Labour’s ‘no brainer’ case to campaign for AV

An exhaustive academic report shows why Labour would benefit from the Alternative Vote. The report argues ""By opposing AV ... the Labour Party is likely to deprive itself of a chance to gain seats"

The principled arguments for a ‘Yes’ vote in May’s referendum on the Alternative Vote have been well documented by Next Left among others. But the partisan case for Labour to campaign for a ‘Yes’ vote has now become clear in an exhaustive academic report (pdf) by the “world’s leading expert on referendums“, Dr Matt Qvortrup of Cranfield University.

Dr Qvortrup argues that:

“In every election since 1997, the Labour Party would have gained more seats under AV than under First-Past-the-Post. There is only one academic study that gives Labour fewer seats than actually won under First-Past-the-Post, and this was in an unrepresentative year.”

Reiterating research published in The Guardian, the academic outlines that Labour would have gained four more seats in the 2010 election under AV while the Conservatives would have won 26 fewer seats.

Dr Qvortrup rebuts a recent article by Strathclyde University’s John Curtice which suggested that the Tories could benefit from the introduction of AV by outlining that the argument was “not based on empirical evidence” but on “assumptions” and “conjecture”. The article was:

“a journalistic comment, not a solid piece of political science … If we rely on the figures from surveys as provided by opinion polls the result is clear; Labour would gain from the introduction of AV.”

Referring to claims that the 2008 Mayoral election showed that Conservatives had an advantage, Dr Qvortrup writes:

“The myth that Boris Johnson’s victory in the 2008 suggests that the Tories have an advantage under AV is equally flawed. In fact, Boris Johnson polled fewer Second Preference votes than Ken Livingstone. Had had Ken Livingstone only won another 0.04 percent of the Second Preferences he would have beaten Boris Johnson although the Labour Candidate received almost 150.000 fewer first preference votes than his Conservative challenger.”

Dr Qvortrup concludes that:

“By opposing the Alternative Vote – or by campaigning half-heartedly for it – the Labour Party is likely to deprive itself of a chance to gain seats, and even of unseating the Government in the next General Election …

“AV is Labour’s best chance of ousting the Conservative-led government and for appealing to disgruntled Liberal Democrat voters who regret that their parties opted for an alliance with David Cameron rather than a partnership with the Labour Party.”

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81 Responses to “Labour’s ‘no brainer’ case to campaign for AV”

  1. Paul Seery

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour's 'no brainer' case to campaign for AV http://bit.ly/icErzf

  2. Hitchin England

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour's 'no brainer' case to campaign for AV http://bit.ly/icErzf

  3. Ben Lyons

    @leftfootfwd: “By opposing AV – or by campaigning half-heartedly for it – the Labour Party [will gain fewer seats]" http://bit.ly/icErzf

  4. Celyn

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour's 'no brainer' case to campaign for AV http://bit.ly/icErzf

  5. Adam White

    RT @leftfootfwd Labour's 'no brainer' case to campaign for AV http://bit.ly/icErzf

  6. Matthew McGregor

    RT @theday2day: RT @leftfootfwd Labour's 'no brainer' case to campaign for AV http://bit.ly/icErzf

  7. House Of Twits

    RT @leftfootfwd Labour's 'no brainer' case to campaign for AV http://bit.ly/icErzf

  8. Vote No To AV

    Left Foot Forward now claim that greater disproportionality is a good reason to vote Yes http://bit.ly/icErzf #NO2AV

  9. DrKMJ

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour's 'no brainer' case to campaign for AV http://bit.ly/icErzf

  10. Joe Coward

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour's 'no brainer' case to campaign for AV http://bit.ly/icErzf

  11. Chris Paul

    RT @HouseofTwits: RT @leftfootfwd Labour's 'no brainer' case to campaign for AV http://bit.ly/icErzf

  12. GuyAitchison

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour's 'no brainer' case to campaign for AV http://bit.ly/icErzf

  13. Tom

    Is it really appropriate to choose 1997 as the cut-off point for looking at the impact of AV? This from the BBC suggests that in the three elections before that, Labour would have won fewer seats: http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/8506306.stm

    AV seems to help us when we’re already popular. I’m not sure it does much when we’re not. And it’s not hard to see circumstances where, with the Lib Dems and Conservatives in coalition, it could hurt us a lot.

    (I’m probably voting for AV anyway. But I don’t see the strategic case for it as being at all strong.)

  14. Stephen Race

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour's 'no brainer' case to campaign for AV http://bit.ly/icErzf

  15. SlashedUK

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour's 'no brainer' case to campaign for AV http://bit.ly/icErzf

  16. Dan McCurry

    Why did you leave out the link to the study?

  17. Tom

    It’s also worth reading this blog post for an alternative view: http://www.cps.org.uk/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=385:pr-and-conservatives-lessons-from-europe&catid=1:politics&Itemid=42.

    In it, the author – a fellow of the Centre for Policy Studies, the think tank set up by Margaret Thatcher and Keith Joseph – argues that electoral reform has led in other countries to long periods of conservative government and enabled the parties of the right to implement radical reforms to employment legislation and welfare. He concludes “Electoral reform might pose a much greater threat to Labour than to the Tories. It is an opportunity not a threat.”

    What makes it especially interesting is that the author is the “world’s leading expert on referendums“, Dr Matt Qvortrup of Cranfield University.

  18. AltGovUK

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour's 'no brainer' case to campaign for AV http://bit.ly/icErzf

  19. Trakgalvis

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour's 'no brainer' case to campaign for AV http://bit.ly/icErzf

  20. Roger

    Not linking to or citing the study so we can judge its methodology ourselves really devalues the whole piece.

    Plus not only does he turn out to be a CPS fellow but even a brief glimpse at his publications list indicates that he is rather keen on Burke, Hayek and Popper – which hardly suggests a person who is wholly sympathetic to Labour.

  21. Toby Perkins

    RT @VoteNoToAV: Left Foot Forward now claim that greater disproportionality is a good reason to vote Yes http://bit.ly/icErzf #NO2AV

  22. Jenny Chapman

    RT @VoteNoToAV: Left Foot Forward now claim that greater disproportionality is a good reason to vote Yes http://bit.ly/icErzf #NO2AV

  23. Haneef Khan

    Labour's 'no brainer' case to campaign for AV – http://bit.ly/ibRNJD #YesToAV

  24. Gareth Jones

    http://tinyurl.com/38s7shc Labour’s ‘no brainer’ case to campaign for AV

  25. Shamik Das

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour's 'no brainer' case to campaign for AV: http://bit.ly/icErzf by @wdjstraw #Yes2AV & http://www.yestofairervotes.org/

  26. Jon Harvey

    @leftfootfwd Labour's 'no brainer' case to campaign for AV: http://bit.ly/icErzf @wdjstraw #Yes2AV < AV is about fair voting not party adv

  27. Joe Taylor

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour's 'no brainer' case to campaign for AV: http://bit.ly/icErzf by @wdjstraw #Yes2AV

  28. Josh Blacker

    @chris_j_booth and link for that: http://bit.ly/fYSqdL

  29. Ben Donnelly

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour's 'no brainer' case to campaign for AV: http://bit.ly/icErzf by @wdjstraw #Yes2AV

  30. Labour Yes

    Labour’s ‘no brainer’ case to campaign for AV by @wdjstraw http://bit.ly/gqgVGy #labouryes #yes2av

  31. alexsobel

    RT @labouryes: Labour’s ‘no brainer’ case to campaign for AV by @wdjstraw http://bit.ly/gqgVGy #labouryes #yes2av

  32. Ben Cooper

    RT @labouryes: Labour’s ‘no brainer’ case to campaign for AV by @wdjstraw http://bit.ly/gqgVGy #labouryes #yes2av

  33. Ben Donnelly

    I’m not sure how you can take figures from an FPTP system with all the tactical voting etc. that’s involved and extrapolate what people would have put on a preferential ballot instead.

    But then again I don’t believe party politics should have anything to do with this. AV is a fairer system and it’s the principled arguments that matter not the partisan ones. Regardless of whom you’re inclined to vote for, whether you stick with the same party most of the time, or you follow policies and respond to each situation as it comes, the most important thing to consider is what’s best for the voters, and what will always be best for the voters independent of party situations and of general situations.

    What’s good for your party now may not be good for your party in the future, and vice versa. However a set of voting mechanics designed to give power to the voters will always be so, and that is the reason to say Yes to AV.

  34. Frank roper

    RT @labouryes: Labour’s ‘no brainer’ case to campaign for AV by @wdjstraw http://bit.ly/gqgVGy #labouryes #yes2av

  35. Frank Spring

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour's 'no brainer' case to campaign for AV: http://bit.ly/icErzf by @wdjstraw #Yes2AV

  36. The pole

    This piece sums up most of that which is wrong with the Labour party – it is utterly self serving.

    The reasons to chose (or not chose) AV should be related to a simple question – does it, or does it not improve the correlation between votes cast and MP’s elected.

    If you argue for it for partisan reasons, you are making a case to reject it in the mind of the average voter. (Granted, the Tories are no better, and the Lib Dem’s are simply shameless on the point, but that doesn’t let you off the hook).

  37. Éoin Clarke

    I sincerely hope the AV referendum succeeds. But it won’t. In fact, it is likely to fail very badly. In NI, all the major parties are opposed to it. In scotland, Glasgow Labour are very unlikely to campaign for a yes, likwise in Edinurgh. In the NE of England, AV is unnecessary since reds have their votes so heavily concentrated…

    where the AV system would benefit Reds the most would be in the Midlands marginals… Oldham, Nottigham, Tamworth, Derby, etc etc… the vote can be quite evenly split between red/blue in some of these constituencies and the benefit of yellow & green tranfers to red would aid them significantly…

    The No campaign has been energised for months, and all polling indicates that support for AV declines by 5% once the arguments have been explained to voters…

    Sadly, the % turnout of the blue rinsers will be very high indeed. we already no that they vote in higher numbers than reds… but this cause will motivate them like no other. The concept of a progressive majority equates to mob rule for some Tories, so I expect their turnout to exceed the yes campaign.

    Most worryingly of all, Green voters, BNP voters, UKIP voters are all unlikely to vote yes to AV because it actually disenfranchises them even further…

    The best hope the yes campaign has, is for Ed to put his foot down and insist that his party ups its campaign in favour of AV. If he turned it into a referendum on blue cuts [horrible politicking but effective] he might just manage to eek out a narrow yes…

    Sadly with just 19 weeks to go, that is very unlikely to materialise. 🙁 🙁

  38. Ben Donnelly

    Éoin, I agree with a large amount of what you’re saying, but your comment on Green, BNP and UKIP voters being unlikely to vote Yes doesn’t make sense to me.

    Of the three parties named only BNP are firmly against AV. The other two are officially backing the Yes campaign. Here’s why:

    The BNP stand to lose from any preferential voting system especially one where you need to win 50% of the votes to win a seat. The BNP’s best chance of winning a seat is under FPTP by gathering a concentration of support in a single area, getting 30% of the vote and hoping that the remainder of voters are split between candidates so that they can sneak in front. They wouldn’t be able to do that under AV because of their extremist nature. The BNP fill a highly specialised niche and for that reason they’re no-one’s second choice. They’d never get 50% support and they no it.

    The Greens and UKIP are a different matter entirely though. They would benefit from AV because AV benefits anyone who would reach beyond their core vote. Both those two parties are taken seriously as second and third choices by voters of mainstream parties, many of whom prefer the likes of the Greens and UKIPs to two of the big three parties.

    What AV does is enables every voter to show their true 1st preferences. FPTP does not do that, as the X votes could be anything from 1st preference all the way down to 2nd last because of tactical voting. Once you see what the true 1st preferences are, you’ll see increases in support for any party who deserves it. Those statistics once made public will be used to spur on candidates of all parties and you may see the likes of UKIP and the Greens break into the top 3, especially with the Lib Dems attracting a lot of negativity at the moment.

    Under AV anyone who works hard and listens to as many constituents as possible will benefit. Anyone who relies only on their core vote will be punished. I believe that is as it should be.

  39. AltGovUK

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour's 'no brainer' case to campaign for AV: http://bit.ly/icErzf by @wdjstraw #Yes2AV

  40. DrKMJ

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour's 'no brainer' case to campaign for AV: http://bit.ly/icErzf by @wdjstraw #Yes2AV

  41. Hitchin England

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour's 'no brainer' case to campaign for AV: http://bit.ly/icErzf by @wdjstraw #Yes2AV

  42. Jonathan Taylor

    This is pretty persuasive RT @leftfootfwd: Labour's 'no brainer' case to campaign for AV: http://bit.ly/icErzf by @wdjstraw #Yes2AV

  43. Ben Cooper

    RT @Jon2aylor: This is pretty persuasive RT @leftfootfwd: Labour's 'no brainer' case to campaign for AV: http://bit.ly/icErzf by @wdjstr …

  44. John Ruddy

    RT @Jon2aylor: This is pretty persuasive RT @leftfootfwd: Labour's 'no brainer' case to campaign for AV: http://bit.ly/icErzf by @wdjstr …

  45. Kevin Peel

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour's 'no brainer' case to campaign for AV: http://bit.ly/icErzf by @wdjstraw #Yes2AV

  46. Philip Fraser

    There is a big flaw in us supporting AV that will ruin our electoral chances: Getting people out to vote under AV. Check research – the more complex an electoral system, the more likely those who are unsure of voting aren’t going to bother in the end. And what sort of people are these? The people we try to appeal to a lot – notably the working class and BMEs. Supporting AV will ruin us. AV will bring another decade of Conservative governments. FPTP is great for our party. Without it, we have no chance of winning in 2015.

  47. Aaron

    The campaign for AV should be about making the voting system fairer, not about assessing how it will affect our party and voting tactically.

    Petty and unnecessary tribalism won’t win this referendum.

  48. Stephen Newton

    That AV might benefit Labour should not be the deciding factor (although we are talking about a fairly marginal change to Labour’s situation in any case).

    As Éoin Clarke points out this system freezes out parties smaller than the Lib Dems. It is not a system of proportional representation, but an attempt to lock in a three party system. The only party that significantly benefits is the Lib Dems.

    (BTW Éoin Oldham is just north of Manchester.)

  49. UK Polling Report

    […] on Left Foot Forward there is a paper by a Dr Matt Qvortrup arguing that the introduction of AV would help Labour and […]

  50. Extradition Game

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour's 'no brainer' case to campaign for AV: http://bit.ly/icErzf by @wdjstraw #Yes2AV

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