The AV referendum disaster: here's how the 'Yes' money was spent

The 'Yes' campaign for the Alternative Vote was disastrously mismanaged. Here is a first look at where the money went.
Julian Todd
1 December 2011

We don't normally publish what are apparently anonymous posts unless we know who has written them. But this case is an exception. It is cross-posted from the blog of by Julian Todd and if you are a real person Julian we will change the author line. But it is well informed and signals some important information.


In May I wrote about the appalling mismanagement, waste of resources and wilfully bad leadership of the 'Yes' campaign in the referendum over whether to change our electoral system to AV. Much of the evidence had been gathered by a Yes campaign insider Andy May whose devastating document, The Yes campaign - What lessons need to be learned is an exemplary report that hopefully will help protect progressive campaigns in the future from what is, at best, the corruption of good intentions. We can't excuse behaviour which we condemn vigorously if attempted by MPs. 

The post takes a first look at the invoices and expenditures of the referendum campaigns now published by the Electoral Commission. We welcome others taking a look and telling us what they think. I think the analysis of spending nearly around £4,000 on the Griffin leaflet is, well, priceless! By all means add your analysis of the information. Anthony Barnett

The Electoral Commission has just published the invoices from all the different actors in the AV referendum. As someone who paid money into one of the campaigns (What are we supposed to do? Leave it all to bankers to pay for our political process?), I was interested to see where they money went for this disastrous campaign.

Out of the “Yes in May 2011 Ltd” expenses it appears that Blue State Digital got £154k for “strategic consulting” (absolutely bugger all) [in another brilliant post a case is made for concluding that Blue State Digital are "utter crap"], Iris got £258k for lots of billboards, Vodaphone got £72k for that cold calling system that didn’t even slightly work, and Electoral Reform Services got £767k for lots of printing of leaflets.

You will find invoices for pizzas, helium balloons, the filming of that godawful party election broadcast, travel, hotel stays, taxis for celebrities, money for loads and loads of political consultants which all added up into a painfully failed campaign.

But in among it are the small stories about election leaflets.

Consider this excerpt from a Memorandum for Legal Services (the answer is £402):


And then this invoice from Iris:


The result is that fine leaflet which you see here (above) which appeared in Holborn and St Pancras on 2 May.

The successful No campaign had 3 times as many invoices, few of them very big, because they were busy, busy, busy, printing and shipping their LEAFLETS out, running internet servers, and not wasting any time lining the pockets of big ticket political consultants. There are invoices from Jane Kennedy Training. She was the MP for Wavertree who gave her seat to Luciana Berger in 2010 in a campaign that resulted in many delightful leaflets.

With this record the hard paid-for services are laid bare. It doesn’t give the whole story; the money flow is a shadow play of what went on, and very telling. So are copies of the leaflets, which I am glad we have got some of.

I am surprised by how little was spent on polling, because I thought that this would be the necessary feedback mechanism in any such strategy, to know if it is having an effect. Maybe this information was coming some other way.

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