it necessary”. But he said: “I would not support changes

Posted in LibLink | Also tagged | 6 Comments

What will the impact be of Thursday?

The House Magazine has a new feature out looking at the likely political fallout from Thursday’s elections and referendum. It looks at both a Yes or a No vote, including this from me on future Lib Dem / Labour relations:

At the launch of the Yes2AV campaign, a tantalising glimpse into the future was offered for those who dream of a unification of the progressive left. On the stage at Methodist Central Hall sat Labour leader Ed Miliband, Green leader Caroline Lucas, and Liberal Democrat stalwarts Charles Kennedy and Shirley Williams. And Tim Farron, Lib Dem party president and a likely future leadership contender, was there too. However, Mark Pack, co-editor of Lib Dem Voice, warns against reading too much into the apparent bonhomie. “Coalitions are driven by parliamentary arithmetic far more than by politicians’ own preferences,” Pack says. “So the answer really depends on the public rather than how relations between politicians are affected by the referendum.

It also quotes Olly Grender on the possible policy implications of a No vote:

If the referendum is lost, then disgruntled Lib Dem backbenchers will be keen to contribute to a ‘shopping list’ for Nick Clegg to take to David Cameron. Insiders say the plans to reform the NHS will become a priority, while proposals for reform of the Upper House will be published at the end of the month. Olly Grender, former communications chief for the Lib Dems, sets out the desired gains from the NHS and Social Care Bill:

“There should be clear safeguards regarding the issue of competition and the private sector, and funding should be secured on the understanding that reform and reduction are impossible to achieve together,” Grender argues. “There should also be a change of pace regarding the introduction of GP consortia.” Further goals, says Grender, should include “a faster drive towards the increased threshold of £10,000 helping people on lowest incomes during the toughest times”, while greater safeguards of critical public services – “whilst continuing to try to pay down the deficit” – should, she says, be put in place. On top of House of Lords reform, Grender argues, climate change and social mobility need greater emphasis.

I’ve talked in more detail about what to watch out for in Thursday’s results in this YouTube clip:

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Armando Iannucci and Stephen Fry argue for AV

As I’ve said before, I’ve mixed feeling about celebs speaking out on their political views – they should certainly be free to do so, but unless they’ve got some particular expertise there’s no reason to give their views extra weight over anyone else.

One person who does know a lot about how politics works is Armando Iannucci, courtesy of the detailed research he has done for his famous satirical shows. He’s taken to the Evening Standard this week to put his case for a Yes vote on Thursday:

In the end, I knew I’d make my decision based on which side had the least headbangingly annoying argument, so I’ve come down on the side of voting Yes. This is mostly as a result of David Cameron’s beautifully foolish argument on Sunday that voting for electoral reform wasn’t British. It was so alarming to see him forget all British history from 1832 onwards, where small but steady electoral reform has been a very, very British thing to do (votes for women, anyone?) that I’m now quite alarmed he has any say over how our children are educated.

Also taking up the cause is Stephen Fry, who – like Dan Snow – has the merit of excellent communication skills. He too features in a film for the Yes to Fairer Votes campaign (though I think Dan Snow’s personality comes through better in his latest film that Stephen Fry’s does in this):

Posted in News | Also tagged , , and | 2 Comments

Lord McNally: General Election costs “broadly the same” under AV, no plans for counting machines

An exchange in the House of Lords this afternoon led Lord McNally, the Minister of State at the Ministry of Justice to exclaim, “Gosh, we are getting a lot of information today.” (contrast with David Cameron’s appearance this morning on BBC Radio 4’s Today programme)

Phil Willis (Lord Willis of Knaresborough) asked Her Majesty’s Government “what they estimate will be the costs of a general election held under the alternative vote system”.

Lord McNally replied that the costs of a general election under AV would be broadly the same as under the existing system. Any extra costs incurred by the …

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LibLink: Vince Cable – No wonder the Tories are so scared of AV

The Independent on Sunday featured an op-ed by business secretary Vince Cable which centred on similar themes to those in the piece Chris Huhne jointly authored in the Observer, namely why those opposed to the reactionary tendencies of the Conservative Party should vote Yes in Thursday AV referendum.

Here’s an excerpt from Vince’s piece:

AV undoubtedly poses a threat to the old tribal politics and to the Conservatives in particular, who have been best able to exploit it to advantage. The forces of reaction have been impressively marshalled on the battlefield. Not a single Conservative parliamentarian has broken ranks in an

Posted in LibLink | Also tagged and | 26 Comments

#Yes2AV: Dan Snow presents the second referendum broadcast

Here’s a preview of the Yes campaign’s second broadcast which will be shown tonight – it’s on at the following times:

17.55 – BBC 2
18.25 – ITV 1
18.55 – BBC 1
19.25 – Five
19.50 – Channel 4

Dan Snow presents a demonstration of how AV is “a common-sense solution to find out the result that the majority are happy with”, illustrated by a bunch of friends deciding where to go for a night out. It’s a new version of Dan’s previous – and very successful – video along the same lines, highlighting the point that First Past the Post is suited to binary choices, and doesn’t work for multiple choices:

As long as there are only two choices – the coffee shop and the pub – the old voting system works fine. But the trouble starts when there are more than two choices.

Take it away, Dan:

Posted in YouTube | Also tagged | 6 Comments

How MPs in safe seats pile up outside earnings

I’ve commented before on the huge number of seats that are safe for life (murdering your local party chair or buying a duck house excepted) – in fact nearly half the seats in Parliament have never changed hands between political parties even once in the last forty years.

That leads to all sorts of problems – complacent MPs who get out of touch and don’t have to work hard. It also means, as the Yes To Fairer Votes campaign has highlighted, more scope to spending your time earning money from other jobs:

“First Past the Post is a moonlighter’s charter. An MP in a safe seat, enjoying its benefits, can leave constituency cares behind and seek employment elsewhere. An MP who faces the threat of unemployment at the next election will be less tempted to graze in the pastures of lucrative consultancy.”

That’s the conclusion of former MP for Tatton and anti-sleaze campaigner Martin Bell after the publication of research from the Yes to Fairer Votes campaign which shows that MPs in safe seats earn twice as much in outside earnings than MPs in marginal constituencies.

The Alternative Vote reduces the number of safe seats, making all MPs work harder to reach out to 50% of voters. The Yes campaign is launching a national advertising campaign and published names of the ‘hard working’ second jobbers in parliament who stand opposed to reform.

There is a clear link between safer seats (those where one party can be confident of victory) and higher earnings for MPs in those seats:

  • the average MP in a ‘safe’ seat earned an extra £11,000 last year
  • the average MP in a ‘marginal’ seat earned an extra £6,500 last year.

Outside earnings totalled £5.6 million last year, with the highest individual earner taking £785,000. Research defined 382 seats as ‘safe’ at the 2010 General Election, factoring in boundary changes. The figure was presented as a highly conservative estimate.

Meanwhile the Yes2AV campaign has released its latest campaign video, fronted by Eddie Izzard:

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 8 Comments

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