A fair bit has gone on this weekend for our positive side of the voting reform referendum debate, both nationally & locally; firstly, members of our local Fairer Votes group were out again campaigning in Birmingham city centre on Saturday, gathering new supporters & many positive responses with our stall & leafleting efforts during the early-mid afternoon. As well as some of us ‘regular’ leafletters, it was great to be joined by some new volunteers who helped the afternoon be a success. On top of this an extra boost was given by the growing number of people who now know a bit more about the forthcoming referendum & were coming straight up to our stall to state their support, ask more questions & agree that changing our current broken First Past the Post system is certainly needed!
Taking on the themes of “Out with the old, In with the new” (for the new year) & “cleaning up politics” from ideas generated by the national campaign, our stall also featured some of the dafter & more random items highlighted in claims by MPs during the expenses scandal, & to be fair, the collection of a rubber duck, bottle of “Mr Muscle”, a toilet seat & a teddy bear did draw the attention of quite a few passers-by. I do wonder whether some of them thought we were featuring some sort of extremely low-rent version of the conveyor belt game from “The Generation Game”, though!
The referendum & debate on whether to stick with FPTP or adopt the Alternative Vote was also covered by the West Midlands edition of BBC1’s Politics Show this Sunday lunchtime (16th January). Not only did it feature BBC Midlands Political Editor Patrick Burns discussing the issue with both the chairman of the Westminster Electoral Reform Group & Birmingham Northfield MP, Richard Burden (Labour) & Daniel Kawczynski MP (Conservative, Shrewsbury & Atcham- also chairman of a cross-party group to defend FPTP), it also featured some snippets of public opinion (both for & a bit against), & interesting interviews with both of the 2 main contenders in the 2002 Stoke-on-Trent Mayoral election which was ran using a similar system to AV- not only is the winning independent candidate from that contest very much in favour of reform, the losing Labour representative is also a strong advocate of AV too!
Overall the coverage was pretty even-handed, which is to be expected from the BBC, but my initial thoughts afterwards were that much of what Daniel Kawczynski MP & other strongly pro-FPTP & ‘No to AV’ people involved argued could be boiled down simply to a mixture of “I don’t like this referendum because I think it’s expensive”, “I don’t like change”, “I/we do ok from the current system so I don’t want change”, & the highly & deliberately misleading “some voters get multiple votes with AV” which Kawczynski trotted out a couple of times even though Richard Burden rebuked this blatant lie very well indeed, even pointing out that Kawczynski himself will have happily used an AV-style of vote himself when electing the leader of the Conservatives back 2005!
You can catch up with the show on BBC iPlayer here (the relevant part is about 30 mins in).
Also this weekend, a ComRes poll for the Sunday Mirror & Independent On Sunday puts the Yes campaign 6 points ahead of the No to AV campaign, with a sizeable number of people undecided (Yes – 36%, No – 30%, Don’t Know – 34%).
But, as the ComRes research shows-
“A further question suggests that the Yes vote could increase: I could be persuaded to support changing the voting system in the forthcoming referendum in May when I have heard more about the arguments for and against
Don’t know: 21%
Among people who don’t know how they would vote in the referendum question above, 60% agree that they could be persuaded to vote ‘yes’ and only 7% disagree. If we add these potential supporters of AV to those who already do agree, the Yes vote climbs to 58%, assuming the No vote remains at 27%, and don’t knows decline to 15%.”
This poll comes after a few others recently & forms a mildly heartening if rather mixed bag of indications of the public mood towards the voting reform debate; while YouGov still put the No campaign ahead, both ICM & Angus Reid have published polls that broadly agree with the ComRes findings & put a Yes vote in the lead. As the website PoliticalBetting.com points out, the only polling company that doesn’t feature the actual wording of the question that will feature on ballot papers is YouGov, who instead feature a long preamble that mentions the Tory-Lib Dem coalition at the start & attempts to explain AV too. While it’s always good to explain the systems, I think it’s a tad disingenuous the way certain parties are mentioned, as changing our voting system isn’t just about certain political parties & the actual question then gets lost in amongst all the party-political battles. It also makes me wonder how many of those asked were put off, switched off or got annoyed at how long the YouGov question was!?! Mike Smithson of PolitcalBetting.com tends to think the wording of the referendum question itself tends to help the Yes vote more than No, but by the time we get to vote virtually all of those taking part will be much better informed than they are now so they should be able to make up their own minds!
You can read the article on PoliticalBetting.com here.