Referendum Plus cached version 17/04/2018 22:26:03 en The AV referendum disaster: here's how the 'Yes' money was spent <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The 'Yes' campaign for the Alternative Vote was disastrously mismanaged. Here is a first look at where the money went. </div> </div> </div> <p><em>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 </em><a href="" target="_blank"><em>the blog of</em></a><em>&nbsp;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.</em></p><p><em>In May</em><a href="" target="_blank"><em>&nbsp;I wrote about</em></a><em>&nbsp;the appalling mismanagement, waste of resources and wilfully bad leadership of the 'Yes' campaign in the referendum over <img class="image-right" src="" alt="" width="200" />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,&nbsp;</em><a href="" target="_blank"><em>The Yes campaign - What lessons need to be learned</em></a><em>&nbsp;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.</em><em>&nbsp;</em></p><p><em>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 &pound;4,000 on the Griffin leaflet is, well, priceless! By all means add your analysis of the information. <strong>Anthony Barnett</strong></em></p><p>The Electoral Commission has just published the&nbsp;<a href=""><strong>invoices</strong></a>&nbsp;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.</p><p>Out of the &ldquo;Yes in May 2011 Ltd&rdquo; expenses it appears that Blue State Digital got &pound;154k for &ldquo;strategic consulting&rdquo; (absolutely bugger all) [in another <a href="">brilliant post </a>a case is made for concluding that Blue State Digital are "utter crap"],<a href=""> Iris</a>&nbsp;got &pound;258k for&nbsp;<a href="">lots of billboards</a>, Vodaphone got &pound;72k for that cold calling system that didn&rsquo;t even slightly work, and&nbsp;<a href="">Electoral Reform Services</a>&nbsp;got &pound;767k for lots of printing of leaflets.</p><p>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.</p><p>But in among it are the small stories about election leaflets.</p><p>Consider this excerpt from a Memorandum for Legal Services (the answer is &pound;402):</p><p><img src="" alt="" width="530" /></p><p><a title="PDF excerpt" href=",544_930,717/?"></a></p><p>And then this invoice from Iris:</p><p><img src="" alt="" width="530" /></p><p><a title="PDF excerpt" href=",579_957,998/?"></a></p><p>The result is that fine leaflet which you see here (above) which appeared in Holborn and St Pancras on 2 May.</p><p>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&nbsp;<a href="">Jane Kennedy Training</a>. She was the MP for Wavertree who gave her seat to Luciana Berger in 2010 in a campaign that resulted in&nbsp;<a href="">many delightful leaflets</a>.</p><p>With this record the hard paid-for services are laid bare. It doesn&rsquo;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.</p><p>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.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Referendum Plus Julian Todd Thu, 01 Dec 2011 22:05:48 +0000 Julian Todd 62954 at A Lib Dem view of the AV referendum disaster <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Another account of the Yes to AV referendum campaign calls for lessons to be learned. Will they be? </div> </div> </div> <p><em>In May, immediately after reformers lost the AV referendum, <a href="">I called on its main funders </a>to hold an inquiry into what happened, drawing on report by one of the campaign's key activists Andy May. Now James Graham who ran its social media campaign has published an account in the Lib Dem magazine <a href="">Liberator</a>. It is cross-posted here with thanks. While the debate extends well beyond the Liberal Democrats, what lessons they draw is especially important. I understand on good authority that many if not most Lib Dem MPs and Peers (I believe they have more Lords than MPs in Westminster) and especially those in the leadership now holding government office, think that constitutional reform is an unnecessary distraction that should be sidelined. That's one view, here is another. (Anthony Barnett) <br /></em></p><p>If you want to understand why the Yes to Fairer Votes campaign failed so badly, you won't get much sense out of the Nick Robinsons or even Vernon Bogdanors of this world. You need Dian Fossey. I’m quite sure the famed zoologist would have been able to explain it all.</p><p>The list of the Yes campaign’s mistakes seems to grow with every account. How could it make so many fundamental errors? The simplistic analysis was that the people at the top of the campaign were stupid or incompetent. I don’t believe this was the case, but what they certainly were guilty of was developing a management culture in which group think and the laws of the jungle were allowed to thrive and take over.</p><p>The saddest thing for me personally is that it started so well. The small group of democratic reform organisations correctly calculated that electoral reform would rapidly, albeit temporarily, rocket up the political agenda immediately after the 2010 general election, when the gross disparity between how people voted and what they got lumbered with in the House of Commons briefly entered the public consciousness.</p><p>In an attempt to capture the zeitgeist, we spent the last couple of weeks in April 2010 working together to establish Take Back Parliament. The effect of this was not just a demonstration in London that captured the media’s attention during a crucial phase in the coalition negotiations, but the spontaneous formation of dozens of local groups across the country.</p><p>Once the coalition had been formed and it became clear that an AV referendum was going to happen, the organisations again came together to start planning the Yes campaign. At first, it appeared as if we were doing all the right things: learning from the trials and tribulations of past referendum campaigns, commissioning extensive polling, and building a team with a specific focus on avoiding it being dominated by Liberal Democrats. I certainly spent the summer of 2010 feeling that, although the scale of what we needed to achieve was immense, we were at least learning from past mistakes and were determined to adopt an evidence-based, non-dogmatic, approach to campaigning.</p><p><strong>Rigidly hierarchical</strong></p><p><strong></strong>But towards the end of August, something fundamentally changed. The campaign suddenly, and at first imperceptibly, became rigidly hierarchical and obsessed with secrecy. I found myself in the odd position of being nominally in charge of the website while being excluded from talks with the contractors who were being charged with building the thing.</p> <p>As the weeks went by, it became clear that the small team of senior managers was being made even smaller. The planned ‘research and rebuttal unit’ was merged into a communications unit headed by former spin doctor for Gordon Brown, Paul Sinclair. Far from a mere press office, ‘comms’ was to have control over every aspect of every statement and leaflet put out by the campaign. Yet bizarrely, this super department was to have only four members of staff for all but the last month of the campaign.</p><p>Predictably, the effect of putting so few people in charge of so much was a massive bottleneck. Slightly less predictable, but no less lamentable, was the fact that research in any meaningful sense ceased. After the initial qualitative and quantitative analysis conducted over the summer, and a huge poll in November designed to help us identify what messages appealed to each demographic, opinion poll research effectively stopped and from that point onwards we were reliant on people’s hunches to muddle us through. A frustrated research team found itself with nothing to do and was not empowered to work on its own initiative. Opposition research and proactive fact-checking simply ground to a halt.</p><p>Research was not merely not commissioned; it was ignored. Our initial focus group work clearly showed that people were contemptuous of the idea that electoral reform would prevent corruption; people only approved of notions such as AV “making MPs work harder” in the context of them having to reach out beyond their core party support during elections. Despite this advice, the campaign repeatedly sought to conflate the two. Similarly, the advice we got from veterans of the 2004 North East referendum was that celebrities were of limited value. Despite this, we ran a campaign that was obsessed not merely with celebrities but with ones who appealed only to the educated middle classes.</p><p>The campaign became increasingly reductionist in its approach. In recognition of the very real problem we faced in explaining AV to a broadly disinterested public, we adopted the guiding principle of “show don’t tell” over the summer. By mid-November, that became “don’t tell”. All proposals for explanatory videos or websites were blocked (indeed, it took a month before the comms unit was willing to sign-off any explanatory pages on the website at all).</p><p>The ground operations team was, despite strenuous objections, given explicit instructions to discourage local groups from holding mock ballots. The fear was that the people who participated in such ballots would be so outraged when they read in the following week’s local newspaper that their chosen Strictly Come Dancing contestant had not won the mock ballot, that they would instantly resolve to vote No. (At the end of March, the IPPR published research showing that support for AV massively increased amongst people who had been given the opportunity to try it out, but by then it was far too late).</p><p>Possibly the most reductionist policy of all was the decision to place so much emphasis on phonebanking. Again, it was based on the perfectly sound notion that person-to-person persuasion was far more effective than showering people with leaflets, and that we would cover far more ground on the phone than we could getting people to go door-to-door. Somehow, however, that reasonable guiding principle led the campaign to adopting an approach in which the entire ground operations campaign would be focused on getting as many people as possible to participate in one of the fifty phonebanks we were to set up across the country. At the early stages, the talk was of the largest phone operation ever seen in the UK, with 3 to 5 million contacts all but assured.</p><p>It soon became apparent, however, that not only did this strategy fail to take account of the fact that most activists did not actually enjoy phonebanking, but that considerations such as software procurement and even the legal situation had not been taken into account. In the end, just 500,000 contacts were made; and most of the data generated was not actually useable for the purposes of getting out the vote.</p><p><strong>Notoriously Dysfunctional</strong></p><p>So how was all of this allowed to happen? In my view, to understand that, you have to understand where most of the senior staff were coming from. Gordon Brown’s Downing Street was notoriously dysfunctional; the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust’s POWER2010 campaign had been an expensive and chaotic disaster. And then there is the nightmare that is the Electoral Reform Society.</p><p>The trials and tribulations of ERS have been chronicled over the years in Liberator. Suffice to say that its recent history has not been a happy one. The organisation tore itself apart over the Jenkins Report in 1998 and an unhealthy ‘them versus us’ culture has existed between staff and its governing council ever since. Yet despite its problems, thanks to its commercial arm, in recent years it has been extremely wealthy (at least in voluntary sector terms).</p><p>From talking to them, and overhearing them in the open plan office, it was clear that too many of the senior staff had an outlook that was deeply cynical about political activists and campaigning in general. Idealism was very thin on the ground. In retrospect, it is extremely easy to see how such a group of people with a very similar perspective and with scars across their backs from past struggles found themselves reinforcing each other’s preconceptions rather than challenging them. And it is very easy to see how they might end up imposing a sink-or-swim, cliquey style of management.</p><p>The walls of the room in which the communications unit and most senior staff were based were covered in leafy green wallpaper; as a result, it quickly acquired the nickname ‘The Jungle Room’. Looking back on it, it is quite striking how reminiscent it was of <em>Gorillas in the Mist</em>. You had the silverbacks in one corner of the room, masters of all they surveyed. They, in turn, were surrounded by their trusted deputies, grooming away. Roughly speaking, the further away you were from the top table, the further down in the pecking order you were. At one point, the room was even rearranged so that there was a whole island of desks between the top table and the rest of the people in the room. The point being made could not have been more emphatic.</p><p>This is the only office I’ve ever worked in where the female staff felt it necessary to hold regular ‘ladies lunches’ in the interests of mutual support. The initial attempt to get the campaign to entrench the principles of “respect, empower, include” into the way it treated staff and volunteers was openly mocked and disparaged by members of the senior team. In the commercial sector, this would be seen as evidence of highly aberrant behaviour, yet the situation was left to fester.</p><p>For many junior staff, the situation was a living nightmare long before it became clear that the campaign itself was failing at the most basic level. I don’t think any of us realised quite what we were letting ourselves in for when we signed up. But what were we supposed to do? I came close to resigning as early as November but decided instead to try to make the best that I could in the situation.</p><p>In the end, I’m quite proud of what I achieved, winning the social media war despite having no advertising budget, and helping to raise an incredible amount of money online. I’m immensely proud of a lot of my colleagues who performed above and beyond the call of duty. And I would single out the new ERS chief executive Katie Ghose for praise; she was the only person with any actual authority in the campaign who seemed concerned about morale and improving communication. If she is given the opportunity, I am confident that she will go on to sort out many of the problems that have plagued ERS for over a decade.</p><p>But we were struggling on, having been shot in the foot and with one arm tied behind our backs. And frankly, the situation made us all complicit. I’m very aware of the number of times the stress and difficulty of the situation lead me to accept uncritically and even defend a number of things that, in retrospect, were quite wrong-headed.</p><p>A lot of Liberal Democrats have been calling loudly for John Sharkey to be held accountable in some way for the campaign’s numerous failures, and it has to be said that the buck did stop with him – at his insistence. He certainly does need to address his critics’ points. But the organisations that set up the campaign did welcome him with open arms, in retrospect with very little in the way of scrutiny. And the Liberal Democrats anointed him, having made him chair of the Liberal Democrat AV campaign and sending him as an emissary to reach out to the other relevant stakeholders. Months into the campaign, we heard numerous senior Liberal Democrats complaining about us putting him in charge, yet during the crucial planning stages of the campaign, such voices were conspicuously silent. It is crucial, after such a monumental failure, that everyone involved recognises their share of responsibility.</p> <p>I will, however, end on an optimistic note. If nothing else, the referendum has clarified things. It has clarified the scale of the vested interests opposed to even the mildest political reform and the dishonest lengths to which they will go in defending the status quo. It has shown how important it is that advocates of a better, more inclusive form of politics actually practice what they preach. And it has demonstrated that the cynics can be far more naïve than the idealists that they are so quick to disparage.</p> <p>Regardless of the fate of the Liberal Democrats, it is clear that multi-party politics is here to stay. With that in mind, electoral reform is liable to rear its head again far sooner than its opponents would like. If any good is to come out of this referendum at all, it is crucial that we learn from our mistakes and make sure that we are absolutely ready next time the opportunity arises.</p><p><em>James Graham is campaigns and communications manager for Unlock Democracy and a member of the Liberal Democrat Federal Executive. For the ‘Yes to Fairer Votes’ campaign, he worked as the web and social media manager. He writes here in a personal capacity</em></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Referendum Plus James Graham Fri, 17 Jun 2011 09:02:15 +0000 James Graham 60018 at The AV debacle, the waste of nearly £2M and the Rowntree Reform Trust <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The Yes to AV referendum campaign was a fiasco. Supporters of reform - activists, funders and voters - deserve an explanation. A public enquiry should be launched by JRRT, who took a leading role both in funding and organising the failed campaign </div> </div> </div> <p>Very serious criticisms of the ‘Yes’ campaign are being published. Cory Hazlehurst, an activist from its Birmingham group, has written a heartfelt personal account in his <a href="">blog:</a> “The mass incompetency of the Yes campaign ran through it like a stick of rock… This was an epic clusterfuck of a campaign which will go down in the annals of political incompetence.”&nbsp;</p> <p>One problem with such cries of pain is that they are all too easily ignorable by the perpetrators. A piece which will be less easy to dismiss comes from the Chairman of the Conservative Yes Campaign, John E. Strafford, in which <a href="">he described how his party was sidelined</a> from the campaign, along with UKIP and the Greens.&nbsp;But the most sustained critique so far is a potentially <a href="">devastating document</a> put up on the web by Andy May who was the National Manager of Regional Staff for the ‘Yes’ Campaign. His language is reasonable and measured. He links his critique to the <a href="">Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust</a> (JRRT) and the <a href="">Electoral Reform Society</a> (ERS), as well as <a href="">Power 2010</a> that was launched and run by the JRRT in response to the expenses crisis. Andy’s stance has prompted an outpouring of supportive tweets and comments from activists who have reinforced his criticisms. If he is right, then the very campaigns that orchestrated demand for reform in the wake of the revelations of MPs’ corruption and exploitation of privileges in 2009 were themselves perpetuating waste, winking, entitlement and failure of due process in the way they were managed.</p><p></p><p>Particularly worrying here for anyone concerned with the fate of democracy in this country is the role of the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, which is and will remain the strategic funder in the area of constitutional reform, as it is the largest non-charitable trust able to make donations to political causes. (There are three Rowntree entities, see the endnote for the differences between them<em>.) </em>Historically, the JRRT backs the Lib Dems and supported attempts to build a wider democratic movement and without it the UK’s constitutional reform movement would barely exist. It has created a cluster of campaigns and causes that can define the agenda as with the AV campaign. I am going to focus most of this post on the Reform Trust.</p><p>Andy May claims to have witnessed the wasting of “hundreds of thousands of pounds” by the JRRT and the ERS. (He exonerates Katie Ghose, who became head of the ERS after the ‘Yes’ campaign started.) He suggests appalling failures by John Sharkey (now Lord Sharkey, made a Lib Dem peer even while he headed a democracy campaign for fairer voting). Sharkey's appointment as the ‘Yes’ Campaign Director was announced by Nick Clegg on 5 July 2010 (see <a href="">Liberal Democrat Voice </a>). Andy May emphasises that all campaigns make mistakes, but what is hideously culpable in this case is that “a chorus of voices” warning of significant failures were “repeatedly ignored”. He says that those who remain in employment in the sector are afraid to speak out and some seem to have been warned to stay quiet. He claims that the funding organisations themselves were having their own people employed in questionable circumstances.</p> <p>I know Andy May, who is 28, from when he was the National Organiser of <a href="">Take Back Parliament</a>, the ‘purple people’ who put the demand for fair voting onto the streets immediately after the 2010 election. As well as being dedicated, he is transparently fair-minded, careful and judicious. When I spoke to him about his report it was clear that he is motivated by loyalty to the volunteers who worked tirelessly for the campaign, and a feeling that they are owed an account of the way their efforts were needlessly wasted. I had my own slight but jaw-dropping encounters with the incompetence of the ‘Yes’ campaign that I won’t bother to go on about here. I believe Andy when he says that his account is merely a tip of the iceberg.&nbsp;</p> <p>This debate matters and not just because those of us who go around trying to make Britain a more democratic and accountable place should be answerable for our actions if we spend scarce resources - be it from Trusts or donations - or draw on the equally valuable, freely given voluntary time of others.</p> <p><strong>The Foreground</strong></p> <p>New Labour broke the UK’s historic, centralised constitution but did not replace it with a new settlement; leaving a legacy of far-reaching potentially disintegrative change in an era when deference has collapsed. One result is the threat of a chain reaction that escapes the control of the gatekeeping class to become a movement of indigenous self-rule. In <a href="">my view</a> the AV campaign was led by the Lib Dems to help prevent this and trap and sap the energy of reform. The proposals on the Lords look as if they will continue the Coalition travesty of political-change-as-closure, now reinforced by the satisfied view of the political class that electoral reform has been shut down “for a generation”.&nbsp; Naturally, they would say this, as they have a vested interest in fatalistic consent to the way the UK is run.&nbsp;</p> <p>But, just as they manage to hose down and stabilize Reactor No 1 in Westminster to preserve it after its expenses meltdown, Reactor No 4 has blown its top in Scotland. The near certainty of a referendum exposes the explosive force of England and the possible break-up of Britain.&nbsp;</p> <p>In these circumstances, the need for an independent citizen’s movement could not be greater. It is therefore essential to build its self-confidence and ensure it is not contaminated by the disastrous management it has just witnessed in the AV campaign.</p> <p>Any such movement will need to break out of the game of disparate, technical battles and ensure that the campaigns for effective reform take place on the inspiring open terrain: the nature of the state, corporate power, marketisation, the national questions, new forms of democracy, the media and power and networked politics.&nbsp;</p> <p>Can the ‘ground campaign’ that supported AV in the referendum and built a democratic activist network with over a hundred local groups attempt this with new allies? As Andy describes, it grew rapidly out of the Purple People movement. It has been sustained by that rare breed of party members from Labour, the Lib Dems, Greens and Conservatives who have learnt how to work with each other – as well as by independents, especially from the younger generations. Andy, Cory and many, many others have helped create a humanitarian force that could prove vital to the rescue of democracy in the UK.</p> <p>This is the foreground to the immediate questions that come out of the massive failures of the ‘Yes’ campaign. Three developments should now take place. They are:</p> <p><strong>1. The activists should self-determine their own future</strong></p> <p>The democracy network should become the democracy it calls for. It should decide its own fate and not allow itself to be captured or controlled unless this is its own energetic wish. Of course it will need organisational forms to sustain it and ongoing relations with the ERS, the JRRT as well as <a href="">Unlock Democracy</a>, which dedicated itself to the ‘Yes’ campaign. Its Director, Peter Facey, has published his personal <a href="">conclusions</a>. When he sent out his message on 12 May in an email to 20,000 on his campaign list he asked for feedback and got 700 responses in five hours. Fifty-one comments have appeared on the website but as yet there seems to be no commitment to publish them all and let the active campaigners and supporters lead the process of deciding where to go next.</p> <p>There is a small but important public with an appetite for change that knows how to donate funds. Its anger and disappointment needs to be turned into defiance. I believe it will back a network that is open-minded and principled. It will not support yet another tactical alliance that hinges its campaigns on political parties and works back from their likely or projected behaviour.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>2. The Yes Campaign Budget should be published</strong></p> <p>For an NGO or a campaign to qualify for trust money, whether charitable or non-charitable, it has to be able to provide audited accounts. If there are any questions of negligence, waste or conflicts of interest, it is always possible for the funders to request to see the books. This functions as a deterrent. But when an ad hoc campaign takes place, what kind of system of controls and accountability is there for those involved? This was a question Henry Porter and I had to confront when we co-directed the <a href="">Convention on Modern Liberty</a> in 2008-9. It had total revenues and costs of £155,000 [The JRRT was key in starting it and donated £15,000, less than half the ticket revenues of £31,000]. As we succeeded in putting the defence of liberty into the centre of the UK political affairs we can claim terrific cost-effectiveness for the Convention. However, we also had to ask ourselves how those we rallied to the cause could be sure we spent the money honestly. We decided to simply publish <a href="">a detailed summary of the accounts</a>, saying where the money came from and how it was spent, alongside an independent examiner’s report of the Convention’s expenditures.</p> <p>The ‘Yes’ campaign should do the same.</p><p>[November: The Campaign didn't but it had to report its expenditures to the Electoral Commission and have now published more than the accounts, <a href="">they have put all invoices on line</a>, which is excellent!]</p> <p>We need to know that there are basic standards of probity and reporting for future campaigns. Otherwise, as none of us is perfect, a culture of entitlement rather than accountability is bound to flourish. It is all the more important that we who are making demands of our politicians to come clean do this ourselves, or the call for more transparency and democracy will itself be put at risk as being hypocritical. Which means that:<strong>&nbsp;</strong></p> <p><strong>3. The JRRT should set up an independent inquiry </strong></p> <p>Andy May refers to the Power2010 campaign, which the JRRT ran and into which it poured £671,000 from 2009 to 2010. After that, the Trust granted the ‘Yes’ campaign a total of £950,000. The JRRT’s own staffer Mark Ross went from helping to run Power2010 to the ‘Yes’ campaign where he became the assistant director. As the JRRT also drew in considerable funds from its charitable sister trust for the Power2010 campaign, it has spent nearly £2 million on campaigns that it itself either created and ran or helped to run in terms of its own directors and staff. Given their abject failure and the swirling charges of culpable incompetence, the Reform Trust directors should arguably offer their resignation. But to whom? They are a self-governing, not-for-profit entity without separate shareholders. In these circumstances, at the very least, they should appoint someone who is experienced and independent to take open evidence and come up with recommendations as to how the JRRT should conduct itself in the future.</p> <p>It’s not only the activists who deserve an explanation of what happened. The Yes campaign received over £250,000 in small donations from large numbers of supporters amongst the public. And, of course, six million gave their votes. We, all of us, deserve an honest assessment of the lessons to be learnt from the ‘Yes’ campaign. I am not saying that it was there to be won. After Cameron threw the Tories into crushing it, it was not. But why was it lost so badly? What truth is there in the astonishing criticisms now circulating? What went wrong? No one else has the resources to commission such an inquiry (which needs to be independent of the Lib Dems too). A JRRT inquiry should therefore have a double function: what lessons should it learn from the past three years as the strategic funder of democratic reform in the UK; and what lessons might the wider reform movement learn from the failures of the ‘Yes’ campaign and a referendum that had been campaigned for since the early 1990s?</p> <p>As an enquiry is unlikely to happen, here are my initial suggestions with respect to the JRRT.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>What lessons should the JRRT itself learn?</strong></p> <p>Its combination of relative wealth and non-charitable status gives the JRRT a unique place on the centre left in British political life.&nbsp; It was the JRRT, under the Chairmanship of Trevor Smith, which supported Charter 88 in 1989 when I was its first director. Typically of Trevor, it did so after supporting equally all the initiatives launched around that time – including for example ‘Samizdat’, run by Ben Pimlott – in order to see which one worked best. It then backed those strategies that had proved themselves to be effective.</p> <p>Today the JRRT provides funding for NGOs and campaigns who were recruited to help with Power2010 and the Yes campaign, such as <a href="">Operation Black Vote</a> and the mainly Labour pressure group <a href="">Compass</a>. It thus operates as the centre of an informal network of liberal left campaigns, tied together by overlapping political interests and dependence on JRRT support. As well as raising questions of probity, it is very likely this contributed to the “groupthink” of “insider networks” that Sunder Katwala of the Fabians identified in a lengthy and judicious <a href="">post-mortem on the AV campaign</a>.</p> <p>There are a number of simple lessons that the Directors of the Rowntree Trusts should draw immediately with respect to their support for democracy in the United Kingdom.</p><p><em>1.&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp;&nbsp; </em><em>Do not act as both funder and organiser</em></p> <p>The role of a funder should be to encourage and then hold to account the causes it supports. If it gets directly involved in running such campaigns, this will raise potential conflicts of interest. It can’t oversee the campaigning actions of its own staff and directors as it is not set up to do this. If the JRRT directors are not satisfied with the campaigns or causes on offer in terms of the change they want to see, they should stipulate what they want and then test whoever steps up to the mark.&nbsp;</p><p><em>2. &nbsp; &nbsp;</em><em>Ensure that democracy campaigns are not party-controlled.&nbsp;</em></p> <p>All campaigns for genuine political reform have to be cross-party and embrace supporters from different political traditions. Inevitably, if the leadership of a campaign or NGO is overwhelmingly from one party, those leaders are bound to be influenced by party interests. The JRRT should do everything it can to ensure that the main campaigns for political and economic reform or for defending liberty are run either by those who are not members of a political party or by an alliance of different party members (as, indeed, was the ‘No’ campaign).&nbsp;</p> <p>This is not to say that party campaigns as such should not also be supported. On the contrary, provided they are pluralist in their intent, the more the better – from the Conservative campaign for democracy to the Green Party, there are many that could strengthen democracy.</p><p><em>3. &nbsp; &nbsp;Fund protest, openness and the release of energy</em></p> <p>We won’t have a lively democracy in Britain without shaking the bars of the Westminster system. The JRRT should support experimentation; different approaches, new initiatives and protests. It should follow the energy, not seek to prejudge or stipulate outcomes.&nbsp; It should back young people who want new-style autonomous networks to become more effective. Without the restrictions imposed by being a charity, the JRRT is in a privileged position to support the outspoken, encourage self-government, invest in internet democracy and back peaceful resistance to over-centralisation and corporate power. It should be doing all these things, expanding the democratic air we breathe.&nbsp;</p> <p>There are, no doubt, many more lessons that can and should be learnt from the fiasco of the Yes campaign. This will require a full, open and honest public inquiry – which the JRRT should now set in motion. It is the very least that it can do, given the many thousands who donated their time, energy and support and the many millions more across the country who want reform.</p><hr /><p>&nbsp;</p> <p><strong><em>Endnote</em></strong><em> for readers unfamiliar with the nature of the Rowntree trusts. There are three Rowntree organisations: the Joseph Rowntree Foundation (JRF) which mainly supports practical research and publication especially on issues of poverty and social justice; the Joseph Rowntree Charitable Trust (JRCT) which supports a wide range of social, peace, racial justice and democratic activities including non-partisan public education. [It has given a grant of £20,000 to OurKingdom this year and has supported openDemocracy before that.] And finally the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust (JRRT) discussed above which is not charitable. It pays taxes on its income and it is run by Directors not Trustees. This means it is free to give its money without political restrictions and it is one of the main funder of the Liberal Democrats, to whom it gave £1,230,000 in 2008.)&nbsp;</em></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Economics </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Economics Referendum Plus Anthony Barnett Tue, 17 May 2011 13:50:15 +0000 Anthony Barnett 59542 at From the expenses scandal to AV: the end of a political cycle and how to move on <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The expenses scandal brought forth various demands for political reform. The AV referendum can be seen as the end of this political cycle. Even if electoral reform is now off the agenda, progressives should reflect on this experience, and begin a new push for change </div> </div> </div> <p>On one level, today's referendum closes the political cycle that started with the eruption of the expenses scandal in 2009. That scandal brought forth a set of demands for political reform which found outlets in different channels.</p><p>On the one hand, there was limited institutional reform in Westminster itself (the creation of IPSA and the Wright Committee reforms, in particular), coupled with the deselection, resignation and even prosecution of MPs caught up in the scandal. This was mirrored at the grassroots by a rebirth of interest amongst politically engaged young people in democratic reform groups, like the Purple People who gathered in Smith Square to put pressure on Nick Clegg during the Coalition negotiations. But it was not more widely mirrored in the public, whose revulsion at the expenses affair did not translate into concerted political pressure for change - a fact which lies at the heart of the failure of the Yes to AV campaign's messages to connect with the electorate.</p><p>Within the political parties, there were attempts to harness the popular outrage about expenses to different political objectives, both substantive and tactical. Labour sought to revalorise its constitutional and democratic reform project, which had stalled since Gordon Brown's initial statements as prime minister in 2007; the Liberal Democrats used it to press for long-held reform commitments; while Cameron ruthlessly used the crisis to outmanouevre both the Conservative old guard and the Labour government, promising little by way of substantive reform but achieving a lot by way of political positioning.</p><p>The AV referendum became a fulcrum point in this set of processes when Gordon Brown announced his commitment to it to a surprised Labour Party conference in 2009. (It was something he had spent the summer thinking seriously about, and finally decided to announce it on the day itself, with some pushing from pro-reformers in the Number 10 team.) That set off a chain of events which led to the ultimately unsuccessful attempt to amend the constitutional reform legislation which was then passing through the Commons to allow for a referendum at some time before October 2011. For reasons that now rebound on Nick Clegg, the Liberal Democrats argued that Gordon Brown's unpopularity was such that if he were Labour leader and prime minister at the time of the referendum it would fail, and thus that it should not be held on general election day, which would have been impossible in the time left to the government anyway.</p><p>Nevertheless, the upshot of all this was that Labour included a commitment to an AV referendum in its manifesto, which meant that two parties went into the Coalition negotiations on the reform side of the argument, forcing the Conservatives to shift ground.</p><p>As it happens - and as Andrew Adonis&nbsp;<a href=";">confirmed this week</a>&nbsp;-&nbsp;Labour negotiators were sympathetic to the idea of a referendum on three options: proportional representation (PR), the alternative vote (AV) and First Past the Post, albeit that they would not commit to supporting PR in a referendum, which the wider Labour Party would never accept. In the days leading up to the general election, I and others in the Number 10 team advised Gordon Brown to offer a two-part referendum, on the New Zealand model, with a yes/no question about whether to change the system at all, followed by a further ballot on which reform option to pursue, should the electorate have chosen reform. In the end, there was no final agreement on these issues in the negotiations, as it became clear that once the Conservatives had moved on the AV referendum question, any prospect of a Labour-Liberal Democrat deal was remote to the point of vanishing.</p><p>Why then has the Yes campaign apparently fallen so short? The important point about all these events over the last two years is that no significant popular mobilisation has taken place to underpin, nourish and channel energy into political and democratic reform. Nothing akin to Charter 88 or the Scottish Constitutional Convention in the late 1980s and early 1990s has animated recent reform efforts. There has been little in the way of intellectual meeting of minds in the broad penumbra of supporters on the reform side. The public has simply not been engaged, despite the best efforts of the Yes campaign.</p><p>In contrast, the No camp, which is essentially the right of British politics combined with Labour tribalists, has pulled all its forces together. Indeed, what I believe to be the intellectual weakness of the contemporary right in Britain is offset by organisational strength and campaigning effectiveness across a range of inter-related groups.&nbsp;It does not command ideological hegemony, as it did in the 1980s, but makes up for it in unashamedly hardball political mobilisation - almost as if an ideological insecurity, and the wound of failing to win an outright majority in 2010, has been sublimated into concerted political aggression. It's rough stuff, but progressive opponents need to learn how to respond to it, not complain about it.</p><p>More importantly, however, lessons need to be learnt about the politics of reform. In other parts of the world - notably Canadian states - citizens have been directly involved&nbsp;in randomly selected deliberative assemblies with the task of&nbsp;framing questions and potential referendum options on electoral reform. Popular legitimacy can be built into the process from the start, not sought at the end.</p><p>For progressive political forces, the referendum experience must also be taken as an opportunity to reflect on how to marshall deeper forces for change. The Liberal Democrats are now too weak to drive change on other issues, like party funding, without broader progressive support. They have to reach out - not just within the Coalition on things like Lords reform, but beyond it. For its part, Labour remains too divided on these issues, and needs to go through a process of renewal akin to that undertaken between 1987 and 1997. Civil society needs to be engaged, as it was in Scotland prior to devolution. And wider intellectual groupings need to be formed, to sit alongside campaigning organisations. Even if electoral reform for the Commons is now off the agenda for the foreseeable future, momentum for wider change must begin afresh.</p><p><em>This piece was </em><a href=""><em>originally published</em></a><em> on Nick Pearce's ippr blog.&nbsp;</em></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Referendum Plus Nick Pearce Thu, 05 May 2011 12:19:28 +0000 Nick Pearce 59339 at Whatever the result, the AV referendum won't end the struggle for electoral reform <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Today's referendum on AV is the culmination of a long campaign for change. Yet, AV is not a form of proportional representation and is not a system which reformers have previously called for. Whatever the referendum result, it will not end the campaign for electoral reform in the UK </div> </div> </div> <p>When British voters deliver their verdict on electoral reform today, the choice being put before them will represent the culmination of a long campaign for change. Yet, AV is not a system which reformers, including the Liberal Democrats, have previously called for. Indeed, since it is not a form of proportional representation, AV would represent a relatively minor change when compared with the other electoral systems which reformers have advocated. Meanwhile, public interest in the referendum appears to be modest, to say the least. Nonetheless, the UK&rsquo;s second-ever national referendum asks the British electorate to make an historic choice &ndash; whether to keep or replace &lsquo;first-past-the-post&rsquo;.&nbsp;</p><p>Democratic Audit&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">has published a review&nbsp;</a>to coincide with election day, setting out the evidence relating to how well FPTP serves as an electoral system in the context of contemporary British politics. This &lsquo;audit&rsquo; of the current system draws on recent academic research and recognised international measures for evaluating the operation of electoral systems. It also considers the extent to which identifiable public support for reform has emerged over the past four decades. &nbsp;Whatever the result, it shows that the referendum today will not resolve the debate about electoral reform in the UK.</p><p><strong>Responses to opinion poll questions which ask directly about support for proportional representation&nbsp;</strong></p><p><img src="" alt="" width="500" /></p><p></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Referendum Plus Stuart Wilks-Heeg Thu, 05 May 2011 11:59:05 +0000 Stuart Wilks-Heeg 59337 at The final Yes rally had a winning spirit, but will Britain vote for AV tomorrow? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The Yes campaign's final rally last night showed spirit, energy and intellect. While Eddie Izzard may have been the 'headline act', an unexpected address from Ed Miliband almost stole the show, along with Armando Iannucci's wise witticisms. Let's hope the opinion polls are overturned tomorrow! </div> </div> </div> <p>There was a tremendously good &lsquo;Yes to Fairer Votes&rsquo; rally last night. We sat in the raked theatre of the Royal Institution where the great 19th century experiments were tested that opened the way to the modern era.&nbsp;Will we be so lucky with the British voting system?</p><p>Cool chairing from Katie Ghose gave us Richard Wilson (who only needs to open his mouth to make everyone laugh) and Jonathan Bartley, who I knew as a shrewd co-editor of Ekklesia. Then John O&rsquo;Farrell and Amisha Ghadiali came on, and Amisha made the obvious point that we <img class="image-right" src="" alt="" width="200" />have more choice in almost all aspects of our lives except the voting system. We then had Billy Bragg, Stephen Fry and Tony Robinson looming over us from the wall-sized screens like gentle big brothers.</p><p>Armando Iannucci followed and gave perhaps the best speech I&rsquo;ve heard on the subject, responding to Cameron&rsquo;s claims that First-Past-the-Post is simple, fair and decisive. Armando insisted that it should be a referendum about FTTP not AV and as for being simple, setting down your preferences is just more sophisticated, as in &ldquo;cave simple, house sophisticated&rdquo;.</p><p>We then had two campaigners, Becky Harvey and Charlie Simmonds, a woman and a worker, before &ndash;&nbsp;to general surprise &ndash;&nbsp;&nbsp;Ed Miliband was given a roaming mike to stalk the pit of the theatre and demand a change of political culture. He was much better than on <a href="">Radio 4&rsquo;s Today programme this morning</a>, where he failed to make the obvious point. Yesterday, David Cameron told John Humphries he objected to elections where the person who comes first in the initial round then loses. But if that principle had been applied to Cameron himself, he&rsquo;d not have won the leadership of the Conservative Party!&nbsp;</p><p>Miliband was followed by a tri-party line up (no Green). The Tory was Andrew Boff from the London Assembly followed by Paddy Ashdown being clear and commanding and Alan Johnson calmly addressing his Labour &lsquo;No&rsquo; colleagues.</p><p>There was then a brilliant routine from Kriss Akabusi who introduced Eddie Izzard, who was one hyper-campaigner.</p><p>The feel of the event was special. It was bright, had energy, took the fight to the enemy, covered the waterfront, had a sense of focus and determination and raised the spirits. Yes, it was a rally of mainly campaign workers, but it was intelligent not mindless and had a winning spirit. I&rsquo;m not sure I&rsquo;d say the same for the expensive back of the Guardian advert with its appeal from a long list of mainly little known politicians. But, hey, you can&rsquo;t win them all. I for one hope the opinion polls are overturned by differential turnout. &nbsp;</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Referendum Plus Anthony Barnett Wed, 04 May 2011 15:36:17 +0000 Anthony Barnett 59322 at Intelligence Squared AV debate <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> On 26th April, Intelligence Squared staged a preliminary debate with the motion 'Vote for AV'. Here, OurKingdom publishes a video of the debate highlights. </div> </div> </div> <p>On 26th April, Intelligence Squared <a href="">staged a preliminary debate</a> with the motion 'Vote for AV'.&nbsp;</p> <p>Arguing for the motion were OurKingdom Co-Editor Anthony Barnett, YouGov President Peter Kellner, and Times columnist David Aaronovitch.&nbsp;</p> <p>Arguing against were NOtoAV Chairman Rodney Leach, Conservative MP David Davis and&nbsp;Director of the International Foundation for Electoral Systems Michael Pinto Duschinsky.</p><p>Below are the highlights from the debate, chaired by political scientist Vernon Bogdanor.</p><p><object style="height: 300px; width: 500px;" width="500" height="300"><param name="movie" value="" /><param name="allowFullScreen" value="true" /><param name="allowScriptAccess" value="always" /><embed type="application/x-shockwave-flash" width="500" height="300" src="" allowfullscreen="true" allowscriptaccess="always"></embed></object></p><p>The opening vote was: <strong>for</strong> AV 168, <strong>against</strong> 199, <strong>don't knows</strong> 112 (a 'no' majority of 31).&nbsp;The closing vote was: <strong>for</strong> 240, <strong>against</strong> 258, <strong>don't knows</strong>, 11 (a 'no' majority of 18).</p><p><em>You can read a brief account of the debate from Anthony Barnett, alongside the draft for his speech, </em><a href=""><em>here on OurKingdom</em></a><em>.<!--break--><br /></em></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Referendum Plus Niki Seth-Smith Tue, 03 May 2011 16:10:29 +0000 Niki Seth-Smith 59259 at Is AV the last hope for British democracy? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> If the Prime Minister has his way, British civil society will soon be almost entirely at the mercy of the market. With the contracts signed, our democratic options will be drastically limited. A referendum on the Alternative Voting system may already be too little, too late. </div> </div> </div> <p>Is AV too little and far too late? &nbsp;OurKingdom has been debating in great detail the various pros, cons and mathematics of numerous voting systems, House of Lords reforms, the West Lothian question, Welsh, Cornish, and Scottish independence, written constitutions and home rule for the English.&nbsp;But what will any of this add up to, especially for the English, if Cameron has his way?</p> <p>The <a href="">Prime Minister's ambition</a> in the name of a 'Big Society' is to privatise - meaning marketise - virtually the whole of civil society. The only exceptions would be the judiciary and the security services. If he achieves this what will we be asking our MPs to do if the contracts have already been signed? &nbsp;Many that have been awarded are for more than 20 years. &nbsp;i.e. four or five Parliamentary life-times. &nbsp;Cameron may see this as a logical step: after all business already owns most of our utilities while many of our new hospitals are in thirty-year PFI contracts (see <a href="">Oliver Huitson's overview</a>).</p><p>But if this is Cameron's strategy, aided with the connivance of the Lib Dems, then all we will be voting for when we vote for MPs under any system would be a Parliament to police us, to control the military and to fund the judiciary. The first two of these have in recent years already become partly privatized (see the <a href="">Daily Mail on The Association of Chief Police Officers</a> and the <a href="">Guardian on the privatisation of war</a>).</p> <p>Will our democratic options in the future be limited to making a choice between parties who say they will not start wars and those that say they may? Or perhaps between those that say they will encourage the police to be nice to us, and only allow them to use rubber truncheons, or those who want them to employ water cannon and be encouraged to 'shoot to kill'? Presumably the police, if such a scenario unfolds, will be there to ensure we do not upset the royal family, or the multi-nationals that will control most of our lives. Perhaps in the future the police will be empowered to ensure that we consume enough of a particular hamburger so that the company makes enough profit to keep its branded version of what was once our schools or hospitals open.</p><p>I find what Cameron's Coalition government is doing to be chilling. We need a civil society that is not dominated and penetrated by the profit motive and governed by corporations that claim not to be political, but to whom our government has contracted out local and central services.</p> <p>Whether it passes or fails, AV might well in the future be regarded as our last desperate attempt to nudge ourselves towards democracy.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Ideas </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Civil society Democracy and government Ideas Referendum Plus Ivor Cornish Tue, 03 May 2011 11:27:21 +0000 Ivor Cornish 59250 at The strange world of the AV campaign, and why it must be a Yes <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> It has been said that AV would be a “beautiful British compromise”. But for its combination of madness, naked lies and bile, the campaign surrounding it has seemed distinctly American. The Yes side, on which I sit, has been slightly dull. The Noes have been fascinating, not only for their outrageous campaigning methods, but for their surreal patchwork of supporters. </div> </div> </div> <p> </p><p class="MsoNormal">It has been said that AV would be a “beautiful British compromise”. But for its combination of madness, naked lies and bile, the campaign surrounding it has seemed distinctly American. The Yes side, on which I sit, has been slightly dull. The Noes have been fascinating, not only for their outrageous campaigning methods, but for their surreal patchwork of supporters.</p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>The slip into the absurd began with NoToAV’s infamous poster campaign. A new born baby was held aloft, “She needs a maternity unit, not an alternative voting system”. It would be less pitiful if the No campaign wasn’t run, and funded, by the sort of people who have dreamt of dismantling the NHS for decades. As for the validity of the claim, it has none whatsoever. The £250m figure includes £80m for the referendum itself, regardless of outcome – the nation doesn’t get a refund for answering No. A further £130m is attributed to the cost of electronic voting machines – which there are no plans to use. </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>The gutter antics continued with Baroness Warsi’s claim that AV will help the BNP. Warsi, who has never been elected under <em>any</em> system, knows full well the BNP are supporting the No campaign – and with good reason; they will <a href="">not benefit</a> from AV. Warsi’s own election campaign ended in not only losing, but in being accused of <a href="">homophobia</a> by Stonewall. She followed this up two years later with <a href="">comments</a> that were widely condemned for playing up to supporters of… the BNP.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>George Osborne’s contribution to debate was to call the Yes campaign’s financial arrangements “dodgy”. This from a man believed to be avoiding a potential £1.6m in tax on his inheritance, from a party funded by a billionaire tax exile, and in favour of a No campaign whose funding remains secret. An insight into the sort of people that might be funding NoToAV comes from the Institute of Economic Affairs. The right-wing lobby group warned last year that AV was “</span><span>not a good way to elect Members of Parliament who will support <em>radical free-market economic reforms</em>”. </span><span>For those on the left planning to vote No, this should give some pause for thought (Guy Aitchison covered the comments in full <a href="ourkingdom/guy-aitchison/keep-parliament-unrepresentative-say-free-marketers">here</a>).</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Most bizarre of all has been the reasoning of some of those planning to vote No. Many full grown adults have said they will be voting No in what amounts to pulling a face at Nick Clegg. That’ll teach him. But when they’ve stopped sniggering and sat down, we will still have FPTP. And tuition fees. And Nick Clegg. Rather, the longest laugh would be from David Cameron. A No would hurt Clegg, undoubtedly, but a Yes would be a slap in the face to the entire political class and would leave the Tories reeling.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>It is sometimes forgotten that there is no proportional option on the ticket, nor even visible on the horizon, yet there is a sizable herd operating on a “No to AV, yes to PR!” basis. It’s a tick box rather than free-style affair; you have just the two options. The idea that No will lead to a proportional system in either House is hard to understand.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>For the Commons, firstly – a No will be held up as a sign of public support for FPTP, rather than an indifference to AV. As happened with Labour, any party that wins an election outright under FPTP has very little incentive to bring in PR. But coalitions are going to be more and more common under FPTP, regardless. In future, small parties negotiating for coalition will have a much stronger hand asking for a PR option if the AV vote goes through. Furthermore, AV+, as recommended by the <a href="">Jenkins commission</a>, is not an ideal form of PR but it is proportional nonetheless and would require minimal change from AV. Finally, I would just ask what scenario and timescales they are envisaging for this PR option – where is it going to come from after a No vote?</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Others have suggested some form of proportional system for the Lords will be offered as a sweetener to the Lib Dems. Again, this seems unlikely, despite the rhetoric. Not only have the Establishment dragged their feet over elected Lords for a full century, but it would leave us in a constitutional mess. We would have a bicameral parliament in which our revising chamber had more popular legitimacy than our primary chamber. On what grounds could the Commons, elected under FPTP, force legislation through a proportional Lords? The upper chamber bends its knee precisely because it is not democratic. A newly legitimised Lords would terrorise the Executive and strike down vast swathes of legislation – and rightly so. Its powers to block rather than merely delay would surely have to be reinstated. </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>It is difficult to see a proportional Lords working with a Commons elected under FPTP; the Tories, like Labour before them, have no desire to give away power to the upper House. We cannot continue with an appointed chamber, it offends every principle of democracy. But we cannot have a revising chamber closer to the people than the primary. An elected Lords will come far easier from a Commons sitting on firm democratic foundations.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>One final appeal – to Labour voters. Coalitions will become more common regardless of changes to the voting system, the public simply don’t vote <a href="">like they use to</a>. Some have said they see no reason to adopt a voting system that will weaken their own party once they return to power. To support such a manifestly undemocratic voting system for sectarian advantage is short-sighted. It may be tempting to hold on to the ‘elective dictatorship’ when it’s your turn on the throne, but the absolute power it affords brings out the worst in both parties. The Lib Dems, at grassroots, remain centre-left. The country, as a whole, remains centre-left. Clegg will go. There should be little to fear in future alliances, and a fairer voting system will always weaken the Tories. </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Cameron offered the country a voting system nobody had asked for on the assumption they would reject it. The man who claims he wants to give “power back to the people” didn’t have the courage or principle for an open, multi-choice referendum. You can take his bait, vote No, and stand alongside the Tories, the BNP, the most reactionary elements of Labour, the Murdoch press and the free-marketeers. Or you can respond in the way that will hurt these groups most, that will empower the public most, that will greatly reduce tactical voting and safe-seats, and the one that brings a proportional, truly democratic voting system one step closer – Yes.</span></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Referendum Plus Oliver Huitson Sun, 01 May 2011 09:07:59 +0000 Oliver Huitson 59215 at What if the Referendum is a 'No' <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> A Green laments the likely defeat of the AV referendum </div> </div> </div> <div>It looks as if the<span>&nbsp;Alternative Vote referendum will <a href="">be lost</a>. As a green I'm more than sad about this if it happens. A 'No' is likely&nbsp;to turn out to be a lot more important than any of us realised.</span></div><div><span>&nbsp;</span><span>The Conservatives have practically promised their supporters that a 'No' vote will close off all discussion of electoral reform for a generation. And with it the democratisation of our constitution is likely to be put on hold, whatever Nick Clegg promises. Party funding, MPs and Peers having second jobs, Lords reform, all are likely to be either fudged or stitched-up or swept under the rug.</span></div><div><span>A Conservative victory at the next election is more likely as the impetus for reform is asphyxiated. For a generation&nbsp;<em>any</em>&nbsp;type of real reform in the way politics in Britain as a whole (Scotland and Wales may prove different) is conducted will be postponed and along with this how voters get to be involved. </span></div><div><span>That could then have disastrous ramifications for policies that need to be contested in this early part of the 21st century. As a green I’m particularly thinking of the urgent need to tackle catastrophic climate change. If we have a No vote on May the 5th, in thirty years time we will probably still have First Past the Post system and the same two main parties - Labour and the Conservatives - trying to solve those problems in Westminster without immune from the influence of a very large minority of the electorate and the input of new political parties including the party that I've been a member of for the last decade.</span></div><div><span><span><span><span><br /></span></span></span></span></div><div><span><div>From a g/Green perspective the Labour and Conservative parties, and, they have recently proven beyond doubt the Liberal Democrats, are constitutionally incapable of seriously preventing or mitigating catastrophic climate change. They just don't have it in them. Policies of industrialised economic growth are&nbsp;too central to their raison d'être for them to ditch and&nbsp;enable green change to happen.</div><div>This is likely to be the reality of us failing to win a 'Yes' vote on May the 5th. Not just the denial of an interesting alternative to the way elections are conducted, but the denial of the beliefs, hopes and priorities of a significant minority of the population, the minority that wishes to change, to innovate, to grow in a healthier direction, and to steer us out of the mess that industrial global capitalism is getting us into.&nbsp;</div><div>The Conservative peer who is the Chair of the No campaign, Rodney Leach, aka Baron Leach, was a banker is a Tory and is a climate change denier. If his campaign wins will we be stuck with the policies he supports for the next thirty years? Decades that are likely to be crucial as cheap oil runs out.&nbsp;</div><div>Conversely, if the 'Yes' side wins, then we can encourage an appetite for change: Lords reform, local elections reform, rethinking the unnecessary cuts agenda, blocking the marketisation of the NHS, and real progress on stopping catastrophic climate change. But if the vote is No' all of these things will be in the hands of the political elite of the Conservative and Labour parties (half of whose MPs support a 'No' vote and will be strengthened if they win). And we've just had the last thirty years to see what that is like.</div></span></div><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Referendum Plus Matt Wootton Fri, 29 Apr 2011 13:22:19 +0000 Matt Wootton 59199 at Vote 'Yes' for a change <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> At a London debate the argument for changing Britain's voting system was narrowly voted down and OurKingdom's Co-Editor was on the losing side. What he said was drawn from this long draft. </div> </div> </div> <p><em>Yesterday there was the <a href="">Intelligence Squared debate</a> on London on whether to vote AV in the referendum. I opened for the 'Yes' speakers and David Davis MP closed for the 'No'. David Aaronovitch and Peter Kellner were with me speaking for a 'Yes' and Rodney Leach and Michael Pinto-Dushinsky were the other two on the 'no' side. I was told to expect a quirky, Conservative west London audience (about 500) paying &pound;25 a head. The opening vote was: <strong>for</strong> AV 168, <strong>against</strong> 199, <strong>don't knows</strong> 112 (a 'no' majority of 31). The closing vote was: <strong>for</strong> 240, <strong>against</strong> 258, <strong>don't knows</strong>, 11 (a 'no' majority of 18). So we closed the gap. </em></p><p><em><img class="image-right" style="float: right;" src="" alt="" height="325" width="325" /><br /></em></p><p><em><br /></em></p><p><em>I was&nbsp; shocked at the complacency of the 'no' side who assured the audience that the system was "not broken". There was one moment I thought we got through. In the question period they said how appalling it would be if the 'Yes' vote won with less than 20 per cent of the vote on a turnout below 40 or even below 35 per cent. I made the point that if they couldn't get a significant number out to support the existing system even if they in fact win it would confirm the profound disconnect between people and the political class and the broken nature of the system. I saw a glimpse of alarm in their eyes, not of me or of losing the vote but that their beloved system of rule might indeed be on an abyss. <!--break--></em><em>Each speaker had less than nine minutes to set out their case. I hope to be able to post mine on YouTube. Meanwhile, here is the much longer (twice as long) first draft on which I based my speech. </em></p> <p>Ladies and Gentlemen, If we want to secure our democracy we need to send our rulers a warning.</p> <p>In 2008 Gordon Brown persuaded our MPs to support jailing people without charge for 42 days. David Davis stormed out of Parliament and forced a by-election. He linked the attack on the principle of Habeas Corpus to the rise of the uncontrolled surveillance and the plans for ID cards and the database state.</p> <p>There were two speeches in that debate that convinced me he was right. One by Diane Abbott who compared the Commons to a bazaar, where support for 42 days had been openly traded. On the video you can see her colleagues smiling at her description.<em> No one </em>refuted it. You can feel the expenses crisis coming down the line. The second was by David&rsquo;s own leader who claimed the public did indeed support 42 days but it was wrong. He thus endorsed the traditional view that we, the people, are unwashed dangerous xenophobes who need to be ruled by those like him who know best.</p> <p>To the execration of commentators and colleagues David Davis disagreed. He paid the price of future high office by taking the principle of liberty to his voters and through them to the public at large. I am proud I canvassed for him and thanks to his boldness public opinion was indeed turned around.</p> <p>But you have to ask, why was this necessary? How could the House of Commons have been so suborned by executive power?</p> <p>The simple answer is that we have an uncodified constitution that permits&nbsp; elected dictatorship. Our politics isn&rsquo;t openly criminal, like many others. But it is corrupted by its over-centralisation. The heart valve that pumps dishonesty into our body politic at every election and in preparing for elections (which Prime Ministers are obsessed with as soon as they are elected) is an election system driven by First Past the Post.</p> <p>David Davis has called this a Tory system. I take this to mean he thinks it is principled, honest and decisive.</p> <p>I am afraid this is untrue. There are such Tories. But First Past the Post is a <em>conservative</em> system: slouching, manipulative, untrustworthy and dishonourable.</p> <p>And I have to tell you that there is nothing more conservative in British political life, and no more stubborn supporter of our voting system, than the Labour back bencher.</p> <p>Compared to them John Reid (whose baleful influence personified the deep alliance of New and Old Labour) is a figure of the enlightenment.</p> <p>I witnessed this in with the launch of Charter 88 when I first got involved in arguing for fair voting. We took the Charter to all the party conferences. A Labour campaign for electoral reform was making headway, and a great mobilisation against it was organised which I went to observe. Its keynote speaker was the epitome of the Labour backbenches, Dennis Skinner.</p> <p>We <em>must</em> save First Past the Post, he roared. It defines the very purpose of the labour movement and the principle of power itself, he contiunued, and he paused as we waited for his definition:</p><p>&ldquo;To the victor the spoils!&rdquo;</p> <p>Margaret Thatcher, and after her Tony Blair and their mutual friend Rupert Murdoch, could hardly have agreed more.</p> <p>You might think the language medieval and archaic, but there is nothing Christian &ndash; or in David&rsquo;s sense &lsquo;Tory&rsquo; - about openly celebrating the corruption of power in advance of obtaining it.</p> <p>It was First Past the Post that gave Labour its large majority on 2005 with the support of less than 25 per cent of the total electorate and less than a third of the actual, popular vote. Its methods of focusing on the swing voter is a sophisticated form of cheating. It corrupted the Labour Party, whose new leader is struggling to deal with the consequences. It is corrupting the Tories now.</p> <p>Ladies and gentlemen I want to address the &lsquo;no&rsquo; voters amongst you. If you have tried to follow the dust-up over the referendum you will have experienced what I call the fetishisation of small outcomes, the &lsquo;who said what when&rsquo;&nbsp; and &lsquo;ya-boo to you too&rsquo;. It is <em>Legerdemain</em>, if I may salute the French origins of the word parliament. In plain Anglo-Saxon, slight of hand, smoke and mirrors. The petty rows of what passes for 'politics' distracts our attention from what is really going on.</p> <p>Here is what is really going on.</p> <p>In the 1980s our political class turned on our industry, local government and the trade unions and instead bet the British state on globalisation. The City of London and its financial services became its open empire glorifying the revenues of privatisation, property inflation, securitisation and derivatives. These were the spoils that went to the victors.</p><p>Margaret Thatcher started it. John Major deepened it. Tony Blair&rsquo;s decade turbo-charged it. Gordon Brown basked in it. Amongst senior politicians only Vince Cable gave a modest cough of dissent.</p> <p>Then came the crash, for which we are only just beginning to pay. Shortly after came the MPs expenses crisis. It was not the amounts but the culture of entitlement and permissiveness it exposed, with honest MPs implicated because they knew and were silent. It became a crisis of legitimacy of parliament itself - and from the way the referendum is being conducted we can see this crisis too is not over yet either.</p> <p>How did we voters respond when we had the chance in the 2010 election?</p> <p>We hung parliament.</p> <p>It was a good call ladies and gentlemen. But those who run our system were not humbled. Rather they were smart and shameless. Determined to preserve at all costs the supremacy of the banks and the financial sector, now redefined as &lsquo;the national interest&rsquo; no less, the Coalition was prepared with the open support of the civil service.</p> <p>To succeed they had to distract us into believing that they were also dealing with the crisis of legitimacy. David Cameron said he would, &ldquo;give people power and control&rdquo; (7 July, 2010), &ldquo;power will be yours&rdquo; said Nick Clegg (19 May 2010). It&rsquo;s &ldquo;a revolution&rdquo; David Cameron told his party conference.</p> <p>Their words. And to say them with a straight face they needed to offer us a referendum.</p> <p>"Oh great!" You might say, "will that be the referendum Cameron made a cast iron promise to hold on the Lisbon Treaty? Or a referendum on whether we English are entitled to our own parliament like the Scots and the Welsh? Or a chance to decide whether the bankers should get bonuses while we bail them out?"</p> <p>No, no, no. (To borrow a phrase.)</p> <p>It will be a referendum on the voting system. But we won&rsquo;t even be given the chance to choose a proportional system like other European countries. Even if you believe AV is the best way to slice electoral bread ever devised you can concede that in an adult referendum we should be offered a full menu.</p> <p>This is where the slight of hand comes in. You may well conclude you need to vote &lsquo;no&rsquo; because you don&rsquo;t trust the question, don&rsquo;t see the point of AV as it feels like a contemptible compromise, or distrust the way the question is framed and the choice being offered.</p> <p>If so, you will have been taken in! For you will end up endorsing the very system that made such a mess of the question in the first place. If you vote &lsquo;no&rsquo; and the &lsquo;no&rsquo; vote wins it means you will have fallen for the trick and helped take the country with you.</p> <p>For our political class will turn to you and say, &nbsp;&ldquo;You see, we have a <em>perfect</em> political system. When we offered you the chance you didn&rsquo;t want to change it in even the <em>smallest</em> possible way!&rdquo;</p> <p>&lsquo;No&rsquo; voters will be entitled to scratch their heads and say, hold on, I didn&rsquo;t vote Yes to being ruled by Brussels, the hyper-centralisation of Britain, unlimited support for the bankers and letting Westminster enjoy the spoils.</p> <p>&ldquo;Really&rdquo;, will come the answer, &ldquo;but my dear chap, I&rsquo;m afraid you have. After all this fuss and expenditure the public can&rsquo;t possibly want another referendum!"</p><p>Still baffled as to how the trick works? The way in which the Coalition negotiators decided on AV was a cynical exploitation of an opportunity given them by Brown's Labour Party. The Tories didn't want a referendum or to change the electoral system at all. The Lib Dems wanted PR, but they wanted to get into a coalition government even more.</p><p>Don't be taken in by all the attacks on Nick Clegg. The Lib Dems are acting as a heat-shield for the Conservative warhead. The architect of the Coalition and its policies is David Cameron and his small team. Team Cameron decided to offer the Lib Dems a referendum limited to a new electoral system that nobody wanted. The result? Cameron and his team can now attack the referendum for offering an alternative that "nobody wants".</p><p>Ha, ha. So much for a revolution giving the people power.</p> <p>A 'no' vote will follow and the status quo will have been endorsed, its legitimacy re-burnished.</p> <p>We need to send the status-quoers a warning. They say our rulers know what is best for us, that we can't possibly rank them, 1/2/3. We must not risk opening politics up to newcomers. We have to stick with what we have got.</p> <p>But our rulers palpably don&rsquo;t know what is best for us. They supported the Iraq war when we in the streets were the wise ones. They didn&rsquo;t see the crash coming when they could have gone to any pub and talked with people paying off mortgages with new credit cards who knew it couldn&rsquo;t last.</p> <p>Today, it may be even harder to preserve our liberties and secure our livelihoods.</p> <p>But if we endorse a system that <em>celebrates</em> giving our rulers the spoils we are <em>asking</em> to be robbed of our freedom and our wealth. And we will be.</p><p>Don&rsquo;t endorse the dishonest status quo by voting &lsquo;no&rsquo; and backing First Past the Post, winner take all from us elections.</p> <p>Vote Yes for a change.</p> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Referendum Plus Anthony Barnett Wed, 27 Apr 2011 16:31:52 +0000 Anthony Barnett 59180 at Nick Clegg scores an own goal for the Yes to AV campaign <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Branded as too toxic for the Yes campaign, Nick Clegg had long been quiet on AV, until yesterday's speech at IPPR. Despite arguing that the referendum should transcend party politics, the Deputy Prime-Minister proceeded to play into the hands of the No campaign by defending the Coalition and his role in it </div> </div> </div> <p>Due to his banishment by the Yes campaign as 'too toxic', yesterday was the first time I had heard Nick Clegg argue his case for the alternative voting system since the campaign launch. I'd wholeheartedly supported the decision to distance the campaign from the deputy prime-minister, with his rock-bottom approval ratings, but settling down amongst a small audience at the ippr offices in Central London, I was prepared to be proven wrong. After all, here was Nick Clegg fighting for a referendum&nbsp;outcome, not speaking on behalf of the coalition; perhaps I would be transported back to the pre-election days before Clegg-mania became Clegg-phobia.</p> <p>You can read the speech <a href="">here</a>. It opens with a promise to transcend party politics. A yes to AV, Clegg said, would be a "strong start to the job of cleaning up politics" at a time when Britain is faced with a "political crisis to match the economic crisis". It is about "more power and more choice". He accused the No campaign of peddling "falsehoods", and of attempting to "distract" the public by framing the referendum as being about the coalition and party politics.</p><p>Yet he immediately went on to dedicate the next third of the speech to a defence of the coalition and his role in it. AV represents a chance for new politics, he said, but “the truth is this: If we want a different kind of politics, one in which parties can work together in the national interest, we all have to grow up a bit…Compromise is not betrayal.” Proceeding to argue that pluralism means compromise, Clegg made his stance clear: He is already doing the new politics as deputy leader of the coalition, and the alternative vote is another step along the same ‘progressive’ path.</p> <p>This conflation plays straight into the No campaign’s hands, strengthening their power to manipulate widespread bad feeling towards Clegg as well as opposition to the coalition and its austerity programme, drawing on the anger of the student and anti-cuts movements as well as regular Labour supporters. Clegg doesn’t seem to comprehend this, just as he didn’t appear to understand the argument made to him by Anthony Barnett that the coalition is perceived as widening, not narrowing, the growing gap between people and politicians.&nbsp;</p> <p>There’s less than a fortnight to go until the referendum on AV. For the Yes vote to stand a chance, Nick Clegg must play as small a part as possible in its campaign.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Referendum Plus Niki Seth-Smith Fri, 22 Apr 2011 14:28:03 +0000 Niki Seth-Smith 59124 at AV is suited to the modern British voter <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The Alternative Voting system is best suited to modern Britain, says a new IPPR report. Voters today are less tribal, and want more choice. AV gives voters today the flexibility to express themselves in a way denied them by the current FPTP system </div> </div> </div> <p>Any assessment of the case for AV should begin with an account of the key characteristics of the contemporary British voter. But so far&nbsp;it hasn’t. Part of the problem with the referendum campaign is that it is dominated by the political class who tend to think, wrongly, that voters think the way they do.</p> <p><a href="">IPPR’s&nbsp;new report</a> therefore starts with the voter in mind and argues that the simplest yet strongest argument for AV is that, unlike FPTP, it is well suited to the times we live in. Voters today want more choice in their politics (as they do in all other aspects of their lives) and are far less tribal than they once were. <a href="">An IPPR/YouGov poll</a> designed to examine public attitudes towards party affiliation found that just 18 per cent agreed with the following statement: ‘One political party comes close to reflecting my views and values; I am strongly opposed to all of the others.’ Shifts in voting patterns strongly challenge the basic assumption of FPTP, which is that voters are only interested in expressing a single sacrosanct first preference. In fact UK voters are happy to express a range of preferences – certainly up to and including a third choice. Moreover, for the majority of voters, especially the growing number of non-tribal voters, their sense of allegiance to their top two or three preferences does not vary substantially. Those with loose party affiliation – 40 per cent of the electorate – give their first two preferences almost equal weighting.</p><p>As a preferential voting system AV gives voters the flexibility to express themselves in a way they are currently denied under FPTP. It is much more adept at probing and reflecting the electorate’s political pluralism. And importantly it does not discriminate against the traditional ‘tribal’ voter who will still be able to express just one preference if they chose to.</p> <p>The problem with FPTP is that doesn’t work in the world it now finds itself, as IPPR’s latest report and earlier <a href="">‘Worst of Both Worlds’ report</a>&nbsp;show. An obvious example concerns the issue of MPs elected on a minority of the vote. This never used to be a problem when Britain had a strong two-party system but the rise of third party representation now means that only a third of MPs are able to secure majority support in their constituencies. Put another way this means that the majority of voters are represented by a candidate they did not vote for. There is a further sting in the FPTP tail: when the vote on the political left or right is split, the ‘wrong winner’ can emerge victorious. This happens when a candidate who is more popular across the electorate as a whole loses to a less popular one because of the presence of another candidate with a similar political outlook. Think of where Labour beats a Conservative&nbsp;candidate when there is a&nbsp;strong UKIP presence.</p> <p>AV directly addresses these deficiencies by ensuring that the winning candidate secures 50 per cent of the vote. It does so by redistributing lower order preferences which attracts controversy because it can mean that the candidate who wins most first preferences is subsequently beaten once lower order preferences are taken into account. Such a scenario occurred in the 2010 Australia federal election for Moreton, Queensland. Here, the Liberal National candidate received the most first preference votes – and so would have won the seat under FPTP – but once the second preferences of the Green candidate were reallocated , victory was handed to the Labor candidate. How is this fair? It’s fair because the Labor candidate was the most popular among the majority of the local electorate. Had the contest been a two-horse race between the Liberal National and Labor parties then Labor would have won because of the overall strength of its own votes combined with those of Green supporters who broadly align themselves on the same centre-left part of the political spectrum. Green voters overwhelmingly preferred the Labor candidate to the Liberal National one. AV therefore works to correct the weakness of FPTP where a minority candidate to succeed when the vote for similar parties is split.</p> <p>As the Australian political commentator and AV expert&nbsp;Antony Green <a href="">has written</a>, AV performs best in multi-party contests where the leading candidate falls short of a majority – i.e. in the majority of seats in the UK – because it will work to return a member with greater support in the electorate than the candidate with the simple majority of first preferences. In other words, AV suits the electoral conditions prevalent in Britain today.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Referendum Plus Guy Lodge Wed, 20 Apr 2011 10:25:25 +0000 Guy Lodge 59085 at Under AV, Nick Clegg's position is the future of British politics <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The Alternative Vote will not deliver more pluralism in British politics. Political competition will still converge around a median, it's just that the position of the median will change to something like Orange-book liberalism. Choose AV, and British politics will converge around Nick Clegg's position AV, like FPTP, is incompatible with Britain's pluralist society AV is not a distant but pluralist relative of FPTP. They are twins </div> </div> </div> <p>Staring out at me from a No to AV leaflet is a shifty looking Nick Clegg. It&rsquo;s rather blatant negative and personal campaigning and has nothing much to do with the AV issue. Unwittingly, however, it makes an important point. If AV is passed then Nick Clegg- or at least his Orange book agenda- is a very likely future for British politics. You may believe in this agenda or you may not- and hands up, <a href="">part of the reason for my &lsquo;no&rsquo; is instrumental</a>, but it is the logic of the system.</p> <p>If you hear someone use words like &lsquo;democratic&rsquo;, &lsquo;pluralist&rsquo;, or &lsquo;choice&rsquo; in favour of AV then run. It is an electoral system from the &lsquo;majoritarian&rsquo; family- in fact, it&rsquo;s FPTP&rsquo;s twin though they are non-identical. These systems all share certain family traits- they lock out distributed minority parties and views, party competition within them converges around a<img class="image-right" src="" alt="" width="191" height="264" />median position thereby reducing choice, they are unrepresentative and anti-pluralist. FPTP is broken as the last two elections have shown- as <a href="">Anthony Barnett recently argued in his Durham speech</a>. But AV&rsquo;s logic is very similar to FPTP. It just creates a different &lsquo;median&rsquo; around which the parties converge. That median as things stand is something like Orange book liberalism.</p> <p>Neal Lawson&rsquo;s <a href="">&lsquo;democracy by machines or morals&rsquo; argument</a> has something to it. The shift from a world of deep and monolithic institutions to one characterised by shifting networks is well established. It is a complete non sequitor, however, to claim that AV represents this new world. Ultimately, it is a majoritarian machine-like electoral system similar to FPTP.</p><p>We live in an increasingly pluralistic society. There is no &lsquo;majority&rsquo; anything. A pluralistic society and a majoritarian politics are ultimately incompatible. One of the lesser-commented aspects of the <em>Fear and Hope</em> report that I co-authored is that it demonstrates this political pluralism very clearly.&nbsp;</p> <p>It should be noted in passing that the report has faced a number of criticisms. In fact, on OurKingdom, <a href="">John Grayson articulated two of the most common criticisms</a>: that the opinion poll method shouldn&rsquo;t be trusted and that the report suggests that Labour should be more right wing. Well, it&rsquo;s not just <em>Fear and Hope</em> that is picking up the growing resonance of identity politics- it&rsquo;s British Social Attitudes, a wealth of other opinion data, international comparisons, academic analysis, elections across the EU (just yesterday the Finnish equivalent of UKIP increased their support five-fold.) Secondly, the report suggests no strategy for Labour. As it happens I think a radical shift right is the wrong response but that&rsquo;s just my judgement.</p> <p><em>Fear and Hope</em> is simply one way of looking at the politics of class and identity in combination. Class matters in our unequal society shaken by globalisation but it is complexly experienced and its relationship to politics has become muted by a combination of retail politics, individualism, the decay of old social institutions, emergence of issue networks and the rise of identity politics. So how does this interplay of class, society, identity, and politics cluster around groups of voters? It is as follows:</p> <p><img src="" alt="" width="500" />&nbsp;</p> <p>The groups to the left are &lsquo;confident multiculturals&rsquo; and &lsquo;mainstream liberals&rsquo;(24% combined.) Together these two groups comprise 42% of Liberal Democrat identifiers. The two groups to the right are &lsquo;active enmity&rsquo; and &lsquo;latent hostiles&rsquo; (23% combined.) The purple bar is the &lsquo;cultural integrationists&rsquo; and this group comprises 42% of Conservative identifiers.&nbsp; In the middle are the &lsquo;identity ambivalents.&rsquo; They are economically insecure and their concerns about, eg, immigration, are related to their sense of personal well-being and optimism. 37% of Labour identifiers come from this group but also 46% of people who don&rsquo;t identify with a party.&nbsp;</p> <p>If we plot Labour (red), Lib Dem (yellow), Green (green) and UKIP (purple) identification on this graph, it looks like this:</p> <p>&nbsp;<img src="" alt="" width="500" /></p> <p>Now, what relevance is this to AV? FPTP has a convergent logic. Let&rsquo;s look at this from Labour&rsquo;s perspective. To win a majority, you pitch at the median voter which means a rational party strategy would aim at something in the following area (think New Labour):</p> <p>&nbsp;<img src="" alt="" width="500" /></p> <p>It is classic narrowcasting and that it what majoritarian systems tend towards. Now, under AV, the logic is to chase the second preference of proximate parties and that&rsquo;s where you aim. With the party identification distribution above, Labour has two options: to pitch at UKIP voters or Liberal Democrats. Green voters are too few and besides they tend to be in areas where Labour is already strong- it was a Labour candidate that Caroline Lucas defeated in Brighton Pavilion. So a rational strategy would pitch more in the direction of &lsquo;mainstream liberals&rsquo; and would look something like this:</p><p>&nbsp;<img src="" alt="" width="500" /></p> <p>So the logic is the same- narrow rather than plural. It&rsquo;s just that the powerful marginal voters are different in AV compared with first past the post- in this sense, it&rsquo;s not more representative.&nbsp; If Labour&rsquo;s strategy is to go for Liberal Democrat voters then it is Orange bookers that it will be pitching at in broad terms. Liberal Democrat voters now favour Conservative over Labour- Cameron&rsquo;s combination of muscular liberalism, economic orthodoxy, and radical public sector reform <a href="">has a certain appeal</a>. Facing an AV seat penalty as a result of this Conservative-Liberal Democrat interaction, Labour would have to craft an appeal to Orange book liberalism or face difficultly in building a majority under AV. What this means is that Conservatives, Labour and Liberal Democrats converge on the same political space.</p> <p>So while AV will mean more marginal seats (about another 40 marginals) it won&rsquo;t in fact mean more choice. It will mean a choice between three convergent positions.&nbsp; This is a pluralism of parties within a minority &lsquo;mainstream liberal&rsquo; view rather than a pluralism of society as a whole.&nbsp; If that&rsquo;s what you favour, then fine, by all means be instrumental. That&rsquo;s a different thing from voting for pluralism, choice, and a more democratic system. In fact, while Neal Lawson argues that AV will constitute a radical power shift, <a href="">Martin Wolf has argued</a> in favour of it from an instrumental perspective for its conservative dynamic. And it is Wolf who is right given the nature of AV.</p> <p>None of this means that AV doesn&rsquo;t have any advantages over FPTP. The most notable one is that it records people&rsquo;s real first preferences more accurately. The <em>Fear and Hope</em> report showed a 4% identification with the Green party (a figure boosted by the Liberal Democrat collapse in probability) but only 1% voted Green in 2010. They do face a penalty though this may also be a result of party organisation and strategic focus on just one or two seats as much as tactical switches or disheartened non voting- the same goes for UKIP (6% identification v 3% vote) and the BNP (3% v 2%).</p> <p>But would a 1%-3% boost for each of the &lsquo;major&rsquo; minor parties really radically improve our democracy? The case is vastly over-stated. It&rsquo;s only representation and parliamentary seats that really makes the difference. Furthermore, a yes to AV would constitute a long pause in the pluralistic case for a reformed politics. A no on the other will leave the Liberal Democrats empty handed. A stronger negotiating hand could be used to push for House of Lords democratisation as a compensation for the lost referendum. An elected House of Lords- on the basis of some version of PR preferably- would add a great deal more pluralism to our political system than AV will ever do.</p> <p>There is a strong reformist case against AV therefore. It&rsquo;s not real reform. It is not more democratic, more pluralistic, and doesn&rsquo;t offer significantly more choice and may even offer less. A really pluralistic system would combine an elected second chamber, more primaries for candidates, more local power, and, yes, potentially PR for the House of Commons also. The latter would rely on some mechanism for bridging the democratic gap that opens up through post-election elite coalition formation. It&rsquo;s not insurmountable- a simple yes or no vote on a coalition programme could be held or parties would have to declare their favoured coalition partners and non-negotiables before the election.&nbsp;</p> <p>By putting this much energy into a non-pluralist electoral system, the case for real pluralism- including a less convergent electoral systems- and greater democracy has been deflected. This is not a case of rejecting the good because it&rsquo;s not the best. It&rsquo;s a case of seeing the close family resemblance between all majoritarian systems. The reformist case is about democracy, pluralism, and choice. These are also the reasons to reject both AV and our current majoritarian political system. I&rsquo;d rather not have our politics converge around Nick Clegg. It&rsquo;s nothing personal. It&rsquo;s a simple matter of real choice.</p> <p><em>Anthony Painter is co-author of </em><em><a href="">Fear and Hope: the new politics of identity</a></em><em>. </em><em>The views expressed here are his own.</em></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Referendum Plus Anthony Painter Tue, 19 Apr 2011 13:36:27 +0000 Anthony Painter 59079 at Democracy by machines or morals? Why the AV referendum matters to the Left <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The future of the centre left in Britain is dependent on the AV referendum result. A Yes vote would open the doors to a new politics, fit for a fluid, decentralised world. This is Labour's opportunity to shake off a deadly, elitist culture and embrace pluralism, dialogue and democracy </div> </div> </div> <p><img class="image-left" src="" alt="" width="80" /></p><p><strong>Introduction</strong></p> <p>On 5 May 2011 British voters go to the polls to decide whether we put just one X on the ballot paper in future general elections or whether we can rank candidates in order of preference. On the face of it, who cares? Shouldn&rsquo;t we be worrying about the cuts instead?</p> <p>I want to argue that despite the Alternative Vote (AV) being just a small step-change in the way our voting system works it has profound implications for the future of our political system.&nbsp;</p> <p>There is a division opening up across British politics &ndash; which redefines but doesn&rsquo;t replace the old left/right divide. It is between what we might now call machine politics versus moral politics and the AV campaign battle is sharpening the distinction. This distinction became clearer to me on the morning of Tuesday 29 March in a room in Westminster Central Hall when the all-party Yes to AV campaign was launched. Only it wasn&rsquo;t quite all party. It was three parties. Or rather to be absolutely honest it was two and a half parties. The Greens and the Liberal Democrats are solidly behind AV, though both would prefer something more proportional; despite this they are not letting the perfect be the enemy of the good. The Labour Party is split despite leader Ed Miliband being on the Yes platform and the vast majority of the Shadow Cabinet being pro-reform.</p><p>On the other side of town the No campaign were running their spoiler event. This campaign also has in effect two and a half parties though only one and a half are ever present. The Tories are to a person against AV. The half is the other half of the Labour Party that wants a No vote and is represented by the like of John Reid and Margaret Beckett. The silent missing partner is the BNP, which knows like the Tories that First Past the Post (FPTP) is the best system for them.</p> <p>Of course all these politicians can see different party advantage in one system or another. But the real differences between them are much more than tactical &ndash; they are cultural. The Yes and No camps represent a different way of conceiving politics and power. That is why what is at stake on 5 May isn&rsquo;t just a different way of counting votes but whether Britain is going to start the process of embracing a new politics or will stick with the old.&nbsp;</p> <p>Under FPTP Labour has got itself into a real mess. Because we have to appease anti-Labour sentiment to win under this system we achieve too little in government and our vote splinters to smaller parties. We have to stop digging and give ourselves a chance to win with a real political purpose.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>The politics of the machine</strong></p> <p>The Labour and Tory politicians who want a No Vote differ on many things; equality, the role of the market, trade unions, public spending and much more. But they share a common assumption about politics, democracy and the role of the state.</p> <p>For worthy but ultimately misguided ends the Labour &lsquo;just say No&rsquo; brigade have a view of politics and power that has remained unchanged for over a century and mirrors that of the Tories. This view is essentially elitist &ndash; the party and its leadership know what is best for the people and will administer change from the top down. Tory deference meets Labour statism and they co-habit quite happily in the No campaign. Socialism for the Labour No camp is exactly what it was for Herbert Morrison over 60 years ago: &lsquo;what Labour governments do&rsquo;. The process and the end point is always the same &ndash; the election of a Labour government. Everything stems from that. And it is this conflation of means that justify ends that is destroying Labour&rsquo;s ability to change the country for the better.&nbsp;</p> <p>I debated AV at a north London CLP recently and one senior Labour MP from the No side talked about what she wanted to do for &lsquo;our people&rsquo;. I know what she meant and she meant it for good reasons. But they are not our people. The fact that Labour felt like they ever owned anyone was probably not a good thing at the time and it certainly isn&rsquo;t now. People cannot be owned. Paternalism is an ethos that may have been well meaning, but it is cold, insular, remote and bureaucratic, and its time has gone. It says that people can&rsquo;t play a role in helping themselves. Yet it still has a grip on much of Labour&rsquo;s psyche as embodied by the No campaign.&nbsp;</p> <p>At its core it represents the politics of elitism. The people can&rsquo;t be trusted and need to be led by a pure party vanguard who know what is best for them. A chosen few are the only people capable of making change happen. In Britain it has become what is in effect Parliamentary Leninism and unless and until Labour decisively shakes this deadly culture off, the prospects for any transformative change to our nation are negligible. The AV referendum is the chance to do just that because the old politics isn&rsquo;t working.</p> <p>In 13 years, with the blessing of a booming economy (albeit one built on the quicksand of debt and a house price bubble), huge majorities and a pretty useless opposition Labour proved beyond doubt that the days of social democracy by an elected elite, by a small group in a single party, are over. Under this old model the Labour government did some good things and some bad things and we all have our little list, but the fact remains that the planet continued to burn and the vast inequalities of power and wealth in our society persisted. Labour sucked up to Murdoch and the bankers; it said that ownership didn&rsquo;t matter and tried to sell off the Post Office. It paved the way for the privatisation of the NHS and the break up of our schools. But not just that &ndash; at every step of the way this old politics undermined the basis for more radical politics in the future. The Party, the trade unions and the wider Labour movement were all weaker as a result of the Party being in power under this mode of operation. While FPTP forces attention on so few voters whose opinions count, this, it was felt, was the only way we could win.</p> <p>In truth the politics of the clunking machine were long over. They were over in 1979 as the post war settlement finally unravelled. This reality caught up with actually existing socialism in 1989. But Labour kept doing the same thing, expecting a different outcome. Deliver the leaflet, make the speech, get elected, pull the levers and hey presto &ndash; socialism. We did it in 1945 and it worked and so why can&rsquo;t we do it again now? It is the politics of one more heave and has been a remarkably resilient mobilising ideal given how useless it has been at transforming our country.</p> <p>The 1945 moment captured the imagination of Labour, and the party has been living off the vapours ever since. All political moments need their myths to sustain and guide them. But when a myth holds no basis in reality it becomes not a catalyst for change but a barrier. There are two problems with Labour&rsquo;s 1945 myth. The first is that it is an imagined 1945. It is a 1945 that remembers only Clement Attlee, Nye Bevan and Herbert Morrison as the people who delivered socialism. Its forgets the trade unions, the friendly societies, the left book clubs and Clarion Cycling clubs, the socialist societies, the Methodists and of course the intellectual impact of Liberals like Keynes and Beveridge and even Tories like Butler. It was not a singular and elite entity that created the post war settlement; it was rich, deep and nuanced. But all the No camp of Labour people remembers is the Labour Party, or more precisely its leadership.</p> <p>The second problem is even more profound and that is the horrible truth that 1945 was a unique and therefore unrepeatable moment. It came off the back of the Depression and a socially unifying war that meant even Churchill could not stop it happening. Critically it was the high water mark of Fordism and all the paraphernalia of mass production and mass parties that went with it. It was a moment to make a certain type of bureaucratic history because the conditions in which history could be made in this way were right &ndash; but unrepeatable. All of the conditions of 1945 evaporated long ago. War socialism, despite the best efforts of the Labour No campaigners, is not coming back.</p> <p>FPTP is the required political architecture of this mass, centralised, command and control model of politics. It speaks to a nation where in 1951 97% of the population voted for one of the two main parties. Those two parties represented two class interests and power could swing between them. But that world has gone. By 2010 only 65% voted Labour or Conservative. With a decline in the number of marginal seats just a handful of swing voters in a few swing seats determine the outcome of every general election. 1.6% of us decide who wins. All the political focus has to be on them &ndash; not Labour traditional voters or the poor. In this world Rupert Murdoch and the politics of the <em>Daily Mail</em> rule. It is their will that must be appeased. When Labour triangulates onto this narrow space it leaves the way open for apathy at best or the BNP at worst. And ironically, because of the rise of smaller parties (that FPTP encourages) the big parties will continually fail to deliver majority parliaments. As a recent&nbsp;<a href="">IPPR report</a>&nbsp;sets out, Coalition will become a more common feature of our politics in years to come &ndash; unless we change.</p> <p>And so Labour&rsquo;s vote decline still further and we get stuck in a vicious cycle. The less the electoral system allows us to deliver real change, the smaller the vote we get. And so on. We have to break out of this and AV shows the way. Meanwhile the Labour No camp clings to the belief that next time it will better. Somehow it will be different. But there is no legitimacy in winning on 35% of the vote. There isn&rsquo;t even anything to command and control. The life has been sucked out of that mid-century model and the world has moved on.</p> <p>The AV referendum is now the sharp point at which the inevitable decline of such a politics is tested. It might cling on &ndash; like a chicken that can still run round the yard after its head is cut off. But it won&rsquo;t work. Not in the medium to long term. Not in the sense that it will help the centre-left stop the poor getting poorer and the planet burning. Its fate was sealed decades ago by cultural and technological changes that are now far beyond its power.</p> <p><strong>The re-moralised politics</strong></p> <p>So what does a Yes to AV suggest about a different form of politics? The key point about AV is that it recognises that social and political change will happen in different ways in the future. Instead of being delivered machine-like, change will have to be negotiated and be built on shifting alliances not homogenous class blocks. Politics must be pluralised instead of being polarised. It has none of the simplicity of the machine model &ndash; it isn&rsquo;t linear. It is complex and fluid. But that is because it mirrors the world as it now is. A world that is decentralised in which we have multiple identities in which we blog, comment and express ourselves in myriad different ways. We have moved from a factory world to a Facebook world. In the former we had a job for life, a place for life and a class and party allegiance forever. It was secure but stultifying. That world has gone.</p> <p>This insight is of course far from new. Much of this was put forward around 20 years ago by the former Communist Party intellectuals around <em>Marxism Today</em> and the New Times project. They felt the death of Leninism more keenly than most. Charter 88 was another vital response to the end point of this form of social democracy and its supporters were more successful in getting elements of their programme onto the political agenda, not least because the &lsquo;old&rsquo; Labour leader John Smith understood the requirement for a new politics. Even with his death the moment was not gone. Blair at least affected to get it. He brought in Roy Jenkins and cosied up to Paddy Ashdown &ndash; but he let the moment to realign politics to the left go and today we pay the price with the realignment of the right.</p> <p>So what does a post Leninist left look like? It&rsquo;s not that hard to imagine. It is a political formation that respects more than anything the principles and practice of democracy. It shifts from democracy being a means to an end (grabbing state power) to being an end in itself. It sees democracy, in the absence of class, as the only tool the left has to re-engage with in the struggle with capital. Through democracy we decide as a society when, where and how capitalism operates. Politics, through such a democratic prism, stops being about reaching an end point and starts being a never-ending journey. Socialism stops being what a Labour government does and starts being what people do.</p> <p>So not only would Labour re-ignite the constitutional reform touch paper set off by Charter 88, it would apply the test of democracy to every meaningful social and economic institution in the land &ndash; in public services, workplaces and communities. Power would rightly be regarded as plural rather than singular. Such pluralism would shatter the brittle and rigid structures of our adversarial political system in the recognition that change happens not by force but through argument, engagement, debate and discourse. It is the politics of the campsite; of clear identities but shared values. It is about winning allies, forging partnerships, coalitions and alliances. It is a war of manoeuvre not a war of position. It is Aesop&rsquo;s sun not Aesop&rsquo;s wind.</p> <p>But are the conditions right for a shift to a post Leninist form of politics for Labour that AV would permit? Are the political and economic failures of New Labour and the birth of a centre-right coalition the conditions in which Labour can junk vanguardism for good, or will there be one more &lsquo;one more heave&rsquo;? The unpopularity of the Coalition Government and Nick Clegg in particular makes the lazy assumptions of one more heave attractive. If being in office is all that matters, socialism can be administered once again from on high, then why take a chance? From this view Clegg the traitor is the enemy &ndash; not Cameron. The AV referendum is chance for the No camp to settle old adversarial scores not embrace a pluralist socialism. But another round of bitter disappointment and inevitable failure in office if this mode of operation is repeated would be too much to bear.</p> <p>The century of the centre is over. Centrifugal forces have become centripetal. The all-seeing, all-knowing hierarchy has had its day. What was linear, straight and mechanical has given way to what is fluid, liquid, plural and complex. Under these new forces Britain itself is breaking up. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland are more and more going their own way. New mayors are being elected across the land. Whatever we think of this process it is inconceivable that it will be reversed &ndash; the only issue is how far will it go and whether it will work for labour or capital. The politics of one leader, one party and one state cannot hope to survive in this context. It is not surviving. The rise of small parties and the very hung parliaments the No camp fears is happening now under their system &ndash; and will go on happening.</p> <p>This allows Labour to pick up on old themes and inspirations: of Levellers, Chartists, Diggers, mutuals, guilds and associations. Critically, though, it gives permission and legitimacy to become part of the Facebook generation, where you join multiple groups and have multiple allegiances and identities. Where what matters is that you march against student fees and protest against corporate tax avoidance &ndash; not simply what party card you hold or what leader you follow. The tone of the debate to come is between a politics that is plural and a politics that remains singular and elite-driven. Between a future that is negotiated, and one that is dictated.</p> <p>This cultural shift is essential for the left. The planet burns and the poor get poorer. These two crises combine to create a third &ndash; that of democracy itself. For what is the point of politics if it doesn&rsquo;t put right the big things that are wrong with our world? The struggle for equality, sustainability and therefore democracy are no longer singular campaigns &ndash; but will only be solved together, as a joint narrative, programme and movement for change. Leninism failed even in the era of mass society but reform from the top is always time limited. There will always be a revolt against it. The vanguard is even more hopelessly positioned today to control because there is no one bloc to command. Lenin believed that you could force history. New Labour found that you can for a while but it inevitable unravels without a broad coalition of moral support behind and ahead of it. Meaningful and sustained change happens with the people &ndash; not against them. The challenge is to retain a clear ideological stance but practise it through pluralistic means.</p> <p>Elections fought under AV will force Labour to find common ground with others, to build alliances, to listen and to debate constructively. It will punish those who seek to destroy others &ndash; that is why the Tories and the BNP are against it. The AV referendum crystallises all of these issues and the campaign itself puts in the shop window two very different ways of being.</p> <p><strong>Saying and doing anything to win</strong></p> <p>The mindset of the machine politician is that anything is justified to win. Everything can and must be subordinated to winning control of the state because that is the way you make change happen. Means are justified by ends. In a two party, bi-polar world the only game in town is to smash your opponent by all means at your disposal. So in election campaigns you create clear dividing lines even if the reality is that the dividing lines are so narrow that few can tell the difference between who is in power and who is not. Everyone cuts, everyone privatises, everyone worships the rich and the USA &ndash; because that is the demand of the City, Murdoch, the <em>Mail</em> and the 1.6% on whom every election hinges. The Tories put up pictures of Tony Blair looking live the devil. A Labour MP is disqualified from office for slandering his opponent. The electoral system closes down the space for morality and rewards destructive ruthlessness. It doesn&rsquo;t matter to the machine politicians that more and more people are turned off politics, turnout slumps or even that if they win by such dubious means they change little of any significance, at least on the Labour side, because winning is enough. Democracy has no significance beyond its ability to yield power. If politics shrinks on every step to the winning line then so be it.</p> <p>And so it is in the referendum campaign on AV. The Labour No campaigners consistently take the same path &ndash; they will say and do anything to win. They say that voting yes will cost the country &pound;250 million and plaster the press with adverts of soldiers, the police and even babies in incubators saying the money could be better spent. At best it is misleading when a lot of the cost is for the referendum itself and therefore doesn&rsquo;t change if you vote yes or no, or don&rsquo;t vote at all. The rest is based on the assumption that AV will require Florida style voting machines to count the ballots &ndash; when no such machines are needed.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s the same with the claim that AV will improve the chances of the BNP winning seats &ndash; when the reality is the complete opposite. The BNP will suffer under AV because they inevitably fare badly under such preferential systems. They do well and win seats under FPTP as they have proved in winning numerous council seats, but no extremist party does well under non-proportionate preferential voting systems. That is why the independent pollster from YouGov Peter Kellner describes AV as an &lsquo;anti BNP voting system&rsquo;. And if you don&rsquo;t believe me or Peter Kellner then believe the BNP themselves who are campaigning for a No vote. That doesn&rsquo;t matter to Labour No people. To go on wildly misleading is justified in the pursuit of winning. But the tragedy is that FPTP encourages Labour to focus on middle England at the expense of much of its traditional working class vote &ndash; and therefore acts as a recruiting sergeant for the BNP.</p> <p>There is one final and interesting aspect of the No Campaign &ndash; it is the focus on Nick Clegg. They want Labour members and supporters to vote No as a direct attack on him. They want the referendum to be all about him. In part this is because they perceive him to be unpopular and so want his image in voters&rsquo; minds. But there is a deeper reason. Why is Clegg their number one hate person and not David Cameron? Especially given the fact that a No vote will force the Coalition partners closer together and the Liberal Democrats will be hugely weakened by such a result and the Tories strengthened. As one Liberal Democrat put it to me, &lsquo;We won&rsquo;t jump out of a speeding car.&rsquo;</p> <p>A Yes vote would seriously disrupt the Coalition &ndash; the Liberal Democrats would feel more powerful and the Tory right would be up in arms. What do the Tory right get from a coalition that waters down everything they want to do on Europe, taxes and the NHS, and delivers a voting system that could deny them ever being in sole power again? They would be gunning for Cameron: &lsquo;Tory MPs stop you in corridors to share their worries &ndash; an AV win would be &ldquo;a dagger at the heart of the party&rdquo;, we would never hold power outright again,&rsquo; wrote Gary Gibbon of Channel 4 News on his blog. George Pascoe Watson, former <em>Sun</em> political editor, writes in his PR briefing, &lsquo;Mr Cameron is a worried man, I&rsquo;m very reliably informed. The PM has ordered an emergency push to deliver a &ldquo;no&rdquo; in the AV referendum at all costs.&rsquo;</p> <p>The weakening or possible collapse of the Coalition would be one of the main outcomes of a Yes vote for all that means for the cuts and more. But still some Labour MPs want a No vote. We have to ask why? The answer must lie in the fact that what they want is a two party adversarial system, not the end of the Coalition. Destroying the Liberal Democrats and not the Conservatives is their main mission. Then and only then can we go back to a politics of two big parties taking turns pulling the levers of the state. Only coalitions are more likely not less under FPTP and the levers don&rsquo;t work &ndash; at least not well enough to help &lsquo;our people&rsquo;. And even if we get our chance &ndash; it&rsquo;s the rich who disproportionally benefit.</p> <p>If they win a No vote then this type of politics will become entrenched. It will go on failing the poor and the dispossessed. More people will give up on politics and democracy. The politics of the machine will have defeated the politics of morality.</p> <p><strong>Conclusions</strong></p> <p>Two political futures are now on display as the referendum draws near. On one side there are those who want to control the state and happy to do that on the basis of only a third of the vote with no consideration of the level of turnout. Those on the Labour side of the No campaign want to do good with the slippery, illusive power they seek. They see the trapping of power just like 1945 and believe they can recreate that moment through the departments of the state and the red boxes. But the power to act, let alone transform, has seeped out. It lies increasingly elsewhere &ndash; in the media, in the City, on social network sites and more than anywhere in global corporations. The Labour No campaigners find themselves on the wrong side of history.</p> <p>The second future is through social democracy but achieved in a very different way. It doesn&rsquo;t offer empty certainty but hope through pluralism, dialogue and a democracy so deep it liberates the poorest and most oppressed. The struggle will always continue against markets that are too free and a state that is sometimes too remote but in a very different way. That future is glimpsed in the Labour Yes campaign. It is not easy, sure fire or certain. Nothing is. But it is the only way the left stands a chance of making politics work; socialism through pluralism, dialogue and, more than anything, democracy. At last we stand the chance of making a breakthrough; socialism and democracy are two sides of the same coin. You can&rsquo;t have one without the other. The small matter of putting an X versus ranking candidates 1, 2, 3 on a ballot carries with it either a dead past or a possible future for the left.</p> <p>We have a once in a lifetime opportunity to give the centre-left a chance to outflank the right and start constructing a politics that can change the world. To say we should take it &ndash; is a huge understatement.</p><hr /><p><em>Author's notes</em><em>: I am in favour of a more proportional voting system because I&rsquo;m a socialist and believe everyone&rsquo;s vote should count equally. Some of these arguments have appeared&nbsp;</em><a href=""><em>in a previous article on OurKingdom</em></a><em>.&nbsp;</em></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Ideas Referendum Plus Neal Lawson Fri, 15 Apr 2011 13:27:37 +0000 Neal Lawson 59016 at The AV counting method undermines its raison d'etre <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The method by which AV votes are counted makes it impossible to assess which winning candidates enjoy the genuine support of the majority. Therefore the parliamentary majorities produced by AV will be more unreliable, contestable and illegitimate than under the present system of First Past the Post. </div> </div> </div> <p>An AV count stops at the point where the leading candidate has more votes (both first-preference and transferred) than the other candidate or candidates left in the race. That much is logical and straightforward: the leading candidate can’t be caught up so has won.</p> <p>This means, however, that some results will be declared when there are only two candidates left in the count, and some will be declared when there are three or more candidates left. This inconsistency makes it impossible to analyse the results and assess the number of winning candidates enjoying the genuine support of a majority of voters in their constituencies. And yet, this is the whole point of AV: that the winners are supposed to enjoy the backing of a majority.</p><p>For example, there could be many seats in southern England where a winner is declared while there are three candidates left in the election, especially if Labour picks up the votes of disaffected former Lib Dem supporters. Let’s say that, after the candidates from the minor parties have been eliminated, the tally is:</p> <p>Conservative: 48%</p> <p>Lib Dem: 24%</p> <p>Labour: 23%</p> <p>The missing 5% are voters who haven’t indicated a preference for any of the remaining candidates.</p> <p>At this point, the Conservative is declared the winner, and the count stops. The result is recorded in two ways: 1) as a ‘majority’ for the Conservative: 50.5% (i.e. 48% divided by 95%); and 2) as a plurality for the Conservative (48% of all votes cast).</p> <p>By contrast, in another seat, the standings of the same three parties could be:</p> <p>Conservative: 48%</p> <p>Labour: 25%</p> <p>Lib Dem: 24%</p> <p>Here, only 3% of votes have failed to transfer to the remaining candidates, and the Tory can be caught. So the preferences of Lib Dem voters are distributed between the remaining candidates, and the final tally is:</p> <p>Conservative: 53%</p> <p>Labour: 41%</p> <p>Total non-transferred: 6%</p> <p>Here, the final result can equally be recorded in two different ways: 1) a large majority for the Conservative: 56.4% (i.e. 53% divided by 94%); or 2) a majority for the Conservative of 53% (out of all votes cast).</p> <p>So in the first seat, the Tory winner appears to have won on a plurality, and in the second, (s)he has secured a majority. However, if the preference votes of the third-placed Labour candidate in the first example were distributed to the top-two candidates, the Conservative would probably be shown to have a majority there, too, as only 8.7% of Labour voters would need to put the Tory candidate down as a higher preference than the Lib Dem to give the Tory 50% of all votes cast: not inconceivable if the Conservative is perceived as a good constituency MP.</p> <p>There will, however, be many other seats that come down to just two candidates where the winner <em>won’t</em> obtain a majority of all votes cast; e.g. Labour-Tory marginals where not enough Lib Dem voters indicate a preference for either of the two other parties. Therefore, when analysing the results, it will not be possible to distinguish between constituencies where the AV winner genuinely enjoyed the support of only a plurality of voters, and other seats where the winner only <em>appeared</em> to be supported by a plurality but would have obtained a majority if the preference votes of third- and lesser-placed candidates had been transferred as they were in the other type of plurality result.</p> <p>Consequently, it will not be possible to consistently assess the degree to which AV-generated majorities correspond to real majorities of all votes cast or merely pluralities, because the results will include a variable set of preference votes on a constituency by constituency basis. In fact, the counting method employed will <em>exaggerate</em> the number of plurality results, making AV appear even less successful at generating majorities. This will not inspire confidence in AV and will increase voters’ suspicions about its inconsistencies and non-counted preference votes.</p> <p>The mainstream parties are likely to exploit this inability to objectively assess the proportion of seats where AV has produced ‘genuine’ majority winners, and will claim that the only result that matters is the AV-defined majority in each constituency: the majority of the votes remaining in play at the final stage of the count.</p> <p>And this is what is ultimately so insidious about AV and how it will be manipulated to legitimise disproportional election results. If a party wins an outright parliamentary majority under AV – which it will be possible to do on an even lower share of first preferences than the share of the vote under FPTP – it will be able to claim that this equates to a ‘majority of majorities’, i.e. that the party is supported by a majority of voters in a majority of seats. This is of course likely to be factually untrue if one is talking of real majorities: majorities of all votes cast. But if there is methodological uncertainty about what the manufactured AV majorities really correspond to – i.e. whether they reflect real majorities of all votes cast, merely latent majorities of all votes cast, or no majority at all – the parties will conveniently dismiss such quibbles and smugly ascribe themselves a false majority mandate anyway.</p> <p>All of this means that parliamentary majorities produced by AV will be even more unreliable, contestable and illegitimate than FPTP ones. At constituency level, some AV-defined majorities will not be genuine, while in other seats pluralities of all votes counted will in fact correspond to latent but unrecorded majorities – but the parties will claim they’re all majorities regardless. And AV will have failed in its primary purpose: to ensure that MPs enjoy the transparent support and clear assent of a majority of their constituents.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Referendum Plus David Rickard Thu, 07 Apr 2011 09:23:56 +0000 David Rickard 58767 at Yes to AV! campaign says it with postcards <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> A new ‘Yes to AV’ site has just been launched. This is an independent site with loads of Yes2AV e-postcards to choose from. You can send the appropriate postcard to the appropriate person you know, in a bid to enthuse them about voting Yes on May 5. </div> </div> </div> <p>A <a href="">new &lsquo;Yes to AV&rsquo; site</a> has just been launched. This is an&nbsp;independent site with loads of Yes2AV <em>e-postcards&nbsp;</em>to choose from. You can send the appropriate postcard to the appropriate person you know, in a bid to enthuse them about voting Yes on May 5.</p> <p>It&rsquo;s a sort of <a href="">myDavidCameron</a> with the work already done for you&hellip;</p> <p><img class="image-left" src="" alt="" width="200" />To the left is just one example of many.</p><p>The site is the product of Matt Wootton, with editorial help from myself; it is a 'Green Words Workshop' production. (See <a href="">our joint blog</a> on reframing and values, of which this new site is an offshoot).</p> <p>We think that this is the kind of thing that could potentially be transformative, over the next several weeks. The Yes campaign needs independent support; it needs a bit of razzmatazz and innovation; it needs to go viral.</p><p>Please send a postcard and make this happen.</p><p></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Referendum Plus Rupert Read Fri, 25 Mar 2011 11:23:41 +0000 Rupert Read 58681 at NO campaign leaving YES to AV in the dust? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Are the 'No' to AV campaign in the forthcoming British referendum gaining the upper hand thanks to ruthless negative adverts? </div> </div> </div> <p><span class="submitted">&nbsp;</span>I support the Yes to AV campaign for British electoral reform. My colleague on the <a href="">Green Words Workshop</a>, Rupert Read, does too (and he&rsquo;s written a couple of excellent recent pieces supporting AV <a href="ourkingdom/rupert-read/av-means-you-can-stick-to-first-past-post-if-you-really-want-to" target="_blank">here</a> and <a href="ourkingdom/rupert-read/leaked-no-to-av-letter-from-william-hague-is-dissected-by-yes-campaigner" target="_blank">here</a>).</p> <div class="content"><p>Unfortunately I&rsquo;m concerned that the No campaign is leaving the Yes camp far behind, in terms of their framing, emotional appeal and general communication. The Yes camp just don't know how to do cognitively-informed communication. The No side clearly do.</p> <p>Martin Kettle rightly identifies the British people&rsquo;s annoyance with politics in his <a href="" target="_blank">Guardian piece</a> last week &ldquo;Public hostility to politics will deliver a yes to AV&rdquo;.</p> <p>He&rsquo;s right to say &ldquo;the mood is for change&rdquo;, but the question is &ldquo;what kind of change?&rdquo;. Kettle&rsquo;s opinion is that public hostility to politics will deliver a yes vote. I&rsquo;m not so sure it won&rsquo;t do the opposite. And by the look of the way the two opposing campaigns are conducting their communications, the No side is streets ahead of the Yes camp in capturing the public&rsquo;s hostility and mistrust towards politics.</p> <p>This has a potentially tragic outcome for the Yes campaign. They will have the people on their side, but if the people don&rsquo;t realise that they&rsquo;re on that side, they will still lose. Have a look at the skill and cunning with which the No campaign is deploying their communications:</p> <p><a href="" target="_blank"><img src="" alt="NO baby" align="left" border="1" hspace="4" vspace="4" /></a></p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>Click on the baby for more examples. Some of these ads are too "stock" in their photography, and bordering on cheesy, but their message is clear.</p><p>To paraphrase their emotional impact: "The Yes side care about boring dull technicalities like an "alternative voting system". We the No side care about real things, like helping people. That's what's important". Unfortunately for most people not already convinced of the Yes argument, that is going to be a pretty devastatingly good argument. The success of the No campaign's ads is not just cunning. It is cognitive awareness. It is the knowledge (that right-wing organisations have known for years and that left-leaning/progressive organisations still haven't "got") that political communication happens overwhelming at an emotional and subsconscious level. But typically, the Yes campaign are not only being beaten by the No side, they are playing the game exactly the way the No camp would wish them to, displaying their own lack of cognitive awareness.&nbsp;</p> <p>The Chair of the Yes campaign wrote to supporters (like myself) calling attention to the No campaign's "shocking and shameful" attempts to "play on voters' fears", specifically singling out the baby ad. Kate Ghose also drew attention to outright lies by the No campaign. But the lies are not the problem. The problem is the effectiveness with which the No camp is putting forward the truth, or at least things that will resonant with the vast majority of the British public as true.</p><p>By contrast, the Yes camp's messages are spectularly unresonant. Their latest campaign, after having set up a petitioning of the BBC to re-think their editorial guidlines around the word "reform", is to lobby the Advertising Standards Authority to "step in" and police the "unfair"&nbsp;tactics of the No side over the baby graphic. Unfortunately this plea to an impartial arbiter is - and I'm sorry to have to say this - exactly the kind of whining that makes the Yes side look like losers. When you cry "The other boys aren't playing fair!" the next phrase that comes to mind is "Mummy, make them play nice!". Well, mummy's probably not going to help (the petition to the BBC has resulted in&nbsp; no sign yet of them reversing their editorial policy, despite the 20,149 signatories to-date: mine included). The only thing that calling for mummy does is: make the Yes side appear to be losing (because they wouldn't have to be calling for help otherwise), make the No side appear to be "on top", and make the Yes side appear "weak and woosie".</p><p>It also gives the issue more air-time as the media endlessly plays and replays the right or wrong of the situation, without conclusion, all the while giving time to the original framing. This might seem over-the-top or overly harsh, but it is exactly the way Drew Westen characterises the US&nbsp;Democrats' use of the "no fair!" move in his book<a href=""> <em>The Political Brain</em></a>. Westen is not writing just his opinion. He's writing based on years of psychological and cognitive research into the way the human brain functions and makes sense of politics.</p> <p>Should the Yes campaign by calling-out the No side on their lies and distortions?&nbsp;Yes! Absolutely. Westen would approve. But they really need to do so in a way that makes them appear strong, warm, positive, and, most of all, winning. Tricky to do when your main message is a petition, but it is the Yes side's lack of values-based emotionally impactful messages and the corresponding lack of a warm, strong, positive identity that is the biggest problem. To quote Westen again: "he who frames first normally frames best". From a cognitive point of view the Yes camp have failed so far to frame their messages effectively, failed to predict (and, crucially, innoculate against)&nbsp;the No campaign's messages and have fallen into expected traps that left-leaning/progressive organisations always fall into, shortly before they become prey to the more cognitively-aware Right.</p> <p>Is the No side's use of misleading advertising morally offensive! Yes, of course, very much so! But to most ordinary people, the prioritisation of an alternative voting apparatus over a baby's life seems more morally offensive. That's why the Yes side needs to fight fire with fire. And I don't mean by being equally manipulative. I&nbsp;mean by being equally effective in their emotional and indeed moral impact.</p><p>This is a shortened version cross-posted with thanks from <a href="">Green Words Workshop</a></p></div><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Civil society </div> <div class="field-item even"> Culture </div> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Civil society Culture Democracy and government Referendum Plus Matt Wootton Wed, 23 Mar 2011 14:37:58 +0000 Matt Wootton 58652 at Say no to AV; Britain needs an entirely new system <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Our current First Past the Post voting system is failing us. Unfortunately, the Alternative Vote is not the answer. AV promotes centrist politics, shuts out smaller parties and encourages unhelpful constituency alliances. We should advocate a a new system for Britain, combining proportional representation with constituency links for MPs. </div> </div> </div> <p>The British public is finally being offered a referendum on electoral reform because the faults of the Westminster system are all too apparent. The way it gives so many more seats in relation to votes to leading parties and squeezes out third-placed and smaller ones; the way if offers constituents only one Member of Parliament to represent them, despite the residents' diversity; the way some winners can get their seat with only a handful of votes more than the next candidate, while others can hold on to theirs for decades due to an in-built social majority of their constituency's residents; and the way our Single-Member Majoritarian system (FPTP) can give the leading party overwhelming dominance of parliament and government&nbsp; <span>–</span>&nbsp;&nbsp;such defects undermine confidence in the parliamentary system.&nbsp;</p> <p>Does this mean that critics of FPTP should embrace a change to the Alternative Vote? Unfortunately not. Alone in the world, Papua New Guinea (PNG) and Australia use it for their national parliaments. It has worked well in Papua because in polities that are highly fragmented along ethnic and tribal lines, AV prevents candidates from behaving in an overly partisan way, making them seek support beyond their own communal base in order to gain the 2<span><span>nd</span></span>&nbsp;preference votes and get elected with an overall majority. But this is <em>the very opposite</em> of Britain's situation, where three nationwide parties stand accused of becoming increasingly similar, and a worrying number of potential voters abstain from deciding between them. AV is said by specialists to be the best system for <em>promoting centrist politics</em>, just what reformers in Britain wish to avoid. </p><p>By now we all know that those little diagrams on websites are a misleading simplification of the AV count. Do we all get our 2<span><span>nd</span></span>&nbsp;and subsequent preferences counted towards the outcome? No. Do all preferences even get counted? No. Will Labour and Conservative voters be able to transfer their 2<span><span>nd&nbsp;</span></span>choice to the Lib Dems, so as to prevent each other's rivals from winning? Not usually <span>–</span>&nbsp;only if the Lib Dems have already beaten them by coming top or runner-up. In sum, a large majority of voters will never have their 2nd&nbsp;choices counted.</p><p><span></span>If the reason for reform is to increase competition between the old parties and help new ones, AV does the opposite. Whichever party comes third-place in a constituency is the only mainstream option whose ballots will have their 2nd&nbsp;and subsequent preferences counted along with those of the small and fringe parties. What the Lib Dems are probably hoping for is that, as their candidates frequently end up in third position, their voters will have the casting vote using their 2nd&nbsp;preferences to determine the winner, with this pattern repeating itself in numerous constituencies.</p> <p>But if third-placed LibDems become kingmakers with their 2nd&nbsp;preferences, both Labour and Conservatives will want to develop alliances with them, whether voiced or whispered, and policy differences will blur even further. Instead of going all out to persuade voters to back them on the grounds of their <em>difference</em> from other parties, candidates would have to make broadly-based appeals to attract more 2nd&nbsp;preferences, rather than focusing on narrower issues, as explained by the online Electoral Knowledge Network. More hot air, fewer specifics.</p> <p>In fact, choosing between so many poorly defined candidates confuses people so much that Australian parties issue voter guides telling their supporters who to vote for in their 2nd&nbsp;and subsequent preferences – this shows how AV pushes parties into constituency alliances that may actually be undesirable at national level. Imagine the British scenario in which the candidate from Party A has to convey the message, endorsed by the party, "Vote for me, but if you must vote for Party B, remember I'm not that different, so you can put me down as your 2nd&nbsp;preference", while Party A's sitting MP in the next constituency might have to suggest the opposite to Party C voters if their candidate is likely to come third: "I'm not so different from Party C, so give me your 2nd&nbsp;preference". A level of political incoherence likely to increase the electorate's disdain for politics, and an uncomfortable situation for MPs.</p> <p>As to opening up parliament to more parties, AV does the opposite: it concentrates the vote on the two main parties, since the winner needs a bigger majority than under FPTP. In Australia, the two leading parties got 82% of the votes on 1st preferences alone, while the Green's 2nd preferences got transferred mainly to Labor, leaving the Greens with only one MP.</p> <p>UK Green Party take note: with 1% of the national vote, you got one MP under FPTP. The Australian Greens got nearly 12% of the national vote, but only one MP. Under AV, Green parties cannot obtain a seat with a simple plurality, yet getting a majority is far too difficult, even if they were twelve times more popular than now, because a party must come top or runner-up on 1st&nbsp;preferences in a constituency before benefiting from any 2nd&nbsp;choices.</p> <p>As to electoral reformers' desire to increase proportionality, AV does not offer this, as it remains a Majoritarian single-winner system. It does not offer strong majorities either. In the recent Australian election Labor got 37% and the Liberal Coalition got 44% of the vote on 1st&nbsp;preferences but ended up with the same number of seats each. Adding in the extra preferences, they came neck-and-neck, but with no change of seats and Labor had to reach for independents to form a government with a razor-thin majority. This means AV neither gives a significant increase in seats to the leading party (desirable for government stability), nor produces a more proportional outcome (as under PR). Instead, it entrenches the two-party system.</p> <p>Advocates of a greater representation of women in parliament should give up any illusion that AV <em>per se</em> will help. Though Australia with nearly 25% of women is ranked 41st in the world, above the UK (22% and in 53rd&nbsp;place), Papua New Guinea has only one female MP (0.9%). By comparison, New Zealand with a Mixed Member Proportional system ranks 17th&nbsp;in the world with nearly 34% of MPs being women.</p> <p>In terms of announcing the results, under AV election night could be a flop, because the count would not be in on time. With, say, ten candidates running, constituency tellers used to counting a turnout of 50,000 voters could be faced with half a million choices! Perhaps it's just as just as well they are not actually going to count most of them, but they still have to shuffle around the ballots to small parties to find enough 2nd, 3rd, 4th&nbsp;etc preferences to push a candidate over 25,000 votes to get the seat.</p> <p>As to the alternatives to AV, the Scottish and Welsh FPTP with their tiers of Additional Members elected on a different basis, and Germany too, have the merit of achieving greater proportionality of seats gained in the legislative assembly. But to increase the presence of women it was necessary to impose strict gender balance rules on the parties because the system itself doesn’t deliver it. Two tier (Additional or Mixed Member) systems thus constitute an improvement over FPTP and AV, but at the cost of creating two types of MP (which leads to tensions), and having extremely complicated vote-counting systems.</p> <p>To institute a top tier system at Westminster, the total number of MPs would have to rise considerably or the number of Single Member constituencies be reduced by nearly half&nbsp;<span>–</span>&nbsp;in other words a complete re-design that incumbent MPs would not vote for. The same problem would affect any planned adoption of an existing Proportional Representation with a Party lists of candidates, since large multi-member constituencies would have to be created, and most MPs fear the loss of their links with their current relatively small ones.</p> <p>The best bet for reformers would be to advocate a new system that maintained the MPs' links with the small area of the present constituencies, while at the same time allocating seats in a more proportional way to parties, such as by distributing them across a group of constituencies – a multi-member district&nbsp;<span>–</span>&nbsp;so as to create proportionality within the group/district, while keeping the candidate selection and campaigning and representation constituency-based. A more proportional seat allocation would put an end to the current vast electoral 'deserts' where there are either no Labour or no Conservative MPs to represent supporters who voted for losing candidates. A hybrid system combining moderate PR with constituency links for MPs would solve many electoral defects of both systems and renovate Westminster parliamentary life without requiring the resignation or re-election of incumbent MPs.</p><p><em>The full proposal for a new electoral system for Westminster, with its implementation guide, is available for scrutiny and comment </em><a href=""><em>here</em></a><em>.</em></p><p><em><a href="">Dr&nbsp;Monica Threlfall</a></em><em> is Reader in European Politics at the </em><em><a href="">Institute for the Study of European Transformations</a>.</em></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Democratic Reform Referendum Plus Monica Threlfall Mon, 21 Mar 2011 15:30:13 +0000 Monica Threlfall 58621 at On the Alternative Vote, who speaks for history? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> After a provocative letter telling Times readers that 'history teaches us to vote no to AV', a response was coordinated by other historians who together cried 'not in my name'. The two letters are reproduced here along with commentary by Daniel-Joseph MacArthur-Seal, who helped organise the response, on the feeling among historians. </div> </div> </div> <p>A week ago, a group of historians wrote a letter to <em>the Times</em> urging the public to take heed of the sacrifices of past generations in the name of democracy and vote no to AV. You can read the letter below. I found the argument provocative but unconvincing, as a supporter of AV (though like many it&rsquo;s not my ideal) and particularly as a student of history.&nbsp;</p><div><object style="width: 250px; height: 330px;" align="left"><param name="movie" value=";viewMode=presentation&amp;;backgroundColor=FFFFFF&amp;documentId=110311113508-88d755422d6d41c0946c37ce42f4c4c5&amp;docName=historians_against_av&amp;username=conservatives&amp;loadingInfoText=Historians%20against%20AV%20letter&amp;et=1300465991904&amp;er=67" /><param name="allowfullscreen" value="true" /><param name="menu" value="false" /><embed style="width: 250px; height: 330px;" type="application/x-shockwave-flash" src="" flashvars="mode=embed&amp;viewMode=presentation&amp;;documentId=110311113508-88d755422d6d41c0946c37ce42f4c4c5&amp;docName=historians_against_av&amp;username=conservatives&amp;loadingInfoText=Historians%20against%20AV%20letter&amp;et=1300465991904&amp;er=67" menu="false" allowfullscreen="true"></embed></object></div><p>It hit a nerve that has been irritated for some time. The few historians who have crossed into the mainstream, via TV, topselling books and regular political commentary (principally Niall Ferguson, David Starkey and Simon Schama), are treated by politicians, the media and, some fear, perceived by the public as the voice of all history. Why, seemingly, is Starkey the only historian invited on to BBC Question Time/Any Questions, Schama the only <a href="">confirmed</a> adviser to Education Secretary Michael Gove, Ferguson our <a href="">spokesperson</a> on the Arab revolutions? &nbsp;</p> <p class="p1">No doubt such sentiment is at times motivated by jealousy and the catty rivalries of academia. It is most likely impossible to thrust a handful of figures into the media spotlight while maintaining consensus backstage or in a way that is at all representative: not least because there are very few subjects, if not personalities, that seem to be able to attract a major audience. But there is a genuine cause for concern when the public voices of history are unrepresentative of so many in the field and fail to be acknowledged as such.&nbsp;</p> <p class="p1">It was particularly surprising to see the name Richard J Evans, my some-time teacher, signed below. Evans had just <a href="">written for the LRB</a> in condemnation of Niall Ferguson (now his co-signatory) and <a href="">Better History&rsquo;s proposals [pdf]</a> for history education. There, he criticises the demand for a &lsquo;celebratory history&rsquo; that turns on what Simon Schama (not a signatory) is quoted as calling &lsquo;the uncritical genealogy of the Wonderfulness of Us&rsquo;.&nbsp;</p> <p class="p1">But this was exactly the tone of the letter which Evans then put his name to; praising a mythologised parliamentary democracy and its centuries-old lineage while hailing Winston Churchill and its defenders against a threat implied to be without parallel since the fall of the Third Reich - yes, the alternative vote.&nbsp;The letter&rsquo;s narrative gives little sense of the &lsquo;critical engagement&rsquo; Evans wants to characterise history teaching in England.&nbsp;Instead, it is an example of how experts attempt to feed the public their personal interpretation of historic fact, hoping the aura of their intellect, status and, in some cases, celebrity will win our passive consent.&nbsp;</p> <p class="p1">The object of our response, published in <em>the Times</em> today and reproduced here, is to show that history and historians are not one block legion to be commanded by he (the No to AV signatories were unfortunately almost all he-s) with the loudest voice. We did not intend to act as a counterpart to last week&rsquo;s group and claim that in fact history teaches us to vote yes to AV, or to institute any specific voting system. Signatories will have their own views on which way to vote on 5 May and why, as some have <a href="">recorded</a>.&nbsp;Rather, we wanted to remind people (most of whom probably don&rsquo;t need reminding) that no-one speaks for the force of history, and to take individuals&rsquo; arguments on their merits, not on their allusions to the canon of what Michael Gove sees as our glorious '<a href="">island story</a>'. If precedent serves as any guide, then as we near the 5th of May the debate will get a whole lot <a href="">nastier</a>&nbsp;and we will have to be increasingly vigilent of grand claims about a change that while sorely needed is far from revolutionary.</p><p class="p1">This is our letter:</p><blockquote><p>Twenty-five historians, coordinated by Conservative MP Chris Skidmore, have written to the <em>Times</em>, <a href=""><span style="text-decoration: underline;">claiming</span></a> that AV would be a betrayal of the sacrifice of past generations of democracy campaigners. But claiming to speak for the dead on a referendum they never contemplated seems to us a betrayal of academic standards that we as historians hold dear.</p><p>They claim to speak for historians, indeed for history, in defending FPTP. But as on any such serious political question, historians are as divided as the population at large. The notion that &ldquo;<a href=""><span style="text-decoration: underline;">History teaches us to vote &lsquo;No to AV&rsquo;</span></a>&rdquo;, as <em>the Times</em> headline put it, or that it gives any such clear lesson on the rightful configuration of the voting system again leads us to question the signatories&rsquo; scholarly acumen in supporting this petition.</p><p lang="en-US">Invoking the spirit of Winston Churchill on account of his 1931 objection to AV is a cheap bid for public resonance and bad use of historic example. His opposition to votes for women and to the introduction of direct elections in India make him a poor guide to future voting systems.</p><p>It is misleading to claim that under AV one citizen&rsquo;s vote could be &ldquo;worth six times that of another&rdquo;. Instant run-off voting, of which AV is a form, retains the equal vote which the signatories of the <em>Times</em> letter fear is under threat. Further research would have shown that its compatibility with the principle of voter equality has already been tested in court in the US, where it was found that &ldquo;<a href=""><span style="text-decoration: underline;">no voter is given greater weight in his or her vote over the vote of another voter</span></a>&rdquo;.&nbsp;</p><p>1. &nbsp; &nbsp; Dr Joan Allen<br />2. &nbsp; &nbsp; Philip Begley<br />3. &nbsp; &nbsp; Jane Berney&nbsp;<br />4. &nbsp; &nbsp; Professor Stefan Berger<br />5. &nbsp; &nbsp; Dr Lawrence Black<br />6. &nbsp; &nbsp; Professor Huw Bowe<br />7. &nbsp; &nbsp; Dr Kate Bradley<br />8. &nbsp; &nbsp; Professor Christine Carpenter<br />9. &nbsp; &nbsp; Professor David Cesarani<br />10.&nbsp;&nbsp;Dr Elaine Chalus<br />11.&nbsp;&nbsp;Professor Peter Clarke<br />12.&nbsp;&nbsp;Dr Tim Cooper<br />13.&nbsp;&nbsp;Dr Surekha Davies<br />14.&nbsp;&nbsp;Dr Lucy Delap<br />15.&nbsp;&nbsp;Professor Richard Drayton<br />16.&nbsp;&nbsp;Dr Amy Erickson<br />17.&nbsp;&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">Dr Martin Farr</a><br />18.&nbsp;&nbsp;Professor Steven Fielding<br />19.&nbsp;&nbsp;Matthew Francis<br />20.&nbsp;&nbsp;Dr. Penelope Goodman<br />21.&nbsp;&nbsp;Dr. Francis Graham-Dixon<br />22.&nbsp;&nbsp;Dr Matthew Grant<br />23.&nbsp;&nbsp;Dr Simon Griffiths<br />24.&nbsp;&nbsp;Dr Joanna de Groot<br />25.&nbsp;&nbsp;Dr David Hall-Matthews<br />26.&nbsp;&nbsp;Professor Edward Higgs<br />27.&nbsp;&nbsp;Professor Matthew Hilton<br />28.&nbsp;&nbsp;Dr Katherine Holden<br />29.&nbsp;&nbsp;Professor Geoffrey Hosking<br />30. &nbsp;Andrew Jarvis<br />31. &nbsp;Dr Michael Jennings<br />32.&nbsp;&nbsp;Dr Martin Johnes<br />33.&nbsp;&nbsp;Dr Jenny Keating<br />34.&nbsp;&nbsp;Dr Charles Littleton<br />35.&nbsp;&nbsp;Dr Peter Lyth<br />36.&nbsp;&nbsp;Daniel-Joseph MacArthur-Seal<br />37.&nbsp;&nbsp;Dr James Mark<br />38.&nbsp;&nbsp;Clare Mulley<br />39.&nbsp;&nbsp;Dr Scott Newton<br />40.&nbsp;&nbsp;Dr Lucy Noakes<br />41.&nbsp;&nbsp;Dr Nicola Phillips<br />42.&nbsp;&nbsp;Professor Geoffrey Plank<br />43.&nbsp;&nbsp;Dr Martin Polley<br />44.&nbsp;&nbsp;Professor Bernard Porter<br />45.&nbsp;&nbsp;Dr Virginia Preston<br />46.&nbsp;&nbsp;Dr Alejandro Quiroga<br />47.&nbsp;&nbsp;Dr Pedro Ramos Pinto<br />48.&nbsp;&nbsp;Dr Tim Rees<br />49.&nbsp;&nbsp;Dr Alastair Reid<br />50.&nbsp;&nbsp;Dr James Renton<br />51.&nbsp;&nbsp;Dr Sarah Richardson<br />52.&nbsp;&nbsp;Dr Mark Roodhouse<br />53.&nbsp;&nbsp;Dr Dominic Sandbrook<br />54.&nbsp;&nbsp;Dr John Seed<br />55.&nbsp;&nbsp;Dr Peter Shapel<br />56.&nbsp;&nbsp;Dr Sally Sheard<br />57.&nbsp;&nbsp;Dr Virginia Smith<br />58.&nbsp;&nbsp;Dr Naomi Standen&nbsp;<br />59.&nbsp;&nbsp;Professor Simon Szreter<br />60.&nbsp;&nbsp;Professor Pat Thane<br />61.&nbsp;&nbsp;Professor Jim Tomlinson<br />62.&nbsp;&nbsp;Professor Richard Toye<br />63.&nbsp;&nbsp;Professor Frank Trentmann<br />64.&nbsp;&nbsp;Professor Jeffrey Weeks<br />65.&nbsp;&nbsp;Professor Noel Whiteside<br />66<strong>.&nbsp;&nbsp;</strong>Dr Troy Whitford<strong>&nbsp;</strong><br />67. &nbsp;Dr Chris A Williams<br />68.&nbsp;&nbsp;Dr Angus J L Winchester<br />69.&nbsp;&nbsp;Professor Ina Zweiniger-Bargielowska</p></blockquote><p>If you are a practicing historian and want to add your name, please email <img src="" alt="" /></p> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Ideas Students and Higher Education Democratic Reform Referendum Plus Daniel-Joseph MacArthur-Seal Fri, 18 Mar 2011 11:51:33 +0000 Daniel-Joseph MacArthur-Seal 58582 at Why the AV campaign really will matter <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Pollsters have detected a voting pattern on the AV question, which new YouGov research explains. Voters are more likely to back AV when asked cold, and to favour First Past The Post when they are warmed up with questions or information about the change. </div> </div> </div> <p>In recent weeks three different pollsters have detected a clear pattern. New YouGov research explains it.</p><p>The pattern is this. Voters are more likely to back the Alternative Vote when they are asked, cold, which side they are on, and to favour First Past The Post when they are warmed up with questions or information about the proposed change.</p><p>Last week YouGov posed this&nbsp;<a href="">question for Sky News</a>:</p><p><em>As you may know, there will be a referendum on the 5th May. The referendum question reads as follows: At present, the UK uses the &lsquo;first past the post&rsquo; system to elect MPs to the House of Commons. Should the &lsquo;alternative vote&rsquo; system be used instead?</em></p><ul class="content"><li>Yes 37%</li><li>No 32%</li><li>Don&rsquo;t know 24%</li><li>Would not vote 7%</li></ul><p>In contrast, when we asked our&nbsp;<a href="">standard question earlier last week for The Sun</a>, in which we explained AV. This is what we found:</p><ul class="content"><li>I would vote in favour of switching to the Alternative Vote 30%</li><li>I would vote in favour of keeping First Past The Post 47%</li><li>Don&rsquo;t know 15%</li><li>Would not vote 8%</li></ul><p>Last month Populus found a similar pattern in a poll for The Times. When asking the referendum question without explanation it detected a 12-point &lsquo;yes&rsquo; lead (41-29%). But when AV was explained to a parallel sample, 43% backed FPTP and just 29% opted for AV.</p><p>Third, ComRes, again last month, asked about AV for BBC Newsnight after posing a number of questions about voting reform. It produced a dead heat &ndash; 41% for AV, 41% against. Three days earlier, when it posed its standard &lsquo;cold&rsquo; question for the Independent on Sunday, &lsquo;Yes&rsquo; enjoyed a 10-point lead (40%-30%). In its Newsnight exercise, ComRes did NOT explain AV, but it warmed people up by asking whether our voting system needs an overhaul, whether a referendum would be a waste of money, whether coalition governments are good for Britain, and whether &lsquo;in voting systems where people rank their choice of a candidate, a person&rsquo;s first chioice should always count more than another person&rsquo;s 2nd, 3rd or lower choice&rsquo;. By the time people had considered these issues, support for FPTP seems to have grown.</p><p>So: different pollsters find the same thing &ndash; the more people are &lsquo;warmed up&rsquo;, the keener they are on FPTP; and this is mainly because the number of &rsquo;don&rsquo;t knows&rsquo; tend to be fewer than when the referendum question is asked cold.</p><p>Why is this? Last week YouGov repeated a question we first asked six months ago. We listed various voting systems and asked people how much they knew about them. Now, as then, large majorities felt they knew and understood First Past The Post. These were the responses for the Alternative Vote:</p><p>&nbsp;<img src="" alt="" width="530" height="110" /></p><p>As those figures show, knowledge of AV has increased since last summer &ndash; but, even so, just over half the public has still either never heard of AV or is not sure what it means. This explains the pattern detected by YouGov, Populus and ComRes: when people are asked about AV &lsquo;cold&rsquo;, at least half of all respondents don&rsquo;t really know what the choice in the referendum really is. Hence the very large number of &lsquo;don&rsquo;t knows&rsquo;. When people are told what AV means, and/or are asked to ponder the consequences of AV, the anti-AV lobby gains ground, mainly at the expense of the don&rsquo;t knows.</p><p>This suggests that &ndash; unlike most general elections &ndash; the referendum campaigns really could matter. Millions of voters are unsure how AV would work or what change would mean. It&rsquo;s likely, of course, that many don&rsquo;t knows will end up not voting. However, as the referendum is being held on the same day as elections to the Welsh, Scottish and Northern Ireland parliaments, and to local councils in most of England outside London, many people will vote who might have stayed at home had their journey to the polling station been only for a referendum.</p><p>Meanwhile, here are two more pieces of sobering news for the pro-AV camp (and I write this as someone who has publicly advocated AV for three decades). The first is that the status quo tends to gain ground in referendums on issues where countries are divided. This happened in Scotland in 1979, when a large pro-devolution majority melted away in the final fortnight of the campaign; in Spain in 1986, where the public narrowly voted to stay in NATO after all; and in Australia in 1999, when the apparently dominant republicans ended up heavily defeated in a referendum to replace the Queen as head of state. I would not be greatly surprised if something similar happened here with voting reform.</p><p>Second, the shift towards the status quo seems to have started already. Recent surveys by YouGov, ComRes and ICM have all detected a shift towards FPTP. In the case of both ICM and ComRes, clear &lsquo;yes&rsquo; leads (when the question is asked &lsquo;cold&rsquo;) have evaporated.</p><p>This does not mean AV will inevitably be defeated when the vote is held on May 5th. When more than half the public admit that they don&rsquo;t really understand what they are being asked to decide, there is huge scope for effective campaigning to influence public attitudes. Polls conducted this far ahead of the vote can illuminate the terrain, but they don&rsquo;t tell us which side will dominate it in eight weeks&rsquo; time.&nbsp;</p><p><a href=""><em>See the survey details and full results</em></a><em>.&nbsp;</em></p><p><em>This post was </em><a href=""><em>originally published</em></a><em> on the </em><a href=""><em>YouGov website</em></a><em>.&nbsp;</em></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Democratic Reform Referendum Plus Peter Kellner Mon, 14 Mar 2011 13:27:59 +0000 Peter Kellner 58510 at An essential guide to electoral reform <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Patrick Dunleavy finds essential reading for academics in the run up to the AV referendum in Alan Renwick’s recent book. </div> </div> </div> <p><a href=""><strong><em>The Politics of Electoral Reform: Changing the rules of democracy</em></strong></a><strong>, by Alan Renwick, Cambridge University Press, February 2010.</strong></p><p>Many liberal democracies change their electoral systems rarely, but a few do it all the time. Why is there this divergence? And what kinds of electoral reforms succeed, while others fail to ever get implemented, or loiter in the long grass for decades before finally being enacted? There could be no more relevant questions for the UK, first, because we have implemented a lot of incubated electoral reforms already since 1997 &ndash; think of the proportional representation systems now used for the<a href="">Scottish Parliament</a>,&nbsp;<a href="">Welsh National Assembly</a>, the&nbsp;<a href="">Greater London Assembly</a>, electing Britain&rsquo;s&nbsp;<a href="">MEPs</a>, and Scottish and&nbsp;<a href="">Northern Ireland local<img class="image-right" src="" alt="" width="180" height="272" />government</a>, plus the&nbsp;<a href="">Supplementary Vote</a>&nbsp;for electing London&rsquo;s mayor. But second, of course, we have our first national referendum since 1975 on introducing the&nbsp;<a href="">Alternative Vote</a>&nbsp;in May this year, and sometime this year should find out how the coalition government proposes that we elect some of most members of a reformed House of Lords or Senate.</p><p><a href="">Alan Renwick</a>&rsquo;s approach is to look at six overseas changes of electoral systems, three of them being detailed cases of what he calls &lsquo;majority elite imposition&rsquo;, where the ruling party or coalition bloc forces basically partisan changes on the majority of voters (with some constraints). The cases are the repeated changes of the parliamentary system in France, notably under Mitterand; the 2005 change of the electoral system in Italy by Berlusconi, to a kind of majoritarian top-up for a PR election (along with much tweaking of the post-war PR system from the 1940s to the 1980s); and in Japan the long post-war persistence of a unique system that sustained the dominance of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP). (The system is called &lsquo;Single Non-transferable vote&rsquo; for real enthusiasts).</p><p>He matches these with three detailed case studies of what he calls &lsquo;elite-mass interaction&rsquo;, where essentially changes were forced on all ruling politicians as a group, either in an acute or an incubated way, by citizens voting for different parties and vocally pressing for reforming change. Here he covers the 1991 and 1993 referendums where voters changed Italy&rsquo;s corrupt post-war PR system into a modified mixed system (with mostly majoritarian elections plus some top up seats); the 1994 adoption of a mixed system in Japan, following some LDP weakness and voter disenchantment; and the 1992 and 1993 referendums that changed New Zealand to what is called an &lsquo;Additional Member System&rsquo; in the UK, (and is called &lsquo;Mixed Member Proportional&rsquo; everywhere else).</p><p>Renwick concludes that the majority elite imposition way of doing things has&nbsp;<em>perhaps</em>&nbsp;been getting harder to do over time in mature liberal democracies &ndash; because public interest discourses and considerations are increasingly better understood by voters; political deference to major parties has declined; and voting patterns have tended towards more multi-party results. The ability of the public to pressure for change, and for reform movements to achieve change via referenda, seems by contrast to be growing.</p><p>This is a book that many politicos (as well as academics) should study in detail, whatever the outcome of Britain&rsquo;s upcoming referendum, for it draws out many continuities with the UK case and shows the subtleties of the currents that make reform happen or not. For example, it is instructive to ask if the AV referendum is a case of majority elite imposition &ndash; with the Tories still able to restrict the choice to just sticking with the status quo or the modest change that the Alternative Vote represents, and Labour spiralling in Machiavellian confusions in the wings? Or is the AV vote (as I believe) just a landmark in a longer-run transition by the UK from the old-style limited democracy (needed when the UK ran a huge external empire) to a standard, modern European polity, where the ineluctable pressure for change has been the growth of a multi-party system, which alone has forced this latest &lsquo;elite-mass interaction&rsquo; to take place.</p><p><em>This piece was </em><a href=""><em>originally published</em></a><em> on the British Politics and Policy at LSE blog.</em></p><p><em><a href="">Patrick Dunleavy</a></em><em>&nbsp;is Professor of Political Science and Public Policy at the London School of Economics and Political Science.</em></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Referendum Plus Reviews Patrick Dunleavy Sun, 13 Mar 2011 15:15:28 +0000 Patrick Dunleavy 58480 at Before the referendum tomorrow, ask what devolution has done for Wales <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The result of the Welsh Assembly referendum will not only decide whether the assembly gains significant legislative powers; it will also be a verdict on the success or failure of devolution. In the following article, Aled Edwards argues that post devolution Wales has become a more inclusive and welcoming nation, defined by a commitment to equal opportunities and human rights. </div> </div> </div> <p></p><p><em>Tomorrow, Welsh people will be given the chance to extend the powers of the National Assembly for Wales. The result, to be announced on Friday afternoon, will not only decide&nbsp;<span><em>whether the assembly gains significant legislative powers; it will also be in part a verdict on the success or failure of devolution.&nbsp;</em></span>In the following article, the Reverend Aled Edwards argues that post-devolution Wales has become a more inclusive nation, with a strong commitment to equal opportunities and human rights.&nbsp;</em></p><p>For some, it wasn’t supposed to happen, but it did.<span>&nbsp;</span>The evidence is there. Post-devolution Wales has become a more inclusive and welcoming community increasingly shaped by a shared commitment to equal opportunities and human rights. That shaping has given devolved Wales its defining characteristic and has sometimes taken it beyond Westminster’s comfort zone. Continuing to constrain this dynamic by voting no tomorrow poses a moral question.</p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>In October 2009,&nbsp;</span>a vigil was held on the streets of Newport against&nbsp;a protest planned by the Welsh Defence League for the following day. Such a broad multi-ethnic event,&nbsp;with the support of the Assembly’s Faith Communities Forum,&nbsp;had never been held in Wales before. When it was affirmed that all had a right to be different and had an equal right to belong, Welsh flags were raised high in celebration. For some who were there, the moment defined a generation.</p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>A year earlier, research published by the Equality and Human Rights Commission - while highlighting that some prejudices still persisted in Wales - provided a largely encouraging picture. The <a href="">Who Do You See?</a><a href=""> report</a> showed that the people of Wales have a strong sense of togetherness and are largely comfortable with people from all backgrounds.</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span>Much has been said about a growing economic inequality between Wales and the rest of the UK. This matters but c<span>omparisons are odious. </span></span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>In the early 1930s Wales had a death rate eleven points above that of England and Wales combined; forty years later, in the early 1970s, that disparity was almost exactly the same. This didn’t make the NHS a failure – after all, people lived longer. It just shows that British society remained doggedly unequal.</span><span><span>&nbsp; </span></span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Since the 1970s, the income inequality gap in Britain has widened. It peaked particularly during the early 1990s</span><span>. In this, Britain has the ignominy of being a world leader.</span><span> </span><span>It is this grotesque inequality, fuelled by offshore tax havens worth over ten trillion dollars to some of the world’s richest individuals, that divides Britain. It hasn’t been devolution’s efforts to redistribute wealth and to relieve such a massive inequality. Unchecked, this inequality will divide even further and have a disproportionately adverse affect on Wales.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>The groundbreaking book </span><span>The Spirit Level</span><span>,</span><span>&nbsp;</span><span><a href="">reviewed here</a> in OurKingdom</span><span>,&nbsp;</span><span>may offer a helpful insight into why Wales has forged a distinctive equalities and human rights agenda since 1999. It’s not rocket science. The book’s authors, Richard Wilkinson and Kate Pickett, found that even within the most materialistic of cultures, people want society to move away from greed and excess towards a way of life more centred on values, community and family. </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>When the National Assembly came into being – with its unique constitutional requirement to pay due regard to equal opportunities and human rights – it functioned as a magnet attracting partners in civic society. They discovered Welsh government, each other and a shared agenda. Muslims became friends with Christians. They forged relationships with others motivated by values rather than faith. Out of this dynamic flowed a plethora of policy initiatives. </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>This fusion began to re-shape Welsh society at speed. As early as 2000, the Assembly passed secondary legislation placing a duty on schools to exercise their functions with due regard to equal opportunities – several years ahead of the GB gender equality duty legislation. </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Events fuelled the fusion. There were calls for a powerful Children’s Commissioner following the publication of the Waterhouse Report into child abuse in north Wales. There were even louder calls for the Home Office to uphold basic human rights following the outrageous placing of asylum detainees in Cardiff prison.<span>&nbsp; </span>Significantly, following the way in which the UK ministry of agriculture handled the 2001 foot and mouth crisis, powers over animal health issues were transferred to the Assembly. The powers genie was out of the bottle right from the beginning – driven by tragic events and people, not by politicians.</span><span> <span>&nbsp;</span></span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Alongside this dynamic, communities were changed. Improved community relations led to significant improvements in the reporting and prosecution of race and disability hate crimes.<span>&nbsp;</span></span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>In response, Westminster lent legislative support creating a Children’s Commissioner and an Older People’s Commissioner but it also constrained Wales, especially around issues relating to the Assembly’s commitment to the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child. </span><span>Paul Chaney of <span>Cardiff University’s </span><a href="">independent research for the Equality and Human Rights Commission</a> in 2009 highlighted the emergence of a Welsh equalities agenda distinct from Westminster and more suited to the everyday needs of Wales. </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Wilkinson and Pickett’s </span><span>The Spirit Level </span><span>may explain why Welsh First Ministers have good approval ratings.<span>&nbsp; </span>It isn’t because the Welsh have an exceptionally high pain threshold. It’s because we are all affected very differently by the income differences </span><span>within </span><span>our own society from the way we are affected by the differences in average income</span><span> between</span><span> one rich society and another. Equality </span><span>within</span><span> Wales matters.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Wales may have been exceptional in having so many women AMs. Indicative of a deeper change, it now has a mean-based full time gender pay difference that’s around half that of the UK. </span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>Although immigration isn’t devolved, Wales has become a world leader in training over 130 refugee doctors through its groundbreaking scheme enabling most to be employed within the NHS. While granting the Welsh language official status, Wales has become a leader within the UK in enabling displaced people to learn English.</span></p> <p class="MsoNormal"><span>That certainly wasn’t supposed to happen!</span></p><p class="MsoNormal"><span><em>The Revd. Aled Edwards is chair of <a href="">Displaced People in Action</a> and is a member of the <a href="">Wales Committee of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission</a>, having served as the Wales Commissioner for the UK Commission for Racial Equality (2006-07).</em></span></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Wales </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Equality </div> </div> </div> uk uk Wales Democracy and government Equality Referendum Plus Aled Edwards Wed, 02 Mar 2011 12:12:35 +0000 Aled Edwards 58354 at The 'No to AV' campaign is preying on fear <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> What a nasty invidious campaign the ‘No to the Alternative Vote’ side are running. From the opening shot of David Cameron’s speech to the offensive sensationalism of the current adverts, this is a negative campaign armed with lies and preying upon ignorance and fear. Confusion, muddy the waters, </div> </div> </div> <p>What a nasty invidious campaign the &lsquo;No to the Alternative Vote&rsquo; side are running. From the opening shot of <a href="">David Cameron&rsquo;s speech</a>&nbsp;on 18 February to the offensive sensationalism of the current adverts, this is a negative campaign armed with lies and preying upon ignorance and fear.&nbsp;</p> <p>The new adverts for the &lsquo;No&rsquo; campaign are shameless attempts at emotional blackmail. One shows a hospitalised baby with tubes in her nose alongside the text &ldquo;She needs a new cardiac facility not an alternative voting system&rdquo;. By implication, anyone that wants AV must be willing to deny a baby respiratory support. <a href="">As Steven Baxter has pointed out</a> in the New Statesman, this is beyond parody. Still, parody we must, and there is already an &lsquo;<a href="">ARGH to AV&rsquo; website</a> where you can generate&nbsp;more fantastically barmy choices. David Mitchell must be growing apoplectic as this illustrates precisely the mad rhetoric that <a href="">he</a><img class="image-right" src="" alt="" width="300" /><a href="">&nbsp;was ranting about</a>&nbsp;recently on 10 O&rsquo;Clock Live: once again we are being presented with a choice between &lsquo;a nice thing and a horrid thing&rsquo;.</p> <p>Cameron has told us it isn&rsquo;t his job to explain exactly how the AV system works but confessed, &ldquo;even if it was my job, I have to say, I would struggle&rdquo;. If our Prime Minister is truly incapable of explaining a voting system used by the Australian public, and by British MPs themselves to elect their Speaker and officials, it is his duty to stand down. But I don&rsquo;t believe Cameron would struggle to explain the system at all&nbsp;&ndash;&nbsp;his rhetoric is part of a calculated deception to persuade the British public that AV is too complex for them to comprehend. As we can&rsquo;t look to our Prime Minister for a clear explanation, we must turn to other sources, such as this brilliant <a href="">blog by the LSE</a> &ndash; but not everyone will be directed to or stumble upon such material.</p><p></p><p>Another central argument of the 'No' campaign, repeated earnestly by Cameron, is that under AV some votes count more than others. We are told that someone who votes for the BNP may get their second and third preference taken into account, whereas someone who votes for one of the most popular candidates does not get their second preference counted. This is clearly untrue. As this clever <a href="">infographic by the Guardian</a> demonstrates, AV is instant runoff voting. It operates on the assumption that people who voted for someone who didn't get knocked out would vote for them again in the next round. Everyone gets the same number of votes, but some people effectively vote the same in every round and some people change their vote. Every-one&rsquo;s vote counts equally in each &lsquo;round&rsquo;. No one &ldquo;gets another bite of the cherry&rdquo;, as Cameron would have us believe.&nbsp;</p> <p>The figure at the centre of the 'No' campaign, that it costs &pound;250 million, <a href="">has already been debunked</a>. For a start, it includes the &pound;82 million we are spending on the referendum regardless of which way people vote. In any case, such an argument must rest on the premise that the best democratic system may be too expensive for the British public &ndash; a position that Cameron would no doubt deny holding.</p> <p>Perhaps the most disingenuous argument of the 'No' campaign is that AV is still not a proportional system. If the Conservatives think a more proportional system, such as the Standard Transferable Vote, would be a more preferable alternative than AV, then why hasn&rsquo;t it been put to us? Why have we been denied a referendum offering different options for electoral reform? The truth is that, for all the Conservatives&rsquo; talk of choice and competition, they don&rsquo;t want us to have it in the arena where it matters most &ndash; our democracy.</p> <p>All dirty fighters know how to finish their opponents with a final, below-the-belt blow. After the 'No' campaign has done its best to instill confusion and fear in the electorate, persuading them that they can never comprehend the complexities of AV, Cameron reveals his trump card. We should vote for First Past the Post because, unlike AV, it can be explained in one sentence.</p> <p>The British public deserve better than to be patronised and lied to&nbsp;like this. Whatever the outcome of this referendum, people should be&nbsp;able to cast their vote on the basis of an informed decision and not&nbsp;one manipulated by propaganda.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Referendum Plus Nicola Cutcher Wed, 02 Mar 2011 09:48:08 +0000 Nicola Cutcher 58350 at The Welsh Assembly powers referendum will be won or lost in the housing estates <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Hywel Francis MP, the former chair of the Welsh Affairs Select Committee and supporter of the Yes campaign, sets out the state of play in the run-up to the March 3 referendum on extending the powers of the Welsh Assembly. </div> </div> </div> <p><span><em>Hywel Francis MP, the former chair of the Welsh Affairs Select Committee and supporter of the Yes campaign, sets out the state of play in the run-up to the March 3 referendum on extending the powers of the Welsh Assembly.</em></span></p><p>Shortly after St David’s Day the people of Wales will have the democratic right, through a Referendum, to extend the powers of their National Assembly for Wales.</p> <p>Carwyn Jones, the First Minister in the Welsh Assembly Government, has explained the issue in this way:</p> <blockquote><p>"It’s about using powers more freely.&nbsp; At the moment, the Assembly can make laws in the areas it’s responsible for, like health and education, but very often we have to ask Westminster first for the powers to do so…..</p><p>The question you have to ask yourself is this.&nbsp; Do you think that those laws which only affect Wales should be made by people that you elected as Assembly Members and who you can kick out if you don’t like what they’re doing?&nbsp; Which system is the more democratic and best for Wales?"</p></blockquote> <p>Since the Labour Government’s 2006 Government of Wales Act, powers have been delegated to the Assembly through legislative competence orders.&nbsp; With the co-operative work of Westminster’s Welsh Affairs Committee – which I chaired – and several Assembly Committees, many significant powers were transferred.&nbsp; It was a steep learning curve for everyone in the skills of drafting and scrutinising.&nbsp; There was some exemplary work in significantly improving proposals by joint AM/MP work particularly on the Welsh language and this was achieved unanimously.</p><p>That however is now behind us.&nbsp; The National Assembly for Wales is ready to take on full law-making powers within such key areas as health and education, having gone through the learning experiences of the past five years.</p> <p>The Yes Campaign has made a good start with the four main parties within the National Assembly supporting it, along with such important bodies as the Wales TUC – a long standing supporter of democratic devolution since the 1970s.&nbsp; Broad-based local groups are also being set up all over Wales.</p> <p>But the challenge is still a very considerable one.&nbsp; As a campaigner for democratic devolution I know how important it is to take the argument beyond simply a constitutional matter: that is what happened in the heavy defeat in 1979 and the close vote in 1997 - on both occasions the challenge of linking these changes to an improvement to the quality of life of ordinary people was not well made.</p> <p>So, any constitutional change will require the enthusiastic endorsement of Wales’ great estates. Not the aristocratic landed estates of the past, but the working class housing estates across Wales.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Wales </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> uk uk Wales Democracy and government Referendum Plus Hywel Francis Tue, 22 Feb 2011 13:15:55 +0000 Hywel Francis 58194 at Electoral reform dilemmas: are Britain's single-member constituencies out of date? <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> If parliament is to shift from representing places to representing people, we may have to leave single-member constituencies by the way side, explains Matthew Roberts. This paper is published courtesy of <href="">History & Policy</href=""> </div> </div> </div> <p>Defenders of the British first-past-the-post electoral system never tire of reminding their opponents that it is tried, trusted, and often - by implication - long established. Such claims, however, are difficult to reconcile with the fact that from the thirteenth century down to the late nineteenth century multi-member constituencies were the norm for parliamentary elections in the UK. It was not until 1948 that the last of the multi-member seats were swept away. The turning point was the Third Reform Act of 1884-5. Before 1885 70% of MPs sat for multi-member constituencies; after this Act only 8% did so. The United Kingdom is one of the few countries that implemented single-member constituencies as part of its journey towards democracy, and it is one of the few developed democracies to use a voting system based solely on single-member constituencies for general elections. The Third Reform Act imposed greater uniformity on the British electoral system. For the first time in British parliamentary history, constituencies were to contain more equal numbers of people. On the eve of the Third Reform Act the largest electorate was 250 times the size of the smallest; after 1885 the largest was only 8 times the size of the smallest. The Third Reform Act thus brought an end to a deeply inequitable system whereby small boroughs (invariably controlled by powerful interests) were massively over-represented compared with burgeoning industrial and commercial communities.</p> <p>It is not surprising, then, that the replacement of unequal sized multi-member constituencies with single-member seats of a roughly equal size has been interpreted as a major concession to the modern democratic principle that parliament should represent individuals equally and not, as was traditionally the case, "communities of interests" of commerce, agriculture, industry etc. At the time, however, there were few politicians who viewed the transition to single-member constituencies as a major democratic triumph. Rather, they were seen as a controversial innovation, were widely disliked and generally regarded as the least of several evils. Far from heralding the arrival of modern democratic politics, single-member constituencies were conceived by the political elite as a less than satisfactory solution to the problem of ensuring that the educated and wealthy minority were not swamped and drowned out by the recently enfranchised masses. A clearer understanding of why they were introduced - of the thinking behind them, and of the widespread opposition to them - reveals single-member constituencies to be not only outdated but also anti-democratic by design. The electoral system created by the Third Reform Act has survived - largely unaltered - down to the present day. As politicians and the people come to discuss the controversial issue of electoral reform over the course of the present parliament the legitimacy of the Victorian electoral system will be a pressing question.</p> <p><strong>The evolution of the British electoral system</strong></p> <p>From the thirteenth century down to the Great Reform Act of 1832 most British constituencies elected two MPs. It is not entirely clear why it was thought necessary for most constituencies to elect two MPs, but some accounts suggest that it was to ensure that if one MP failed to attend the Commons then the constituency would not go unrepresented. This seems unlikely as each MP had what were known as independent <em>manucaptors</em> (bailsmen) whose purpose was to guarantee their attendance. Other accounts have argued that dual representation had its origins in an ancient legal precedent which required that judicial business had to be undertaken by groups and not individuals for corroborative purposes. But as parliament shed some of its legal functions and evolved into more of a representative body, MPs ceased to be corroborating witnesses and became representatives.</p> <p>If we move forward several hundred years to the early nineteenth century, there were by this time a number of constituencies electing a single representative. On the eve of the Great Reform Act of 1832, 109 MPs sat for single-member constituencies. The vast majority of these were to be found outside of England. These seats were largely the creations of the various acts of union between England and the constituent nations of the United Kingdom. The first slate of single-member constituencies was created when Wales was formally incorporated into the English state in the mid sixteenth century, a pattern that was to be repeated at the time of the Union with Scotland in 1707 and Ireland in 1801. It is surely no coincidence that the "Celtic fringes" were granted minimal parliamentary representation by the English parliament. Single-member constituencies, it could be argued, were initially conceived as a means to integrate and subordinate the 'Celtic Fringe' to English rule. It was the reform acts of the nineteenth century which were responsible for transforming Britain's electoral system into a predominantly single-member regime. After the Reform Act of 1832 there were 153 single-member constituencies, after 1867 there were 193, and after 1885 this rose to 613 - the vast majority. Of the 51 created in 1832, thirty were the result of subtracting one seat from small double-member boroughs (likewise for all 38 creations in 1867) while the remaining 21 were awarded to medium-sized urban centres that were not deemed of sufficient weight to merit double representation. What is noteworthy about the reform acts of 1832 and 1867 is that the creation of single-member seats did not result, as would 1885, in the sub-division of existing constituencies.</p> <p>There was muted opposition to the introduction of single-member constituencies in 1832 on the grounds that multi-member seats facilitated local pacts whereby Whigs and Tories agreed to each nominate one candidate thereby avoiding the expense of a contested election. But most politicians took the view that they were an unavoidable expedient.&nbsp;</p> <p><strong>Why were single-member constituencies introduced?</strong></p> <p>Conventionally, it was argued that the move towards single-member constituencies of a roughly equal size was part of the broader democratization of the political system. Since the late eighteenth century radical reformers had not only been campaigning to extend the franchise but also to equalize the value of the vote - hence the Chartist demand for equal electoral districts. Even after the reform acts of 1832 and 1867 there were still many boroughs with tiny electorates. Opponents of reform had defended this inequality by arguing that parliament did not represent people but places, and more specifically "communities of interests". Thus, the size of population was incidental to parliamentary representation, and this was still the case at the time of the reform acts of 1832 and 1867. Even after the Third Reform Act it was only a secondary consideration. With the exception of a handful of radicals, most politicians still believed that parliament represented, first and foremost, communities of interest.</p> <p>The principal objectives of the redistribution clauses of the reform acts was to make parliament more attuned to the genuine interests of property, wealth, intelligence and industry. The transference of seats from the most 'rotten' (decayed and corrupted) boroughs to industrializing towns was a concession, not to the idea that "numbers" should inform parliamentary representation, but to emergent communities of manufacturing and commercial <em>interests</em>. In 1832, in 1867 and again in 1884 redistribution was a means to mitigate the democratic effects of enfranchisement by ensuring that established interests were not swamped by new voters: men of the urban middle class in 1832, of the urban working class in 1867, and of the rural working class in 1884. This was achieved by giving more seats to the counties, axing only the most 'rotten' of the small boroughs, and by ensuring that different interests - notably urban and rural - were kept strictly separate. By the time of the Third Reform Act it was widely felt that single-member constituencies offered the most practical means of separating out the varied socio-economic interests, and in a way that would benefit the propertied classes. The Boundary Commissioners, who were charged with redrawing the electoral Map of the UK in 1885, were to meet various criteria when sub-dividing constituencies: seats were to be geographically compact, divisions of counties and boroughs were to contain roughly the same number of people, constituencies were to be divided in ways that reflected the 'pursuits of the population', and boundaries were to be based on well-known existing areas. Smaller, more compact constituencies, it was argued, would be more socially homogeneous and - crucially - easier for party activists to manage. This explains why a growing number of party activists began to press for single member seats after the mass enfranchisement of 1867. For these Liberal and Conservative activists, then, the impetus was largely organizational. But few beyond the ultra-radical fringe went in for full-scale equal electoral districts as this would have necessitated too many changes and would have involved uprooting the traditional belief that parliament represented organic (i.e. historically rooted) places not artificial ones.</p> <p>Single-member constituencies, however, were controversial. At the time of the Third Reform Act there was a significant current of parliamentary and public opinion that was less than enthusiastic, and a vocal minority who were openly hostile to them. It was argued that the division of large boroughs into artificial entities would destroy corporate life; maximize the electoral clout of bare majorities, thus leaving many unrepresented which, in turn, would lead to apathy and the decline of serious electoral competition. In the absence of stiff competition (and the need for a party to construct broad-based coalitions of electoral support) the parties would fall under the sway of cliques, extremists and party 'wire-pullers' - the 'caucus' effect as it was termed at the time. It was feared that these factors would lead to a corresponding reduction in the quality of MPs. Perhaps the greatest objection raised was that single-member constituencies would introduce the dangerous precedent of creating constituencies dominated by one social class. So why, given these objections, were single-members introduced in 1885? Three reasons can be cited. Firstly, as we have seen, there were those who argued that they would make elections more manageable - an important consideration given that the size of the national electorate had increased from 1.3 million in 1865 to 5.7 million by 1885. There was a vocal and influential minority in the Liberal and Conservative parties who believed that their parties would do well under a single-member regime: the Tories expected to make gains in the large boroughs, the Liberals in the countryside. Secondly, the political elite could not agree on any of the other alternatives which were being proposed. One such alternative was PR. The Proportional Representation Society had recently been founded and was campaigning for the introduction of the single-transferrable vote (STV), but this was thought to be too complicated, artificial and 'un-English': this was how the great Victorian titan Mr Gladstone dismissed PR and in doing so set the cause of PR back considerably. Single member constituencies triumphed because they were the only option on which political elites could agree.</p> <p><strong>How were single-member constituencies introduced?</strong></p> <p>Today's politicians may have something to learn from the way in which the electoral system was reformed in 1884-5. The redistribution clauses of the Third Reform Act were hammered out in a series of very select, secret bipartisan meetings comprising the party leaders. This was the price that Gladstone had to pay to get his government's Franchise Bill through the Conservative dominated House of Lords. Franchise extension without redistribution, the Tories feared, would annihilate them at the polls. But this was not just a quid pro quo. Neither the Liberal government nor the Conservative opposition had relished the prospect of proposing and piloting a redistribution bill through the House of Commons, where it would be subjected to all manner of parochial and self-interested objections from the large number of MPs whose constituencies it was proposed to axe. At the same time, neither party wished to relinquish control of redistribution. The virtue of a bipartisan scheme hatched in secret was that it could be presented as a <em>fait accompli </em>to parliament, and steered through both Houses by the co-operation of both front benches who agreed to make the main terms of the redistribution scheme vital to the Bill and indeed to the government's very existence.&nbsp;</p> <p>The result was that parliament found itself inflicted with single-member constituencies in a way that left it little choice but to accept the decision of the front benches. It was not surprising that those who were opposed to single-member constituencies - which may have amounted to as much as one half of the House of Commons - complained that parliamentary sovereignty had been infringed. The sheer speed with which this legislation was enacted was staggering. Gladstone introduced the Bill on 1 December 1884, it passed its second reading a mere three days later, then the Commissioners set to work and by February 1885 they had reshaped the electoral map of the entire United Kingdom. The Committee stage was a little protracted, but the substance of the Bill remained largely unaltered, and was read for a third time in the Commons on 11 May. The Bill encountered few problems in the Lords, and it received Royal Assent on 25 June. The Gladstone government, which to all intents and purposes had run out of legislative steam after five years in power, enacted one of the most far-reaching and complex pieces of legislation in just over 6 months. This ruthless process was highly effective. It is interesting to compare the approach adopted by the Liberal Government in 1884 to that of the Coalition Government during the First World War, which was responsible for enacting the next major instalment of parliamentary reform in 1918. In the latter instance, the government had proceeded by way of the novel device of a Speaker's Conference. Chaired by the Speaker of the House (hence the name) the conference brought together 32 MPs and Peers from all the parties. Its recommendations were far-reaching: manhood suffrage, votes for women over 30, and most surprising of all - proportional representation (STV on a trial basis). These recommendations, it was assumed, would form the basis of the Reform Bill.</p> <p>While this method of proceeding seemed altogether far more democratic than private deals amongst party leaderships, it soon became clear that the Conference had no real authority or guarantees. PR was defeated on three occasions on the floor of the House of Commons, although it did substitute the alternative vote (AV) for STV. The House of Lords, however, insisted that AV be dropped (on the grounds that this was likely to benefit the Liberal and Labour parties at the expense of the Conservatives) and STV be reintroduced (largely because the Conservatives saw it as means to mitigate the democratic provisions of the Reform Bill). The Commons, however, refused to back down. Out of this stalemate emerged a negative compromise: neither AV nor STV would be introduced.</p> <p><strong>Territorial representation versus equal representation</strong></p> <p>The redistribution clauses of the nineteenth century reform acts have cast a long shadow over the subsequent evolution of the British electoral system, as have the conservative intentions of the political elite who crafted these acts. In contrast to other democratizing nations, the authors of these reforms did not prescribe a uniform ratio of seats to population, or electors to representatives. They did not even set an upper limit for the maximum number of people a constituency could contain (as was done in the USA). This explains why there was still marked variation in the size of constituencies after the Third Reform Act, and why such anomalies grew apace thereafter. By 1914 the average number of electors per constituency in England was more than twice the size of the average for Ireland. The half-hearted way in which population intruded into parliamentary representation in 1884-5 was further confirmed by the failure to establish a boundary commission to oversee periodic redistricting or even to stipulate how often such redistricting should take place. Only in 1944 was a permanent boundary commission finally established. Subsequent reform acts have done little to challenge the view that parliament ultimately represents places rather than people. After all, the basis of parliamentary representation has remained territorially defined. True, the twentieth century has seen the balance shift towards equal representation at the expense of territorial representation, but even so there has been no linear shift from the former to the latter. The reform acts of 1918 and 1944 shifted the balance in favour of equal representation - the first by aiming for constituencies of 70,000 people, and the second by introducing for the first time an electoral quota with the added stipulation that constituency electorates could not deviate by more than 25%. Since then, however, the balance has shifted back to territory. Amendments in 1947 and 1958 gave greater prominence to the territorial principle by empowering the boundary commissioners to depart from the strict application of the quota if they felt that local ties would be severed.</p> <p>Boundary commissioners have repeatedly complained that it is very difficult to reconcile the two conflicting principles of territorial representation and equal representation, not least because the rules have been far from clear-cut. Apart from the brief period between 1944 and 1947 there has been no stipulation of how much a constituency electorate can deviate from the quota. This makes Britain somewhat unique. As late as 1983 a court ruling upheld the view that parliament represented places as well as people, and there is still no requirement that constituencies contain the same number of people - hence the demand made by some at the 2010 general election for equal electoral districts.</p> <p><strong>Conclusions</strong></p> <p>It is too simplistic to see the transition to single-member constituencies as a staging-post on Britain's journey towards democracy. Single-member seats may have democratic virtues - they make elections more manageable, the ratio of representatives to electors is much smaller and the ratio of seats to population is more uniform, both of which create the impression of equal representation and greater accountability. But the triumph of the single-member principle ultimately had little to do with democratic notions of proportionality or the representation of individuals. The anti-democratic origins of single-member constituencies, first as a means to limit the power of the 'Celtic Fringe' and then of 'the masses', should at least make us pause and question whether they ought to have a place in a modern democracy. Add to this the criticisms that have been leveled at them from the time of the Third Reform Act through to the present day - that they prevent minorities from gaining representation; that they concentrate power in the hands of party managers; that they can discourage people from voting who believe that their vote will not count - then we really do have to ask why Britain has remained one of the few developed democracies to use a voting system based solely on single-member constituencies. Part of the answer has to be that Britain's transformation into a democracy has been gradual and uneven, almost always resisted by the political elite and when finally conceded, carefully controlled to ensure that as much of the old regime as possible was salvaged.</p> <p>&nbsp;</p> <p>As politicians turn to the question of electoral reform they could learn much from the late-Victorian critics of the electoral system. It was surely no coincidence that these critics were often the same people who displayed anxiety about the growing fissures in Victorian society and rejected any innovation that threatened the unity and cohesion of the social order. Single-member constituencies, it was feared, would foster the wrong sort of values in the electorate, notably selfishness, apathy and myopia. We need to ask whether single-member constituencies really do supply the benefits claimed by their defenders. Some of the historic arguments against single members are worthy of renewed attention: do we really want small constituencies that facilitate nursing, allow free reign to caucuses, and that make it easier for MPs to get elected? It is often claimed that single-member constituencies provide a closer relationship between MPs and their constituents, a relationship that is all the more intimate because constituencies are smaller and geographically defined. The assumption is that PR (and STV in particular) would somehow weaken the link between territory and representative. It is true that constituencies would have to be larger under STV as it is a multi-member system - otherwise the House of Commons would simply become colossal. Even so, the basis of constituencies would still be territorially-defined, but instead of electors having only one MP they would have several. STV has worked well in the Republic of Ireland where it has played its part in generating a stable political system that has remained attuned to local interests. It is hard to see why adoption of the system in Britain would weaken the territorial basis of parliamentary representation; in fact if constituencies became once again coterminous with historic boroughs and counties, rather than artificial sections of them which serve no other purpose than electing MPs, parliament might once again become rooted in organic communities with which people retain genuine affinities. However, if constituencies become larger it is crucial that a system of proportional representation operates in them. For as the architects of the Third Reform Act were only too aware, large multi-member seats under first-past-the-post failed to secure diversity of representation - the coercive power of majorities prevented minorities from gaining representation. In the absence of some form of proportional representation democracy remains much as Lord Salisbury, the future Conservative Prime Minister, described it in the 1860s: a system in which 'six men may make five men do exactly as they like'.</p> <p>Finally, the defeat of PR in 1918 illustrates the problems and limitations of entrusting electoral reform to parliament. As the architects of the Third Reform Act knew only too well, no government was likely to succeed in passing a measure of far-reaching electoral reform through conventional parliamentary means. In effectively bypassing parliament, the making of the Third Reform Act certainly appears authoritarian by modern standards. Such a method need not necessarily be authoritarian, however. A bipartisan agreement - worked out with experts - and submitted to the public for approval in a referendum would not only counter the charge of authoritarianism but potentially could also drastically simplify the messy and protracted horse-trading process of implementing electoral reform.</p> <p><strong>Further reading</strong></p> <ul> <li>Vernon Bogdanor, <em>The People and the Party System: The Referendum and Electoral Reform in British Politics </em>(Cambridge, 1981).</li> <li>Jennifer Hart, <em>Proportional Representation: Critics of the British Electoral System 1820-1945 </em>(Oxford, 1992).</li> <li>Andrew Jones, <em>The Politics of Reform 1884 </em>(Cambridge, 1972).</li> <li>Iain McLean and David Butler (eds), <em>Fixing the Boundaries: Defining and Redefining Single-Member Electoral Districts </em>(Aldershot, 1996).</li> <li>Matthew Roberts, 'Resisting "Arithmocracy": Parliament, Community and the Third Reform Act', <em>Journal of British Studies</em>, 50:2 (April 2011).</li> <li>D. J. Rossiter, R. J. Johnston and C. J. Pattie, <em>The Boundary Commissions: Redrawing the UK's Map of Parliamentary Constituencies </em>(Manchester, 1999).</li></ul><p><em><a href="">This article was originally published by History &amp; Policy</a></em></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Democratic Reform Referendum Plus Matthew Roberts Mon, 21 Feb 2011 19:08:30 +0000 Matthew Roberts 58184 at The road to self-determination starts with AV <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> As the date of the AV referendum is confirmed, Anthony Barnett looks back to a speech he made, urging the Durham Union to vote for change. </div> </div> </div> <p><em>On 29 October last year the <a href="">Durham Union</a> debated the following motion: “This House Would Introduce the Alternative Vote”. I introduced the motion and was seconded by Vicky Seddon, the Chair of <a href="">Unlock Democracy.</a> It was opposed by James Wharton, a new Conservative MP for Stockton South and Iain Wright, the Labour MP for Hartlepool. Vicky and I lost the motion as the Tory students in Durham were mobilised. Next week I will write something about the experience and what kind of arguments go down well, or not. But as 5 May is confirmed as the date of the referendum and today is the start of the real campaign, here is my speech.</em></p> <p><strong>This House Would Introduce the Alternative Vote</strong></p> <p>It is a great honour to open the debate in this distinguished chamber on what is in its own modest way a momentous issue. For this question gains its importance from the likelihood that there will be a referendum on this very question in six months time.</p> <p>I ask you to consider this. Since the revolutions of the seventeenth century and the harrowing experiences of the Civil War, the ruling class in this country established its power and preserved and reproduced its rule on the basis of two great and abiding principles of government:</p> <p>First, consent. It pioneered the engineering of popularity well before the advertising industry. It was based on a monarchy that was worshipped; a parliament that was honoured – mocked, yes, but adored; the rule of law anchored by the jury system; a cult of toleration; and the largest territorial empire the world will ever witness.</p><p>The finest hour of this domestic system of consent was when all of its competing classes, faiths, nations and parties rallied to Churchill’s Coalition of defiance against Nazism in 1940.</p> <p>But this popular politics of consent was run by an Establishment of mandarins, aristocrats and gentlemen, whose second principle was to make sure that the unwashed never got their grubby hands actually on the levers of power.</p><p>Remember Burke’s defining letter to his electors in Bristol. Once elected it was an MP's responsibility to decide as <em>he</em> felt best whatever his electors might wish. The MPs role was to separate not amalgamate vulgar prejudice from parliamentary policy.</p> <p>So this coming referendum is a moment to relish. For the first time in our historic polity we, the people, will directly decide an aspect of how we are governed. There have been such referendums in the other nations apart from England, and in London, but never across the UK. There was the referendum over the so-called renegotiated terms of EU membership in 1975, but that was not a real choice as our rulers (including those based in Washington) had decided what they wanted and no money was spared to ensure they got their way.</p> <p>This time, the choice will be ours.</p> <p>The immediate reasons for this appallingly dangerous precedent are the expenses scandal of 2009 and the banking and financial crisis that preceded it. They led to a popular revulsion with the political class and its corruption. The result, if I may skip forwards to keep inside fifteen minutes, was a hung parliament and an agreement that there had to be a referendum about something to help ‘restore trust’.</p> <p>If we were really to have this we should have a referendum about membership of the EU.&nbsp;</p> <p>Oh, no! That is much too important to trust us with!</p> <p>Hey, in England we should be having a referendum about whether we want an English parliament.&nbsp;</p> <p>Whoa! The English can’t be trusted with that!</p> <p>If we are to choose our electoral system we should be allowed the <em>option</em> of proportionality. Our Conservative leaders ruled that out. Because? Well, presumably in case we might prefer it!&nbsp;</p> <p>The Prime Minister pledged his support for “Power to People”. This seems to mean that we people are to be given the right to decide, <em>as little as possible</em>.</p> <p>Except that, and this is what really matters, <strong>it will be our choice</strong>. Here is the real importance of selecting AV.</p> <p>We have won the chance to throw out the traditional system of&nbsp;First Past the Post&nbsp;- and by replacing it with AV sending the message that we, the voters, will decide these matters, thank you very much.</p> <p>So I want you to focus on what we could get rid of.</p> <p>It is a dishonest voting system and one of the foundations of the dishonesty and hypocrisy of British politics today.</p> <p>Just one example. In the 2005 general election the Conservative party won the support of 8,784,000 people and won 198 seats. Labour under Blair got 9,552,000 votes, only 800,000 more, but was rewarded with 355 seats. The Lib Dems with nearly 6 million votes got just 62 seats.</p> <p>After eight years of a living off a world boom, and despite the Tories being led by Michael Howard, the Labour government gained only 35 per cent of the vote.&nbsp;</p> <p>It <em>lost</em> the popular election.</p> <p>But it won a large parliament majority and ruled on its own for 5 more years.&nbsp;</p> <p>It is not just that this is not democracy.&nbsp;</p> <p>It is mad to pretend that it is.&nbsp;</p> <p>Naturally, it produces maddeningly bad government.</p> <p>‘You know’.</p> <p>There was a feature of self-belief behind Blair’s disarming style: that he had been chosen to lead, ‘you know’, by God. Well, in 2005 he certainly wasn’t chosen by us!</p> <p>This was the outcome of a winner-takes-all, first past the post election system.&nbsp;</p> <p>It wasn’t always like this.&nbsp;</p> <p>But it is now. The Coalition is seeking to impose an arithmetical equalisation of constituency sizes. AV will do much more to ameliorate the imbalances.</p> <p>But the point is that First Past the Post is a rotten, unfair, dishonest sleaze machine. It is no way to select our representatives. Worse, it humiliates the wisdom and capacity for judgment of the British electorate. It has become a top-down device for ensuring that power is exercised despite what we want.</p> <p>It has got to go.</p> <p>We can be self-assured about replacing it.</p> <p>But we also need a sense of humility and history about what we will be replacing, an attitude often catastrophically lacking in the culture of New Labour.&nbsp;</p> <p>The system did once work. But today, what was once a strength that delivered MPs with a Burkian self-belief, has become a system of safe seats, with members whose lack of legitimacy is a permission for executive dictatorship.&nbsp;One run by Downing Street and the media. That is how it was with Blair and how it will be if he can continue it, with Cameron.&nbsp;</p> <p>It was not always thus. So I want to take you back in history, for two reasons. I said that I am honoured to speak here, at one of the traditional student union debating chambers, a northern challenge to the hegemony of Oxford and Cambridge.</p> <p>I want to do everything I can to persuade you to support the motion.</p> <p>But I fully expect you to refuse AV and stick with the status quo. For, with respect, this mode of debate that emulates the House of Commons is itself reactionary.&nbsp;</p> <p>It is not that I am against motions that demand outcomes. I know about the importance of taking clear decisions. But I have also learnt that as important as taking them is the way they are taken, to establish their legitimacy and practical effectiveness.</p> <p>What works in our time is not ‘winning an argument’ or having ‘strong leadership’ but clear deliberation and the transparent decentralisation of responsibility.</p> <p>This kind of debate format is the opposite of deliberative. It is just about winning. Voters don’t like it, which is why they find the process of the Coalition attractive and strangely human whatever its policies.</p> <p>But this parliament-style format wasn’t always so artificially polarising. In the House of Commons debates could be thoughtful, lengthy and relatively well attended.&nbsp;</p> <p>Here is a quote from Winston Churchill’s description of Balfour who was Prime Minister from 1902-5 (it comes from his book <em>Great Contemporaries</em>):</p> <blockquote><p>“The House of Commons was his world… No minister in charge of a Bill ever worked harder… He never floundered in detail… As Leader it was his custom to wind up almost every important debate himself. He spoke usually for an hour, having perhaps four or five main points jotted down upon two long envelopes.&nbsp; Within these limits he allowed his thought to flow. Often he paused to choose a word… At such times the assembly joined him sympathetically in the search… Out came the right word, amid loud cheers… This faculty of enlisting the whole audience, both sides alike… was a potent gift…"</p></blockquote> <p>This is a description of, yes, <em>a chamber of deliberation</em> now utterly vaporised.</p> <p>This was the parliament fed by its&nbsp;First Past the Post&nbsp;system that had no time for referendums.</p> <p>As I say, it wasn’t a democracy but it rested on a profound degree of public consent. The Commons could claim to represent the country, listening to and holding the government if not to ‘account’ in the modern meaning of the word but in its hands.&nbsp;</p> <p>It is no longer so. We should salute what it was, but not pretend that this is what it is any longer. And then say a respectful goodbye to its voting system. For today this functions to deliver a different kind of House of Commons. One that is managed and negotiated by the executive. Essential to the smooth running of this system is the <em>weakness</em> of so many MPs, ensured by the way they are chosen.</p> <p>All the now arid forms of tribalism feed into this dried out eco-system.</p> <p>Why on earth do they fear AV and cling to&nbsp;First Past the Post?</p> <p>On the first day of this parliamentary session, I sat in the gallery of the Commons to witness the referendum bill being introduced. It was a listless, forgettable affair. At one point, Margaret Beckett was called. She added her voice to all the Tory ones denouncing AV. If Margaret Thatcher personified a Tory rage for enterprise, Beckett embodies the blinkered vision of the Labour machine and, now, perhaps the single most conservative force in British politics: the Labour backbencher.</p> <p>She told us how when she went around the world as Foreign Secretary people asked her how the United Kingdom managed to be so far ahead of them in its skilful government and peaceful change. And she told the Commons that her answer was that it was thanks to our electoral system – it was the secret of our unique success.</p> <p>I know what reformers are up to, she went on to warn, AV is just the “thin end of the wedge”.</p> <p>Exactly so. That is why I ask this house to support it. A Yes vote will be the simple, modest first step to becoming a modern democracy.</p> <p>Who opposes the simple beginning of democracy?</p> <p>What is the amalgam of elite, conservative forces that has combined together to try and prevent it?</p> <p>It is a choice between them and us. Who are ‘them’?</p> <p>They are an unholy alliance of smooth Etonians, New Labour shysters, Old Labour pseudo-proletarians, together funded by big business, organised by spin doctors, assisted by mandarins looking forward to corporate jobs, whipped on by the Murdoch press desperate for the exciting smacks of strong government that increase sales.</p> <p>Given the toxic mix of elitism and corporate populism behind the ‘No’ campaign, how can I even contemplate the possibility of a motion such as this being defeated? Or the referendum campaign itself being lost? Could the British vote to carry on being serfs?</p> <p>I fear there are all too many examples of people embracing their own subordination.</p> <p>As you may know, a small campaign to edge towards greater women’s participation has begun in a Kingdom with an unwritten constitution, Saudi Arabia. Naturally the men are fighting back. How? By supporting a campaign of Saudi <em>women</em> demanding “punishment for those who call for equality between men and women”. The campaign’s slogan is: “<a href="">My Guardian Knows What’s Best for Me</a>”.</p> <p>This is the clarion call of the No campaigners supporting Westminster, Whitehall and government as we have always known it, from above.</p> <p>Can we shake them off? &nbsp;Since the Iraq war we have known that we are wiser than our political elite. The banking crisis confirmed this.</p> <p>Of course, if the question was put to us ‘Do we want democracy?’ there would be no doubt about the outcome. Instead we are being offered a teeny weeny grudging choice designed for us to dismiss as unworthy.</p> <p>But self-determination starts here.</p><p>It’s the fact of the choice that matters, more than AV itself. Let us make the voting system <em>our </em>voting system, Ladies and Gentlemen. Let us make how we elect leaders <em>our</em> electoral system, not theirs. Let us make AV the beginning of self-government.&nbsp;</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> <div class="field-item even"> Ideas </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Ideas Referendum Plus Anthony Barnett Fri, 18 Feb 2011 16:44:26 +0000 Anthony Barnett 58146 at A leaked "No to AV" letter from William Hague is dissected by a Yes! campaigner <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The below letter from William Hague to fellow Conservatives, urging them to help the party ensure a vote against AV in the May 5 referendum, was leaked yesterday to Rupert Read. A supporter of the Yes! campaign, Read delivers a blow-by-blow response. </div> </div> </div> <p><em>The below letter from William Hague to fellow Conservatives, urging them to help the party ensure a vote against AV in the May 5 referendum, was leaked yesterday to Rupert Read, Green Party councillor and vocal supporter of the Yes! campaign. Below, Read delivers a blow-by-blow response to the letter.</em></p><div><em></em></div><div><em><br /></em></div><div><em><img src="" alt="" width="550" />&nbsp;</em></div><div><em><br /></em></div><div><img src="" alt="" width="550" /></div><p><em>This piece was&nbsp;<a href="">originally published</a>&nbsp;on Rupert Read's blog.&nbsp;</em></p><div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> uk uk Democracy and government Referendum Plus Rupert Read Fri, 18 Feb 2011 15:58:37 +0000 Rupert Read 58145 at YES campaign celebrate the AV Referendum go-ahead <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The bill introducing a referendum on the alternative vote finally made its way through the Lords last night. Today, at sunrise, the YES! campaign celebrated by making Trafalgar Square purple. </div> </div> </div> <p>The bill introducing a referendum on the alternative vote finally made its way through the Lords last night, after peers voted by 221 to 153 to abandon the clause that the referendum be deemed only advisory unless there was a turnout of more than 40 per cent. The referendum will now definitely go ahead on 5 May.</p><p>Today, at sunrise, the YES! campaign celebrated by making Trafalgar Square purple.</p><iframe title="YouTube video player" width="500" height="300" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe><p></p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Referendum Plus Niki Seth-Smith Thu, 17 Feb 2011 13:59:01 +0000 Niki Seth-Smith 58118 at AV means you can stick to First Past the Post if you really want to! <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> An epicycle in the arguments for the Alternative Vote in the coming UK referendum, it permits you to only vote once just like now! </div> </div> </div> <p><em>With the Royal Assent scheduled for this Wednesday the referendum will go ahead and we return to our debate on it and the larger issues it raises.</em></p><p><em> </em>I’ve made the case for AV in detail <a href="">here</a> and <a href="">here</a>. I thought I had worked out all the pro-AV arguments. But sometimes a question comes along that makes one realise that there is still more to learn.</p><p><span>&nbsp;</span><span>Example… I was recently asked this question: "Will there be an option, in AV, to just vote for one party when not wanting any of the others in at all?" </span></p><p><span>The answer is YES. </span></p><p><span>Under AV, if you simply place a '1' next to your favoured candidate (rather than a cross), then you are voting as if it is FPTP (the current system), and that is completely allowed. </span></p><p><span> To be clear and technical, </span>the legislation allows a single X on the ballot paper to count as a 1 next to that candidate. And existing case law already implies the same, in any case: If, like me, you have been to too many election counts, then you will know that if someone writes a ‘1’ beside a candidate, under FPTP, then that already counts as a vote for that candidate. The same will apply in reverse, if we get AV.</p><p>And in fact, there is a very; important point here which I certainly hadn't seen before: It really is unnecessary for FPTP-lovers to oppose AV at all.</p><p>Because FPTP is 'contained within' AV.</p><p>FPTP is simply a subset of AV. FPTP-supporters can simply vote using a '1' instead of a cross, and could lobby for everyone else to do so too. There really is no need and no reason for them to oppose the new system therefore. They can stick to FPTP if they want to.</p><p>It would just be nice if they were to let those of us who <em><span>would</span></em> like to rank candidates by preference to be allowed to do so... It is really rather illiberal of them to stop us from doing this, when we are perfectly happy for them NOT to list candidates in preference order and just vote once.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Referendum Plus Rupert Read Mon, 14 Feb 2011 09:54:19 +0000 Rupert Read 58041 at Labour’s filibustering and the consequences for political reform <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> The filibustering by Labour peers of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill is having two unintended side-effects of importance to the future of political reform. Firstly, it has brought Tory and Lib Dem peers together; second, Labour has cementing its reputation for backing away from electoral reform at the last minute. </div> </div> </div> <p>The unprecedented filibustering by Labour peers (or rather more accurately, given the splits between hardliners and moderates about Labour’s ranks in the Lords, some Labour peers) of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill is having two unintended side-effects which will be important for the future of political reform.&nbsp;</p><p>The most obvious is the way in which Labour’s chosen style of opposition has driven Conservative and Liberal Democrat peers closer together. A more subtle form of opposition might have looked to divide the coalition partners, but repeated late nights listening to barely relevant and frequently repetitive Labour points has done the exact opposite. It has given both Conservative and Lib Dem peers a common source of anger and in the process they have spent large amounts of time in each other’s company, strengthening the personal connections between peers in different parties who previously had hardly even spoken to each other.</p><p>As a result, the odds of David Cameron, and Conservative Parliamentarians in both Houses, sticking to the coalition agreement for a mostly elected Upper House – and by proportional representation no less – have significantly improved. By uniting coalition peers in opposition to them, Labour has made it more likely they will stick to the coalition agreement on other matters. And by showing the Lords in such a bad light, Labour peers have also strengthen the views of those in Conservative ranks who think reform is necessary. That is good news for all of us, regardless of party, who believe Parliament should be based on democracy.</p><p>The second side-effect is a longer-term one and one whose implications are less predictable yet also more partisan. How will the political scene look to Liberal Democrats come the next election, or in a hung Parliament beyond it? The Conservative Party will most likely have won brownie points for being willing to stick through with constitutional reform, even if it is reform that at heart the party doesn’t really like. But negotiate an agreement and the Conservatives will look to have stuck to it and kept on getting people through the voting lobbies late at night in order to implement it.</p><p>As for Labour? Labour most likely will look like the party that, once again, when it came to the crunch flinched away from reforming the Commons or the Lords. Not only will Labour have its record over the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill, but how are those filibustering Labour peers who opposed elections for the Lords going to behave when that reform comes before them?</p><p>For two decades now Labour figures have often talked a good talk about new voting systems for the Commons or voting systems of any sort for the Lords. There is a long history of positive talks to think tanks and words in pamphlets and even a decent smattering of commitments in manifestos from Labour.&nbsp;</p><p>But each time it has come to the crunch Labour has backed away from actually implementing the fine words on the Commons voting system or democracy for the Lords. It is always not quite the right proposal or quite the right time.</p><p>After two decades and more of that by 2015, many Liberal Democrats may well conclude that on too many matters of political reform it will never be the right time for Labour and that, for all the Conservative Party’s unwillingness to introduce political reform, when it comes to the big issues it is better to deal with a reluctant but reliable partner than with one who promises so much yet flinches away at the last.</p><p>Symptomatic of this danger for Labour is the question of the AV referendum timing. When it came to holding the referendum on introducing the London Mayor and GLA, Labour happily scheduled it for the same day as other elections. Yet many of the same Labour politicians who voted through that polling day as an uncontroversial and obvious measure are now backing a line that tries to claim there is something awful about having the next referendum on the same day as other elections. Have they all really suddenly thought that they got it all wrong for London and now realise that they should never have supported the timing of the London referendum? Or is it that they are just reaching for any convenient excuse to bash another party and back away (yet again) from electoral reform for the Commons?</p><p>When something like that happens once, or twice or even three times, you can believe that perhaps it is really that people have changed their minds, perhaps it is really that the time is not quite right or the details not quite there. But after two decades of always flinching at the last, continuing to believe such generous explanations looks more and more foolish.</p><p>At this point, no doubt, some of the many genuinely committed to electoral reform in Labour ranks will be objecting that this is an unfair view of them. But unless they appreciate just how badly Labour’s record of flinching away over two decades looks to potential partners in a future program of political reform, there is no chance of such a future program working.</p><p>Take the example of Labour reformer Michael Wills, who recently argued vehemently in OurKingdom against what the government is doing,&nbsp;<a href="" target="_blank">listing a long set of questions</a>&nbsp;which he says Parliament should have properly considered. Not surprisingly, I disagree with many of his views in that list of questions, but my main objection is simply this: look at the total amount of time Parliament has now spent on the Bill and you see there has been plenty of time in total to discuss all of those questions in some detail. But instead of discussing them in detail, Labour peers have chosen to squander time on all sorts of trivial, peripheral and irrelevant matters.</p><p>If Labour peers had&nbsp;<em>really</em>&nbsp;wanted to get those points debated in detail, they had their chance and their time (plenty of it). But they chose not to take it – because when it came to the crunch it wasn’t scrutiny or improvement that came first, it was wrecking reform.</p><p>And unless Labour shows real commitment to reform – not just in the comfort of policy chit-chat but in the voting lobbies in Parliament and the ballot boxes of a referendum – the most likely outcome is that Labour will no longer look to be the obvious and natural partner for a third party wanting an ambitious program of political reform.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Referendum Plus Mark Pack Fri, 11 Feb 2011 11:11:44 +0000 Mark Pack 57989 at The House of Lords is right to challenge the Coalition on where we vote <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> A new Labour Peer attacks the spirit and methods of the Coalition's attempt to re-draw the UK's constituencies and rush a referendum on the voting system even though he favours the principles of reform </div> </div> </div> <p>It’s a measure of the intellectual impoverishment of our media that their main interest in the passage of the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Bill through the House of Lords has been the all-night sittings. They’ve paid scant attention to the contents of the Bill which represent a cynical subversion of constitutional proprieties, unprecedented in recent history. Far from this Government bringing in the new politics they promised, this is the worst sort of old politics, placing the pursuit of partisan self-interest above any nobler motivation.<br /><br />And I write this as a new member of the House of Lords who is something of a curiosity in the chamber in that, unusually for either side of the House, I support the objectives of both Parts of the Bill.<br /><br />I support a move to the Alternative Vote system, not as a compromise or halfway house but as a desirable end in itself and who could oppose any attempt to make the process of boundary revisions fairer and more efficient?<br />But there are profound flaws in how this Bill proposes to achieve these objectives. <br /><br />The referendum on AV, provided for in Part One of the Bill, is post-legislation, mandating the Government to implement the result. The Labour Government’s proposal&nbsp; left the final decision to Parliament, consistent with our belief in the primacy of representative democracy and leaving MPs to reach a final judgement on the basis of the outcome of the vote. Of course, it’s unlikely that any Parliament would resist the result of a referendum. But holding the popular vote before implementing legislation at least allows Parliament to reflect on the implications of possible inconclusive outcomes arising from low turnout or narrow margin of victory - or differential results in the four nations of the United Kingdom.<br /><br />But the worst problems reside in Part Two of the Bill. This provides for a wholesale revision of constituency boundaries. Complex and technical it may be but it goes to the heart of our democratic arrangements.<br /><br />It’s long been accepted, for example, that the boundaries of a constituency should be shaped not only by numbers but also by the specific character of the constituency, local identities and natural boundaries, such as mountains and rivers, which have throughout history helped define communities. <br /><br />No longer. This Bill elevates the equalisation of constituency size above all other considerations. But then it doesn’t even uphold this dubious principle consistently. Wales is to lose 25% of its parliamentary representation in one swing of the axe while Northern Ireland is allowed to depart from the electoral quota rule. <br /><br />It’s hard to find anywhere in this Bill anything that could pass as a consistently-applied, informing principle. Where, for example, is any examination of the optimum size for a constituency ? This is a crucial consideration in creating a principled approach to the equalisation of constituencies. What is the appropriate relationship between an MP and their constituents and what size of constituency best sustains it ? The Government have given us no clue. But surely, before embarking on such radical reform, we need to seek agreement on what principles should determine the size of a constituency and hence the size of the House of Commons ?<br /><br />And surely such significant reforms should take account of other impending changes in our constitutional arrangements: the increasing decentralisation of power to local authorities and reform of the composition of the House of Lords, both of which will have implications for the nature and extent of the role of Members of Parliament.<br /><br />How exactly did the Government alight on the figure of six hundred as the proper size for the House of Commons ? Both the Coalition partners were committed before the Election to reducing the House of Commons to below six hundred seats. What exactly changed their minds ?<br /><br />Was any modelling was done by the Government or by the Liberal Democrat Party or the Conservative Party on the effects on their own parties of reducing the number of MPs below six hundred? If so, what did such modelling show ? We don’t know because Ministers have repeatedly refused invitations to say. As long as they fail to produce any coherent explanation of how this figure was arrived at, and why they have gone back on what they promised, the suspicion must remain that this decision was motivated by the pursuit of partisan advantage.<br /><br />And what about the principle, hitherto followed by all Parties that believe in maintaining the Union, of differential protections for the minority nations of the United Kingdom ? The nature of the Union has changed considerably since the Labour Government introduced devolution and it is continuing to evolve. But there is no evidence in this Bill that the Government has appreciated this or recognised its significance. The treatment of Wales suggests, at the very least, a carelessness about the health of the Union.<br /><br />Then the Bill abolishes the ability of local people to have any significant say in the shape of the constituency in which they live, even though local representations have significantly influenced boundary revisions in the past.&nbsp; The Deputy Prime Minister has justified this with these words: "The review process is lengthy and time-consuming". But the same might be said for democracy itself. Administrative convenience for the executive is never a good argument for dismissing the foundations of accountable democracy. <br /><br />The Government justify the measures in Part Two on the grounds that every vote should count the same and it is true that it takes fewer votes to elect a Labour MP than a Conservative one. But there are several reasons for this apart from different constituency sizes, including relative rates of registration and differences in turnout. And, as Liberal Democrats, of all people, should know, if each vote is to weigh equally then the share of each vote should translates directly into an equal proportion of seats held. Only one electoral system delivers this:&nbsp; proportional representation, and that’s not on offer in this Bill.<br /><br />And if the Government was really so concerned about equality among voters, they wouldn’t be seeking to redraw the electoral map on the basis of a register which fails to include over three million voters who would be otherwise eligible to vote. Does the Government seriously believe that any credible equalisation of boundaries can take place when some constituencies achieve nearly 100% registration rates while others achieve barely half that ?<br /><br />Then there’s the way in which this Bill has been introduced, in a display of contempt for Parliament by the executive. The Labour Government introduced a raft of constitutional reforms and always did so seeking consensus wherever possible, on the grounds that whatever changes are made they should be made in the interests of the legitimacy of our constitutional system as a whole and not be subject to claims that partisan advantage is being pursued. We didn’t always get it right but we tried.<br /><br />But this Bill is characterised by breathless speed and absence of consultation: speed in rushing it through Parliament, speed in holding a referendum less than six months from the presumed passage of the Bill onto the statute book, and unprecedented speed in completing the wholesale revision of constituency boundaries.<br /><br />Why the rush? Surely such important constitutional measures deserve appropriate pre-legislative and legislative scrutiny? Surely people should have the time and opportunity to have their say on the shape of the constituencies in which they live.<br /><br />Clearly the Government want to get the new system in place by the next election. But why? Important as I believe these issues to be, there’s nonetheless no popular clamour for these measures nor any other compelling reason to rush these measures through.<br /><br />And why rush to draw up new boundaries on the basis of an inaccurate and incomplete register when the Political Parties and Election Act gave the Electoral Commission the task of making the register comprehensive and accurate by 2015 and gave them new powers to achieve this.<br /><br />Why couldn’t the Government wait just a few months longer to be sure that boundary revisions will take place on the basis of a comprehensive and accurate electoral register, the only fair basis on which such revisions can be conducted ? The only reason can be that the new boundaries would not be in place for the next General Election.<br /><br />Constitutional changes of this significance should be drafted to endure, whether they’re in place for this coming General Election or the next one really should not weigh in the balance.<br /><br />So why might the Government be so anxious to get these measures in place by the time of the next election ? <br /><br />It’s widely accepted that revising the boundaries when millions of eligible voters are missing from the register is likely to damage the Labour Party most. And one prominent Conservative, Mark Field, the MP for the Cities of London and Westminster admits on his website,</p><blockquote><p>the current proposals for AV and the reduction in number of parliamentary constituencies are being promoted by Party managers as an expedient way to prevent our principal political opponents from recapturing office.</p></blockquote><p>As well as the putative electoral advantage, there’s also the tactical requirement that this Bill is critical in keeping the Coalition locked together. It yokes together two different political agendas, with Part One of the Bill representing the Liberal Democrat part of the Bill and Part Two the Conservative part. It is this that makes it difficult for the Government to adopt obvious solutions such as splitting the Bill into two and adopting different timetables for the two parts.&nbsp; <br /><br />There’s clearly deep unease among backbenchers in both Parties in the Coalition that their interests are being sacrificed to those of the other Party. It’s inevitable when there’s no history of cooperation between the two parties and there has been no opportunity to build up any sort of trust. This is only to be expected when a coalition has to be put together so quickly and unexpectedly. Governments that are the product of a deal find it difficult to do deals. <br /><br />But this is a shoddy reason to abuse proper process in pushing through such important constitutional changes. Pure political expediency for the Government parties is an unacceptable basis for constitutional change. When our electoral arrangements become the subject of partisan dispute, it corrodes public trust and undermines the foundations of our democracy. For many years our political parties sought consensus on such issues and, for the most part, succeeded in finding it. This Bill is an exception to this good practice and a shameful one.</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Referendum Plus Michael Wills Mon, 31 Jan 2011 10:16:20 +0000 Michael Wills 57788 at First Past the Post: a damning report on a system that 'fails the fairness test' <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> A damning report on the first past the post voting system has been released by ippr. Clare Coatman, of the Yes to Fairer Votes campaign, introduces the report. </div> </div> </div> <p>I was excited to read ippr&rsquo;s finished report into First Past the Post (FPTP) &lsquo;The Worst of Both Worlds&rsquo; released today (download <a href="">the pdf</a>). It is a thoroughly damning analysis of a voting system that was &ldquo;designed for a world that no longer exists&rdquo;.</p><p>The report demonstrates that FPTP fails on its own terms. Trends over the last 40 years mean that &ldquo;FPTP can no longer claim to guarantee strong single-party government&rdquo;. If, as foreseen, coalitions under FPTP become more prevalent, politicians, not voters, will increasingly determine the outcome of elections, as parties are unwilling under the current system to declare ahead of the count who they would go into coalition with and under what terms.</p><p>The 'Worst of Both Worlds' also shows that FPTP &ldquo;fails the fairness test&rdquo; when &ldquo;the number of seats a party wins depends less on the number of votes it gets than on the geographic distribution of its support&rdquo;. Under our current system, millions of voters are unlikely to ever see their seat change hands, meaning those MPs are unaccountable to their constituents. The report concludes that &ldquo;unless FPTP is reformed, we will be left in the &lsquo;worst of both worlds&rsquo;: a voting system that neither delivers fair representation nor single-party majority government&rdquo;.</p><p><strong>Figure 6 from the report shows a "reasonably strong (negative) correlation" between the winner's majority in 2005 and turnout in 2010: the safer the seat, the less inclined the constituents are to vote.</strong></p><p><img src="" alt="" width="500" /></p><p>On May 5th we will have a once-in-a-generation chance to make our voices heard on how the UK elects its Members of Parliament. The referendum will ask us whether we want to replace FPTP with the Alternative Vote (AV) system. The Yes Campaign believe that AV is fairer than our current system as MPs will have to work harder to get and keep votes, constituents will have a greater say and far fewer MPs will have jobs for life. Most importantly of all, MPs will have to receive over 50 per cent support from voters in their constituency to be elected. To find out more about electoral reform and the Alternative Vote, visit <a href=""></a>.&nbsp;</p><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Referendum Plus Clare Coatman Tue, 04 Jan 2011 15:25:03 +0000 Clare Coatman 57450 at On the fifth day Britain's Coalition was Created and... <div class="field field-summary"> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Is the Lib Dem negotiator David Laws being tendentious in his account of how the Coalition came about in May? A Labour insider reports that it is economical with the truth. </div> </div> </div> <div class="itemBody"><p>I was interested, if a little bemused, to read <a href=";">David Laws' account</a> of the coalition negotiations, serialised from his forthcoming book <em>22 Days in May</em>.<br /><br />His account makes abundantly clear what everyone now knows: that forming a coalition with the Conservatives was the primary objective of the Liberal Democrat leadership during those five momentous days in May. I was a party to those negotiations, as an official on the Labour side, and it was very clear to me and others at the time that the real action was taking place elsewhere, in discussions between the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives.<br /><br />But on some important points, Laws' account of the Labour–Liberal Democrat talks jars with my own recollections.<br /><br />Take electoral reform: Laws says that the Labour side offered a referendum on the alternative vote (AV) but that Ed Balls said it would be hard to guarantee that it could get through the House of Commons, given Labour’s divisions on the issue. This gives a false impression in three critical respects. First, Andrew Adonis offered to make the referendum an issue of confidence, so that Labour MPs would have to support it. Second, he said it would be agreed that Labour would actively campaign for the change in a referendum. Third, he promised to consider putting full proportional representation (PR) on the ballot. <br /><br />These were very important offers, of which Laws makes no mention. Nor does Laws – in the serialised version at least – acknowledge that the Liberal Democrats wanted to legislate immediately for AV without a referendum, so that it would become the default electoral system if a by-election were to be held. They proposed that only later would a full referendum on changing the electoral system take place. (If this appears incoherent, it is because it was incoherent.)<br /><br />On other issues, Laws' account seems more concerned with political point-scoring – such as his sideswipes at Ed Miliband – than offering a true recollection of the negotiations. For example, there were lengthy and substantive exchanges about nuclear and renewable energy policy between Chris Huhne and Ed Miliband, which were constructive and serious. Labour also offered legislation early in the Parliament to elect the House of Lords, by regional open list PR, but laws doesn't mention this either.<br /><br />Where his account does ring true is on the issue of fiscal policy, which clearly divided the parties. Labour did not want to cut spending in 2010–11; the Liberal Democrats said they had been shown a Treasury paper by the Conservatives showing how £6 billion could be cut and consequently wanted to shift their position. Ironically, however, the really big issue that didn't get substantively debated in the negotiations (or in the general election, for that matter) was the commitment in the Liberal Democrats' position paper – which the Coalition has subsequently enacted – to eradicate the so-called structural deficit over the term of the Parliament. This represented a decisive shift away from the position that both they and Labour had taken in their manifestos of halving the deficit in four years.<br /><br />None of this is to say that Labour negotiated with anything like the purposeful resolve shown by the Conservatives. Labour was too tribal for too long. It didn't start preparing for coalition talks until very late in the day, long after the other parties had given it a great deal of thought and preparation. The arithmetic was against a Lib–Lab deal and there were simply too many Labour people openly saying they didn't want the talks to succeed.<br /><br />Why does any of this matter? Coalition government is likely to become the norm in Britain, even if the AV referendum next year is lost. That means that political leaders need to get used to negotiating in good faith about forming governments, a process which is not helped by the surfacing of clearly partisan accounts of such negotiations. In particular, if Labour and the Liberal Democrats are ever to form a coalition government in the future, the bitterness that has marked their relations since those five days in May will have to subside.<br /><br />Most importantly, we need to devise clear and structured mechanisms for coalition negotiations that allow them to take place in a measured and transparent way. As a result of the events in May, parties are likely in future to come under greater pressure to say in advance who their preferred coalition partners are and which of their manifesto positions are issues of non-negotiable principle. But a parliamentary democracy also needs proper rules of engagement for such moments, and insofar as these are rules for Parliament itself they need to be enshrined in a democratically supported written constitution, rather than just a Cabinet manual drafted behind closed doors by mandarins.<br /><br />Update: Andrew Adonis has a review of David Laws' book in this week's <em>New Statesman</em>. It will be well worth reading.</p><p><em>Crossposted with thanks from <a href="">the ippr blog</a></em></p></div><div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government Referendum Plus Nick Pearce Mon, 15 Nov 2010 11:04:20 +0000 Nick Pearce 56847 at Six months from the AV referendum, how are the campaigns shaping up? <p>The early announcement that Matthew Elliott, head of the radical right-wing group&nbsp;<a href="">The TaxPayers&rsquo; Alliance</a>, would be heading the &ldquo;No&rdquo; campaign, has led most mainstream commentators to the&nbsp;<a href="">lazy assumption</a>&nbsp;that the opponents of reform are far ahead in terms of strategy and organisation. Elliott, of course, enjoys a fearsome reputation for his success in getting the low-tax, anti-state message favoured by the group&rsquo;s wealthy backers into the media, and the TPA can justifiably&nbsp;<a href="">boast</a>&nbsp;of their influence over Tory policy.</p><p>This bonfire weekend, the contrast between the two campaigns couldn&rsquo;t be starker. The No campaign has drawn on the resources of its wealthy backers &ndash; people who have most to gain from the status quo &ndash; to fund a&nbsp;<a href="">new video</a>&nbsp;and a series of online ads designed to sow anger and confusion.But this referendum isn&rsquo;t going to be won or lost in the column inches of the Daily Mail, much less the dining rooms of Notting Hill.&nbsp;Come May 5th, it&rsquo;ll be the people who decide whether they want change&nbsp;&ndash; and there are many hundreds who are already mobilising to achieve it.</p><p class="image-right"><img src="" alt="" width="280" height="195" /></p><p>The video asks what are the &ldquo;burning issues&rdquo; for you this bonfire weekend, before pointing out that &ldquo;cuts&rdquo;, &ldquo;jobs&rdquo;, &ldquo;schools&rdquo; and &ldquo;hospitals&rdquo; are being ignored for a referendum on the Alternative Vote. It is striking how there is zero discussion of the issues raised by electoral reform in the video. Instead, the focus is solely on the alleged cost of the referendum.</p><p>This, then, is how the No campaign will be playing it. With easy populist slogans, designed to spread confusion and exploit popular anger at the cuts.&nbsp;The irony, of course, is that the message comes from a mixture of Tories and TPA luminaries, people who have done more than anyone else to further the government&rsquo;s cuts agenda. <!--break-->And make no mistake, they take the very opposite view of the cuts to the one implied by this video. They know that they have every reason to fear democracy.</p><p>As a researcher at the fellow right-wing think tank, the Institute of Economic Affairs (<a href="">IEA</a>), put it in a moment of remarkable candour, AV is &ldquo;not a good way to elect Members of Parliament who will support radical free-market economic reforms&rdquo;, since this system requires politicians to build a broad base of support and attract second and third preferences and this is likely to disadvantage free marketeers whose views enjoy limited popularity.</p><p>Whilst the No campaign remains fixated by pushing its negative agenda into the Westminster media, the Yes campaign has been quietly putting in place an experienced team, with a mixture of Liberal Democrats, Labour, and non-aligned figures in senior positions, including John Sharkey, formerly of Saatchi and Saatchi, Paul Sinclair, a former advisor to Gordon Brown, and Katie Ghose, the new director of the&nbsp;<a href="">Electoral Reform Society</a>.</p><p>The Yes to fairer votes site launches this week. In contrast to the dull oppressive shades of the&nbsp;<a href="">No campaign&rsquo;s site</a>, it is clear, bright and colourful, and focuses on the grassroots nature of the campaign with ways in which people can get involved. There is now a network of determined activists across the country that has grown steadily since the extraordinary outpouring of energy during the<a href="">purple &ldquo;fair votes&rdquo; protests</a>&nbsp;back in May.</p><p>They are ready to take the fight for reform to the country, turning every town, street and doorstep purple. This weekend more than 50 fairer votes launch events are taking place in communities from Watford, to Manchester, to Aberdeen, all organised by local Yes campaign volunteers. You can find one in your area using the&nbsp;<a href=";event_type%5b%5d=5&amp;limit=100&amp;radius_unit=mi">Take Back Parliament site</a>, and perhaps pop down and enjoy some firework as well.</p><p>It&rsquo;s the difference between an authentic grassroots mobilisation and pseudo-radical astro-turfing designed to preserve the status quo. With six months to go, the different approaches of the two campaigns are very much on display.</p><p><em>This post originally appeared in <a href="">Left Foot Forward</a>.</em></p> <div class="field field-country"> <div class="field-label"> Country or region:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> UK </div> </div> </div> <div class="field field-topics"> <div class="field-label">Topics:&nbsp;</div> <div class="field-items"> <div class="field-item odd"> Democracy and government </div> </div> </div> uk uk UK Democracy and government europe Referendum Plus Guy Aitchison Sat, 06 Nov 2010 18:59:29 +0000 Guy Aitchison 56719 at