Why Yes2AV lags so far behind

If No to AV wins next week – as the latest <em>NS</em> poll says it will – the Yes camp will have on

I came across an extremely rare occurrence on Facebook last night: a good advert in support of the Alternative Vote. It was simple, to the point, and actually made me want to vote for AV. Look at it:

Yes2AV's only decent advert

It makes you smile and it gets across one of the main benefits of AV – that first-past-the-post often disregards the majority of people's views.

Now watch this:

Actually, don't. It is two and a half minutes of awfulness which fails to convey a single clear point why AV is preferable to FPTP. In it, a bunch of hectoring Lib Dem voters (well, they look like Lib Dem voters), goes around annoying MPs with megaphones to convey the message that AV will, err, make MPs work harder, sort of. Or something.

The success of the advert can be judged by the paltry number of views it has received – a mere 30,000 on YouTube. The "Let's AV a beer" image, meanwhile, has been seen 120,000 times on the image-sharing website Imgur alone.

So, is it any wonder that Yes2AV lags 14 points behind the No camp in the latest New Statesman/ICD poll, released today?

No to AV has run a dirty, negative campaign that has at times played very fast and loose with the facts, and has also displayed moments of extremely poor taste. It has, however, been a very effective campaign.

When I blogged about Yes2AV's flip-flopping over Benjamin Zephaniah's face on its election literature, the No press team sent over four different versions of the leaflet within seconds of me asking for it; when I tried to get pictures of No to AV's infamous "Vote No, or the baby gets it!" poster from the Yes camp, they didn't have them. No to AV made the most of every opportunity, unlike the Yes camp.

As a supporter of electoral reform, what is most frustrating about the Yes camp's failure to make an effective case is that the British people want electoral reform – or at least they did. Last summer, 78 per cent of people supported replacing FPTP with a system that "reflects more accurately the proportion of votes cast for each party". AV is not a proportional system, but it is – in my view, and as the "Let's AV a beer" poster makes clear – a fairer one. Yes2AV had a potential constituency.

The British people are willing to listen on electoral reform, but Yes2AV has wholly failed to make itself heard. If – as looks almost inevitable – Yes2AV loses next week, it will have only itself to blame.

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Commons Confidential: Fearing the Wigan warrior

An electoral clash, select committee elections as speed dating, and Ed Miliband’s political convalescence.

Members of Labour’s disconsolate majority, sitting in tight knots in the tearoom as the MP with the best maths skills calculates who will survive and who will die, based on the latest bad poll, observe that Jeremy Corbyn has never been so loyal to the party leadership. The past 13 months, one told me, have been the Islington rebel’s longest spell without voting against Labour. The MP was contradicted by a colleague who argued that, in voting against Trident renewal, Corbyn had defied party policy. There is Labour chatter that an early general election would be a mercy killing if it put the party out of its misery and removed Corbyn next year. In 2020, it is judged, defeat will be inevitable.

The next London mayoral contest is scheduled for the same date as a 2020 election: 7 May. Sadiq Khan’s people whisper that when they mentioned the clash to ministers, they were assured it won’t happen. They are uncertain whether this indicates that the mayoral contest will be moved, or that there will be an early general election. Intriguing.

An unguarded retort from the peer Jim O’Neill seems to confirm that a dispute over the so-called Northern Powerhouse triggered his walkout from the Treasury last month. O’Neill, a fanboy of George Osborne and a former Goldman Sachs chief economist, gave no reason when he quit Theresa May’s government and resigned the Tory whip in the Lords. He joined the dots publicly when the Resolution Foundation’s director, Torsten Bell, queried the northern project. “Are you related to the PM?” shot back the Mancunian O’Neill. It’s the way he tells ’em.

Talk has quietened in Westminster Labour ranks of a formal challenge to Corbyn since this year’s attempt backfired, but the Tories fear Lisa Nandy, should the leader fall under a solar-powered ecotruck selling recycled organic knitwear.

The Wigan warrior is enjoying favourable reviews for her forensic examination of the troubled inquiry into historic child sex abuse. After Nandy put May on the spot, the Tory three-piece suit Alec Shelbrooke was overheard muttering: “I hope she never runs for leader.” Anna Soubry and Nicky Morgan, the Thelma and Louise of Tory opposition to Mayhem, were observed nodding in agreement.

Select committee elections are like speed dating. “Who are you?” inquired Labour’s Kevan Jones (Granite Central)of a stranger seeking his vote. She explained that she was Victoria Borwick, the Tory MP for Kensington, but that didn’t help. “This is the first time you’ve spoken to me,” Jones continued, “so the answer’s no.” The aloof Borwick lost, by the way.

Ed Miliband is joining Labour’s relaunched Tribune Group of MPs to continue his political convalescence. Next stop: the shadow cabinet?

Kevin Maguire is Associate Editor (Politics) on the Daily Mirror and author of our Commons Confidential column on the high politics and low life in Westminster. An award-winning journalist, he is in frequent demand on television and radio and co-authored a book on great parliamentary scandals. He was formerly Chief Reporter on the Guardian and Labour Correspondent on the Daily Telegraph.

This article first appeared in the 27 October 2016 issue of the New Statesman, American Rage