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. Trakgalvis

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour's 'no brainer' case to campaign for AV: by @wdjstraw #Yes2AV

  2. Labour Should Support AV | Victoria Ward Crosby labour

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  3. DrKMJ

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour's 'no brainer' case to campaign for AV: by @wdjstraw #Yes2AV

  4. william

    The real issue is not AV for the Commons, but a wholly elected upper house using a PR system. How many other true democracies have a second chamber where control resides with the appointees of recent Prime Ministers?

  5. matthew fox

    I am surprised people are speculating about the intentions of Green and UKIP voters. A basic form of research would show that the Green Party conference confirmed that they would join the Yes campaign.

    With regards to UKIP, the leader of the party seems to be all for it, so how anyone can assume that Green and UKIP voters would vote no is beyond me.

    With regards to NI politics, when did the SDLP stop being a
    ” MAJOR PARTY ” ?

    Mark Durkan describes FPTP as encouraging Sectarian voting patterns.

  6. Elliot Folan

    As a member of the Greens I would just like to point out that the Green Party of England and Wales (GPEW) and the Scottish Green Party have both joined the campaign for the Alternative Vote. An overwhelming vote was passed at the GPEW Autumn conference to support the campaign and a similar motion at the Scots Greens conference.

    Greens have been some of the most avid supporters of AV. But the motion we passed at GPEW conference was telling. We made no mention of the potential benefits to ourselves: instead it simply stated the benefits to the voters – no more tactical voting, majority support and reduction of safe seats. We back AV because we think it is a fairer system: not because of a partisan hope that we will win out from it.

    Even if Labour backed AV just because it thought it would win more seats then I would of course still welcome them warmly to the campaign; so I welcome the Labour YES! campaign. But I would think less of the party if it just backed it on narrow self-interest.

    Labour has a chance to redeem itself in the eyes of reformers whom it has betrayed so many times by promising referendums on proportional systems. We waited 13 long years watching report after report and commission after commission. I think I speak for most reformers when I say we are sick of waiting.

  7. AltGovUK

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour's 'no brainer' case to campaign for AV: by @wdjstraw #Yes2AV

  8. Mr. Sensible

    William, I am totally opposed to an elected second chamber; I think we should get rid of the remaining harreditary peers, but the problem with an elected second chamber is that this would introduce party politics in to the situation, and thus damage the chamber’s role as a revising chamber.

    At any rate, on this, Will, would it be possible to make predictions for this based on the government’s gerrymandering of constituency boundries? Has any attempt been made in this study to look at the possible permutations of that?

  9. Francis McGonigal

    “Had Livingstone only secured second preferences from 00.4 percent of the voters (11,182) he would have beaten Boris Johnson.” from Dr Matt Qvortrup’s report.
    This looks like a mistake since Johnson won by about 140,000. Perhaps if full AV was used (not the Supplementary Vote) then third and further preferences would have led to a closer result. Is that the point Dr Qvortrup is trying to make?

  10. Dylan Lewis

    RT @labouryes: Labour’s ‘no brainer’ case to campaign for AV by @wdjstraw #labouryes #yes2av

  11. matt king

    RT @labouryes: Labour’s ‘no brainer’ case to campaign for AV by @wdjstraw #labouryes #yes2av

  12. Francis Mallinson

    RT @leftfootfwd: – Labour would have won more seats at every general election since 97 under AV!

  13. The Election Blog

    RT @leftfootfwd: – Labour would have won more seats at every general election since 97 under AV!

  14. Elliot Folan

    I would also like to point out that the Alliance and SDLP in Northern Ireland are both backing AV. See here:

  15. Ben Baumberg

    Never trust an academic who says that someone else’s views are based on ‘assumptions’, while their own views are a ‘solid piece of political science’. All science depends on a web of assumptions, and predicting the future particularly depends on them. Put simply, it’s impossible to predict what would happen under AV without this. Social science can inform and help us guess what would happen, but it cannot provide a definitive answer.

    A good academic in the public sphere should make their assumptions clear, rather than spuriously belittling the contributions of others. And I say this without knowing anything about Dr Qvortrup, or the merits of his case. As an academic myself, though, I just find this kind of accusation cheapens the role of evidence in public debate, rather than enhancing it.

  16. AltGovUK

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour's 'no brainer' case to campaign for AV: by @wdjstraw #Yes2AV

  17. SlashedUK

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour's 'no brainer' case to campaign for AV: by @wdjstraw #Yes2AV

  18. DrKMJ

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour's 'no brainer' case to campaign for AV: by @wdjstraw #Yes2AV

  19. Lee Griffin

    To the first comment..of course it won’t help labour if they’re unpopular…thankfully AV is a fair system that ensures, constituency by constituency, unpopular parties don’t get elected.

    That said, despite Labour’s loss at the last election, I don’t think they’ve returned to being an unpopular party. I also don’t believe that this country has anything other than a slight left leaning bias over-all; I can’t believe for one second (based on voting figures and voting intentions post-may 2010) that people in seats where the Tories have 30-40% of the vote that either Labour or Lib Dems wouldn’t pick them up every time. Even where Tories have 40-49% I’d be fairly surprised to see the Tories pick it up.

    With AV Labour will, coalition or not, be in power in 2015, at least that’s my belief.

  20. Trakgalvis

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour's 'no brainer' case to campaign for AV: by @wdjstraw #Yes2AV

  21. Leonard Boe

    RT @leftfootfwd: Labour's 'no brainer' case to campaign for AV #YES2AV

  22. patricia roche

    I would not vote for anything that the lib dem tories have put forward. I will also be actively saying to everyone just say no. The reasons are that the lib dems are now tories and the tory leaning electorate will vote for them, as will the right wing lib dems. I do not want a coalition forming like the one that exists now, which will decimate the entire lives of the poor, the disabled, women and children and will also privatise the health service, which is happening now while we speak of av. I do not really care if this is an academically sound position or not. I only know that I am an angry voter who supports a uk which is fair and just and I hate to see that go down the plughole due to the unprincipled shower who are making decisions without any compassion for the consequences.

  23. John Woods

    I found it hard to convince fellow members in my local constituency party. When I complained during a discussion of the LABOUR Leadership election that Ed Balls did not exercise his second choice, several members said that they had not done so either. In my opinion this is a no brainer. The further right the Tories and the LibDems go the more the use of second and third choices will benefit Labour. This is the main reason the Tories are totally opposed.

  24. Kris

    RT @labouryes: Labour’s ‘no brainer’ case to campaign for AV by @wdjstraw #labouryes #yes2av

  25. Ben Cadwallader

    @amymb here's part of the reason why as a Labour supporter you should be #yes2av – (on LeftFootForward)

  26. Henry

    I suspect all the data in this article is historical and largely irrelevant. Most polls put the LibDems on around 10% as most of their ‘progressive’ voters have fled elsewhere, mostly to Labour. The remaining LibDem voters are not the same as the people who voted in May (or 1997, 2001 or 2005): they’re either ‘true believers’ or right-leaners who can stomach the Coalition. As UK Polling report have compellingly argued, it’s just not credible that many will give their second vote to Labour. There may be good reasons for supporting AV, but it’s not going to help the Labour Party unless there is another seismic shift in UK politics.

  27. GuyAitchison

    @B3nB3ach No it doesn't see e.g. They're opposing it cos they're anti-pluralist political dinosaurs.

  28. GuyAitchison

    @OwenJones84 Pluralism & political choice the best chance. And btw did you see…

  29. oldpolitics

    Why did he tell Tories the opposite?

  30. Phil Hingley

    Is there a pro-av volunteer who would like to come and talk to Kentish Town Branch Labour party about the AV referendum. Ideally I’d like it to happen on 11th jan but it could be later. Please call me on 07 958 473 493

  31. Adam Corlett

    @tugsandtost Also good for Labour – . Boundary review but no AV = very happy Tories

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