Thursday, June 02, 2011

James Graham on why the AV referendum was lost

The new Liberator has been sent to subscribers and you can find one of the articles from the issue on the magazine's website. It is "My ‘yes’ campaign hell" by James Graham, an account of his experiences of working for the unsuccessful side in the AV referendum.

Some extracts:
Research was not merely not commissioned; it was ignored. Our initial focus group work clearly showed that people were contemptuous of the idea that electoral reform would prevent corruption; people only approved of notions such as AV “making MPs work harder” in the context of them having to reach out beyond their core party support during elections. Despite this advice, the campaign repeatedly sought to conflate the two. Similarly, the advice we got from veterans of the 2004 North East referendum was that celebrities were of limited value. Despite this, we ran a campaign that was obsessed not merely with celebrities but with ones who appealed only to the educated middle classes.

This is the only office I’ve ever worked in where the female staff felt it necessary to hold regular ‘ladies lunches’ in the interests of mutual support. The initial attempt to get the campaign to entrench the principles of “respect, empower, include” into the way it treated staff and volunteers was openly mocked and disparaged by members of the senior team. In the commercial sector, this would be seen as evidence of highly aberrant behaviour, yet the situation was left to fester.

A lot of Liberal Democrats have been calling loudly for John Sharkey to be held accountable in some way for the campaign’s numerous failures, and it has to be said that the buck did stop with him – at his insistence. He certainly does need to address his critics’ points.

All of which proves that you should subscribe to Liberator.


John minard said...

the most obvious campaigning message would have been: 'make the post 50% - say yes to AV'!

Anonymous said...

Sorry, John Minard; I'm into the issue and I had to think about that to understand it!

Anonymous said...

John Minard, this party supports PR, not AV. Under PR it is possible to be elected on thresholds much lower than 50%. For example, it takes less than 10% support to be elected from one of the Scottish parliament's regional lists. Since we support PR why would we want to argue for making the post 50%?

dreamingspire said...

Nice to know that my puzzlement about the Yes campaign was becaue it really was a mess. But I'm wary of comparisons with Scotland, because the population of Scotland is only just over 5 million - I think that its easier to communicate with, and engender a sense of community in, that number than with the 50 million in England.

I'm told that the French have strong regional assemblies (similar population to us, about 3 times the land area). But we made a great mess of trying to do that... Francis Maude MP (Cabinet Office Minister) recently said that we are a very centralised country... So to some extent the AV referendum may have tested the water here, but I think that we have a lot more work to do on engagement with the citizenry before they will trust government to change the electoral system.