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28 April 2011

Why Yes2AV lags so far behind

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

By Duncan Robinson

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:

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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.