Who won the digital war? #YestoAV #NotoAV

Labour grandee Lord Mandelson, a keen supporter of electoral reform, told the BBC: “It is going to be a very decisive No vote against changing the electoral system to AV.

“I think that’s very disappointing, but I’m equally entirely unsurprised by it. Nobody could have foreseen the extent to which the whole vote over the last 24 hours has become a referendum on the Liberal Democrats in general and Nick Clegg in particular.

“We paid a big price for combining the AV referendum with the first elections to be held following the general election last year.”

Lord Mandelson was critical of the handling of the Yes campaign: “The ground work was not done for this referendum. I think that the public felt the thing had come out of the blue as the result of some arrangement between the coalition partners and they didn’t see why AV was such a big deal.

“I don’t think they felt AV was the solution to many of the problems they feel are in our political system.”

The Independent.

When the history of the AV referendum campaign comes to be written, much ink will be spilled about the different messages and strategies of the Yes and No teams.

But for those interested in the digital war, it’s been a fascinating, real-time example of just how to use – and not use – the internet.

I’ve talked to both campaign teams and it’s worth giving a small snapshot of what’s been happening online. In a nutshell, Yes for Fairer Votes seemed more of a field-based collective, No2AV were more of a traditional political party.

As the #NotoAV campaign looks set to win

Whatever the result and despite the vitriol, both sides have a lot of respect for the different ways they engaged with the voters and their supporters. All three main political parties will be itching to get a full debrief at some point from both Yes and No.

Ultimately, as in any election, the campaigns may have been secondary to the core political messages on offer. You can have all the fancy social engagement and advert blitzes in the world, but it won’t mean a thing if the punters don’t like your policies.

Yet in a way, despite the expected low turnout, both Yes and No camps generated significant followings. Whatever view you take of the merits of AV, it would be a real shame if all this activism just came to a sudden halt.

The Waugh Room, Politics Home

See also, The Guardian: 10 reasons why the AV vote was lost.


Who speaks for historians? #YestoAV

Twenty-five historians, coordinated by Conservative MP Chris Skidmore, have written to the Times, claiming that AV would be a betrayal of the sacrifice of past generations of democracy campaigners. But claiming to speak for the dead on a referendum they never contemplated seems to us a betrayal of academic standards that we as historians hold dear.

They claim to speak for historians, indeed for history, in defending FPTP. But as on any such serious political question, historians are as divided as the population at large. The notion that “History teaches us to vote ‘No to AV’”, as the Times headline put it, or that it gives any such clear lesson on the rightful configuration of the voting system again leads us to question the signatories’ scholarly acumen in supporting this petition.

Invoking the spirit of Winston Churchill on account of his 1931 objection to AV is a cheap bid for public resonance and bad use of historic example. His opposition to votes for women and to the introduction of direct elections in India make him a poor guide to future voting systems.

It is misleading to claim that under AV one citizen’s vote could be “worth six times that of another”. Instant run-off voting, of which AV is a form, retains the equal vote which the signatories of the Times letter fear is under threat. Further research would have shown that its compatibility with the principle of voter equality has already been tested in court in the US, where it was found that “no voter is given greater weight in his or her vote over the vote of another voter”.

Simon Szreter
Pat Thane
Daniel-Joseph MacArthur-Seal