Monday, July 05, 2010

The Timing of the AV Referendum

Plaid Cymru and various pro-PR organisations are getting their knickers in a twist over the fact that the AV referendum is being held on the same day as local elections and the elections to the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament.

They always have to find something to whinge about, don't they? It makes total sense to do this. Firstly, it saves money. To hold a referendum on its own would cost millions of pounds. And secondly, referendums are held in most other countries to coincide with other elections. That's certainly the case in the US, New Zealand and Switzerland. I'm not sure how they can argue that we should be any different.

UPDATE: It seems that quite a few Tory MPs have complained about this too. They need to get a life.


Tom said...

And a cynic might point out that the pro-AV'ers in Scotland and Wales would be more likely to come out in force...

Nick said...

Plaid Cymru have complained, as in fact have all the parties in the Welsh Assembly including the Tories.

Others who have complained include all the Northern Irish parties and the Scottish government, but the main complaints have been from Tory backbenchers, who had been planning to scupper the referendum through a turnout threshold and then hope for low turnout.

Bernard Jenkin just told the BBC that so many Tories opposed the date that they might actually defeat the Bill altogether. Amongst Tory backbenchers who responded to the announcement in the Commons, David Davis, Peter Bone, Gavin Barwell and Conor Burns all opposed the date.

I've not seen any pro-PR organisations doing so, though it's possible.

Either way though, the post is somewhat misleading.

Matt Oliver said...

First time I have heard David Davis and Bernard Jenkin described as pro PR!

Oliver Drew said...

...Cynics can point out almost anything Tom - cynics might point out that if the referendum was at a different time voters in Scotland and Wales would not come out to vote twice in reasonably quick succession.

Personally I'm in favour of the combined voting day. It would be foolish to have the referendum on a seperate day, costing more money and making people go out to vote multiple times.

Richard Manns said...

I'm not sure who these fabled "pro-AVers" are.

Tories are generally pro-FPTP, LibDems are pro-PR, Labour have ignored AV since AV+ in 1999 and only mentioned it again in 2009.

So what makes us sure that the average voter has an opinion on it? I'd lay odds that most think AV is proportional!

Yes, Scotland has had some experience of it, but the publicity over the thousands of invalid votes wasn't exactly positive.

p smith said...

I don't have a problem with the date but this debate is largely academic unless and until the AV referendum is stripped out and presented as a single piece of legislation and not tied to equalisation of constituencies and a reduction of MPs.

It will be hard enough getting this through the Commons but large parts of the Conservative and Labour parties are simply not going to accept a reduction of MPs and/or equalisation of constituencies. In fact I'm not sure that all Libdem MPs will be happy with it given that many of them will lose their seats in the process.

Add to that the 55% proposal which sensibly today became the 66% proposal and the prospects recede further. You simply can't cobble all this stuff together and hope to get a majority. Cameron knows this which is doubtless why he proposed it but Clegg is going to be left with nothing but his dick in his hand.

Unsworth said...

Any indication yet as to when Plaid Cymru and the various Conservative dissenters might come to some sort of consensus as to a convenient date? You know, something which fits in with their personal schedules.

If one really wanted to kick the whole process into the long grass one could do a lot worse than set up a committee to determine an appropriate date. That'd be a five year exercise in itself.

Morons, utter morons.

Daedalus said...

I would really like to know what the real pros and cons of all systems are. But I will be voting for FPTP.


Osama the Nazarene said...

Broad brush analysis on your part. Scots & PC seem to be saying that not all areas are having elections so the turn out would be differential based on whether an area is taking part in local elections.

The dinosaur Tories were hoping for a minor gerrymander (technicality) to prevent a high turnout. Hence their opposition.

Oh and the Scotch have a problem reading instructions when there is more than one election!

FX Man said...

Cameron knows what he is doing...

thelondonliberal said...

Well, perhaps the point is that those who oppose May 5th can't be explicit about why that is, because it looks so obviously self-serving. Then again, the argument that it saves money is pretty disingenuous too, if we accept that a change to the voting system is, perhaps, something worth getting right...

Stephen Glenn said...

Actually Iain what proportion or English council is up next year? Would be interesting if some crunched the number of repective votes in 2007 by party of those that bothered to vote.

May find a Tory Minority are alraedy going to the polls that day when you add in all of Scotland and Wales on a higher turnout.

Erskine May said...

Other countries that hold referendums on the same day as elections do so when there are national elections and therefore there is uniformity. The problem with holding a referendum on the same day as local elections and elections to the Scottish Parliament and National Assembly for Wales is that only some electors will be electing representatives - there will not be elections in every council in England - and therefore there is a differential incentive to vote.

Anoneumouse said...

Should votes in Parliament be based on the current first past the post or upon an AV system?

Peter said...

Lets have a very open debate about all the options including FPTP, AV, AV+ and PR with as much choice as possible on the ballot.
The timing will give the largest possible response otherwise it could end up as a damp squib.
The notion that the coalition would crumble under the strain of such as debate is nonsense.
It will be a good way of showing that both parties have a separate identity and also allow the party members ans MPs to let off a bit of steam.

Alex said...

They could save a bit by not bothering to count the votes.

ianbeag said...

Your London-centric comment takes no account of the recommendation by the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada who chaired the enquiry which followed the voting fiasco during the 2007 Scottish election when almost 150,000 voting papers were discarded. His main recommendation was that elections should be held on separate days and he also accused the Lib/Dem Govt. in Scotland of 'Partisan Political Interests' in holding the two different ballots on the same day. Are the views of the enquiry Chairman of no account when they conflict with the new 'parisan interests' of the new London coalition?

ukelect said...

My thoughts on Nick's announcement:

The Purpleline said...

They should use the money 80 milluon to hold this referendum and turn it into a complete referendum day.

1) AV
2) Scottish independence
3) Parliament for Wales
4) parliament for England
5) Relationship with EU
6) Free Trade zone with
7) Leave Afghanistan
8) Reinstate the death penalty for
certain crimes
9) Joining the Euro
10)Keeping the Monarchy

The cost would only be marginally higher, turnout would be 75-80% and we would have closure on some important issues affecting our politics for generations

The only reason to refuse a referendum on the above is fear of losing the argument by the politicians. In that case how can they represent us.

John Moss said...

They should hold it in June 2014 to coincide with the European Parliament elections when there is an election everywhere in the UK.

There would then only be the extra cost of printing ballot papers and counting them and there would be no suggestion of any "differential turnout" between areas with and without elections.

trevorsden said...

A turnout threshold would not work - it would just concentrate peoples minds and make them turn out. Are we really to believe that potential NO voters are going to stay at home in the hope of reducing the turn out? All they will do is hand victory to the YES group. What dopes.

Its amazing what rubbish is being talked about this referendum. Its happened as a result of the election, live with it.
As a tory I am happy to see the argument and let people vote. Its called Democracy and a few thick Tories and various other self serving politicians should realise that.

Another tory woman said that there might be differential turnout in areas where there were local govt elections. ha - has she seen the turn out for LG elections?

Why don't people wake up and smell the coffee. The world has turned, get to and start living in and getting the best out of it.

Those Scottish elections BTW had complex voting papers whereas the AV vote will, ironically be very simple - you will put a X against either Yes or No. So there really are no problems with holding it on the same day as the local elections.

Quite frankly I am not sure which way I will vote and I am not sure that MPS are really in touch with the public on this. I think AV is complex. I prefer a run off between the top 2 to get a 50% majority.

starfish said...

I would have thought that something as important as this merits a separate day

Cost is irrelevant, something as fundamental as a change to the way we vote for Parliament should be done properly

A proper education camapign on the issues would be good - identifying where viewpoints are swayed by party advantage. Perhaps someone from the electoral reform area could inform it?

The sort of thing the BBC use do to do, before it hitched its wagon to the left

English Pensioner said...

I don't want PR, but I do want the constituency sizes to be altered so that they are all approximately the same. However it seems that they are both going to be part of the same packet in the referendum, and I can't have one without the other.

What I do find strange that that many LibDems are moaning about the idea of coalition government and not being able to introduce all their ideas; yet they want PR.
As far as I can find out, there is no major country which has PR and which does not have a coalition government. (if there is, perhaps someone would let me know the name of the country concerned!).
If the LibDems hate coalitions, why on earth do they want PR?

Bring in PR and bring in permanent coalitions!

Indy said...

The possible danger is not that a referendum on AV will overshadow the Scottish elections.

Frankly the debate on AV is of little interest. Scots voters already elect our MSPs and councillors through proportional representation. AV is just tinkering with first past the post. It's not really PR and would make very little difference to the outcome of elections to Westminster. It could be introduced in Scotland without a referendum and very few people would care.

No, the potential danger is that it becomes a referendum on the Lib Dem and Tory coalition.

However I think that you - and your commentators - may be missing the politics of this in Scotland.

The Lib Dems and Tories north of the border are totally opposed to a referendum on independence or even on further financial powers for Scotland despite the fact that there is substantial support for both the concept and the referendum - which is not the case with AV.

So the Con Dems are going to have to do two things at once. Argue why a referendum on AV is a good thing while a referendum on extending the powers of the Scottish Parliament is a bad thing.

Makes them look a bit daft. Maybe even a bit hypocritical.

Unsworth said...

"Your London-centric comment takes no account of the recommendation by the Chief Electoral Officer of Canada who chaired the enquiry which followed the voting fiasco during the 2007 Scottish election when almost 150,000 voting papers were discarded."

There's always one, isn't there? 'London-centric'? Is this just the usual 'London-phobic' hate stuff emanating from entirely predictable quarters?

And are we really all obliged to conform with an opinion expressed by one Canadian official about the conduct of an election held in Scotland? Why are we not allowed simply to have a referendum and decide for ourselves?

Simon Gardner said...

@ English Pensioner said...
I don't want PR, but I do want the constituency sizes to be altered so that they are all approximately the same. However it seems that they are both going to be part of the same packet in the referendum, and I can't have one without the other.

Err. Nowhere has anyone remotely suggested there is going to be a PR referendum. You have invented it.

Indy said...

Nobody is saying you can't have a referendum Unsworth. But it would have been common courtesy for the London Government to have advised the devolved parliaments that they intended to hold a referendum on the same day as elections to the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly before announcing it to the press.

They didn't.

If that isn't London-centric I don't know what is.

Erskine May said...

trevorsden said...
A turnout threshold would not work - it would just concentrate peoples minds and make them turn out.

The evidence for this being...?

blemster said...

AV is a con and A COP OUT!!!
if i vote looney tunes fc!! that should be it not some bunny hugging party next fot example, Porportional should mean what its says!! why shouls any party voted for a PARTY THEY BELIEVE IS SECOND BEST?.......

Richard T said...

So British voters can't do what voters in the USA do? In most states they'll vote for the President, a Senator, a Congressman, maybe a state governor and state legislators, the odd judge, perhaps the sheriff and the school board as well as county officials. The arguments of those against holding the referendum on the same day as the Welsh and Scottish elections seem like case of finding a pretendy case to me.

Unsworth said...

So, Indy, you regard a lack of manners as 'London-centric'? Is this yet another perceived slight to add to the ever growing list of Scottish and Welsh Grudges?

Anyway, care to provide a cogent definition of that term?

Why do you feel it essential that the British (note!) Government - which just happens to be sited in London - should inform the Scottish Parliament (sited in Edinburgh, not Glasgow) and Welsh Assembly (sited in Cardiff, not Swansea) of its intentions prior to making such announcements. Indeed, do these bodies reciprocate in any way?

'London' Government my arse. If you don't want to have a British Government just don't send your MPs to London where they may vote on purely English issues, erect proper borders and declare full Independence for your region. I'd welcome the relief from the constant Celtic and Hibernian tinnitus.

Oh and while we're at it, what about Northern Ireland?

Indy said...

Unsworth I regard the fact that the London Government clearly did not even think about the fact that the devolved administrations had elections on the date they proposed for the referendum - never mind consult them - as being London-centric.

As far as they are concerned elections in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland either do not count at all or are on a par with council elections in England.

In fact they are quite different. Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland have their own council elections.

You could say so what? Why should the UK Government give two hoots about elections in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland - especially as the voters seem strangely resistant to voting Tory!

That might be a fair point (from your perspective) except that Cameron and Clegg have burbled on at length about a new "respect" agenda between Westminster and the smaller UK nations.

As many of us suspected however this has been shown to be nothing but talk. The new boss turns out to be pretty much the same as the old boss.

I do agree with you, though, that the solution is to break up the UK. The more each constituent part of the UK goes its own way the less viable the UK, as a single entity, becomes.

Unsworth said...

@ Indy

Please don't put your words into my mouth - one doesn't know where they might have been.

You repeatedly refer to a 'London' Government. Are you therefore talking about the London Assembly? Is this just a manifestation of an illogical bias against everything which emanates from outside of your perceived 'country' - despite its representation within the British assembly?

You say "the London Government clearly did not even think about the fact that the devolved administrations had elections on the date they proposed for the referendum". Do you have any real evidence for this or is it some sort of assumption on your part?

And have you managed to cobble together a definition of 'London-centric', or do you merely wish to pluck instances of suppposed slight from the air and call them all 'London-centric' whatever?

I take it that you might be in favour of the withdrawal of all MPs to their respective principalities. Well that'd suit me just fine. The naked and constant bias and prejudice against 'London' - i.e. anything which might be perceived as the south-eastern part of the United Kingdom - is pointless, fruitless and tedious.

There's a simple answer. Campaign for true independence - and if your views are echoed by sufficient numbers you may be successful. Very few will be happier at that outcome than myself.

macuser_e7 said...

The idea that holding several ballots on the same day is confusing is nonsense.

At the election in May we had in my area 3 elections - the parliamentary election, the council election and a Mayoral election.

All had slightly different mechanisms - one vote FPTP, 3 votes FPTP and sort-of-AV (1st and 2nd prefs only).

I think we managed okay. We have an MP, a council and a mayor. No-one found it especially difficult. If the people of Newham could manage, why wouldn't the people of Surrey? or Hampshire? or anywhere else?

Erskine May said...

So why exactly did the Electoral Commission recommend against holding a referendum and an election on the same day?