Alternative Vote (AV)

>Early today Andy May National Manager of the Regional Staff for the Yes Campaign, and  therefore my direct line manager posted on Liberal Conspiracy a detailed account of the failings within the yes campaign. 

Due to the issues on Blogger earlier today this was something I wanted to have posted earlier.

I’m glad that somebody at his level has said this. Often the regional organisers did feel we were coming up against a brick wall. There was a lot that we knew that we didn’t share the full details of with our volunteerss, because we had to give them confidence that we were going to win this. The fact that the Northern Irish team actually did so well is in spite off some of the things that are written below, once again I want to think everyone who came so close to getting Norn Iron to say Yes!

I’ve embedded the full article as Andy wrote it.

Yes to Fairer Votes – An Insiders View [published on Liberal Conspiracy] { var scribd = document.createElement(“script”); scribd.type = “text/javascript”; scribd.async = true; scribd.src = “”; var s = document.getElementsByTagName(“script”)[0]; s.parentNode.insertBefore(scribd, s); })();


>For many weeks now I’ve been getting angrier and angrier with George Osborne and David Cameron’s actions and word in the AV referendum .

Before March 16th when we had the deal that would to the referendum we have spend the last 15 hours voting on David Cameron was insistent that he like Nick Clegg were not going to be heavily involved in the front line of the debate themselves, but would get on with leading the Government in this very trying time. All seemed to be sweetness and light if in different corners on the substance of the debate.

But the No campaign then went into personality attacks on the leader of the junior partner in the coalition government. David Cameron had made a promise to Nick Clegg that it would be a reasoned argument on his part, but Cameron and Osborne quickly joined in on the mudslinging at the man they have to work with in Government rather than arguing the merits or otherwise of the two systems that were on offer.

The worse thing was that they joined in with the lies that the No campaign were spurting out. There were questions in the House to try and get the truth to be acknowledged. As nobody can accuse another Member of the House of being a liar this had to be done through the formality of asking questions. Of course I and many others were shouting lying at the TV screen at any point that the lies were being re-iterated, any time that a loaded question from Conservative or Labour No MPs were asked in PMQs, especially the Labour ones as they wasted a chance to hold the government to account.

Cameron has actually taken liberties with the actuality in the House by stating some of the downright lies that have been part of the No Campaign’s strategy. Two months ago they were trailing in the polls. So they started, as they had already been doing but with people like the PM in the starting line up now, to get these lies out. The problem is when the PM tells a lie it takes a long time to counter it.

The PM says there are weapons of mass destruction in Iraq many people believe him.

The PM says that there will have to be voting machines to count an AV count many people believe him.

The PM says his Deputy once said the words miserable little compromise, solely about AV, not the lateness of the offer, or whom it was aimed at, or the desperation of the outgoing previous PM to cling to power and of course it was a miserable compromise it came 12.95 years into a 13 year term of power.

But to stand by posters that attack a member of your cabinet. To stand by an referendum broadcast that talks about broken promises (aimed squarely at one party in coalition) instead of what actually as you said last year of coming together for the common good of the country, both putting things on the shelf. This is shoddy politics from the man who claims he has a good working relationship.

If I had been elected last year I do not know how I could have sat on the same benches as some of Conservatives who were repeating this bile. I may very well have crossed the chamber to sit as an non-Coalition Liberal Democrat, giving my friend Alistair Carmichael a headache in how to discipline me. Maybe it has been because for the last six months I have been living, breathing and making decisions for the Yes Campaign rather than politics as a whole that I feel this way that some colleagues in Westminster haven’t got to the stage Chris Huhne allegedly did in cabinet on Tuesday.

Whatever happens tomorrow I know that we have faced the dirtiest opponent in my entire political career. That is probably because most of my other opponents know they will have to go to the polls again within 5 years. The No campaign don’t have that constraint on them, they only had to win once, they only had to stop a change. They didn’t offer anything positive, some of what they tried to offer was better reform.

If they have won what they have done is kill any hope of electoral reform before I reach the age of retirement maybe even before I reach 100 (and that is two generations away).

Note I told you I’d let rip, bet you didn’t guess this early.


In December 1920 the Government of Ireland Act* was first placed before the House of Commons. It made provision for a split in one of the historic provinces of Ireland. The second paragraph stated:

“For the purposes of this Act, Northern Ireland shall consist of the parliamentary counties of Antrim, Armagh, Down, Fermanagh, Londonderry and Tyrone, and the parliamentary boroughs of Belfast and Londonderry.”

The act was voted through on 3 May 1921 and gained Royal Assent the following day so on the eve of an election to a Northern Irish Assembly we mark the 90th birthday of Northern Ireland, Our Wee Country. Ninety years on we do have Nationalists and Unionists prepared to work together for a shared future. We are looking at a democratic future for all the peoples and communities in Northern Ireland.

Tomorrow between 7am and 10 pm we go to the polls here to elect 108 MLAs, members to all 26 district councils and decide on the referendum on the Alternative Vote.

If you live in Northern Ireland don’t forget to turn up at the Polling Station with your ID.

  • A UK, Irish or EEA driving licence (photographic part)
  • A UK, Irish or EU passport
  • An electoral identity card
  • A Translink Senior SmartPass
  • A Translink 60+ SmartPass
  • A Translink War Disabled SmartPass
  • A Translink Blind Person’s SmartPass

* Repealed in 1999.

>Gerry always seems to face a problem when it comes to casting his vote under FPTP. He’s been a life long supporter of the Sorbet Party, but everywhere he has lived they have been a distant third or fourth in the  polls. This is the party that he really believes in but they never seem to be able to win a seat wherever he can afford to live near to where he works.

He’s quite partial to the Ice Cream Party, but they have never stood in a seat where he has lived, partially because they suspect they will fare even worse than the Sorbet party.

The Cherry Tart Party are currently the party of government. They have been doing terrible things over the last 5 years coming up with half baked ideas, or policies without any substance or filling. Gerry may in the past have been inclined to vote for them ahead of some of the others but they seem to have gone away from the commonness of what they and Gerry believed in. The Blueberry Muffin Party are across the whole country most likely to beat the Cherry Tart Party, but where Gerry lives they came fourth last time behind his own cherished Sorbet Party. But Gerry isn’t really a Blueberry Muffin sort of voter, he would only be doing for them if they could win and give the Cherry Tarts a right licking.

The party that is most likely to defeat the Cherry Tarts are the Roast Beef Party. But their key aim is to do way with desserts all together, and Gerry is very much pro-dessert. He therefore faces a dilemma.

Does he

  • a) vote for the Sorbet Party because that is who he believes in?
  • b) vote for Roast Beef even if that may mean elsewhere in his region that they do away with dessert altogether if they do well enough and stop the dominance of Cherry Tarts locally?
  • c) vote for Cherry Tarts a party he depises, but not as much as Roast Beef, because if Roast Beef do well enough he may find he is done out of desserts because other people wanted to vote for them to give Cherry Tarts a lesson?

 Gerry knew exactly how he would have voted under AV

  1. Sorbet
  2. Ice Cream (if available)
  3. Blueberry Muffin (but maybe only this time)
  4. Cherry Tarts
  5. Roast Beef

This is based on a real conversation that I had ahead of the 2010 general election with someone who was considering whether they should vote for me or not. The names of the parties have been changed to protect the innocent and not so innocent.

>In seven days time the polls will be open!!

Unlike in recent years I am actually having to schedule in a trip to my polling station to cast my vote. Getting a postal vote here in Northern Ireland isn’t quite as universal as it would be in Scotland. I will be presented with three ballot papers, two which for the Assembly and Council I’ve still to work out my lower preferences, seeing as I get to elect six people with each preferences down the list do matter. The other ballot is one I’ve known for months exactly how I’ll be voting.

Of course I’ll be voting Yes! for Alternative Vote by using an X. Some people might think it odd that I’m voting for AV using an X more associated with FPTP but I have voted in AV elections by an X before. While internal elections in the party are decided by preferential voting STV for committee spots and AV for single positions, there are occasions that only two people stand for a position and therefore an X suffices. It’s why when people misrepresent Nick Clegg’s ‘miserable little compromise’ comment they have it all wrong, we are a party that elects people to stand for a particular position by AV.

The miserable compromise came in the time that Gordon Brown tried to over up a smorgasbord of electoral and parliamentary reform, in the dying days of his premiership, when it looked like nothing could help him overcome the Conservatives in the polls and even the Lib Dems were threatening to be higher than Labour.

But there is also a misunderstanding of what are MPs are there to represent. Alex Salmond is once again trying to say that the Additional Member System in Scotland the second vote is there to elect a President First Minister, rather than MSPs to represent the region. The No 2 AV campaign seem to make the same mistake with why we elect our MPs. MPs are elected to best represent the voters in that constituency. Sometimes that does come from one of the two main parties, sometimes that comes from another party or from an independent. Westminster elections do not of themselves elect the Prime Minister only 1 in 650 voters have a say in electing the Prime Minister and even they don’t always sure if they have or some other set of voters elsewhere have done so.

What we have in the UK is a representative democracy. We the people elect our representatives, they in turn vote for or against the Government of the day. What we are doing when we vote for MPs is elect the person we think will represent the needs of our area best. That is what AV will ensure that each voter in all of the constituencies will have, an MP with the backing of 50% of the valid votes.

Over 60% of us say we are willing to vote for more than one candidate, only 18% say they will only vote for one. How many of that 60% have already had to compromise on their opinions to vote to try to keep someone else out rather than for what they truly believe. Research shows that over 23% of us have voted for somebody else. Even that figure is higher than the number who say they only have one preference of who they will vote for.

Voting No in seven days time will restrict you to a signle choice in Westminster elections. More of us want to have that option of expressing our opinion than those who are tied to one particular party. More of us have voted for more than one option in our lives than those who will only ever vote one way. Is it right that they can scare people into thinking that a limit of one option is the way to decide who best represents you. I don’t and most of those who vote don’t.

That’s why I’m saying Yes! next Thursday.

If you are voting in Northern Ireland don’t forget to take along your ID with you.

  • A UK, Irish or EEA driving licence (photographic part)
  • A UK, Irish or EU passport
  • An electoral identity card
  • A Translink Senior SmartPass
  • A Translink 60+ SmartPass
  • A Translink War Disabled SmartPass
  • A Translink Blind Person’s SmartPass


Over on Slugger O’Toole I’ve posted the following earlier to day.

Is it right that only three of Northern Ireland’s 18 MPs had the backing of over 50% of those who voted last May? Or right that another three had only one in three people vote for them? That is the situation that Northern Ireland found itself in last May after the only election that we place an X on our ballots rather than ranking our candidates by order of preference.

You can read the rest here it even contains my word of the week ‘promiscuous’.


By Bob Moran in The Guardian 19 April 2011

The above cartoon in this mornings Guardian was to some up the two cross party events yesterday by the Yes and No campaigns in the AV referendum. However, it also draws to mind the No2AV literature which starting arriving on people doormats yesterday morning as well. There were three sportsmen from three different sports featured inside.

The first was Amir Khan the boxer, the timing of his appearance in this literature couldn’t have been worse timed. At the weekend Khan retained his title when a doctor stepped in to controversially say that a cut above Khan’s opponent eye was too bad for the fight to continue. The thing is in boxing there such event do occur, on Saturday Khan was ahead on points at the time the doctor intervened, but there have been occasions when the boxer leading on the judges score cards has been deemed unable to continue because of a cut. Sometimes such cuts are also the result of illegal actions earlier in the fight like a boxer using the thumb of his glove, or rubbing heads together. Even if the referee has giving warnings or point deductions for such activity if this results in the other boxer eventually bleeding, the fight could be stopped and given to the opponent who may have cheated and may have been trailing to get that far.

The second was Olympic rower Sir Steve Redgrave. Redgrave took part in one of the events that has a strange route to getting to the finals of an event the repechage. This is a way that the rowers who didn’t quite qualify for the final as of right in their heats have a second race in which to do this. Redgrave himself is not superhuman and has had off days that have necessitated going through a repechage to get to a final. He’s even come through a repechage and gone on to win gold at World Championships. If he’d been trying to qualify for a USA or Kenyan position in a Olympic team athletics event there would have been no repechage no second change, the top three only get to go to the Olympics there is no discretion for the selectors. Yet Redgrave and other rowers do benefit from having that second change within their sport at the highest levels.

The final choice is Sir Bobby Moore the captain of the 1966 England World Cup football sq. Yet in football we now have the misnomer of a Champions League, when in some cases the team that has come 4th in their national championship can go on to lift the title, unlike in the old European Cup where the national champions and the holders fought it out over knockouts from the start. Even as a Liverpool fan I have to admit that our 5th title in 2005 was achieved from just such a position, champions of Europe despite not being champions of England since 1990. Or teams can lose out on aggregate to a team in the various group stages and then go on to win the trophy. There has even been cases of teams being unbeaten on the way through losing out to a team that had lost in the group stages going out on away goals after two draws in the knock out stages.

Football like boxing or rowing is a game where the team that is leading at the first stage isn’t always the winner at the end. As Kris Akabushi said when he appeared at a Yes2AV event even in the 100m at the Olympics there are the first and second round and semi-finals. It is rare that the eventual champion will have won every round of that race. What is important is that they win on the final round. Just like Alternative Vote it is getting over the final line, the one that is set at 50%, the one that doesn’t move that is important. That will lead to more competitive elections where you are the IPPR report said yesterday.

Next Page »