Reading the newspapers today and listening to some of the things some Liberal Democrats and some commentators are saying has provoked me into writing one, hopefully final, piece about the Alternative Vote Referendum.  This is that the Yes campaign was defeated because of an allegedly massive, vicious and even mendacious campaign against it supposedly orchestrated by the Conservative party. 

This is simply wrong.  There was nothing especially vicious or mendacious about the No campaign.  There was an abundance of half truths, exaggerations and hyperbole but that is true of all elections and this one was no different.  Cameron did not campaign vigorously against the No campaign.  In fact he barely campaigned at all.  In my part of London both campaigns were almost invisible.  I saw one or two Yes campaigners but not a single No campaigner throughout the campaign.  That a massive Conservative led No campaign was not responsible for the defeat of the Yes campaign is proved by the fact that the Yes campaign was defeated in Wales and Scotland by an identical margin to the one in England even though the Conservative party barely exists as a political force in either Wales or Scotland.

The reason for the defeat of the Yes campaign was as I have said the impossibility of persuading Labour voters to support a Liberal Democrat proposal at a time when the Liberal Democrats are in coalition with the Conservatives.  Any proposal that Conservative and Labour voters combine to defeat is certain to be lost and this was what happened in the referendum.



  1. I am disappointed with this election, partly because of the standard of argument, but principally because the result is meaningless.True, broadly one third of the voters were in favour of the proposed change to AV, while two thirds were not. That is all we can say though. Based on the arguments I have heard – which are very few as I live abroad and my colleagues are largely disinterested – the NO group seems sub-divisible into those who support the existing system, FPTP, and those who do not support it but do not support AV as the best system to switch to. The YES group equally includes a number who only support AV as a stepping stone to something else, typically "true" proportional representation.In my opinion, the failure of the YES campaign is therefore a consequence of the way the question was asked.The result of the election will almost certainly be interpreted as a show of support for the FPTP system. This is an invalid conclusion. If, let us say for the sake of illustration, the NO voters were evenly divided between "pro-change" and "anti-change," the two-thirds majority would be "pro-change."I expect that we will not have the chance to express our opinion on this broader and more important question for many decades now.

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