Yet more distortion of the truth from No2AV

Last week Labour No To AV released a document, the purpose of which was to argue that AV would harm Labour’s electoral fortunes. Labour Yes rebut their key arguments.

Jessica Asato is the director of the Labour Yes campaign

Last week Labour No To AV released a document (pdf), the purpose of which was to argue that AV would harm Labour’s electoral fortunes. Labour Yes has taken a look at some of their key arguments.


Under AV 20 current Labour MPs would not have been elected in 2010

But another 10 would have been elected. There is no getting away from the fact that the last Labour government was unpopular by the end of its term. So it is hardly surprising that the party would not gain many second preference votes and win many more seats with AV than it would with first past the post.

However, as the table below shows, British Election Survey modelling also shows that the Tories would have lost seats in every election bar one since 1983.

Conservative seat share under FPTP and AV




1983 (BES/JC)


391 (-6)
1987 (BES/JC) 375 381(+6)
1992 (BES/JC) 336 328 (-8)
1997 (BES/JC) 165 70 (-95)
2001 (BES/JC) 166 140 (-26)
2005 (BES) 198 171(-27)
2010 (BES) 307 284(-23)

1983-2001: BES/JC Estimates derived by John Curtice from British Election Study data, reported here;

2005-2010: BES Based on detailed analysis of large-scale British Election Study data on second preferences, by Paul Whiteley and David Sanders, reported here.

AV only helps Labour in elections it would have won anyway

It can also help in elections that Labour didn’t win such as 1992 and 2010 where AV could have led to Labour-Lib Dem coalitions. Fundamentally AV helps parties that are able to reach out beyond their core vote and build a broad base of support, just as Labour did in 1997, 2001 and 2005. This is something the Conservatives failed to do in the last election.

It is easy to see why the Tories are throwing the weight of the Tory party machine behind the No campaign. In the words of one of the Tory leaders of the No campaign, they are fighting for a No vote because AV is the “anti-Tory” system.

AV would only consistently benefit the Lib Dems

No. AV benefits parties that are able to reach out beyond their core support and attract second preferences. Traditionally this has been thought to benefit the Lib Dems because they would pick up second preferences from both Labour and Conservative voters. But now? With the Lib Dems helping the Tories cut Sure Start centres and the NHS it is far from guaranteed they will benefit from AV.

John Curtice examined AV modelling in an article in The Independent and argued:

“The findings are not quite so encouraging for the Liberal Democrats as is often imagined.”


“[AV] is likely to bring his party only a modest benefit – and still leave open the prospect of the occasional Conservative or Labour landslide.”

One of the advantages of AV is that it allows voters to punish very unpopular parties – as can be seen from the modelling of the Conservative votes in 1997 where they would have been reduced to just 70 seats. So rather than benefiting the Lib Dems AV could help wipe them out.

A No vote could bring down the coalition

Don’t fall for the pantomime. With Lib Dem poll ratings at an all time low and facing a trouncing in the local elections they need the coalition to work. They need the deal they made to be worth it and the only hope that they have is that the economy will have started to grow and memories of the cuts will have faded by 2015.

A Yes vote probably won’t bring down the coalition but it will damage David Cameron. ConservativeHome argues that David Cameron’s leadership would be irrevocably undermined if the AV referendum is passed and that he would become a “lost leader”. It said he would be “blamed for making it impossible for a Conservative prime minister to lead a Conservative government ever again.”

It also said he would be “blamed, above all, by Conservative MPs for putting their seats in peril.

If a general election were held tomorrow under AV it would harm Labour

The truth is we don’t know how people would vote tomorrow under either system. Polls this far out from an actual election are notoriously unreliable.

We know how unpopular both the cuts programme and the the Liberal Democrats are so it is likely that Labour would benefit from AV but it is just an academic exercise at this stage.

We know that about 15% of the electorate voted tactically at the last election. How many Labour supporters are there who are voting tactically to try and keep the Tories out? What we do know is that with AV people could vote for who they wanted to without worrying that their vote would be wasted.

AV would have hurt Labour in the 1980s

It is simply untrue to say that AV would be bad for Labour – it depends on the political context. When the party is unpopular, as it was in 1983, Labour would do badly with AV or any electoral system. Where Labour is able to reach out and inspire voters as it did in 1997 it will do very well.

The truth is the Conservative Party are mobilising behind a No vote because they know it is against the interests of the Conservative Party. A spokesman for the No campaign, Tory MP George Eustice, conceded on Newsnight that AV would cost the Tories seats.

AV was introduced in Australia to keep the Labour Party out

AV is particularly beneficial when the left or right wing vote is split between a number of parties. In Australia the right wing vote was split between two parties, while the left wing wasn’t and the ALP benefited from this. However, in the UK it is the left wing vote that is split, so progressive voters in the UK risk wasting their vote and having to guess which of three or four parties is most likely to defeat the Tories in their seat.

AV will mean the progressive vote will no longer be split; this can only help to kick the Tories out.


There has been myth upon myth upon myth in this campaign, regurgitated by No2AV’s friends in the right wing press. The campaign has been funded by money from Tory donors. Throughout the campaign, Labour Yes has tried to keep our arguments based on fact and analysis.

On the eve of the referendum, we hope that people listen to the arguments in favour and vote for a system that is fairer and will give more power to ordinary voters.

Vote Yes tomorrow and let’s try and create a different kind of politics.

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