Yes to Fairer Votes

>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.

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Well okay only 43.87% did

There is nothing more frustrating while spending 15 hours on your feet than seeing friends throwing complaints about the campaign you have given up the last six months of your life for. Well maybe knowing that before one of the three constituencies that you were the agent on site for had declared that the national result was already a disaster.

Some of it was justified and some it ignored the fact that many of us involved in the campaign were fighting for some of the things and failings they mentioned. The eyes and ears on the ground my fellow regional/organisers were pointing stuff out since our first meeting together in November and on every conference call weekly meeting we had since then. There were even times in our monthly meetings in London that we did speak as one against the way things were done. But too often we were astounded about things that weren’t happening or going to be happening or were happening too late.

Personally I’d like to give a big round applause to all the Regional and National Organisers Iestyn in Wales, Neil in Scotland, John, Jamie and Jane in NW and NE England, Yorkshire and Humberside, Richard and Michael in West and East Midlands, the other Stephen in East of England, Deborah, Becky, Jack, Tariq and Jon in London Tim, Ollie and James in the South West, Central and East. Together we knew what we were pressing for to happen, we may have heard the Yes! campaign say no too many times, yet we carried on pushing and sometimes got the answer changed and action taken. I’m sure all of them will carry on leading sucessful campaigns in the future, that group certainly knew what they needed to get done, just was frustrating that many times all those years of experience and knowledge was overlooked.

I’d also like to thank the excellent team that we did have in Northern Ireland, too numerous to mention but especially to Laura and Michael who were with me from the first meeting of the Northern Ireland team and stayed there to the end. Also to the many excellent interns who came through the door at Carnegie Buildings and many of them ended up going unto good jobs in fields they wanted. We may not have turned around years of Ulster saying No, but 43.87% of Northern Ireland did say yes.

To all my new friends in the Alliance, SDLP, Labour Party NI, Greens Party, UKIP, Ulster Unionist Party, Sinn Féin, Socialist Party, Dawn Purvis (sadly no longer and MLA), David McClarty MLA, plus my fellow Lib Dem NI members and many from no party background who said Yes! it has been a pleasure. I look forward to working with many of you on continuing to build a better future for Northern Ireland.

I may take on the specific points raised on a number of blogs over the last few days, but I’m going to calm down from my initial reading of most of them to give them due consideration in a balanced way in the cold light of day.


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.

>Do you remember what David Cameron said about his coalition partners back on 18 March just after we knew we were having the referendum we are having on Thursday?


I guess not and neither I feel had he. Let me remind us all.

“Nick Clegg and I have discovered we agree on key elements on programmes for national renewal.

“….And we have tried to deliver this agenda in a different way.

“Rational debate, not tribal dividing lines.

“Reasoned announcements, not headline grabbing statements.

“And where there are differences of opinion between us – not rancour but respect.”

Then why oh why, has he taken the line of some of the unreasoned, untruthful announcements from the No2AV campaign?

Why has he said that the way that AV works is too complex? When actually it is less complex than the system by which he was elected leader. Why does he say it isn’t fair when the system that he was elected leader by is far from fair? To be elected leader of the Conservative Party one group of voters get to choose between candidates. The one with the lowest number of votes is knocked out, then they get to vote again, maybe even changing that vote as they see who may not have a chance, even if they had more than someone else who might be knocked out later. This is repeated until there are only two left. Then a much larger number of people get to vote on who is left, even if maybe the person that the larger group wanted most was knocked out by the small clique.

Why does he propagate the lie that counting machines will be needed? As this is something that has been denied by the Treasury is he actually in breach of the ministerial code? If he is should he be reported to himself or made to tender to himself his resignation.

You see when it comes to AV David Cameron appears to have lost all sense of reason. He appears to have lost the ability to hold a cognitive argument. He says that AV will be of a benefit to the Lib Dems, whilst ignoring the fact that FPTP has been disproportionately of benefit to the Conservatives and to a lesser extend Labour since there was a rise of a stronger third party and other smaller parties in the UK.

Also on that day David Cameron said the following I’m fisking in red:

I passionately believe that politics has to change.

It has to change because frankly, in too many ways the political system is broken. Yeah even Dave knows the system is broken. Isn’t FPTP also a broken out of date system in our multi-party system though?

And that’s why this coalition is committed to sweeping reform.

We are making votes fairer – by levelling up the size of the constituencies so that every vote weighs the same.
As I pointed out yesterday, not every vote under FPTP weighs the same. Some are cast with a heavy heart, because the candidate most wanted is not always able to overcome someone that is no longer wanted. So some of our candidates already have their vote gloated by the tactical votes of others, inflating their popularity.

We are making politics cheaper – by cutting the size of Parliament, cutting Ministers’ pay and sorting out expenses. If this comes in alone without AV it will have a net effect of benefiting Cameron’s party. There is no check then in the number of votes cast. As there was almost a total consultation of the public on how the new seats were to be formed it could lead to gerrymandering of the areas. As it is these will be changed every election to fit with population changes. I’m not opposed to the reduction, but they were part of a package that was being put forward by myself and others in the past.

We are making politics – and government – more accountable, by removing the Prime Minister’s power to set the date of an election…Hear, hear. But we are still letting a PM be so when maybe 65% of the people haven’t given a vote to his candidates. Indeed 70% of people who voted haven’t given a vote to their MP across the country. Not surprisingly it has more often in the last 100 years that Labour have had to call the most early elections because they haven’t always had overwhelming support. Apart from the Blair landslides it is most often the Conservatives that have had a working majority for the greatest percentage of the time.

…and introducing new rights for constituents to recall MPs who break the rules and new powers for Parliament to oversee the Executive. Here, here once more. But without AV we are not letting a majority have their say at the end of a fixed five year term, not for breaking the rules but for broken promises, failing to life up to expectations or not doing the job that the people expected them to do. Some of those who failed last parliament to live up to their constituents hopes and expectations did survive, but in some cases the vote against them was split enough that though bigger, meant that they got in with far less than 50% support.

But above all, and most importantly, we are putting power directly into the hands of people. Actually David AV gives a lot more power to the people than the parties. At present your party machine may see a nice seat with about 37-40% support as somewhere you can gift to a loyal wannabe MP. But because two other parties, are equally matched it makes it safe enough to be a career move for that bright young thing. The other parties may have local people who know the local issues are very good at that, but a party can parachute in someone to just such a position and because the party support is there they will get elected, despite all the hard work others have been doing (and probably will continue to do) locally.

So David sadly you’re not giving a whole balanced package of reform, beyond any reason of fairness you’ve just gone with the ones which are of a benefit to you.

>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’.

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