David Cameron says trust Winston Churchill – but only when it suits

Earlier this week, David Cameron made a speech against AV in which he invoked Winston Churchill’s views on electoral systems – and saying, “If in doubt, trust Winston”.

Now it’s true Winston Churchill didn’t like AV. But can you guess what electoral system this quote from Churchill was about?

The present system has clearly broken down. The results produced are not fair to any party, nor to any section of the community. In many cases they do not secure majority representation, nor do they secure an intelligent representation of minorities. All they secure is fluke representation, freak representation, capricious representation.

Yup, that would be David Cameron’s favourite system of first past the post. Not so much a case of trust Winston as ignore Winston, I think Mr Cameron?

(And as for his reference to Usain Bolt, that hardly stands up either…)

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  • Given the state of the franchise in 1909, Churchill was certainly right to say then that the results of the system were not fair. The democratic problem was a result of something rather more fundamental than the voting system in use at the time, though.

  • For “Given the state of the franchise in 1909” substitute “given the state of the Yes to Fairer Votes campaign in 2011” ……it should be using this valuable information as a riposte to David Cameron and the many lead ‘No’ campaigners such as Michael Howard and Lady Warsi who interminably use the Churchill quote about AV, presumably to good effect from the vox pop I’ve seen on TV over the last days.
    Crucial ammunition, Mark; but like your other piece on the fact that nearly 30% of seats not having changed since the war (I hope that’s correct) under the present system, I haven’t seen it being used to as a debating point as yet.

  • Sorry:, should read “…used as a debating point…..”

  • Old Codger Chris 8th Apr '11 - 4:25pm


    “Nearly 30% of seats not having changed since the war”. That’s of no significance. What is significant is that FPTP doesn’t come close to delivering a result which reflects the votes cast across the country. And neither would AV.

  • @Old Codger Chris
    Once and for all, forever and a day , your chance of getting what both you and I would like will be gone if FTFP is retained next month. Mothballed, deemed to be unnecessary by every government (regardless of whether it will be a coalition of parties), electoral reform will never be offered to us again in a generation or more.
    For once, can’t you and those like you who want to see a just and fair system, vote ‘Yes’ to AV this time in order to keep the door open for the rest of us who want to see a chance of real PR being offered and the chance of there being a next time.

  • The quote Cameron is using can be directly attacked without recourse to this one anyway…

    Re-read the quote Cameron, Warsi, Howard et al are using…. they are claiming that some voters opinions are worthless. This is a shocking stance for any politician to take, and demonstrates clearly what is wrong with those supporting the retention of FPTP.

    That our Prime Minister can stand up and say “..the most worthless votes…” about anyone, should be derided for the abuse of the electorate that it clearly is.

  • @Stephen W
    NO2AV will be taken as NO2PR by most of the electorate, led by an exultant majority of the media.
    Sorry, but your campaign’s not going to be given a chance to get off the ground if it’s a ‘No’ vote on May 5th.

    I am making a distinction between the two Churchill views, one of which is being used selectively by leading Conservatives and is going unchallenged. Of course, I agree that for any PM to stand up and talk about “the most worthless votes” is indefensible, but it doesn’t necessarily help the ‘Yes’ campaign to talk about the degree to which one vote counts more than another. Indeed, it could confuse an already mislead public, especially those who think that under AV somebody next to them in the polling station may in future have a more important vote than them. “We’ll stick with what we know. It’s much safer”, a depressing quote from a couple of voters in Harlow on Channel 4 news last night., says it all.

  • Sean, my point was more that the YES campaign are already using the argument that AV makes everyone’s vote count equally. David Cameron actually used a quote that backs up our argument that FPTP makes some votes worthless. He basically gave us an own goal and we failed to pick him up on it.

  • “So both AV and FPTP the rubbish systems. Quite right. So vote this ridiculous referendum down and move on to the campaign for an actually better voting system.

    NO2AV, YES TO PR!”

    No to reform now means no to reform later as well… sorry but that’s how most people who aren’t passionate about reform will view the result. If even those who care about electoral reform enough to vote in the referendum show that they are willing to keep FPTP why should anyone take a different type of reform seriously?

  • Old Codger Chris 9th Apr '11 - 3:07am

    ” If even those who care about electoral reform enough to vote in the referendum show that they are willing to keep FPTP, why should anyone take a different type of reform seriously?”

    Because it IS a different type of reform – very different.

    The referendum itself may reduce still further the chances of ever getting PR. Opponents of PR will indeed hail a No vote. But if we do get AV it will be many years before we can demand another change. Firstly, AV will have to be given a fair trial. Secondly, a decent interval must be left before those who are currently over-selling the benefits of AV can say “actually AV isn’t all that great – what we really want is PR”.

    AV is not a stepping stone towards PR (see Australia). It’s an entirely different system which must stand or fall on its own merits.

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