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What Made AV Sink: A Reflection

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TEHRAN, May 8 (ICANA) – Polls showed right up to the New Year that the public felt the need for a change in Britain's electoral system, yet the alternative vote was lost in the referendum; why did that happen?
Sunday, May 08, 2011 7:53:50 PM
What Made AV Sink: A Reflection

The plummeting fortunes of AV can be attributed to several factors which turned the system from one going neck and neck with the current First Past the Post (FPTP) system back in August 2010 to taking a comfortable lead late last year to the loser it came to be this month.

The high profile mudslinging of the No to AV campaign led by Conservatives was certainly a major problem for the reformists.

AV opponents billed the new system as one with huge costs which could cut the money off the essential channels including soldiers fighting abroad and babies in need of urgent specialist treatment.

The “dirty” campaign by Conservatives left its impact on the public while also pushing other unfavorable factors more strongly before the voters' eyes.

One problem was that AV reformist both in Liberal Democrat and Labour camps failed to persuade the public that a change to the AV was “needed” in Britain that could partly prepare them for the “possible” costs Tories were saying will be imposed on the tax payers.

Even worse they failed to communicate what AV meant to allow taxpayers proceed to the next level and decide whether they wanted it or not.

The public were inclined to believe they would be better off with AV but that feeling started to fade away with Conservatives campaigns focusing on the complexity of the new system.

Indeed, the electoral commission did make the system appear more complicated than it was when it published the leaflets explaining the two alternatives people should have voted on.

The leaflets put the FPTP in a few sentences but it went into pages resorting to diagrams and graphics just to explain what AV meant.

Against such a backdrop, the Yes to fairer vote campaign failed to get their message through to the people and simply tell them what they were seeking to reform and why it was essential and “fairer.”

Conservatives did however simply tell people that the new system was unfair as it gave every single member of the population more than one vote effectively giving the votes of someone who had chosen just one candidate less credit than someone who had filled the ballot paper with different preferences.

Even worse than failing to explain their own system, the AV supporters failed to explain what was the problem they were going to fix and how exactly FPTP did not deliver the voters' intention.

What was more, the reformists did not even inspire confidence in the public by an integrated and solid campaigning which could suggest at least their representatives knew what they were offering.

The Lib Dems falling popularity could certainly damage the AV while Labour was not strong enough in its support for the reforms to persuade the public.

Labour failed to support the reforms unanimously so the party's inner fighting weakened the AV front with some of its senior figures including John Reid and David Blunkett defecting to back the No campaign.

Labour also failed to communicate the fact that AV was not a Lib Dem thing and had to be assessed separately from the Lib Dems' other intended reforms which turned out to be hollow promises.

Indeed, AV became a victim of the mistrust of the Lib Dems over their failed promises on the universities tuition fees, health and welfare and Lib Dem Energy Secretary Chris Huhne's cabinet showdown with Prime Minister David Cameron further strengthened the sense that AV was a Lib Dem issue.

The No campaign identified that weak point very shrewdly as they introduced Lib Dem leader Nick Clegg as the focal point of the reforms, a link which could help Conservative-led anti-AV campaigners use Clegg as a hate figure to attract criticisms to AV.

Reformists lacked such a hate figure and AV sank with Liberal Democrats, when they staged their most disastrous polls performance in the local council elections in England and local parliament votes elsewhere across Britain. (Press TV)

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