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

Election

FPTP

AV

1983 (BES/JC)

397

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.”

Adding:

“[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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26 Responses to “Yet more distortion of the truth from No2AV”

  1. Nick Pratt

    RT @leftfootfwd: Yet more distortion of the truth from #No2AV: http://bit.ly/mRYxoi by @LabourYes director @Jessica_Asato #Yes2AV

  2. The Pryer

    RT @leftfootfwd: Yet more distortion of the truth from #No2AV: http://bit.ly/mRYxoi by @LabourYes director @Jessica_Asato #Yes2AV

  3. Alan Marshall

    RT @leftfootfwd: Yet more distortion of the truth from #No2AV: http://bit.ly/mRYxoi by @LabourYes director @Jessica_Asato #Yes2AV

  4. Debbie Sharratt

    RT @leftfootfwd: Yet more distortion of the truth from #No2AV: http://bit.ly/mRYxoi by @LabourYes director @Jessica_Asato #Yes2AV

  5. Hitchin England

    RT @leftfootfwd: Yet more distortion of the truth from #No2AV: http://bit.ly/mRYxoi by @LabourYes director @Jessica_Asato #Yes2AV

  6. Dave Citizen

    The basic questions I’m still waiting for an answer to are:

    1If 23% of voters select party X how much closer to 23% of MPs would AV deliver than FPTP (9% of a 23% Libdem vote in 2010)

  7. Brian Barder

    I agree that many of the No camp’s arguments have been flawed, some puerile; but the Yes camp has been equally guilty of bogus or questionable arguments. Attempts to show how AV would have affected past elections are for the birds: noone knows how AV would have affected people’s voting behaviour or how preferences would have affected outcomes. Australia is different in many ways: there’s really no ‘third party’ like our LibDems (the two right-wing parties are in an electoral alliance and are effectively one party), *all* candidates have to be numbered in preference order and voting is compulsory. Here either AV would increase LibDem votes and seats and give them, not the voters, the power to decidee whether Labour or the Tories enter No. 10; or, if the LibDems are permanently wrecked by the coalition experience (v. unlikely), AV will force major parties into unstable, incoherent coalitions with numerous small splinter groups — cf. Israel. In neither case is this more democratic than FPTP. The onus for making the case for such an unpredictable change is on the Yes camp and it hasn’t made out its case. I’m voting Labour and No.

  8. Dave Citizen

    2. Tony Benn reckoned the FPTP system created a crucial link between voter and their MP. Why is this so important and will it be significantly less under AV?

    3. Why are we being offered only AV – was some research done finding that AV stood out as the best possible system to offer the British people?

  9. Julian

    In 1997 the Tories got 31% of the votes and 26% of the seats (165). AV would have given them, according to your table above, just 70 seats or 11%.

    What possible justification can there be for moving to a system that is so much less proportional in this example than FPTP? Are you arguing for a fairer system or one that benefits Labour the most and is as bad as possible for the Tories?

  10. Craig Beaumont

    “Throughout the campaign, Labour Yes has tried to keep our arguments based on fact and analysis” – I just fell off my chair.

    The 3 YES key messages don’t relate to a single fact, nor to any analysis. They don’t actually focus on AV at all:

    1) It will make MPs work harder (lie)

    2) It will prevent expense scandals (lie)

    3) It will get rid of safe seats (lie)

    To whine about ‘distortion’ in this context is merely an outrageous lack of self-awareness.

  11. Guido Fawkes

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

    So the LibDems are progressive? I can here Clegg, Laws, Davey and Alexander laughing behind their hands.

  12. Shamik Das

    Vote #Yes2AV 2mrw RT @leftfootfwd: Yet more distortion of the truth from #No2AV: http://bit.ly/mRYxoi by @LabourYes director @Jessica_Asato

  13. Mr. Sensible

    Brian Barder, I couldn’t agree with you more.

    To try and predict previous elections under AV is complete guesswork.

    And as to whether or not the result will break the Coalition, the exchanges in cabinet yesterday as reported by BBC News et al aren’t exchanges you associate with a united government…

    Watch this space…

    Dave Citizen,

    “Tony Benn reckoned the FPTP system created a crucial link between voter and their MP. Why is this so important and will it be significantly less under AV?”

    Of course the link between MP and constituency is important; 1 MP should be accountable to his or her residents.

    And it wouldn’t be damaged under AV like PR thank goodness!

    Guido that’s what makes Clegg et al’s comments so ironic…

  14. DrKMJ

    RT @leftfootfwd: Yet more distortion of the truth from #No2AV: http://bit.ly/mRYxoi by @LabourYes director @Jessica_Asato #Yes2AV

  15. Jessica Asato

    Rebuttal of #no2av on @leftfootfwd http://bit.ly/mRYxoi #labouryes

  16. Stephen Carter

    RT @Jessica_Asato: Rebuttal of #no2av on @leftfootfwd http://bit.ly/mRYxoi #labouryes #yestofairervotes

  17. Seph Brown

    RT @leftfootfwd: Yet more distortion of the truth from #No2AV: http://bit.ly/mRYxoi by @LabourYes director @Jessica_Asato #Yes2AV

  18. Jos Bell

    RT @leftfootfwd: Yet more distortion of the truth from #No2AV: http://bit.ly/mRYxoi by @LabourYes director @Jessica_Asato #Yes2AV

  19. Neil Harding

    Tony Benn is backing AV. Brian Barder thinks that anyone who votes for a party other than Labour or Tory is ‘ideologically copping out’. Brian is a tribalist in the worst sense, he wants to suppress choice, no wonder he favours the status quo, where people are coerced into voting for the two big parties. MPs back the status quo for the obvious reason they don’t want to lose their jobs. Make them all sweat, vote YES.

  20. Ed's Talking Balls

    The comments by Craig Beaumont and Julian make a powerful point: this whole campaign isn’t based on any principle other than inflicting maximum damage on a political rival.

    AV isn’t more proportional. It will not make MPs work harder. It would not have prevented the expenses scandal. There would still be safe seats under AV. AV would not require that the winning candidate has majority support. In any case.

    For Huhne et al to criticise the No campaign for lying takes some front! You can’t take the moral high ground when you’re slinging mud from the gutter.

    I will be voting to retain a system which is used the world over because it is simple and it almost always produces stable governments. Crucially, too, because FPTP represents the status quo I always needed persuading that change would be for the better. The Yes campaign never once produced a convincing argument that AV would be preferable.

    I remain utterly unconvinced that the UK should adopt this miserable little compromise. I hope that the polls thus far will be reflected at the ballot box tomorrow.

    P.S. I must just say that I’ve been impressed by the Labour No campaign. That was politics at its best: sticking to your principles, not rigidly following the leader, sharing platforms with those who would ordinarily be political foe. Fair play to the likes of John Reid and (dare I say it, having to wash my mouth out with soap afterwards…) John Prescott.

  21. Jack, a fact-minded Liberal

    My my we’re a bit sceptical of AV here! I’ll do my best to answer your questions so that you can see that AV is definitely the right step for the nation.
    ‘The basic questions I’m still waiting for an answer to are:

    1If 23% of voters select party X how much closer to 23% of MPs would AV deliver than FPTP (9% of a 23% Libdem vote in 2010)
    Comment by Dave Citizen on May 4, 2011 at 9:04 pm ‘
    2/3 of the time, AV produces a more proportional national result than FPTP. There is a potential that AV is less proportional, but in 2 of every 3 elections this is not going to be the case. What AV can guarantee is to be 100% more representative at a constituency level.

    ‘Attempts to show how AV would have affected past elections are for the birds: noone knows how AV would have affected people’s voting behaviour or how preferences would have affected outcomes’
    I can’t speak for previous elections, but before the May 2010 general election yougov actually did a national voting intention poll that also asked about people’s second and third preferences (source:http://www.electoralcalculus.co.uk/PVSCBill_analysis2.html). This, combined with the maths of AV voting, is what is used to predict the result of the last election AV. Of course, this isn’t going to be any more than a rough idea but still nevertheless is a guide to how the commons would look under AV.

    ‘2. Tony Benn reckoned the FPTP system created a crucial link between voter and their MP. Why is this so important and will it be significantly less under AV?

    3. Why are we being offered only AV – was some research done finding that AV stood out as the best possible system to offer the British people?’

    One of the best things about AV is that it preserves that strong local link between people and their MP. The local link helps to devolve democracy to a local level, as an MP will become familiar with the issues of his own area and then in theory put the constituency’s interest before his own in parliament.
    AV is being offered as a compromise. After first being elected, a commission by Blair came back with the result that the best voting system for the country would be a hybrid of runoff voting and proportional representation, keeping the constituency link but adding MPs from a party list to make the election result more proportional. Unfortunately, this results in far too much loss of power for Labour and the Conservatives – we’re talking the kind of power loss that would cause a leader and his government to be held in infamy by his (or her) party forever. This is why we’re almost certainly never going to get a chance to have anything more democratic than AV, which is why it is so important we get a YES result tomorrow (but sadly the contrary looks to be true).

    ‘In 1997 the Tories got 31% of the votes and 26% of the seats (165). AV would have given them, according to your table above, just 70 seats or 11%.

    What possible justification can there be for moving to a system that is so much less proportional in this example than FPTP? Are you arguing for a fairer system or one that benefits Labour the most and is as bad as possible for the Tories?’
    Unfortunately, AV can turn out a less proportional result than FPTP as it would have done here for the cons. In fact, this is wrong and they would have received 112 seats under AV, but it is still less than 31%. I can only guess that this is due to the nature of the Labour landslide. The Tories probably received lots of second places in this general election, allowing them to get a high share of the vote but comparatively few seats. This is the kind of example that inspires a move to PR.

    “Throughout the campaign, Labour Yes has tried to keep our arguments based on fact and analysis” – I just fell off my chair.

    ‘The 3 YES key messages don’t relate to a single fact, nor to any analysis. They don’t actually focus on AV at all:

    1) It will make MPs work harder (lie)

    2) It will prevent expense scandals (lie)

    3) It will get rid of safe seats (lie)

    To whine about ‘distortion’ in this context is merely an outrageous lack of self-awareness.’
    You seem to have a very partisan and negative perception of the yes campaign but actually there is a factual basis for this, unlike many of the no campaigns ‘arguments’. Firstly, MPs do have to work harder because they need to win 50% of the voters preferences, rather than more votes than anyone else. They therefore have to build a wider base of support and appeal to more constituents, why is part of the reason AV is always fairer at a local level. We can’t really say if it would have prevented the expenses scandal, but in the same way the No campaign should not make many other assertions not related to the voting system. I should think Labour yes would defend this by saying MPs wouldn’t flaunt the system knowing they had to get at least half of the votes as they need to stay popular in their constituency. It won’t get rid of safe seats, but it will reduce the amount of safe seats and make them democratically selected. Basically, the only safe seats will be ones where 50% of first preferences are given to one party in the first round. Arguably, these should be ‘safe’ seats whereas currently there are safe seats in which 60+% of voters didn’t want that candidate at all.

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

    So the LibDems are progressive? I can here Clegg, Laws, Davey and Alexander laughing behind their hands.’
    Yes, the Lib Dems are progressive. A simple look at their website would have told you that much. Without the lib dems in government, policies such as the increase of the income tax floor to 10000 pounds would not have been introduced. The lib dems try to introduce left wing progressive laws but remember they are only 1/5 of the government so they should only be able to deliver 1/5 of their desired policies.

    ‘Brian Barder, I couldn’t agree with you more.

    To try and predict previous elections under AV is complete guesswork.

    And as to whether or not the result will break the Coalition, the exchanges in cabinet yesterday as reported by BBC News et al aren’t exchanges you associate with a united government…

    Watch this space…

    Dave Citizen,

    “Tony Benn reckoned the FPTP system created a crucial link between voter and their MP. Why is this so important and will it be significantly less under AV?”

    Of course the link between MP and constituency is important; 1 MP should be accountable to his or her residents.

    And it wouldn’t be damaged under AV like PR thank goodness!’
    The referndum wouldn’t have impacted the coalition if the front bench government ministers hadn’t gotten involved. As it is, the no campaign realised that the facts were stacked against them and Baroness Warsi wasn’t up to the job and had to call in David Cameron, who would never be forgiven for a no vote resulting in the loss of his party’s power. He used lies and large sums of money from tory donors to turn the campaign around. A large amount of mudslinging was directed at Nick Clegg. This is the point at which the Lib Dems had to get involved in response but without the substantial funds of the conservatives at their disposal they were unlikely to be able to change things much. Huhne was justified in his challenge on Cameron, as what the NO campaign is using is essentially lies and ‘AV is what Nick Clegg wants, so you don’t.’
    Only party list PR would damage the local link. In fact, Germany and France both use a hybrid system which can deliver a virtually fully proportional result and maintain the local link.

    Questions?

  22. Jack, a fact-minded Liberal

    @Ed’s talking Balls:
    You seem to have taken in the worst half-truths of the No campaign.

    ‘For Huhne et al to criticise the No campaign for lying takes some front! You can’t take the moral high ground when you’re slinging mud from the gutter.’
    For Cameron et al to criticise the Yes campaign for lying takes some front! You can’t take the moral high ground when you’re slinging 5 times as much mud from the gutter.

    ‘I will be voting to retain a system which is used the world over because it is simple and it almost always produces stable governments.’
    AV is as simple as writing numbers (as many or as few as you like) on a piece of paper. In the last 83 years, Australia with AV has had 2 coalition governments; in the same time period with FPTP we’ve had 6.

    ‘The Yes campaign never once produced a convincing argument that AV would be preferable.’
    You’ve not been listening then. AV is 100% likely to produce a fairer result at a local level. FPTP is a system designed for use with two parties when have 8 or more contesting many elections. Every postwar democracy that adopted FPTP changed within 20 years. Although australia wants to change voting system, it’s not to FPTP. There are more and more argument pointing to a yes vote, if you would just look for them and drop any bias to see them as they are: facts.

    Perhaps this is a ‘miserable little compromise’. It’s the best we’re going to get. To reject AV on those ground is foolish in the extreme. A no vote will shut down the debate on electoral reform for generations.

    PS. I am thoroughly unimpressed with both major No campaigns. They have put their seats before democracy and are using all measures, both legitimate and underhand to assure the safety of the status quo which gives power to the few.

  23. chris paling

    RT @leftfootfwd: Yet more distortion of the truth from #No2AV: http://bit.ly/mRYxoi by @LabourYes director @Jessica_Asato #Yes2AV

  24. Ed's Talking Balls

    Yes, the process of putting numbers on a piece of paper is easy. In fact, it is almost as easy as putting one ‘X’ on a piece of paper. But obviously the process of arriving at a result under AV is more complex than under FPTP. Only a fool or a liar would say otherwise.

    Your rebuttal of my point about Huhne et al is extraordinarily weak. I’m not defending the ‘No’ campaign and certainly not saying that every one of their claims stack up. But Cameron et al weren’t accusing their opponents of being akin to Goebbels, nor were they making pathetic threats to report their conduct to the Electoral Commission. They weren’t and aren’t claiming the moral high ground. My point was that if you’re going to accuse others of indulging in gutter politics, you’d better be spotless yourself. And nonsense about making MPs work harder and eliminating greed amongst MPs isn’t clean, honest campaigning.

    Don’t accuse me of not listening. It’s deeply condescending and not worthy of genuine debate. I have listened to the arguments, insofar as they were ever explained, and I have been unconvinced by them at every stage.

  25. Dave Citizen

    Thanks Jack for having a genuine go at answering my questions. I have just voted yes. It’s a shame that both YES and (particularly) NO campaigns found it so hard to move beyond narrow political advantage in discussing this referendom – we should demand better of our representatives!

  26. Daniel Pitt

    Yet more distortion of the truth from #No2AV: http://bit.ly/mRYxoi by @LabourYes director @Jessica_Asato #Yes2AV #ConDemNation

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