This is a press release just released by the No2AV campaign.
(1) Nick Clegg has described the No campaign as "death rattle of a right-wing elite, a right-wing clique who want to keep things the way they are." But the NO to AV campaign is now supported by 130 Labour MPs – including 6 members of the Shadow Cabinet – as well as two thirds of Labour peers and nearly 1,000 Labour councillors. By contrast the Yes campaign has only 86 declared Labour MPs (see: LabourList running total).
(2) Nick Clegg has repeated his claim that the only parties backing a No vote are the Conservatives, the BNP and the Communist Party. This is untrue. The Ulster Unionists, the DUP, the Green Party of Northern Ireland and the independent Jury Team are all campaigning for a ‘No’ vote too – along with many people of no party affiliation. Moreover, the BNP want to get rid of our current First Past the Post voting system and replace it with proportional representation – much like the Liberal Democrats and the Electoral Reform Society.
(3) This morning on the Andrew Marr show Simon Hughes held up a copy of a NO to AV leaflet and described the £250 million cost of AV figure as ‘lies’ and threatened to report the No campaign to the Electoral Commission. However the Yes campaign leaflets have their own disputed claims, which Hughes and Clegg refuse to acknowledge as being false. In all Yes to AV literature, they claim that AV would stop safe seats and would have prevented the expenses scandal. However, independent research by the Political Studies Association shows that AV would have little or no effect on safe seats and a study by the website FullFact.org showed that there was no correlation between how safe a seat is and the likelihood of its MP to have abused his or her expenses.
(4) Paddy Ashdown said it was ‘bizarre’ for the Chancellor of the Exchequer to claim there is something dodgy about the Electoral Reform Society donating cash to a campaign in favour of electoral reform (The Observer, 17 April). But this is deliberately missing the point. Of course there’s nothing surprising about an electoral reform group supporting a Yes vote; what the Chancellor was highlighting was the strong financial interest the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) have in a switch to AV. Their wholly-owned subsidiary, Electoral Reform Services Ltd. (ERSL), gets paid millions of pounds to assist in the running of elections across the UK, and stands to make more money if there is a switch to AV. This has been backed up by a leaked ERS ‘risk assessment’ document which shows that the ERS themselves are concerned about the prospect of people making the link between their campaigning and business opportunities. This says:
‘The ERS is the principal donor of the YES campaign, itself reliant on significant cash advances from its sister company ERSL … It is possible that ERSL will profit as a result of a YES vote (increased business opportunities)’.
(5) The Yes campaign and Paddy Ashdown have repeatedly claimed that AV was used to elect David Cameron as leader of the Conservative Party. The Conservatives do not use AV for their leadership elections. Conservative MPs vote using the‘Exhaustive Ballot’ system – a series of separate run-off rounds, a crucial distinction which allows them to know who has been eliminated at each stage, and which candidates remain. MPs can only vote for one candidate, and vote using an ‘X’. The final round is a First Past the Post vote of all party members, who again vote for one candidate using an ‘X’. (Nor do the Labour Party use AV as it is being proposed in this referendum: they use an electoral college system, where union members, party members, and MPs each cast separate ranked ballots.)
(6) Paddy Ashdown claimed the No campaign haven’t put forward a single positive case for FPTP. He said: ‘those running the no campaign haven't once put forward a positive case for the current system and instead have spent their time lying about AV’ (The Observer, 17 April). This is nonsense. To give just two examples, there is a whole section on the No to AV website called ‘Why our current system is better than AV’ ; and the No Campaign’s first major leaflet had a whole column on ‘Why our current system works’. What’s more, anyone who listened to David Cameron’s speech with John Reid on 18 April would have heard a passionate defence of the principle of One Person, One Vote.
(7) Paddy Ashdown claimed the No campaign haven’t declared their donors. He said: ‘all of this is done by the no camp while they refuse fully to disclose their own donors!’ (BBC News 24, 17 April). But the NO to AV Campaign disclosed the names and details of its donors on 4 April, even though the law does not require this until after the referendum. As the listdemonstrates, the No campaign have over 40 different donors who have given over £7,500 – compared with just 8 on the Yes campaign; with two donors – the Electoral Reform Society and Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust – donating £1 million each to Yes to AV.
(8) Chris Huhne called Sayeeda Warsi ‘Goebbels-like’. ‘If Baroness Warsi thinks that AV will benefit fascism she has to explain why the BNP wants to stick with what we have … This is another example of the increasingly Goebbels-like campaign from the anti-AV people’ (The Guardian, 30 March 2011).
(9) Simon Hughes today repeated the assertion that AV would not help the BNP and, on Monday, Paddy Ashdown claimed that extremists have been elected through First Past the Post in Britain. He said: ‘Such extremist parties as have, God help us, been elected in Britain, were elected through FPTP’. Lord Ashdown seems to have forgotten that we have two BNP Members of the European Parliament – including the party’s leader Nick Griffin – elected under the D’Hondt system of proportional representation, whereas no BNP candidate has ever been elected to the House of Commons under the current system.
(10) The Yes Campaign ‘airbrushed’ black poet Benjamin Zephaniah from literature distributed outside London. In London, they sent out leaflets that featured the black poet alongside five white celebrities. However, on otherwise identical leaflets sent out to Sussex, Cornwall and elsewhere, Zephaniah was replaced by Blackadder star Tony Robinson. (Sunday Telegraph, 3 April 2011). The Yes mailing was also sent out in a plain envelope marked: ‘Private and Confidential. Important papers enclosed’ – leading many voters to think it contained important material from their council or returning officer. Both the Yes and No to AV campaigns are entitled to send every elector a free mailing ahead of the referendum. The Yes campaign chose to design theirs as an official-looking letter enclosing a postal vote application form – but it was riddled with errors and misleading elements which have caused confusion and distress, and meant greater costs and burdens on local councils.