The ‘No to AV’ campaign shouldn’t take Labour voters for granted..

I say this because I noticed a couple of things today. One was on Work 4 an MP where the ‘Yes to Fairer Votes’ campaign is clearly advertising for Regional Organisers. Another were the Tweets of one James Graham who it seems has been merrily doing the conference circuit on behalf of the Yes campaign. He noted the absence of the No campaign especially from the Labour conference.  Newsflash for the organisers of the No campaign: You need Labour voters to win and Labour just elected a leader that is supporting the Yes campaign. It may well be with prominent opponents like Tom Harris likely to be elected to the Shadow Cabinet that this is not something Ed will be broadcasting frequently. However, for the No campaign to take these voters for granted would be naive in the extreme.

So are my accusations fair? I know the No camp has a Twitter account but the notion this amounts to a sterling start to the campaign is somewhat deluded. Sure it has a website but as a Labourite I don’t find it particularly appealing. Indeed, I saw several tweets during the leadership campaign making derogatory remarks which raised my hackles. You see the No camp, run at the moment as it is by the likes of Matthew Elliot, the former head of the Taxpayers Alliance, is somewhat culturally distant from its key target constituency. Could it be that Mr Elliot hasn’t got a clue how to reach out to the crucial swing voters in this referendum (ie, Labour voters)? I think that scenario is very likely to be honest. One wonders if he has even attempted to make overtures to the GMB who are stated opponents of AV?

The No campaign will fail if its sole power is going to be through the columns of a largely sympathetic press. It will need to reach out to people Elliot no doubt considers the ‘great unwashed’ because in this election we are the ones with the power. Conservative voters will vote largely against (although I expect some flaking here) and the shrinking  rump that constitutes remaining Liberal Democrats will vote overwhelmingly for so, in the middle with the decisive power is the bloc of Labour voters who will be turning out on the same day to give the Coalition a bloody nose. Since they will be most motivated to turn out on the day of the elections this only adds to their decisive power. The No campaign has to shape-up if it is going to win, it can’t take Labour voters for granted. I suggest now would be a good time for Mr Harris to step-forward….


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14 responses to “The ‘No to AV’ campaign shouldn’t take Labour voters for granted..”

  1. Andy May says :

    Hi Darrell,

    You were quick off the mark spotting the job ads!

    We’re also ahead of ‘No2AV’ in having a group already set up in Leeds. (and 40 more cross party groups across the country). Many are originally Take Back Parliament groups who have decided to join the grassroots campaign with the ‘Yes to Fairer Votes’ coalition.

    If you are interested in getting involved locally in the ‘Yes’ campaign please let me know on and I’ll put in you in touch!




  2. darrellgoodliffe says :

    Hiya Andy,

    Many thanks for the comment.

    Well done to yourselves in getting the organisation up and running. I would wish you success and take you up on your kind offer if only I wasnt bitterly opposed to the introduction of AV lol. Frankly, I think it will be a absolute disaster for the progressive left, especially given the re-alignment of the Liberal Democrats, if AV is introduced in this country. Many thanks though for stopping by and commenting.

    Of course if my readers take a different stance from myself then I would urge them to use the link provided.

    Kind Regards,



  3. Mike says :

    Surely giving people a vote that counts is more important than ensuring the ‘left’ or ‘right’ is given an electoral advantage?

    It is a disaster for democracy that some MPs get into Parliament with less than 40% of the vote, clearly lacking a mandate. It’s equally scandalous that just a few constituencies decide who forms the government.

    At least AV gives more weight to each individual’s vote, and ensures that you aren’t ignored just because you happen to live in a certain bit of the country.

    It’s not a perfect system (multi-member constituency single-transferable-vote is probably the fairest system there is) but the offer on the table for many people across the country is a chance to make their vote count for the first time in their lives.

    Tom Harris’ opposition to AV is because he wants to preserve an undemocratic Left/Right 2 party state, where the truth is over 1/3 of the country voted for something different, be it greens, UKIP, lib dems, independents etc… We’re not a 2 party state anymore as the coalition proves, and Labour should really learn to adapt to this, which is why I think Ed Miliband is taking a step in the right direction in both including electoral reform in the 2010 manifesto and including it in his speech in Manchester.


  4. darrellgoodliffe says :


    I dont think AV does make peoples vote count. Not everybodies second preferences will be counted, its highly unliklely in a run-off that the second prefs of the major parties will count at all.

    I prefer that to MP’s getting their on the back of support from minor parties whose first-preference voters suddenly can punch much above their weight.

    No it doesnt. Peoples second prefs will only count in a handful of seats in any case. AV is, in this regard like so many, actually no better than FPTP.

    I support AV+ or an AMS system because in my experience multi-member constituencies are bad and I like the contituency link.

    To be totally honest I prefer FPTP to AV (though not to AV+). He wont be able to impose that line on this Party, if he does then their will be a rebellion from the likes of Harris and his position is naive and misguided. AV is the edge of a cliff for this Party and the progressive left.


  5. Andy W says :


    You still don’t understand how AV works in practice, despite my efforts to explain it. It is not “highly unlikely that the second prefs of the major parties will count at all”. It is the second prefs of third place candidates (typically Lib Dem, Labour, or Conservative candidates) which are most likely to decide an AV marginal, because they are greatest in quantity.

    The order in which preferences are transferred is frankly irrelevant, and if you took the time to think this through I think you would begin to appreciate this point.

    Second, the realignment of the Liberal Democrat parliamentary party is not really significant to the AV debate. It is the transferred preferences of voters, not politicians, which decide AV outcomes. I think the bloc of progressive voters is still pretty healthy.


  6. darrellgoodliffe says :

    Andy W,

    Errr yes I do and I think to be totally honest with you for you to come on a Labour blog when we have just had a Labour leadership election under AV and make that claim makes you look a bit silly.

    Of course, its possible that the second prefs of the third placed party (though you note still not the leading two, so their second prefs are still wasted votes) will decided the destination of the seats in some cases. However, we should note that your comments are predicated on *exactly the same* voting patterns taking place under AV as do under FPTP. The cynical reader might wonder if this is the case then why waste millions of pounds and make such a pointless change.

    But hang on, the Pro AV tell us this will be a radical change and *people will change their voting behaviour* so, which is it? Is there any consistency to this line at all? There, of course, is none whatsoever.

    I am sorry but the re-alignment of the Liberal Democrats is significant to me as a progressive. I dont want the UK to be another Australia under the electoral domination of the Lib Cons and I am totally sure alot of Labour supporters feel exactly the same way. The ConDem war on the poor may not be significant to you in your ivory tower but newsflash; it is to the rest of the country and the last thing they want is a voiting system which gives them more of the same!


  7. Andy White says :


    If you’d paid any attention to the Labour leadership election, you might have noticed that it was the transfers from Ed Balls (the third place candidate) which decided it. That kind of proves my point. The myth you’ve been trying to propagate is that it is always the outsiders (the Diane Abbotts) who turn an AV election. That plainly is not true.

    As for your point about AV radically changed voting behaviour… I don’t think we are arguing that actually. We are being honest that AV is a small but worthwhile change.

    I also didn’t say that the realignment of the Lib Dems wasn’t significant in general terms. Of course I think it’s significant, and your comments about “me in my ivory tower” make you sound chippy and prejudiced. I’m actually a Labour voter like yourself, and deeply concerned about and affected by the Coalition’s programme of cuts.

    What I actually said, if you’d like to quote me correctly, was that the realignment wasn’t significant *in the context of the AV debate*: meaning that the shifting ideology of the parliamentary Lib Dems doesn’t automatically mean that Lib Dem voters will shift with them. A recent poll from YouGov showed that most Lib Dem members still preferred the idea of a coalition with Labour than with the Tories.

    Your Australia comparison is also weak on historical grounding. AV in Australia has delivered 14 years of left-wing government in the last 25 years. They currently have a Labor government serving another three years. So they’ve actually had left-leaning government more often than us! The Howard administration won successive elections because it was good at fighting them and it had an easy ride economically; you can’t blame it on AV.

    So if you plan on opposing AV to protect progressive politics, fine, but I think you’d be shooting yourself in the foot. Thankfully, people like Ed Miliband recognise this, as does Will Straw:


  8. darrellgoodliffe says :


    No it doesnt. It really does not. They needed the second prefs of the other two to reach that point. However, that was a particulalry close race and I doubt many seats will be that way. Will you actually admit that the votes of smaller parties in their second prefs will be decisive? If you will not why is the Pro AV camp running around saying it is precisely these same people whose vote will ‘no longer be wasted’?

    No your not being honest at all, your trying to have it both ways and thats fundementally dishonest and inconsistent.

    I am sorry if I appeared that way but I get the distinct impression you think AV is worth this pain and lets be honest now, it really isnt. Furthermore, its highly significant in terms of the AV debate. As a concerned Labour voter do you want to be responsible for enshrining the hegemony of the ConDems? No, it wont because they have shifted their support to another Party, ie, Labour in response.

    If you actually look back over history, AV clearly favours long periods of centre-right domination with short, and usually fractious terms given to Labor who struggle to enact a progressive agenda. Even now Labor is hanging on by a thread and dependent on the Greens and, more worringly, unrealiable Independents to govern and you know it.


  9. Andy White says :

    The Labour leadership result would have been the same regardless of which order Andy Burnham and Diane Abbott’s transfers were counted. The point is that David Miliband was in the lead until Ed Balls’ support transferred.

    I’ve spent weeks researching how AV counts pan out elsewhere, and this is the typical pattern in an AV marginal. We can see this in Australian elections, Irish by-elections, or the many many private AV elections the Electoral Reform Society runs for organisations in the UK (such as the Labour Party).

    What exactly is the great pain that the AV referendum is going to inflict on the British public? A £9.3m one-off spend? That’s less than 0.001% of the UK’s GDP.

    You might want to double check what you’re saying about Australia as well. They had Labor government unbroken from 1983-1996 until John Howard came along. You attribute far too much to AV without looking at the political context in Australia. AV is one piece of the jigsaw.

    I get the impression that you are falling into the trap of opposing this policy out of bitterness towards your old party. I fully appreciate why you don’t have any time for the Lib Dems, but electoral reform is bigger than party politics. Please don’t cut off your nose to spite your face.


  10. darrellgoodliffe says :


    And? You can spend as many weeks as you like researching but the point remains does it not that you really cant have your cake and eat it. You cant tell people this is a radical reform which will change everything and then say your extensive background research proves this and that; its simply inconsistent.

    The great pain of enshrining centre-right domination in this country. The whole package, the AV, the boundary changes is an attack on this Party and has that sole end in mind to disadvantage Labour and hamstring it and to weaken the left.

    I think thats an awful lot to pay for something one of its now leading champions called a miserable little compromise dont you?

    Yes they did but they had 11 years of John Howard and, a seven year stretch of centre-right government before the stint you mention. Also, from 1949 to 1966 there was a staggering 16 years of centre right government.

    No not at all. When I was a Lib Dem I always championed AV+ as opposed to STV, never AV, which I saw in the same terms I do now. AV+ is worth the change because it introduces some proportionality. AV doesnt introduce anything of the kind and will kill the cause of reform stone dead. Thats the whole point, whoever wins PR is dead because the LD’s sold old so whats the point of this change?


  11. Andy W says :

    1) I have never argued that AV is a radical reform; our campaign won’t be arguing that it’s a radical reform; so we aren’t “having our cake and eating it”. We think that it is an important and worthwhile reform, but we’re not for a minute suggesting it will revolutionise British politics.

    2) I totally agree that the package of reforms in the Bill is unsatisfactory. “Reduce and equalise” is not something I am at all happy with. But the AV referendum will not allow voters to oppose “reduce and equalise”. The AV referendum is solely about AV, and I am backing it on that basis.

    3) I too favour AV+ over STV, and I think that winning the AV referendum (particularly with a smaller parliament) will create fertile ground for eventually moving over to AV+ (the Jenkins recommendations specified a list of ~100 extra MPs, so a reduced Commons makes this more workable). The chances of a “giant leap” from FPTP to AV+ are minimal until at least 2015. Surely it’s worth winning this referendum so that an Ed Miliband Labour government or Labour-led coalition can more easily push on to AV+?

    4) The Lib Dems “selling out” doesn’t make PR a dead issue. They aren’t the only victims of disproportionality.


  12. darrellgoodliffe says :


    1) Funny, thats not how Nick Clegg is presenting it. He seems to be doing the best impression of a second-hand cars salseman you could conceiviably imagine. Your campaign certainly is and its implicit in the line that AV is a worthwhile reform; which it isnt.

    2) No it isnt because AV is part of the same Bill. If AV falls then the democratic mandate of the whole Bill is shot to pieces. Its not just unsatisfactory; it a politically motivated attack on this Party.

    3) No it wont. The Labour leadership will stop advocating electoral reform (Ed Miliband is in favour of AV and no further) and the only Party that will, the Liberal Democrats is hopefully going to be electorally destroyed to the point where they barely exist. The Conservatives will say thats your lot and bang, you wont have a refrendum on another change for very many decades.

    4) Yes it does. See above.


  13. Julian Ware-Lane says :

    The bill may have the referendum and the reduction in MP numbers together, but one is not contingent on the other. Regardless of how the referendum goes we will be fighting the 2015 general election in 600 constituencies with new boundaries in 598 of them.

    I hope that the move to AV is achieved – I will be votiing ‘yes’. The party of fairness should support a fairer voting system.

    ERS analysis on this year’s general elections shows a few more seats to Labour under AV, and a few less to the Tories. if you want to be tribal, support the referendum and yes campaign on this basis.


  14. darrellgoodliffe says :


    If AV falls then we could cause serious problems for the entire bill.

    I dont. It doesnt matter who wins what seats (such anylyses are caught in the contradiction I outline above); what matters to me is its overall bad news for progressive politics I think.


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