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Jerry Hayes

Drafting in David Owen to oppose AV is an epic lack of judgement of sphincter rattling Cecil B de Mille and Brownian proportions.

March 12th, 2011 by Jerry Hayes

There will be much eye swiveling, biting of carpets and general frothing of mouths at Conservative Home when they read the latest poll from SKY news showing that the YES AV campaign is powering ahead.But what has utterly astounded me is that for someone who is supposed to be a shit hot lobbyist Mathew Elliott  has totally misread the public mood.

The complacency of the appallingly managed NO AV campaign is reminiscent of Margaret Thatcher’s leadership bid in 1991. There was this ghastly, smug arrogance that backbenchers may be mad but not so mad as to give the lady the heave ho. John Moore, her campaign manager spent most of his time in America and Michael Forsyth, usually as bright as a button, came up to me and asked if I was “onboard”.  ”Onboard what?” was my reply. The Titanic, the Marie Celeste  perhaps, but supporting the Great Lady to push through more barking mad policies dreamed up by that nasty old former Commie machine gunner in the Spanish Civil War, Sir Alfred Sherman, was not an option. I would rather listen to a Gordon Brown Speech or go seal clubbing with Ed Balls. So when I politely declined Michael’s kind offer of self immolation, he looked at me in benign amazement. The whole unworldly fiasco was best summed up by her PPS Peter Morrision, a delightful old toper. “Well Prime Minister I think you’ll find that it’s in the bag…….unless there are a lot Conservative MPs  who are lying, ho, ho, ho”. Well, shock horror they were. And the Pope’s a Catholic and bears do shit in the woods.

I really am not sure how the NOAVistas are going to turn the tide. They’ve tried shock tactics. It will kill your babies, maim your soldiers and probably just fell shy of claiming that it will ruin your sex life and mess up your diet. Well, that was a disaster. When a campaign becomes a laughing stock it’s time to head for the hills.

Then there was that great old vote winner, you peasants are so stupid you couldn’t possible work it out. Forgetting that the knuckle draggers don’t read newspapers but just grin inanely at whatever tasteful crotch shots the Daily Star provides, and certainly haven’t managed to get themselves onto the electoral roll.

And then they tried celebrity endorsement. The only problem was that they just couldn’t find any, not even a member of the Gaddaffi family or Prince Andrew. Good God, they couldn’t even get one of Katie Price’s breasts.

Then came the intellectual approach. Somehow they managed to persuade a few celebrity historians to pitch in with a little bit of,” it will be the end of one man one vote and British Democracy as we know it”. Now, this was about as daft as Labour’s party political broadcast when the doctor in Eastenders endorsed their health policies. The one snag was that people sussed that he wasn’t a real doctor, but an actor whose part had been written out years before.

But today’s coup for the NOAVistas was a real doctor, and a real beast of the jungle, former Foreign Secretary and founder of the SDP, David Owen. Now in terms of a total lack of judgement this a  sphincter rattling, Cecil B De Mille epic of Brownian proportions. It’s not that David is regarded as total shit with the political morals that make Damien MacBride look like Mother Teresa. That can be managed: just about. What can’t be is his reasons for voting no. It’s because he despises first past the post and wants to replace it with PR. had nobody read his letter? Now this is not unlike a doctor adamant that he will not amputate because he wants to kill the patient.

As they see their campaign slowly go down the plug hole they will start to attack Cameron. It’s already began. He’s not doing enough. He is only just beginning to realise that his leadership will be under threat if the argument is lost. He must take control. Backbenchers are unhappy. The grass roots are enraged, blah, de blah, de blah. Of course it’s all utter bollocks. In fact the more Cameron has to speak on this the more embarrassing it is for him. “It will lead to Coalitions……smoke filled rooms……..broken pledges…..Liberal democrats holding the balance of power”. Mmm. Not much different from now then. In fact, no difference at all. The more he has to condemn AV the more he is condemning a system of government that he rather enjoys and is preferred by the public. It’s bit of a no brainer.

The reason the NOAV campaign has been such a text book fiasco is because it totally underestimates the good sense of the British people who are fed up with the Parliamentary dictatorship of the large majority delivered for the vested interests of the Unions or big business. They like the idea of closed minds being prised open by reality. They rather approve of the fact that unless there is compromise rather than tribal dogmatism, nothing gets done.

It’s just the British sense of fair play. And what’s more, if people really feel that they are biologically capable of only voting for one candidate they can. They just put the number1 in one box and leave the rest blank. And if it means that politicians have to work harder for their votes there is not going to be a national outcry.

I have always thought that everyone’s vote should count equally. I have always felt a sense of outrage that the government of this country is decided by 100 key seats and 150,000 key voters. Serious politicians with serious policies have no reason to be afraid of AV. After all, for the first time they will have a proper mandate to govern. But I fear Monty will be leading his Conservative Home scooters onto the Downing street lawn until the bitter end. And it will be very bitter.

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Comments [ 17 ]

  1. KWCook KWCook says:

    I fear that there is no equitable voting system FPTP may be largely discredited for the very reasons you say but surely AV is no better. Besides what about the fun of Election Night on the telly? The only thing I look forward to (How sad is that?)
    Maybe we should vote for parties/organisations and they put up their canditates in order of preference and we the voter won’t have an MP as such but the representation is in line with who we prefer. Besides, who knows their MP these days? Let alone who they actually are
    However, the downside of that would be no Orpington or Newbury.
    FPTP delivers bloody good entertainment you must accept that!
    In the end, The Who got it on the money…Meet the new boss, same as the old boss…
    I hope I’m not waffling or too cynical but the days of being elected for a cause (the rights of the ‘working man’ etc) are long gone. There is no passion in politics these days because there is precious little to be passionate about.
    It seems the only thing on the agenda is to protect the lifestyles and the interests of cliques and groups regardless of the fecklessness and shortsightedness of previous governments.
    Regardless of who is in ‘power’ and elected by whatever system, flawed or not, I fear things will not change one jot.

    • Jerry Hayes Jerry Hayes says:

      Ahhh. But the entertainment value could be even better and longer as the pundits are working out what on earth is going on. Whether it would make that much difference is another matter. What might is the boundary changes that will follow. I imagine whether we have AV or not they will go through. Now that really does scare the political classes. The rows, the lies the judicial reviews will add to all round public merriment. Or not. It might just turn out to be MPs scrabbling for the lifeboats, with the cry of “women and children last”. You might be entertained after all.

  2. Colleen Colleen says:

    “Besides, who knows their MP these days? Let alone who they actually are” (KW Cook)

    You’re living in the wrong town, KWC, here in Harlow, 90% of us know our MP. But then, we are blessed with amazing Robert Halfon as our MP and Rob is one of the best loved, hardest working and most respected MPs in both Parliament and his constituency.

    I was out campaigning with Rob on Saturday and no one mentioned AV. What the people of Harlow are most concerned about these days is the cuts, that was the one topic I heard over and over. They even forgot to mention our much detested wheelie bins.

    Excellent blog, Jerry! I shall be voting against AV because I dislike the idea of second choices negating the majority vote and I like the idea of a cataclysmic clean sweep from time to time to keep the main parties on their toes.

    • Ryan Ryan says:

      But these “cataclysmic clean sweeps” don’t really keep the main parties on their toes, do they? Everyone and their dog can see big changes coming a mile off – be it 1997 or 2010 – people are generally pretty aware that the government is probably going to change. The details are unknown; the sheer scale of Blair’s ‘97 victory, or the Tory seat deficit last year, but the fact is that for keeping the main parties on their toes, FPTP is pretty much the worst electoral system you can have. It breeds safe seats, predictable swings, large majorities and, well, generally stable government/hand-over rituals.

      If you really wanted to have a “clean sweep”, you’d want full PR to give parties like the LibDems or UKIP or the Greens a practical chance of snagging serious seat share. Under FPTP, that’s never really going to happen. You might not want the minor parties to hold the balance of power, which is a fair enough viewpoint, but you can’t at the same time claim to desire unpredictability. FPTP is favoured by Tories for stability, not for being radical.

      I’m not trying to do a PR hard-sell here, but I do think you’re being a bit silly by saying that “no one mentioned AV”. Of course they didn’t. When politicians knock on my door, I don’t ask them about their plans for national transport infrastructure or investment in creative industries, but that doesn’t mean those are inconsequential or unimportant issues that I don’t care about or don’t affect me.

      • Jerry Hayes Jerry Hayes says:

        Ryan forgive me it is easy to forget what I’ve written. But am pretty sure I didn’t argue that no one asked about AV, because for all the reasons you say it would be complete bollocks!

    • Jerry Hayes Jerry Hayes says:

      We are going to have to disagree about this one except for your comments about Rob who is an en excellent constituency MP.

  3. John Galpin John Galpin says:

    “Excellent blog, Jerry! I shall be voting against AV because I dislike the idea of second choices negating the majority vote …..”

    Colleen, the point is if there is a majority (over 50% of the votes cast) then AV will make no difference.That candidate will win. AV can’t “negate” a majority vote, preference votes simply ensure that the winning candidate has over 50% support.

    How can you not agree that is fairer than the absurd mockery of an electoral system we have today where a candidate can be elected with a “majority” despite two thirds of voters not supporting him or her?

  4. Mark Scott Mark Scott says:

    I’m becoming convinced that a key element of the No campaign strategy is the belief that a dirty campaign (even if it’s of their own making) will further reinforce voters’ disillusionment with politics and ensure there will be such a small turnout that they will be able to dismiss the whole exercise as a complete waste of time and money.

    • Jerry Hayes Jerry Hayes says:

      I really do think that they have behaved quite disgracefully, but so badly it is quite laughable. However if they win. OMG it will be Matthew Elliot leading a campaign on Europe withdrawal. There will be no let up with this lot.

  5. Sir Benjamin Sir Benjamin says:

    Entertaining blog as always, Jerry, but I think you missed the tide.

    Over the last week and a bit, the betting has shifted from a narrow YES lead to neck-and-neck to a relatively robust NO lead.

    And political betting markets are seldom wrong.

    The ammo fired by the NO campaign might be hit and miss, and not all of it will resonate with all the people, but it doesn’t really have to because there are reasons, rational and irrational, for almost everyone to fear or dislike AV.

    I think – and hope – that the result will be a narrow NO win, but that rather than putting the debate to bed, discussions continue, and we can look towards alternative solutions – hopefully retaining FPTP with a supplementary PR element.

    • Jerry Hayes Jerry Hayes says:

      Interesting. Actually, what prompted me to write the piece was the SKY poll that came out on the same day. I think that it’s too close to call. But I would disagree with anything that severs the link between one member and the constituency.

  6. Phil Cane Phil Cane says:

    I think that is a selective bit of polling evidence used there. Here is a list of the all of the major polling companies and the movements of support from their last poll:

    ComRes: The YES campaign are on 34% (down 6 since February), the NO campaign are on 37% (up 7 since February). Don’t know 28%. This is the first time that the No campaign has been ahead in a ComRes poll and has turned about a -27 deficit since the beginning of the campaign.

    Angus Reid: YES 32% (down 5 since January), NO 26% (up 6), and 35% don’t know. The first poll Angus Reid conducted showed a -17 point deficit for the No campaign.

    ICM: YES 37% (down 7), NO 37% (down 1), don’t knows 27%. Again the first poll conducted by ICM showed a -21 deficit for the No campaign.

    YouGov: As you point out their poll for Sky does show a Yes lead but when viewing the fortnightly YouGov AV tracker poll; The No lead has gone from 7%, to 11% and now 17% ahead in the last three weeks.

    If anything the Sky poll was an outliner or a ‘rogue poll’, the trend shown by all companies is a slow gradual shift in support towards the No campaign.


  7. Adam Collyer Adam Collyer says:

    Extremely well written as always, and indeed thought provoking.

    I don’t agree with any of it though!

    The main beneficiaries of AV would be UKIP. Lots of Tory voters in their hearts want out of Europe – but at the moment they are scared that anything except a Tory vote would let in the other side. With AV, they could put UKIP 1 and Tory 2.

    And the Lib Dems? The home of the protest vote? They’re screwed anyway, with their 10 percent poll rating. Second preferences of Tory and Labour voters won’t do them much good if they’re eliminated in the first round.

    • Jerry Hayes Jerry Hayes says:

      Ah, but this is the problem. There appears to be no intellectual argument against AV save that it won’t help Labour or the Tories and could help the Lib Dems! Actually, I haven’t seen any evidence (but do let me know if you have it) that it will lead to minority parties being elected. That would happen under PR which I could never support.

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