Matthew Elliott is Campaign Director of No2AV.
If anyone has dipped into the debate on the Alternative Vote over the last three weeks, they will probably have picked up one thing: the No campaign say AV will cost £250 million, the Yes campaign disagree.
Since our launch, NO to AV have embarked on a nationwide poster campaign – and have had several stories in the media – all pointing towards the huge cost of the voting system that no-one wants.
In his speech announcing the Conservative Party's support for NO to AV, the Prime Minister followed up our main line of attack, saying:
[AV] increases the cost of politics. A whole machinery of bureaucracy will have to be built to explain the system to people. You can imagine it already. A quango overseeing the whole process. Consultants drafted in to construct a message. Leaflets printed and advertising slots booked. A monumental waste of time, money and effort. And quite apart from all this, we may have to buy and install electronic voting machines to make sense of all the different outcomes and possibilities…
Yes to AV, who had been riding their nice-sounding but vacuous ‘make your MPs work harder’ line, suddenly found themselves in a debate about whether or not Britain would have to purchase electronic vote counting machines.
The irony is that the Yes campaign are big supporters of the introduction of electronic counting machines. After these very same machines malfunctioned at the last Scottish Parliamentary elections, costing the taxpayer an extra £9 million, the Scottish Director of the Electoral Reform Society defended electronic counting saying ‘elections shouldn’t be run on the cheap’.
And, as the Spectator also revealed, the biggest donors to Yes to AV – the Electoral Reform Society – stand to benefit financially from the introduction of vote counting machines.
Our other line of attack: showing Nick Clegg as the man that gave away everything for this referendum, launched the Yes campaign, and stands to benefit most from the introduction of AV, has also got them spooked.
The Yes campaign is starting to recognise that the debate has changed.
Sunny Hundal, a frequent pro-AV blogger and signatory to the list of Labourites who will be voting Yes in the Guardian, wrote yesterday that he thinks it is time for Yes to AV to target David Cameron.
Having acknowledged the £250 million cost of AV campaign as 'ingenius', Sunny went on to say:
If I was running the Yes campaign, I’d take plaster ads with Cameron’s face and ask Labour voters to do give him a bloody nose by over-throwing FPTP.
The timing couldn’t be more amusing – coming two days after the Yes campaign attempted to launch a Conservative Yes group. But the bigger implication is that this spells the end of the self-titled ‘anti-politics, people’s campaign’.
If the Yes campaign are now going to attack the Prime Minister, then they really have lost their way.