“Death rattle of a right wing elite”

Mr Clegg’s attack on the No to AV campaign was wrong. “This nice little racket” as he calls it  is not confined to  right of centre support. Hasn’t he heard that Margaret Beckett and John Prescott, along with many other figures of the left, are also in favour of keeping our present system of elections? Most other democracies use our system or a proportional system  and not AV. Who is doing the misleading he complains about?

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42 Comments

  1. David John Wilson
    Posted April 24, 2011 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    The problem is that so many half truths are being put forward by the “no” campaign that Nick Clegg has been forced to react in this way. The main point is that the AV system removes the need for tactical voting and so makes it much more likely that people will cast their first vote for the candidate that they really want.

    • rose
      Posted April 24, 2011 at 1:46 pm | Permalink

      How can it not make things more tactical than ever? Do I vote once, twice, thrice, or many times? And in what order should I put my votes? How do I make pacts with other people? etc. No doubt the Liberals will issue clear tactical instructions when the time comes.

    • Brian Tomkinson
      Posted April 24, 2011 at 3:32 pm | Permalink

      If you don’t vote for the candidate that you want and vote tactically that is your problem. You need to accept that if your candidate loses, whatever the system, you have lost.

  2. Brian Tomkinson
    Posted April 24, 2011 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    This is typical behaviour of the LibDems in elections – they are past masters at misleading. They want AV because they think that they would be most people’s second choice and have a permanent role in government. I have received a card telling me that I should vote “yes” so that my MP will work harder for me, I will have a vote that counts and it will tackle the ‘jobs for life’ culture at Westminster. Each of these reasons is at best misleading and at worst downright untrue. I expect nothing more from the LibDems but they are disloyal coalition partners some of whom are clearly making approaches to Labour for the next coalition they intend to be part of.

    • rose
      Posted April 24, 2011 at 5:43 pm | Permalink

      In other words, Brian, “Don’t make your MP lie harder for your vote: just say no.”

    • rose
      Posted April 24, 2011 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

      But are the Liberals everyone’s second choice now there are so many other parties with clean hands and appealing ideas for the protest vote to go to?

  3. James Matthews
    Posted April 24, 2011 at 11:49 am | Permalink

    “Most other democracies use our system and not AV”. Most other democracies do not use AV. I would be interested to see what basis you have for suggesting that most other democracies use “our system”, i.e. FPTP, though. Do you have some? Hardly any european countires use it, We don’t even use it ourselves for the devolved UK Parliament/Assemblies.

    You are right that there is some left wing support for FPTP. Mostly from the Labour party who share an interest in preserving a system in which government alternates between Labour and Conservative, though also from the (left-wing)BNP. Whether this is a good thing for the electorate is another matter. Do we really want another sixty years of Labour seeking popularity by overspending, Conservatives becoming unpopular by being more prudent, thus leading to another Labour administration which starts the whole cycle all over again. FPTP has not served the nation well. AV may prove no better, but it really is time to break the Con/Lab political cartel.

    • Brian Tomkinson
      Posted April 24, 2011 at 3:37 pm | Permalink

      You presumably would like a permanent LibDem containing coalition, just like Clegg, Cable and Huhne. I don’t think that would serve the nation at all well.

      • James Matthews
        Posted April 24, 2011 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

        No, I wouldn’t like that, nor do I believe that I can predict how elections will resolve under AV. However, if you are a democrat you don’t decide on an electoral system by first working out what government you think it will produce and rejecting it if it is not one you favour. If the outcome is as you predict (which I doubt) I will, as a democrat, accept it. No party has a monopoly of the national interest.

  4. James Matthews
    Posted April 24, 2011 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    My apologies for making a second comment, but this summary of the AV debate from The Scotsman is irresistible:

    “What is disorienting them (MPs) about AV is the system is so opaque some of them are uncertain whether it will serve or subvert their selfish priorities – and that is driving them to distraction. Every parliamentarian is haunted by the fear that, by campaigning for the Yes or No camp, he may inadvertently be sawing through the branch on which he is sitting. That is why parties are divided over the referendum. If you imagined this infighting was something to do with the national interest, do not delay – seek professional help urgently.”

    Reply: Yes, and so wrong – like the “safe seat” fallacy. AV does not make “safe seaters” more accountable as they get well over 50% of the vote anyway.

    • James Matthews
      Posted April 24, 2011 at 4:34 pm | Permalink

      I wish I believed you when you say it is “so wrong”. All the parties seem to approach this through the prism of (what they believe/hope is) their own electoral interest and both the yes and no camps have been deploying arguments which insult the intelligence of the electorate.

      I didn’t mention safe seats, but since you have, it seems clear that some seats will become less safe under AV. It depends on what you think constitutes safe.

    • rose
      Posted April 24, 2011 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

      The Scotsman is surely right: if AV comes in, it might reunite the Conservatives with their alienated UKIP voters in the 3rd round; and with their lost ecologists. Similarly, the Socialists may get back their lost BNP and Respect voters. Both big parties might hope to recoup votes from the Liberals in the final round. That is presumably why the supreme tactician Ed Miliband is leading the Yeses, and why the Conservatives put on such a rotten show at local meetings. The safe seaters are party animals too, and like to be in office, don’t they?.

      • APL
        Posted April 25, 2011 at 9:40 am | Permalink

        rose: “in the 3rd round”,”in the final round”

        Yep, it is an inherently dishonest system that politicians like because it assigns votes to a party that ordinarily that party wouldn’t get.

        No more ‘the Tories/Labour were elected on a minority of the vote’ jibes, at the stroke of a AV pen, any party can say, “whoopee, we were elected by 75% of the vote”.

        What they never say is that 40% never bother to vote. Those are the voters that politicians ought to be targeting, but it is obviously too much trouble for our highly paid (in the top decile by earnings, before expenses ) professional sheep politicians.

    • sjb
      Posted April 24, 2011 at 11:35 pm | Permalink

      I think there are two kinds of “safe seat”. The first is where a candidate regular polls > 50%. The second is where the candidate invariably wins because the opposition vote is split; for example, Lab=38%, Con=25%, Lib=25%, UKIP=7%, others=5%.

      One of the reasons I have voted for AV is because in Australia it seems to have helped to elect non-party candidates.
      “ Where Independents have challenged parties in safe seats, the preferences of a third-finishing major parties have been enough to deliver victory to Independents. Of the 19 ‘come from behind’ victories in non-triangular contests at New South Wales elections, 12 have been Independent victories in otherwise safe seats.”
      http://fullfact.org/factchecks/av_referendum_safe_seats_first_past_the_post-2665

  5. rose
    Posted April 24, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    There has been a rush of last minute “stories” about the wicked Conservatives trying to mislead the public. Wouldn’t it be more effective if the Yeses just explained to us why their system is better? And took on arguments to the contrary on their merits, rather than trying to shout them down in this aggressive way? It is the same at the public meetings: aggressive (rather than amusing) heckling, and no rational engagement with the serious points made by the other side.

    • Neil Craig
      Posted April 24, 2011 at 5:22 pm | Permalink

      Yes it would. It is thus unfortunate that the No campaign, under Margaret Beckett, has repeatedly refused to hold a broadcast debate on the subject. If you believe in democracy then you should accept that the people have the right to hear the arguments. Instead we have seen the No campaign running a disreputable campaign of negative personal attacks and baltanlty untrue warnings of costs.

      • rose
        Posted April 25, 2011 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

        You don’t mention the charge most virulently complained of by Liberals: that the Electoral Reform Society has a conflict of interest.

  6. Roger Houghton
    Posted April 24, 2011 at 12:15 pm | Permalink

    “Most other democracies use our system and not AV.”

    Who is doing the misleading now? Most other democracies use some form of PR and not FPTP. And many use a form of AV, including Northern Ireland where it was introduced by a Tory government.

  7. JimF
    Posted April 24, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    The point should also be made that AV is not a step along the road to proper PR, but just a completely different voting system. Small parties will not be helped by this AV; it will only really help a third Party in the system, and then only when they can spin sufficiently about what they would do in power to please most of the people most of the time aka the last Libdem election campaign.
    I would vote for PR, but not for this Libdem-subsidy proposal.

  8. forthurst
    Posted April 24, 2011 at 1:18 pm | Permalink

    AV is a nice little racket if ever there was one: an electoral system that could, in theory, propel a centre party without a single first choice selection into a parliamentary seat. The LibDems already have obtained a significant proportion of their seats on the basis of tactical voting. The thought, that this LibDem rabble with its devotion to the human rights of people who are not English and their earnest desire to cede the rights of the English to any form of self-determination to faceless bureaucrats in Brussels, demonstrating an unspoken antipathy to the English, should perform a major role in our diminishing self-governance, is pretty hard to stomach, especially when we have Tory buffoons proclaiming that AV was selected to ‘keep the BNP out’. First past the post is more democratic than AV. If we are to have PR, let’s do it properly and have a system which enables people to vote for ideas rather than parties so that two main parties can’t continue to mislead their erstwhile supporters and still expect to form governments.

  9. AJC
    Posted April 24, 2011 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

    @David John Wilson

    I would contest that “the AV system removes the need for tactical voting”.

    I would be happy to see a modest extension to the current system.

    Your vote to be cast for or against a candidate.

    • David John Wilson
      Posted April 24, 2011 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

      Why do you need tactical voting under an AV system? The party that you previously would have voted for tactically would now be your second or third choice. If your first choice does not finish in the top two then you effectively still have a tactical vote, but have retained the possibility of your first choice being elected. By listing all the candidates except the one you don’t like in your preferred order you effectively have a vote against. This is why AV is so effective. It also has the advantage of electing a candidate to represent your local constuency unlike the PR system used in the EU elections and many other countries

  10. davidb
    Posted April 24, 2011 at 2:36 pm | Permalink

    I believe in democracy, and I support PR, but not this AV system. My postal vote is already cast against the change. Contrary to the comments above the proposed system does not result in people electing the candidate they like best, but rather permits them electing the candidate they dislike least .

    The Scottish system designed to prevent the SNP winning a majority is in fact a very good model. Multimember constituencies with an additional member system allowed me to elect a representative for the first time in a lifetime of voting “against”. Good individual candidates and Independents have been elected. The Scottish Parliament approximately has proportionality of party representation.

    The proposed AV system will lead to perpetual coalition between Labour and the LibDems. It is at best no better than the present system, and conceivably much worse. Look at the carping of Libdems and their loss of support since entering a coalition with the Conservatives. Their supporters first or second preferences will likely go to Labour. With proper PR the leftists are free to emerge from under Labour’s rock, UKIP can wield some influence, and that 1/3 of the people who vote “against” will maybe elect representatives. AV will not permit such an outcome.

    Funny thing referenda in the Uk. We are usually asked the wrong question at each turn . The cynic in me wonders if that is so the desired outcome of the elite will be realised.

  11. Alte Fritz
    Posted April 24, 2011 at 3:58 pm | Permalink

    This post relates to the means by which we elect a gradually less powerful and more irrelevant legislature. Today’s other post relates to one of the principal causes of our legislature’s decline.

    In truth, there is little to say about either. Our establishment long ago embraced the European Project and all that goes with it, and the British people, or at least the English, are too servile to stand up and fight.

    In today’s vernacular “End of”.

  12. Gary
    Posted April 24, 2011 at 4:00 pm | Permalink

    give me any proportional system that causes govt to be hamstrung. The less power that any of these petty bureaucrats have, the less they will be able to stuff things up even more than they already have, the lobbyists will be neutered and the free market may actually flourish. Of we are stuck with Big Govt make it paralysed Big Govt.

  13. lifelogic
    Posted April 24, 2011 at 4:28 pm | Permalink

    AV would be the end to even the possibility of a decisive government. True we do not have one now but we still might get a decisive sensible one with the current voting system eventually. True is is depressing to watch Cameron and the current big state, pro EU, pro green, lefty coalition but with AV there is even less hope of some sense.

  14. Neil Craig
    Posted April 24, 2011 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

    I think yo0u will find “most other democracies” use PR. It is disingenuous for those who denied us to option of full PR to denigrate AV as not being as good as PR . I know you were not involved in making that decision Mr Redwood but Cameron was and is now making that argument. By doing so he is admitting that he was deliberately denying the people a proper choice for party reasons, even though he was aware that the PR was more in the national interest.

    The logic of his position is that if AV wins he would immediately call another referendum between AV and PR (or perhaps also FPTP) so that we would be allowed to choose what he accepts as the better option.

  15. Mike Stallard
    Posted April 24, 2011 at 5:36 pm | Permalink

    We all know that all this rubbish is just posturing for the local elections.
    It fools nobody.
    What would be surprising is if the two main parties suddenly started to join the “Yes” camp and the little parties started banging on about “No change”.
    Gerrymandering the election is not going to solve the Libdems from another Lloyd George debacle.

    It would be lovely if the expensive referendum was over the EU.

  16. English Pensioner
    Posted April 24, 2011 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    Any form of PR appears to bring coalition governments in a democracy; if you like coalitions, OK vote for AV; if you don’t, stick with what we’ve got.
    For the LibDems, who seem to be totally opposed to coalitions, their support for the AV system seems to be wholly illogical, but then I suppose, no more illogical than many of their other policies.
    The existing system generally gives us strong single party government, which, even if (from my point of view) the “wrong” party is elected, I still find preferable to wishy-washy coalition policies. Indeed the actions of Clegg (and Cable) show how unfit they are to be part of a coalition, making snide remarks all the time about anything where they don’t get 100% their own way.

    So unless anyone can name a democratic country which has PR and does not have a coalition government, or even name a country which has a coalition and what might be regarded as firm government, I’ll be voting to retain the status quo.
    .

  17. rose
    Posted April 24, 2011 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    Another weaselly lie which needs to be nailed is the “Wasted Vote” one: the only wasted vote is one which isn’t cast, or which spoils the ballot paper. If it loses, it wasn’t wasted, it just lost, as we all do in life, and as Brian points out. As for the idea that winning votes are also wasted if there are too many of them – only a Liberal tactician could come up with such a perverted notion!

  18. Andy
    Posted April 24, 2011 at 6:29 pm | Permalink

    The LibDems are only pushing for a Yes vote because it will hand them everlasting power with whom ever they chose.

    AV will naturally cost more to run than FPTP. Any idiot can work that out. Increase number of counts.

    AV will increase the number of first preference votes for parties like the BNP. Simple logic tells you that. You can vote BNP with your first preference and then Labour with your second. And lets remember that with PR in EU elections the BNP have gained a couple of seats (in Labour areas).

    I would never vote for AV. We should retain FPTP and equal the sizes of constituencies. If we have House of Lords reform then I would introduce the purest form of PR for elections to that house. Reform in this way would ensure that you do not have the situation we to some extent have now where a minor party hold everyone to ransom. Many of these systems have one over riding fault: they hand too much power to third or minor parties. You end up with the tyranny of the minority.

  19. Bob
    Posted April 24, 2011 at 6:52 pm | Permalink

    If AV is the answer, then it must have been a silly question.

    If we are having a referendum on May 5th, why not make it a double,
    1. Do you want to change our flawed voting system to another flawed voting system?
    2. Do you want to cancel our membership of the EU?

    Two expressions of public opinion for the price of one.

  20. Kieran Flynn
    Posted April 24, 2011 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

    The whole debate on AV is becoming somewhat nauseating. I heard an idea put forward by Daniel Hannan the other day on electoral reform. He suggested that we should have open primaries, more referendums, the ability to recall MP’s and right of initiative legislation. I think that would do more to restore credibility with politicians that AV will!

  21. Snape
    Posted April 24, 2011 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

    If the main problem with AV is that not enough other countries have adopted, perhaps it’s time to scrap the NHS given that no other country in the world funds their healthcare in such a dysfunctional way!

    • Simon
      Posted April 26, 2011 at 5:54 pm | Permalink

      It’s such a drag looking after the vulnerable in society isn’t it .

      Just think how much money could be saved if those with preexisting conditions and children born to those of meagre means were not eligable for treatment .

      After the profits have been divied out and bonuses paid there is sure to be a lot more money for treating the patients .

  22. Stuart Fairney
    Posted April 24, 2011 at 9:03 pm | Permalink

    Wow a Lib Dem moaning about an election being “so unfair”

    Shocker!

  23. Jonathan
    Posted April 24, 2011 at 10:45 pm | Permalink

    At issue here is we are on the face on things forced to choose between FPTP or AV; neither are perfect. Looking closer there is a third option, we stick to FPTP for now and campaign to have more accountability and an MP who is closer to our views without continuous coalitions; campaigning for Open Primaries would allow us to select an MP rather than the parties selecting them for us.

  24. Man in a Shed
    Posted April 24, 2011 at 11:03 pm | Permalink

    You have to wonder if Clegg isn’t giving himself the option to pull out of the Coalition on May 6th – if things go really badly for the Lib Dems.

    • rose
      Posted April 25, 2011 at 10:13 am | Permalink

      We are just witnessing the same old power struggle between him, Huhne, and Cable. Campbell appears to have left the ring now. Whoever wins will still want to stay in office and not throw it away in a General Election. The Liberals can change their leader in office just as the Conseratives and Socialists did.

    • norman
      Posted April 25, 2011 at 11:33 am | Permalink

      All that would do would be to compound their drubbing in the local elections with a drubbing in the ensuing General Election and losing half their MP’s.

      No, I’m afraid each coalition partner really is stuck with the other for better or worse. Just have to grin and bear it until 2015 and any stories you read about splits, etc. have to be taken with a handful of salt.

  25. Bryan
    Posted April 25, 2011 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

    The LibDems’ support AV because, as mentioned by many above, it may guarantee them a say in every future government.

    Some may say this is a good thing except – it allows every party to make promises to the electorate that they will not have to keep, because of the coalition ‘deal’ necessary to achieve or keep power.

    As evidence I cite the present coalition and the disgraceful Yes to AV scare tactics.

  26. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted April 26, 2011 at 8:36 am | Permalink

    Some elite! Some rattle!!

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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