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Nick Robinson | 09:29 UK time, Tuesday, 19 April 2011

My post yesterday on the No campaign's focus on the man who wasn't there has provoked a sharp reaction from the former Lib Dem leader Lord Ashdown.

Lord Ashdown

"The personalisation of the No campaign is disgusting politics", he tells me before going on to condemn what he calls a combination of "Conservative Party money and the dinosaurs of Labour who are attacking the man holding the coalition together".

This follows the Climate Change Secretary Chris Huhne's warning on Newsnight last night that "gutter politics" and "downright lies" are damaging the coalition. He went on to say that "I am frankly shocked that coalition partners can stoop to a level of campaign that we have not seen in this country before". He was referring not to coded and not so coded attacks on Nick Clegg but the No campaign's claim that voting under AV would cost millions and that it would promote extremism.

Both men will have seen the latest poll - ICM for the Guardian - showing a dramatic 16% lead for the No campaign. It is just a poll and just one poll and, more than in most elections, turnout is the key to this contest. However, the trend in all polls has been no-wards.

If that is the result it will be one more reason for some Lib Dems to ask 'What are we getting for staying in the coalition?'

PS One or two of you have complained that I am focussing on the horse race rather than the substance of the referendum. Point taken.

More on this to come but, for now, I've been studying Professor John Curtice's analysis for the Political Studies Association of whether AV would make much of a difference. Having projected general election results since 1983 under AV his cautious answer is that it would make hung parliaments "a little more likely" and give a "modest boost" to the Liberal Democrats.

At the last election, for example, Curtice estimates that the Lib Dems would have got 80 seats not 57, the Tories would have got 20 fewer seats and Labour three fewer. This would still have led David Cameron to conclude that a Tory/Lib Dem Coalition was the only stable option. However, the alternative Lab/Lib Dem Coalition would have had an overall majority - 335 seats against the 315 they did get - which might have convinced some that a "progressive alternative" could have worked.

The one recent election outcome which could have been dramatically different and could have changed the country's political history was 1997 when Tony Blair would have got - at least if these calculations are right - a bigger landslide and, more importantly, the Lib Dems would have replaced the Conservatives as the second biggest party - getting 115 seats as against the Tories 70.

Update 12:10: Thanks to those who pointed out my schoolboy error. Curtice's study suggests that the Tories would have got 20 fewer seats under AV, not 20 extra seats as I originally said.

Update 13:08: Lord Ashdown has just gone much further. Whilst campaigning for a Yes vote in Bristol he challenged David Cameron to disassociate himself from what he called a "deeply and appalling personalised campaign":

"There are three questions for Mr Cameron. Will he now disassociate himself from a deeply personalised campaign of the sort no British prime minister of whatever party should be associated with? Secondly will he explain to us why the Conservative Party is now funding a campaign whose primary theme is to attack his main coalition partner? And thirdly if he wants to take a high-profile lead in this campaign let him do so in favour of a campaign on the basis of honesty and decency. I'd like to hear him make a commitment on that."

And here's the response from a No 10 spokesman:

(1) Will he now disassociate himself from a deeply personalised campaign of the sort no British prime minister of whatever party should be associated with?

The PM yesterday said: "I don't run the No campaign, I run the Conservative No campaign... I certainly don't condone any personal attacks on anyone in this campaign."

(2) Will he explain to us why the Conservative Party is now funding a campaign whose primary theme is to attack his main coalition partner?

As the PM made clear yesterday the Conservative Party is running its own NO to AV Campaign. This is focused on highlighting how unfair and unpopular the AV system is and why people should vote No; it is a system that is obscure, unfair and expensive and could mean that people who come third in elections end up winning. It is not attacking Nick Clegg.

(3) If he wants to take a high profile lead in this campaign let him do so in favour of a campaign on the basis of honesty and decency. I'd like to hear him make a commitment on that.

The prime minister is focused on making the argument against AV - it is a system that is obscure, unfair and expensive and could mean that people who come third in elections end up winning.


Page 1 of 2

  • Comment number 1.

    ... "downright lies" are damaging the coalition.

    They certainly are.

    That lie when clegg said he would not increase tuition fees was one of the most damaging.

  • Comment number 2.

    Being politicians, what we can expect is all smoke and mirrors.
    The analysis of past elections is useful but the caveat is that the votes might have been different under the AV system.
    We currently have a de facto two party system which to my mind has made them too powerful, complacent and unresponsive.
    On the other hand, the present system has worked for a while and we have had a stable government.
    A true proportionally representative system can lead to very short terms, I recall France having a change of government every few months.
    The trouble about voting NO is that the politicians will say "There you are. No need to change anything." and the two parties will continue there merry way of promising all and delivering only to their cronies.
    I still haven't decided but as I have a POSTAL VOTE I had better get on and make up my mind PDQ.

  • Comment number 3.

    I assume above Nick that you mean the Tories would have got 20 FEWER seats at the last election under AV.

    It would certainly have made the coalition maths and consideration more difficult. Under AV its harder to get a feel for what the country as a whole wants - how much weighting do you put on 1st choice and 2nd choice votes?

    The 1997 example is interesting and really highlights the Tories massive fear on AV, that it could lead to decimation at a future election (perhaps Labour could be open to this too?).

    Again, its a real shame that we are not being offerred the real choice of some form of FPTP constituency based approach and a proper form of PR.

  • Comment number 4.

    "the Lib Dems would have replaced the Conservatives as the second biggest party - getting 115 seats as against the Tories 70." @ Nick

    That's quite a thought, isn't it?

  • Comment number 5.

    I'm curious, how can Professor John Curtice predict what the result of past elections would have been under AV, if the elections in question didn't actually use AV?

    In particular, how can he possibly hope to assign second, third, fourth and even fifth preferences to ballot papers that clearly only indicate one preference? What are his assumptions? Unless they are absolutely water-tight (which I guess they are not), I think that kind of analysis would be unreliable at best.

  • Comment number 6.

    Not sure about the mathematics of this analysis. If the Lib Dems gain 23 seats, the Tories also gain 20, but Labour only lose 3, something's not adding up!

  • Comment number 7.

    All menaingless speculation.

    The fact is that the libdems can do whatsoever they like.

    Leaving the coalition isn't going to trigger an election, so it would be gesture politics (at which they excell, I grant you) to do that.

    An election isn't due for four years and they'd be stuck without any influence and the only strategy open them being to destabilise the tories. It might seem appealing at first sight but at a time of national crisis it's hardly appropriate, is it?

    The libdames need to remind themselves why the coalition was formed in the first place - a virtue had to be made out of a necessity and people had to come together to deal with the deficit. All other policies and politics are superfluous at a time of national crisis. As the US debt downgrade yesterday illustrated, not dealing with our debts will quickly lead us to ruin.

    History tells us coalitions always break but now is not the time and AV is not the issue.

    For the time being we are:

    Clearing up labour's mess...

  • Comment number 8.

    I should be interested to see Professor Curtice's analysis. He must have made assumptions about the proportion of voters who, had AV existed in the past, would have voted for just one candidate, or numbered a part-list, or numbered the whole list. The fee for joining the Political Studies Association just to have a sight of Curtice's report is too much of a deterrent for me!

    The latest poll showing the 'Noes' in a comfortable lead may possibly be misleading, not so much because of sampling errors but because of what the turnout will be like on the day. There are no elections in London. How many Londoners will be tempted to turn out just to vote in the referendum? May depend on the weather.

    I should think the vote could well be unevenly distributed across the UK from one region to another. N Ireland, Scotland and Wales with their assembly polls could well dominate. Their familiarity with non-FPTP systems may encourage a tendency to vote 'Yes'; unless of course they detest their local system.

    Another uneven distribution could be found in the ages of those who turn out. Elderly folk tend to turn out more reliably than the young; and my guess is that they would be 'noes' on the whole.

    As a moderately pro-AV voter I think I may be disappointed on the day, and, at the age I'm at, may never see a fair voting system in the UK. Damn those Labour dinosaurs.

    It's OK, I can cope with disappointment, I went to an English boarding school in the early 1950's and nothing ever seems as bad as that!

  • Comment number 9.

    In a campaign where actually the difference in future voting is unlikely to be greatly affected by the FPTP or AV systems, I'm voting on the principle of (a) who's run the more honourable (or least dishonourable) campaign & (b) who's in favour of each system. On both counts, I'm voting YES to AV. The lies in the No campaign have been some of the worst in living memory.

  • Comment number 10.

    When will you guys ever learn? This is about nothing more than May 5th Local Elections, with the Lib Dems trying to secure their social democrat vote by making out they are different to the Tories. On 6th May, they'll be friends again.
    Yes, Cable is right, it is digusting politics... by him!

  • Comment number 11.

    What a great shame that this chance to set a precedent for reform will probably be wasted simply because people see it as an opportunity to take an easy swipe at Nick Clegg.

    Unless The Sun throws it's weight behind the 'Yes' campaign, of course.

    It could happen.

    They could run page 3 headlines as 'Shapely Samantha, 21, says 'Yes', with a nice picture of Samantha holding a football. That's so good, I'm going to send it in.

  • Comment number 12.

    Has JfH moved (see 10). Vote no and you get rid of this awful coalition.

  • Comment number 13.

    AV was quite rightly described as a "miserable little compromise" by...


    All it does is to cement the three party system in place, effectively ostracising the minority parties by swiping their votes to top up those of the main parties to provide some sort of legitimacy to the political process that the British people trust less and less as time goes on.

    Those who realise they are being had by AV's veneer of legitimacy simply don't use their preferences at all so defeating the objective of AV, but many don't realise this, thinking they HAVE to use preferences, or just don't care.

    I don't like FPTP and would be keen on full blown PR, but the main parties won't go down this road because it would cause their "broad churches" to split, redrawing the political landscape and ending the Whitehall Party Political machine.

    All AV would do as it stands is to hand the LibDems a hell of a lot more influence over elections than their active support in the country would justifiy. We Brits would wander down the polling station and being the good eggs were are, we'd play the AV game and feel we "really should use our preferences".

    The LibDems would tend to get second preferences SIMPLY BECAUSE THEY ARE SEEN TO BE MIDDLE GROUND - so attracting 2nd votes from left and right is simply another way for committed voters from both poles to reject the opposite end of the spectrum.

    This would not be an active vote FOR the LibDems - it would just be another way to vote AGAINST the opposite point of view from your own. It has nothing to do with ensuring that the winner on AV really has ANY more positive support - it has everything to do with making sure that the early losers are the most disliked.

    This voting system in effect asks voters to vote backwards from the candidate THEY MOST DISLIKE by giving that candidate the lowest preference, if any at all. The result is therefore what can only be described as "the least worst compromise" - and the removal of any vestige of conviction politics, the end of politicians having any principles or policies likely to be objectionable to any of the electorate and the further homoginisation into the "soggy centre" of British politics.

    As a system therefore AV cements this polarisation around the centre ground into the process - it does nothing to ensure that those that govern the country on our behalf positively represent the broad range of our views, or even the majority position.

    All those LibDem second preferences wouldn't represent any belief or commitment to their policies, leadership or capabilities by committed Left or Right first-preference voters - their preference votes are just another way to dissent from those with diametrically opposed views.

    And as we have learned from the Coalition, the LibDems before the election were in many ways to the left of New Labour on a number of issues - yet immediately after the election, the Coalition Government trumpets that it is more radical than Mrs Thatcher's wildest dreams in its implementation of rightwing libertarian policies - vote centre-left - get NeoCon Right despite what the LibDem Manifesto said.

    What Clegg's journey from a man with apparently refresh new political opinions to electoral pariah in twelve short months should teach us is that under an AV system the scope for those who rise to the top of the LibDem Party to use the three party AV system for their own narrow ends would be hugely enhanced and the ability of the electorate to clear out the existing government would be made much harder.

    Clegg is right to call AV "miserable little compromise" - it would send people to Parliament who are only there because they are the least worst fit into the AV Party Political system where the third party leader is often the kingmaker not because of positive first votes FOR his manifesto at all, who is then able to tear it up anyway and make whatever deal he favours, just as Clegg has done.

    That is why it is right to debate the case for and against AV in principle AND to decry the outrageous, undemocratic and deceitful way Nick Clegg has exploited the situation of a hung Parliament to stage what amount to a bureacratic coup through the mechanism of the Coalition agreement where he simply put the LibDem Manifesto in the bin and pulled out the "Orange Book" of libertarian policies that had been roundly rejected by the Liberal Democrat Party.

    Hundreds of thousands of centre-left voters thought they could vote for LibDems to beat Tory candidates, only to get the rightwing libertarian policies they opposed hoisted on them by the duplicity of Nick Clegg.

    The evidence is there for all to see in the shape of leaks from the LibDems revealing that Nick Clegg had decided to dump policies like tuition fees and opposition to the spped and depth of spending cuts BEFORE POLLING DAY, but allowed people to like me to go on thinking the LibDem Manifesto offered us a safe way to oppose David Cameron in our own constituencies.

    That's why there is so much vociferous opposition to Nick Clegg and why people who feel they were conned at the election will fight tooth and nail to stop him becoming the king-maker through AV.

  • Comment number 14.

    "If that is the result it will be one more reason for some Lib Dems to ask 'What are we getting for staying in the coalition?'"

    Same thing you always wanted, boys. Reserved places at the trough for five years, free parachute payments on retirement, gold plated pensions, a free pass through the revolving door to an outsourcer, Brussels or consultancy and the chance to do voiceovers for car insurance comparison websites.

    Be careful what you wish for. You might just get it.

  • Comment number 15.

    "I've been studying Professor John Curtice's analysis for the Political Studies Association of whether AV would make much of a difference."

    How? Unless he knows which party people would have put as second choice, how can he know what would have happened? Even if at the time people had been asked 'which party would be your second choice' the answer might well have been different if there HAD been AV at the time.

  • Comment number 16.

    Anyone got a link to Professor John Curtice's analysis for the Political Studies Association of whether AV would make much of a difference? I couldn't find it (only a quick trawl) but I did find this
    One quote that has helped me sort through this debate is the following

    "A second concern (often muddled with the first, but actually quite different) is that AV gives higher and lower preferences equal weight: it treats a sixth preference as one vote just as it does a first preference.
    This is true in a sense: when a sixth preference is counted, it is given the same weight as a first preference. In the example on the following page, the second preferences of voters who originally favoured Taylor are given the same weight as the first preferences of the supporters of Jones and McDonald. In another sense, however, it is not true: AV gives extra weight to higher preferences by counting them first. A candidate may be the second choice of most voters, but if he does not capture a decent share of first preferences, he will be eliminated from the race before this broad support can be tapped."

  • Comment number 17.

    Seems a bit mean to only have two choices. If they'd have given us 4 or 5 different votings systems to chose from it would have been fairer.

    Mind you I suppose there would have been a debate over whether we used FPTP or another method of chosing the winner. They could have had a vote on which voting method to use in the vote over the voting method.

  • Comment number 18.

    I think its a great shame that the AV campaign has been more about "digging the dirt" rather than having an informed discussion about what the effects this potential change could mean.

    I also think that this referendum has been a 'fudge' - this referendum should have been "do we want to change the political voting system" and if yes, "which system should we adopt?"

    The more vitriolic the rhetoric (which quite frankly speaks of an apocalyptic day should AV be voted in), the more the general public will not be inclined to vote and more worryingly, will become even less interested in politics as a whole.

    Just stop the mud slinging and the speculation and start dealing with this intelligently.

    The public deserve this much.

  • Comment number 19.

    lies damn lies and stats. Think people making analysis of past results are making a massive assumption about people preference and what other parties might now stand as under a AV many people will get to vote more than once by the way it works.

    It also assume the current party structures hold as a result too. which it will not and will lead to parties like UKIP and the BNP making big gains as many might see voting for them as not a waste any longer.

    Some parties might see a dramatic increase in overall UK votes say UKIP but still get no MPS as they put there second choice as TORY say and they then get in.

    Also lots of people whom have not votes before may well decided to and in a manner
    the left does not welcome.

    in some way it would be could to see AV just for the fun of the left not getting a majority even with this system and moaning about broken promises. which is what you will get with any coalition, broken promises and bad losers.

  • Comment number 20.

    You (along with others) still, it seems haven't worked out how the internet and blogging works - it enables you to LINK to things. Just quoting from some random report is SHODDY INTERNET JOURNALISM.
    Please sort your act out.
    Link to the report, or link to somewhere it is possible to purchase a copy it if it is not freely available.

  • Comment number 21.

    "I assume above Nick that you mean the Tories would have got 20 FEWER seats at the last election under AV."

    I think he's making a reasonable bet that a lot of UKIP votes would have had the tories down as second choices, hence pushing the numbers back up. As to whether it would have been enough to have secured 20 more seats is conjecture. Tactical voting can throw up all types of anomalous results.

  • Comment number 22.

    #5 I was also wondering that but think that such assumptions come from council elections where more than one candidate is selected. Can anyone confirm this?

  • Comment number 23.

    I was shocked and disgusted to see No campaign's pamphlet sent to us by one of the Tories in our area. It says 'AV leads to broken promises' and how and why Nick Clegg is unpopular, it refers to VAT, tuition fee and public spending cuts. We were told all this is part of coalition agreement and they were 'all in it together', I think only when it suits Tory.

  • Comment number 24.

    The no campaign claims that "voting under AV would cost millions and that it would promote extremism".

    Why not add the option for a dictatorship? A dictatorship can clamp down on 'extremism' and, because elections are unnecessary, save money which would otherwise have been wasted on democratic processes. It would also have the advantages of producing strong, stable governments, and being totally transparent to the people of the country: nobody's vote would count! It sounds like the perfect solution to all the NO campaign's problems.

    As an aside, it might be worth pointing out that AV makes it harder for extreme candidates than First-Past-The-Post, and that, while it might cost millions, it wouldn't cost millions more than FPTP already does. Surely pointing out that the NO campaign are making unsubstantiated and unjustifiable claims wouldn't undermine the BBC's 'neutrality'?

  • Comment number 25.

    Surely the point that Huhne, Ashdown and Miliband are all for AV makes the point of losers winning, does it not? We have more important things to spend our money on!

  • Comment number 26.

    Jon 1

    "... "downright lies" are damaging the coalition.

    They certainly are.

    That lie when clegg said he would not increase tuition fees was one of the most damaging."

    Well, the Lib/Dems did promise us a referendum on the voting system and here we are - A promise being kept!

    Make no mistake, this referendum would never have been allowed under a Tory or Labour government. At the last election Nick Clegg promised a new kind of politics. By voting 'Yes' we could go some way towards that goal.

  • Comment number 27.

    Just to suppport everything rockRobin7 has said.

    We are showing ourselves to be a very immature and unsophisticated electorate if we spend our time pointing out any differences between the coalition partners. By necessity, it's a compromise - everybody is having to give, and that means inevitably they will go back on pre-election promises (which by the way happens with parties who are elected and govern not-in-coalition!).

    Personally I would prefer less one-sided government and would like the other parties to be able to influence matters more than has happened in the past, so I shall be supporting AV

  • Comment number 28.

    Just to let people know that not only is the BBC Political Correspondent wrong in saying the Tories would have got 20 extra seats. The Curtice research which they keep quoting isn't even AV. It is SV - a system based on two preferences, not 1-7. It also makes no allowances for variations in Scotland and Wales. Try the Univ of Essex research purely on the 2010 election - sound methodology, big sample, and recent.

  • Comment number 29.

    #15 spot on see my post 19

    Its also very shocking of NR not to have mentioned this either.

    Also agree there should have been a simple referensdom

    1) FPTP
    2) look at option for change and not just to the voting system

    this would include and not be limited to the
    use of whips in HoP and a moritorium of taking jobs that are linked to
    there position of being an MP for 1o years to stop all of this gravey train
    activity at the Tax payers expense.

  • Comment number 30.

    Trying to post!!

  • Comment number 31.

    One wonders at the Electoral Reform Society.
    At its web site, we find this support for AV against first past the post:
    'It eliminates the need for tactical voting. Electors can vote for their first-choice candidate without fear of wasting their vote', we are told.
    This is of course just untrue. Is that incompetence or dishonesty?

  • Comment number 32.

    I can prove 31:
    Consider the case of just three candidates, a leftie, a rightist and a middle ground candidate, - say lab, con and lib dem.
    If no candidate gets more than fifty percent of the vote and the middle ground candidate comes third there is already a prime case for considering voting tactically if the lab and con front runners are close.
    Consider an example, say, lab with 40 percent, con with 38 percent and lib dem with 22 percent.

  • Comment number 33.


    Given Nick has LibDems +23 and Labour -3 on AV then I reckon it has to be Tories losing 20 seats, otherwise the arithmetic doesnt stack up. It is however based on some large assumptions about who people would put down as 2nd choice.

    Having said that I suspect the arithmetic would be very different now....

  • Comment number 34.

    To spell it out foor 31 and 32:

    Under AV the lib dem votes will be reallocated. Whether lab or con wins depends on lib dem second preferences. Assuming lib dem is regarded as the centre ground party by all voters it will be in second place for all for whom lab or con is best. In which case the supporters of the loser from lab or con will find the lib dem candidate better than the winner.
    If therefore all voters supporting the potential loser between con or lab vote strategically and put the lib dem candidate in first place, then the outcome will be a lib dem winner, an improvement for those voting strategically and for those finding the lib dem candidate best.

  • Comment number 35.

    David Cameron asks for a simple system so that the winner in the one vote is clearly the winner. Who won the first vote for Conservative Leader in 2005? Not David Cameron. Is this hypocricy? I think so. Should we be surprise? Not given the nature of the No campaign thus far.

  • Comment number 36.

    I am afraid that this WILL be a vote on [or more brutally, against - Nick Clegg] - and I cannot deny that my own certainly will be. The recent "joke" which sums it all up is "Which face of Nick Clegg don't you like? - "BOTH of them!" Anything to get into power. And Chris Huhn should be ashamed of himself for his intemperate appearance on Newsnight - EXCEPT that it strengthens my resolve not to vote for ANYTHING his mob wants!

    If AV means a greater likelihood of coalitions, heaven forbid. First past the post may not be perfect - but it remains preferrable.

  • Comment number 37.

    We also find at that ERS page:
    'All MPs would have the support of a majority of their voters. Following the 2010 election 2/3 of MPs lacked majority suppport, the highest figure in British political history'
    This statement is odd - in fact downright wrong in the case we have just considered.
    For if all vote non-strategically then as we have said votes for the lib dem candidate will be redistributed and either con or lab will win.
    But if we look at the votes of everyone, a majority of voters prefer the lib dem candidate to the con candidate and a majority of voters also prefer the lib dem to the lab candidate
    Thus to say
    'All MPs would have the support of a majority of their voters'
    when a majority would prefer another candidate, and that candidate has a majority over all other candidates, is clearly to talk rubbish.
    This, then, is a case of 'MPs lack(ing) majority support' under AV! Indeed the winner would lack majority support WHEREVER the votes of the middle ground candidate were redistributed.

  • Comment number 38.

    "I think he's making a reasonable bet that a lot of UKIP votes would have had the tories down as second choices" - fubar @ key

    I'd say that's very likely.

    Just strikes me Fubar actually, a switch to AV is going to make things a bit complicated chez Saunders, isn't it? You tend to vote for whoever knocks on your door as I recall - being UKIP and only UKIP last time - so how is this going to work with AV? First party to rat-a-tat-tat gets your 1st pref, next one your 2nd, then next your 3rd etc? Or rank by volume of knock perhaps? The electoral equivalent of 'he who shouts loudest'. Hmm - not easy.

  • Comment number 39.

    Two comments on this, on 31, 32, 34 and 37. Firstly, this ERS statement is BAD SCIENCE.
    Secondly, any middle ground party claiming no one need vote strategically under AV may well say something different after AV is adopted. This then is BAD POLITICS too.
    Perhaps worst of all, 'strategic voting'' is described by them as a bad thing. In fact it is NECESSARY in democratic society for the correct candidates to be chosen. The real irony is that with full strategic voting in both, AV and first past the post voting give the same outcomme!

  • Comment number 40.

    Nick, with all respect, I still think that you are missing the point of AV. It's not to change the people sitting in the seats the commons. To say that it will benefit one party over another is missing the point. Sure, that's probably what Westminster Village is focussed on, but from the point of view of many voters who are interested in electoral reform, we would be happy if AV made no difference to the the outcome of seats in parliament, just as long as each member is representing around 50% or more of their constituents. That's the point of AV. If the Conservative party reach out to more people in their respective constituencies then they ought not to lose seats so dramatically as has been "calculated" to have happened in 1997.

    I think that looking at how changing the system will benefit certain parties betrays the reason why we want to change the system. More thoughts here:

  • Comment number 41.

    PS Sorry about the piecemeal posting - the system refused bigger bite bits!!

  • Comment number 42.

    The problem is there are lots of left-wing parties and only one right-wing party other than UKIP. For a Conservative like me I would have no other preference than the party that represents what I think. Whereas for a left-wing voter they have lots of choice. In many ways that would make the outcome of any vote far more unrepresentative than what we have now and I don't believe it would truely reflect opinion in the UK.

  • Comment number 43.

    I consider myself a Conservative (and I do not mean Cameron and his colleagues - he is no more a Tory than Clegg or Millimetre), but I am embarrassed by the standard of debate espoused by other purported Tories.

    For instance Rockrobin at #7 so often makes assertions without any foundation whatsoever. And who on earth gives themselves a catchphrase to end every one of their postings? It is not funny, intelligent, or even ironic. Grow up.

  • Comment number 44.

    Fubar wrote:
    I still dont get this. Neil, I think you've got a lot of good stuff to say, but on this - in a safe seat, the sitting constituent isnt going to listen to ANY of the electorate, regardless of who they voted for. The reason they are in a safe seat is not because of their local prowess as a constituency MP, its because of their perceived political importance to either the government or shadow cabinet. Thus, regardless of what your name is, regardless of who you voted for, the only time the incumbent member in a safe seat is going to give any like a stuff about who you are, is when the general election comes round and chances are, if the seat is that safe, they probably wont even bother doing that.


    Fubar, This is the reasoning I have for disenfranchisement is felt under the current system, you vote for a local MP yet fundamentally they are not all that interested in local opinion. My seat is a safe seat (more than 50% blue so not even a question mark for AV either) and last election they didn't even bother canvassing. The activists all went to next marginal down the motorway (all parties that is) so I did not feel that anyone actually wanted my vote particularly as it was taken, rightly, to be a forgone conclusion.

    When we really only had two parties and the majority of the votes went to them then the final outcome would broadly represent the will of the people. So even in a safe seat voting roughly mirrored the outcome.
    Now where there is a wider split of voters and available choices the result haven't reflected the will of the people - just the will of the biggest minority. So under a FPTP system in a safe seat it is manifest that unless you vote for the winner your vote didn't count for anything as it is not reflected. Ironically the coalition is the only government we have had in decades that actually constitutes representatives of the majority of votes cast (even if many don't appreciate the irony).

    Currently many people are left voting for people they don't want to avoid someone they want even less being elected. It is estimated that perhaps 15% of votes cast are cast this way because voting for who you actually want is pointless unless they are the safe candidate.

  • Comment number 45.

    I'm afraid I think Prof Curtice's research IMHO contains a fundamentally biased interpretation of voter behaviour and psychology in its underpinning assumptions. The Report contains the following section on tactical voting:

    "It is often thought undesirable that the electoral system should force voters to vote tactically rather than expressing their true preferences. Estimates using data from the British Election Study suggest that around 14 per cent of voters voted tactically in the general election of 2001 8-11 per cent in 2005, 9 and 16 per cent in 2010."

    "AV removes the reasons for tactical voting that exist under FPTP. Under FPTP, a minor party supporter may choose to back a major party candidate in order not to waste his or her vote. Under AV, that voter can give their first preference to their favourite candidate and then transfer it to the major candidate with their second preference."

    I really don't see tactical voting in that way at all - my objective in voting tactically for a Party I don't support is that it is a way of reducing the number of MPs elected from the Party I ACTIVELY OPPOSE - it's not a question of a political parties being on some kind of spectrum of my personal "preferences" at all - I HAVE ONLY ONE - so tactical voting is "playing for a draw" - i.e. I know from the opinion polls that my Party can't win this election in my constituency or possibly at the national level, so at worst I'd like the election to result in no majority overall for the opposing main Party so that there will be another election as soon as possible when my Party has another chance of winning - so I vote tactically - and if my Party wins anyway, hey, the opposition will be even more divided with even fewer MPs from the Party I actively oppose because of my tactical voting in my specific constituency.

    If the result does produce a hung parliament, it would mean the new minority/coalition government under this "draw" scenario would be a) shorter lived, b) not able to radically change anything whilst it is in power and c) forced to commit itself on detailed policy options, which when revealed IMHO would then be deeply unpopular with the electorate when they faced up to them.

    This phase of minority/coalition government would help to polarise public opinion so that the next election would produce a majority government - hopefully of the Party that I do actually support.

    Tactical voting and AV preference voting are NOT the same thing because in reality I do not have a "preference" for the centre Party in the political spectrum at all - I do not want to see them in government, I do not like their policies and I'm only prepared to vote for them to stop the real enemy getting into power.

    Let me put it more bluntly, if you have to eat a sh*t sandwich, the amount of bread its made from really matters, so let's ditch the whole concept of "preferences" - politics is a hard business based on beliefs and principles, not some wishy-washy system of consumer preferences for this, that or the other shade of red, orange or blue.

    I'm sure that this point of view is widely held by committed voters from both the Left and Right - the trouble with this type of research is that it tries to remain politically neutral, which is OK in the sense that it shouldn't implicitly support one party or another, but there is a much deeper philosophical problem with it.

    OK - where ever you stand, you must stand somewhere - so people who claim to be able to defy gravity should worry us all - Prof Curtice's modelling of voter behaviour clearly stands somewhere - IMHO fore-square in the SOGGY CENTRE of the political spectrum - his model assumes that voters have a spectrum of preferences in their heads motivating their behaviour - I don't and neither do millions of politically motivated and committed people of Left and Right.

    That's why there is so much pointless and trivial debate about AV - what the committed voters of Left and Right want is a system that gives them the best chance of winning not only the election but also the argument.

    If we went to full blown PR this really would change things because the "broad churches" of the Left & Right would not need to stay together and the scope for a new era of politics in a true multi-party environment could begin - we are not being offered this - AV is a "miserable little compromise", just as Nick Clegg describes it.

    So take it away - stop trying to convince us we want a soggy centre government regardless of who we actually support and who we actively oppose - and if you're a LibDem, maybe one day you'd let us know whether politically you're to the Left of New Labour or on the Right with the libertarian children of Thatcher?

  • Comment number 46.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 47.

    must be lunch 60 mins to moderate a post.

    Was waiting to have a laugh with Sagamix post at 38 but cannot see it. Shame really my day needs lighning up a bit

  • Comment number 48.

    CRACKS? I would have thought CHASMS more appropriate aka EUROPE & the TORIES....Listen you DEMS history has an uncanny knack of repeating itself, once the CONS have had their nasty little way, they'll be done with you!

  • Comment number 49.

    In reply to Richard @13

    The issue has nothing to do with the Lib Dems specifically, it is all related to the underlying strengths and weaknesses of FPTP and AV with THREE parties in a broadly linear political landscape.

    We are still looking to choose ONE candidate for each constituency so we need to ignore all thoughts about PR. This means that the more credible candidates there are, the better AV works. Conversely the fewer credible candidates there are, the better FPTP works.

    Do a simple thought experiment - imagine there were 100 different parties, all with some support. Would you really want to use FPTP? That would be the quick road to the 'tyranny of a minority'. AV is the only real option with large numbers of candidates. That is exactly the reason AV is used for things like the Labour leadership election where there were FIVE candidates, it is the only option that is at all democratically acceptable.

    Basically, this means that FPTP works great when there are TWO main parties and AV will work really well when their are FOUR or more credible parties (and is no different for FPTP when there are only two). This means that the biggest issues are precisely where there are three candidates.

    What you completely forget is that in much of the UK (all of it outside England and even some constituencies in England), there are more than 3 credible parties and hence AV will work far, far better than FPTP and your comments don't have the slightest relevance.

  • Comment number 50.


    ERS are behind it because they and their financial backers stand to make a pile of money out of providing the infrastructure to make it work. This has been well documented.

    Thats the only reason why that son of the soil socialist Kinnochio is shouting about it from the rooftops. He's a major shareholder.

    Remember the left's political priorities:


  • Comment number 51.

    AV is not the first choice of any of the the political parties, not even the Lib/Dems. Nick Cleggs "miserable little compromise", sums up his view on this. Even Alex Salmond, who dislikes FPTP, finds it difficult to decide if AV would be any kind of improvement on FPTP. Only three Countries in the World use AV, two of which would like to change. Australia had a result from its last election under AV which no one was happy with. Therefore, why should such a system even be offered to the electorate just to appease the Lib/Dems. The result will most probably not be democratic, as voters in the devolved Countries will be out anyway to vote on who runs their Country, and they will most likely vote for AV. In England this will not be the case, and the turnout may be very low. So AV could be introduced without any proper mandate.

    Anyone can see, not only by the opportunists who support AV, but by looking at the system itself, that it is not as fair as FPTP. The yes campaign has run into trouble because those who represent the yes vote, do not even really understand it properly themselves, let alone trying to explain it to the voters.

    In the end, it is a pointless referendum, held at the wrong time, wasting money Britain can ill afford, for reasons that only matter to the political elite. Hopefully, the public will see it for what it is, vote no, and silence the Lib/Dems on this issue for good.

  • Comment number 52.

    The proposed AV system seems very unfair to me.
    Why is it only the votes for the loony candidates which are redistributed? Screaming Lord Such must be turning in his grave! In many/most cases I expect that the second preferences of the third placed candidate will decide the result.

    Surely all the preferences should be taken into account using some sort of points system based on the number of candidates.

    I also think that there should be a second question added: should David and Samantha Cameron dress appropriately at the Royal Wedding?

  • Comment number 53.

    I am firmly in the No camp. However, if the Yes votes win and given the state of the Liberal Democrats polls - its pure history and irrelevant to rely on those figures for (a prediction) in any forthcoming election. Is that a fair comment Nick?

  • Comment number 54.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 55.

    Is there not a character limit?? Richard Bunning stop lecturing us all. Make a point, make it snappy and wait for a response. Stop giving insanely long monolouges about your inner-thoughts!!

    On the actual topic you wonder how the coalition will stay together given some of the personal attacks on Clegg. Sadly Clegg's incredible nack at making the electorate despise him has probably made this vote a forgone conclusion. I am very much on the fence for this debate and am quite annoyed that there hasn't been enough genuine reasons for both campaigns instead of just standard sniping for the cameras

  • Comment number 56.

    13. At 11:01am 19th Apr 2011, richard bunning wrote:


    A complete load of *******. You clearly don't understand, or perhaps you simply wish to mislead on, the AV system being proposed.

    I would point out some glaring errors but the system won't let me :-)

  • Comment number 57.

    i would like to ask if the libs dems perform terribly in the local elecion and loose the av vote as well where will that leave nick clegg? if hes challenged for the leadership of his party does the coalition fall or continue with a new leader at the helm?

  • Comment number 58.

    What does it matter really, this is a vote that no one wanted. AV or FPTP, it really does not matter. The voters, at least most of them are screaming for a referendum on the UK EU Membership, but these screams are falling on deaf ears.

    So keep us occupied with a pointless AV referendum and hope we dont notice, hmm panem et circenses??

  • Comment number 59.

    The fact that the coallition partners are arguing over AV, is a sign of things to come if AV is introduced. More coallitions will be required. I've spent a significant amount of years in NZ where they have MMP - it doesn't work, you still have the two main parties, but with hangers-on. Then you get the rediculour of a "Minister outside Cabinet", meaning he gets paid as a minister but can attack the government!

  • Comment number 60.

    Liberals want AV because it will benefit them. Labout want AV because they get to play the "supportting electoral reform" card fully in the knowledge that it will hurt the conservatives more than it will hur them.

    AV is a vote for Labour lead, Liberal backed coalition governments until a more proportionally representative system is bought in to play.

    I would say bring on a third house, under the Commons that is filled using proportionate representation based on the Commons elections results but that way Labour would have even more power and the last 2 times they were allowed government they nearly bankrupted the country both times.

  • Comment number 61.

    52. At 13:17pm 19th Apr 2011, AnotherEngineer wrote:

    "In many/most cases I expect that the second preferences of the third placed candidate will decide the result. "

    Nope this will NEVER be the case - the total number of votes for a candidate being more than 50% (or more than the only other candidate) will decide the result.

    See this for a clear breakdown of how it works
    [Unsuitable/Broken URL removed by Moderator]

  • Comment number 62.


    having never appeared before on these posts under that name perhaps you might explain exactly which statements I have made that have been unsupported; in my experience my statements have often been challenged but seldom refuted.

    I accept that after thriteen years of newlabour catchphrases from 'Education, education, education', '24hours to save the NHS' and other dog whistles you might by now be irrtiated but each to his own. I find more annoying labour placemen appearing on Question Time alleging they 'voted tory last time but never again' when it's patently a lie. Do you get my point?

    Clearing up labour's mess...

  • Comment number 63.


    I dont agree with your assertion that FPTP is fairer than AV and its obvious to everyone (think you need to provide a bit more backing for that), but other than that your post contains many pertinent points.

    In particular the point around what votes are going on at the same time and the impact on turnout - Scottish, Welsh and NI voters may or may not be more predisposed to AV (again no backing to assertion either way) but it is clearly not very democratic if turnout ends up higher in these areas on basis of develoved govt elections proving more of a draw than council elections in England. Also I undertsand that not all English councils are being elected so again impact on turnout.

    I think that voting reform is overdue in the UK is overdue and the 2005 Westminster result was a good example of how poorly represented people can be under FPTP. But first we need to address the apathetic and the plain fed-up - more people need to vote in all our elections. So, wrong time, on balance yes, pointless, no dont agree, but we need better reform to fix a system that is not a good example of a proper democracy.

  • Comment number 64.

    Like many people I've just received the No2AV campaign's latest missive through my front door.

    Now read this and see all the lies, half-truths and misinformation it contains:

  • Comment number 65.

    We've had the FPTP system in this country for hundreds of years. What are the chances, if the new AV system was introduced, of it being changed within a generation or 4? Pretty slim.

    This is too important an issue to have only 2 choices, especially when turnout is expected to be so low. A fundamental change in our political system such as this needs to be more extensive in its choices, information and reach.

    Amends to the FPTP system can, and probably should be made (after all, it was done 3 times in the 1800s). Has anyone considered that first?

  • Comment number 66.

    Almost every system can be gamed. For example, what is stop a political party entering two candidates in every election and asking their voters to give the second candidate all their second preference votes? Of course then the other parties all enter two candidates too...

  • Comment number 67.

    23. At 11:50am 19th Apr 2011, TrueChange wrote:

    I was shocked and disgusted to see No campaign's pamphlet sent to us by one of the Tories in our area. It says 'AV leads to broken promises' and how and why Nick Clegg is unpopular, it refers to VAT, tuition fee and public spending cuts. We were told all this is part of coalition agreement and they were 'all in it together', I think only when it suits Tory.

    -> Ermmm. The no campaign was cross party (a very large part of Labour & Tory) the last time i looked . Lord Reid + Prescott are not Tories. How do you know these leaflets weren't sent out by Labour people ? As if Labour really care about Nick Clegg !! A cheap & non-sensical point to make!

  • Comment number 68. make some interesing points, although on a personal level we may have to agree to disagree. ;)

    The ERS statement that all candidates will have a majority support isn't a great piece of science, but follows the principle that AV simulates a re-run of the election each time the least popular candidate is eliminated. People whose most preferred candidate is still in the running still vote for them, but those whose preferred candidate has dropped out now move their support to another one (assuming they had remaining preferences stated).

    So anyone hitting over 50% had enough support from the electorate that 50% of people were willing to have them as a candidate above any of the remaining options. I agree, its not quite 'everyone has majority support' - but its better (in my opinion) than "Candidate X got 40% of the vote and wins, even though he's hated by the remaining 60% who unfortunately split their vote across 3 other candidates all bringing in 20% of the vote."

    Your point about tactical voting being necessary for democracy seems absurd to me. Democracy is not FPTP - under a PR democracy, tactical voting would be purposeless. The main purpose of tactical voting is mimicking the later rounds of an AV-style system. You expect your preferred candidate to be eliminated, and so you vote for your 2nd, 3rd, 4th preference on the basis that getting them is better than getting Candidate X.

  • Comment number 69.

    ..and due to length limit, part 2:

    I don't recognise your 'proof' that tactical voting exists in your example in #32. Assuming the initial split of first preferences is 40% (right), 38%(left), 22%(centre), then AV would move to stage 2. The second preferences of the centrists will then be divided between the other two - as there are only two remaining candidates, you are then able to "vote for labour so the tories don't get in", etc. with a second preference. need for tactical assigning of first preferences at all.

    Off the top of my head, the only situation I can think of where tactical voting might apply is if the election was going to be a dead-heat between two front runners who both are close to 50%, with a string of other candidates mopping up the remainder. In that event, you might want to assign first preference to your preferred front-runner in case the "wrong" other candidates are eliminated (e.g. eliminating two 'right' candidates might tip the 'right' front runner over 50%, even if all of the remaining candidates were 'left', and the 'left' front runner would have won if all but the two front runners were eliminated).

    In reality, this is questionable...we have no way of knowing whether elections will be that close in advance and relatively few seats are absolute dead heats along those lines.

    AV is by no means the 'best' voting system, but it does at least remove the need for tactical voting and give a clearer picture of political views in the country afterwards than FPTP.

  • Comment number 70.

    I know its not on the menu, but whats wrong with the Scottish Parliament system of prop representation?

    72 MSPs elected FPTP constituencies
    57 MSPs elected from regional constituency lists using PR

    Parties that hoover up the FPTP seats are at a 'disadvantage' in the PR bit as they start with a coefficient that takes account of seats won already.

    2 coalitions (Lab/Lib Dem) and a minority admin (SNP) over 12 years. This time round it looks like another SNP minority, although outside chance they may form a coalition with someone (unlikely as only candidates will be a mauled LibDems and a 3 or 4 seat Green party). The world still turns on its axis and decisions are reached that recognise the views of multiple political slants.

    From a UK perspective its sad that FPTP is seen as some hairshirt approach where if your gang is the winner then ya boo sucks to the rest.

    C4 news last night pointed out that in all recent democracies FPTP isnt normally considered as a method, with most adopting a form of PR.

  • Comment number 71.

    45. At 12:58pm 19th Apr 2011, richard bunning wrote:

    More ******

    That isn't Prof Curtice's research you're quoting from that's something different that I linked to. Your reading is clearly at the same level as your reasoning powers.

    Oh, and by the way, just because you're rabid idealogically doesn't mean the rest of us are. Personally I have never seen a clear cut choice and some good policies in all the candidates. And unfortunately for you, your arguement only supports why AV would be a good thing.

  • Comment number 72.

    Surely the simplest solution is to form an honest coalition before the election then the electorate have a clear choice and we get a government that the majority voted for.

    No-one voted for the current government!

  • Comment number 73.


    I dont give my vote away cheap Saga. Thousands of my forebears and former comrades gave their lives so that I could vote at all. If no one asks for my vote, they wont get it. Simples.

  • Comment number 74.

    I have been re-reading parts of the [Roy] Jenkins Commission report on electoral reform.

    The Commission rejected AV (paragraph 85) for three reasons:

    a) it can add to disproportionality rather than reduce it
    b) it can be unpredictable
    c) it is unfair (to the Conservative Party).

    The latter point was included, as the Commission itself pointed out, despite being set up by a Labour Government and chaired by a Liberal Democrat.

    I suspect the Commission was influenced by the results of the 1997 election and at other times disproportionality could work against the Labour Party.

    So here we are then, the Liberal Democrats arguing passionately in favour of an electoral system they don't believe in.

  • Comment number 75.

    "4. At 10:24am 19th Apr 2011, sagamix wrote:
    "the Lib Dems would have replaced the Conservatives as the second biggest party - getting 115 seats as against the Tories 70." @ Nick

    That's quite a thought, isn't it?"

    Yes it is. A thought. A thought about something that never happened. A "might have been". A "what if". But it's a bit empty and shallow to live one's life by "might have beens". Surely YOU recognise that?

  • Comment number 76.

    I'm sure the Churchill quote has been used before, but he said of AV: "the decision is to be determined by the most worthless votes given to the most worthless candidiates."

    Just as under coalition governments, the choice of policy is determined by the most worthless party (and yes, I do mean the LibDems).

  • Comment number 77.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 78.

    "49. At 16:23pm 8th Apr 2011, sagamix wrote:
    "It's a bit like Saga passing his 65% tax rate and then individually naming all of his chums who are to be exempted" - andy @ 24

    Which I wouldn't do since integrity is important to me."

    I never did get back to you on this. I was just wondering whether your integrity was going to make you come clean and admit to HMRC that your Swindon property didn't benefit from PPR on any seem oddly, strangely, reluctant to tell all on this matter.

  • Comment number 79.

    50. At 13:14pm 19th Apr 2011, Fubar_Saunders wrote:

    ERS are behind it because they and their financial backers stand to make a pile of money out of providing the infrastructure to make it work. This has been well documented.


    You shouldn't believe everything you read, it is not proven.

    The ERS was founded in 1884 specifically looking at fairer voting and for much of the time has been a proponent of STV specifically and more recently other voting reform models.

    For an organisation founded principally to support electoral reforms it would seem entirely unsurprising that it would back a campaign to introduce electoral reform of our system.
    That it also has an arm set up to support the mechanics of making the form of voting has supported easier for authorities to administer is entirely unsurprising.
    Had they invented a machine for counting votes and then decided the best way to promote it was support a change in voting system , your suggestion (and Osbornes) would be valid.
    Happened the other way round - so it isn't , it is just reflecting the depths the No campaign has been prepared to go to secure a win. One reason I have decided not to register a No to Av vote as I had originally intended.

  • Comment number 80.

    If we get AV I hope that there will be clear results as to who people put as their second and third choice (or more)

    If Candidate A wins a seat outright, for instance (keeping this simple for the moment), if the majority of that candidates voters put a particular other candidate as their second choice, Candidate A should be asking why and what he/she needs to take on board.

    Basically, the final results will give us one particular government, but the greater detail of the results can give a much clearer indication as to people's thinking than we get now - and the results of that analysis should be shoved into the face of the winning government for them to take serious account of.

    It will change polling too. Polsters will be asking people who was their other choices and why. Again, this will be valuable information.

    There is far more to AV than perhaps is being thought about.

    The trouble with the current no and yes campaigns is they are cheer-leading and/or scaremongering rather than actually going through the detail and trying to work out not what is best for any particular partly, but does a change of system offer the government better information and therefore maybe be able to work better with the electorate?

    If it is hard to teach old dogs new tricks, apparently old political dinosaurs are just about impossible.

  • Comment number 81.

    36. At 12:38pm 19th Apr 2011, Harrovian wrote:

    "I am afraid that this WILL be a vote on [or more brutally, against - Nick Clegg] - and I cannot deny that my own certainly will be."

    ^ But that's your own personal politics talking. Other people will be doing the opposite and voting "Yes" to AV in protest against Cameron and the Tories. Even 'spurned' Lib Dem voters will struggle to vote no in support of Cameron. The question being in some people's minds: who is the lesser of two evils - Nick or Dave? If you believe the press, there's a mounting campaign against Nick... but there may yet be a surprise in store on that front, come May 5th.

    AV would mean an end to any future of a Tory majority. I mean, they couldn't even gain a majority in the last election, despite facing the least popular Labour PM in history. That's why they're worried. That's why the "no" campaign is gunning for Clegg and smearing like it's the last chance saloon.

    43. At 12:53pm 19th Apr 2011, Southern123 wrote:

    "I consider myself a Conservative (and I do not mean Cameron and his colleagues - he is no more a Tory than Clegg or Millimetre), but I am embarrassed by the standard of debate espoused by other purported Tories...who on earth gives themselves a catchphrase to end every one of their postings? It is not funny, intelligent, or even ironic. Grow up."

    ^ Many of those you refer to are, in fact, undercover agents of the "loony left", sent here to espouse cartoon Tory rhetoric in order to drum up support against Tory policy. At least, that's the only sane explanation I can think of for some of the opinions posted here! ;-)

    PS: I totally agree with points made by others re: choice... it shouldn't be "status quo or AV?" - it should be "status quo or change?" But of course, the big parties, on both sides, don't like change...

  • Comment number 82.

    61. At 14:00pm 19th Apr 2011, Justforsighs wrote:
    52. At 13:17pm 19th Apr 2011, AnotherEngineer wrote:

    "In many/most cases I expect that the second preferences of the third placed candidate will decide the result. "

    Nope this will NEVER be the case - the total number of votes for a candidate being more than 50% (or more than the only other candidate) will decide the result.
    Surely the winning candidate will achieve 50+% when the second preferences of the third candidate are added (in most cases).

  • Comment number 83.

    Where I live there's a clear majority with wholesome progressive values, yet under FPTP we could easily get a tory MP. Imagine the anger, the distress ... the physical pain in certain cases - that such a gross miscarriage of justice would cause. AV takes this nightmare scenario out of the equation - the Cons could now never win - but there's a price; the price is that the LDs chances are boosted. So ... is the upside of destroying the tories' electoral prospects in Hampstead worth the downside of the LibDems having a higher probability of beating Labour to the seat? This is one of the key questions for me.

  • Comment number 84.

    Rockrobin @ #62 and previously.

    The point you were making is presumably you consider me a closet labour supporter. If you knew anything about me you would know you couldn't be further from the truth.

    I am not interested in getting in a debate with someone who should be a natural ally of mine given my political leanings compared to most of the left so-called intelligentsia on these blogs. It was merely a general comment on the quality of debate here and your comments ending with the inane catchphrases stood out.

    If you want an example of innacuracy try your comment from yesterday that "the country got the govt the country voted for". Got what it deserved perhaps but not what it voted for. If you canvassed any number of Tory supporters and any number of Liberals I suspect you will find that prior to the election they could not have dreamt of anything worse than the current debacle.

    We should Rockrobin be arguing from the same hymn sheet. Labour are a busted flush yet you waste so much time talking about them and inventing silly catchphrases. Concentrate instead on things that really matter namely that Cameron and his colleagues are utterly hopeless and bring great shame to a once great party. He has never been a true Conservative but instead a self proclaimed "Heir to Blair" and his actions in power have completely affirmed that view. And it is no good blaming the lack of parliamentary majority - anyone who has watched him and properly, genuinely thought about it will know that the Liberal party are the perfect cover for him dumping policies he had no intention of enacting in any event because he doesn't believe in them himself.

  • Comment number 85.

    "my statements have often been challenged but seldom refuted." - 62

    Does exposed as reactionary sloganeering not count as refuttal then, Robin?

  • Comment number 86.

    The parties are generally supporting self-interest rather than fairness. Of course the Tories want FPTP, it frequently gives them thumping majorities with well under 50% of the vote. The Libs understandably want AV & ultimately PR as FPTP invariably leaves them shamefully under-represented. More principled Labourites support the fairer AV, while the dinosaurs oppose for the same reason as the Tories - majority rule from minority vote.

    You are right it will be decided on turnout, likely to be well under 50% in most places, as people are struggling to make ends meet rather than contemplating what seems a very arcane debate.

  • Comment number 87.

    How can researchers determine what the results of previous FPTP elections would have been under AV when voters only marked one X?

  • Comment number 88.

    There is a fundemental flaw in any re-writing of history as it were basing AV comparitive results on previous results, that being it assumes under an AV system people would vote the same way.

    Everything we know about AV and indeed how it has played out in Scotland is that as people now feel their vote is valued they vote more in line with their beliefs and not who the believe can win the local seat.

  • Comment number 89.

    69 wozearly TACTICAL VOTING

    I agree that tactical voting of a kind as still possible with AV. This is supported by a section of that useful site already quoted by Richardbunning (thanks for that, Richard) . I quote it below and will leave everyone to try and figure it out!

    "But AV also creates the potential for new types of tactical voting. If, for example, you are confident that your favourite candidate, A, will be one of the top two candidates and you think that she would defeat candidate B in a runoff but not candidate C, you might vote tactically for B in order to keep C out. Alternatively, you might be confident that a candidate you don’t like, D, will reach the runoff stage and expect that D would defeat E, your favourite candidate, in that runoff but would be defeated by F, your second favourite. You might then vote for F rather than E in order to increase F’s chances of reaching the runoff.
    So tactical voting can exist under AV. But the information about the local race that voters need in order to exercise a tactical vote is considerable."

    The writer goes on to say however that there is considerably less tactical voting in Australia with AV than in the UK.

    To me the main point is that voters would need good info on the state of their local race: most won't be bothered to find out, in practice. It will be up to the local parties to advise voters as to how to list their preferences.

  • Comment number 90.

    Lies, damned lies, and now statistics, the waters are now so muddied you can't see if there's an elephant in there. The problem is that this referendum is combined with a particularly vicious election campaign, so every opportunity no matter how inappropriate is used for a bit of mud slinging. Now that it is obvious that News International favours a 'No' vote I'll bear that in mind come decision time.
    One thing puzzles me though, and that is the BBC graphic showing the AV votes redistribution, there is no mention of the fact that choices are not necessary. If you just want to vote for one candidate you can still do so, all that is required is a '1' instead of an 'X'. Or does the Beeb prefer a 'No' vote as well by making AV appear more complicated than it is?

  • Comment number 91.

    Surely if you don't have to put more than one preference, in their election campaign Conservatives and Labour will tell people they should only vote for them? The UKIP / Lib Dem voters will then put a second choice of Cons / Lab, thus strengthening the results of the two main parties.

    I may be wrong, but that's what popped into my head... I'm not a politics aficionado (as you may be able to tell!).

  • Comment number 92.

    Come on Nick Robinson - you are not confused by AV - but, perhaps, not prepared to say, either way? That's your democratic right - and to be respected.

    My own research shows that Boris Johnson is against AV, as are most major unions. What an interesting dilemma?

    Can this possibly mean that YES to AV will begin a legislative kick start to a possibility to Proportional Representation to improve democratic representation of the people, for the people, across Britain?

    There is nothing to fear for saying yes to AV. The sky won't collapse; nor will government, or law and order. All will be well - the only difference is that your MP or politician will wake up to reality and how much they may be exposed as failing you, as your representative?

  • Comment number 93.

    80. At 14:54pm 19th Apr 2011, Hastings wrote:

    "The trouble with the current no and yes campaigns is they are cheer-leading and/or scaremongering rather than actually going through the detail and trying to work out not what is best for any particular partly, but does a change of system offer the government better information and therefore maybe be able to work better with the electorate?

    If it is hard to teach old dogs new tricks, apparently old political dinosaurs are just about impossible."

    ^ Spot on. This pretty much nails it for me!

  • Comment number 94.

    Ginger 63

    One person, one vote, is always the most fair way to do anything, this is what FPTP represents. Just because some people do not like the fact that they vote for a loser, does not mean the system needs changing. It is as simple as that. AV is complex, expensive to run, unfair, can produce strange results, does not hold Government to account and often holds up the workings of Government while deals are done between parties. Promises made before the election in manifestos are abandoned, when more often than not Coalitions occur. Companies and business are put on hold until they see the direction of Government policy. These are all great disadvantages that AV produces.

    It is inevitable that the devolved Countries would vote for AV, I thought you would know this if you live in Scotland. However, Britain does not want the Scottish system either. Scotland is a small Country and as yet does not control all the many departments of Government, which are still under the wing of the UK Government. I remember very well, how long the Scottish took to decide on a way forward, when all the parties in Coalition could not agree on the budget. This would be disastrous for the much bigger UK Government.

    Furthermore, I think the Lib/Dems have proved to be inept, when they have at last be given some power in Government. Vince Cable and Clegg are good examples of this, I certainly would not want to see more of them.

  • Comment number 95.

    "A thought about something that never happened" - andy @ 75

    Sure, but relevant to the debate since it shows how AV can lead to extreme (rather than 'fair') outcomes. That example, the transplanting of the Cons by the Lib Dems in 97 as the main opposition party ... desirable, yes of course, but fair? No, even I'd struggle to make such a case. AV is (potentially) progressive - i.e. tory unfriendly - but I'm not convinced it's clear thinking, hence why I'm undecided.

    (and your 78: no licking-the-envelope monkey business going on with Swindon, I can report - no mileage for you there, Andy, no mileage whatsoever).

  • Comment number 96.

    #80 - If only the campaign had been intelligent to realise that AV does have some plus points, maybe not as many as I would like but it does all the same.

    There was a time when Labour and the Conservatives were the third party - seems to me that it doesn't suit them today because they both take the lion's share of the vote.

    I say lion's share - there were 9 seats in the 2010 election where the "winner" got less than a third of the vote. Hmm, some win.

    #24 had a point - why not have dictatorship instead - that would suite the "No" camp.

    Let's face it - those that don't want anything other than FPTP are those who want the ever-cyclical Labour/Conservative Punch and Judy show to go on and on, where one can take turn to slag off the other as that's what happened under the last government under them.

    At this rate, the referendum will show one thing - how easy it is to turn the public off politics.

  • Comment number 97.


    Scotland doesnt have AV. I made mistake of thinking it did for council elections but its actually STV, a form of PR. For Scottish parliament its a mixture of FPTP and PR (see my 70 above).

    Even with PR, turnout for Scottish Parliament elections is still struggling to reach 60% which is a total shocker. Whatever system we have for whatever elections what we need is our politicians to be encouraging people to vote.

  • Comment number 98.

    '20. At 11:40am 19th Apr 2011, The_Ex_Engineer wrote'
    Just quoting from some random report is SHODDY INTERNET JOURNALISM.'

    Not just the internet variety. But then opinion is really not journalism, even if it tries to pretend otherwise or alludes to some special 'sources' as often is the case.

    And blogs which kick off when most obliged to fund the host are at work and often close before they get back are pretty 'unique' too.

  • Comment number 99.


    I think you are arguing more against PR and increased likelihood of coalitions than AV per se, or actually you are positively arguing for FPTP. One of the issues with AV is the lack of Global examples over an extended period - thats why there is a lot of confusion (as opposed to PR where there are plenty of examples).

    If I can follow up on this bit of your post:
    "It is inevitable that the devolved Countries would vote for AV, I thought you would know this if you live in Scotland. However, Britain does not want the Scottish system either."

    Scotland doesnt have AV and I'm not sure why you think it is inevitable for devolved countries to vote for it any more than England. The current Scottish parliament system is very close to pure PR - this isnt on offer in UK so not sure how we know if Britain wants it or not.

    Finally, the Scottish budget has always been agreed well in advance of financial year beginning. One year, Labour in particular played party politics for too long with the SNP minority admin, but at no point have we ever started a financial year without an agreed budget. This covers 12 years of coalitions and minority admin.

  • Comment number 100.


    I think you'll find that in the most literal interpretation the country got exactly what it voted for last year. 60% of voters found themselves represnted in government by a party for whom they cast their vote.

    Of course no-one voted for many of the absurdities of the colaition but out of necessity was born something that is a reforming force for the better in health, education and without a shadow of a doubt on the economy and the deficit.

    There will always be those who doubt David Cameron within and without his own party and he is by no means perfect. But the alternative was a power dizzy party of spendaholics incapable of seeing the complete mess they had made of this country.

    Do I intend to go on supporting vigourously the forces of conservatism in this country and fighting those of the self appointed liberal 'intelligentsia' who have thrown this country's future to the dogs? Yes I do.

    More damage was done to thsi country in the thriteen years of this country under newlabour than ever before in history. Immigration ran completely out of control. Education standards collapsed, non-cognitive development the government was criticised as being 'negligent' by the OECD. NHS productivity fell. Manufacturing stood still. Regulation of the City of London was a complete b*lls up (no pun intended) and years of public spending ended in the largest deficit in the OECD. It is disingenuous in the extreme to argue that this was a global problem or 'started in America' as we had twice the size GDP downturn to the US and there was no collapse in Sweden, Australia or Canada.. The labour party shouldn't even be putting up candidates if it had the slightest shame but the 'intelligensia' are either too thick or too stupid to admit they caused the vast majority of the problems.

    That is why I finish with 'Cleraing up labour's mess'. It is as factually true a statement as ever there was...


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