Leading article: A dishonest campaign that deserves to lose

It displays a staggering cynicism for the No campaign on voting reform to rely on confected figures

Share
Related Topics

The organisation making the case for a No vote in May's referendum on voting reform has launched a series of adverts that are desperate and cynical in equal measure. These adverts focus on the supposed cost of the transition to the Alternative Vote system. The campaign asserts that the bill would be £250m and that "our country can't afford it".

Yet that figure is entirely spurious. It apparently includes the £82m that will be spent on the referendum regardless of the outcome and £130m for the purchase of electronic vote-counting machines. The problem with this line of argument is that no new vote-counting machines will, in fact, be needed. Votes would continue to be counted by hand, as they are at present. It displays a staggering disregard for honesty for the No campaign to rely so heavily on this confected figure.

Just as shameless is the implication of the No camp's adverts that a No vote will mean more money for public services. Voting no would apparently mean, according to the campaign's adverts, a state loan for the Forgemasters steel plant in Sheffield, flakjackets for our soldiers, and, most emotively of all, cardiac equipment for sick babies.

Even if one were to accept the No camp's figures for the transition costs to AV, it is disingenuous of them to suggest that these public goods would be safeguarded by a No vote. Some members of the Labour old guard such as David Blunkett and Margaret Beckett have lined up in the No camp (despite Labour backing a move to AV in its election manifesto last year). But Conservatives MPs are the dominant supporters of the No camp in Parliament. And Conservatives are also the strongest supporters of the Coalition's drastic public spending cuts.

The hypocrisy is not confined to elected politicians. The chief of the No campaign, Matthew Elliot, is the former head of the right-wing pressure group the Taxpayers' Alliance. It is ironic, to put it mildly, to see such a figure now posing as a protector of public spending.

Two other arguments have been deployed by the No campaign. It argues that AV makes elections "unfair" because the candidate who comes third can "steal" the election. It would be technically possible for a candidate who comes third in first preferences to prevail, but it would not be common. And this argument ignores the glaring injustices in the first-past-the-post system, such as the fact that though Labour and the Conservatives combined only managed to attract two-thirds of the votes in the general election last year, they ended up with almost 90 per cent of the seats in the House of Commons.

The No campaign also argues that AV will lead to more hung parliaments. Yet the example of AV in Australia plainly contradicts that. And as our own history attests, first-past-the-post can be just as capable of delivering inconclusive election results. There are serious arguments that the No camp could have put forward against AV, such as that it is not a proportional system, or that it can have the effect of enhancing a single party's Commons representation after landslide victories. It could have pointed out that many seats would still remain uncompetitive under AV. These arguments are hardly overwhelming, but at least they do not mislead people.

Instead the No campaign has chosen fear-mongering and deception. They appear to subscribe to the view that no one ever lost a campaign by underestimating the intelligence of the public. They always deserved to lose because of the weakness of their argument. Now they deserve to lose, too, because of the dishonesty of their campaign.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Key Accounts Administrator - Fixed Term

£13500 - £14500 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An exciting new opportunity has...

h2 Recruit Ltd: Business Development Manager - Business Services-£70,000 OTE

£35000 - £45000 per annum + OTE £70,000 + car + pension: h2 Recruit Ltd: A wel...

Recruitment Genius: Service Receptionist / Warranty Administrator

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Due to expansion the Largest Independent Motor...

Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML, CSS, SQL

£39000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Senior PHP Developer - OOP, Javascript, HTML,...

Day In a Page

Read Next
File: David Cameron offers a toast during a State Dinner in his honour March 14, 2012  

I saw the immigration lies a mile off - and now nobody can deny it

Nigel Farage
The Uber app allows passengers to hail a taxi with a smartphone  

Who wouldn’t like a sharing economy? Well, me, for one

Mary Dejevsky
Homeless Veterans Christmas Appeal: ‘We give them hope. They come to us when no one else can help’

Christmas Appeal

Meet the charity giving homeless veterans hope – and who they turn to when no one else can help
Should doctors and patients learn to plan humane, happier endings rather than trying to prolong life?

Is it always right to try to prolong life?

Most of us would prefer to die in our own beds, with our families beside us. But, as a GP, Margaret McCartney sees too many end their days in a medicalised battle
Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night - is that what it takes for women to get to the top?

What does it take for women to get to the top?

Thomas Cook's outgoing boss Harriet Green got by on four hours sleep a night and told women they had to do more if they wanted to get on
Christmas jumper craze: Inside the UK factory behind this year's multicultural must-have

Knitting pretty: British Christmas Jumpers

Simmy Richman visits Jack Masters, the company behind this year's multicultural must-have
French chefs have launched a campaign to end violence in kitchens - should British restaurants follow suit?

French chefs campaign against bullying

A group of top chefs signed a manifesto against violence in kitchens following the sacking of a chef at a Paris restaurant for scalding his kitchen assistant with a white-hot spoon
Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour War and Peace on New Year's Day as Controller warns of cuts

Just what you need on a New Year hangover...

Radio 4 to broadcast 10-hour adaptation of War and Peace on first day of 2015
Cuba set to stage its first US musical in 50 years

Cuba to stage first US musical in 50 years

Claire Allfree finds out if the new production of Rent will hit the right note in Havana
Christmas 2014: 10 best educational toys

Learn and play: 10 best educational toys

Of course you want them to have fun, but even better if they can learn at the same time
Paul Scholes column: I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season

Paul Scholes column

I like Brendan Rodgers as a manager but Liverpool seem to be going backwards not forwards this season
Lewis Moody column: Stuart Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

Lewis Moody: Lancaster has made all the right calls – now England must deliver

So what must the red-rose do differently? They have to take the points on offer 
Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

Cameron, Miliband and Clegg join forces for Homeless Veterans campaign

It's in all our interests to look after servicemen and women who fall on hard times, say party leaders
Millionaire Sol Campbell wades into wealthy backlash against Labour's mansion tax

Sol Campbell cries foul at Labour's mansion tax

The former England defender joins Myleene Klass, Griff Rhys Jones and Melvyn Bragg in criticising proposals
Nicolas Sarkozy returns: The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?

Sarkozy returns

The ex-President is preparing to fight for the leadership of France's main opposition party – but will he win big enough?
Is the criticism of Ed Miliband a coded form of anti-Semitism?

Is the criticism of Miliband anti-Semitic?

Attacks on the Labour leader have coalesced around a sense that he is different, weird, a man apart. But is the criticism more sinister?
Ouija boards are the must-have gift this Christmas, fuelled by a schlock horror film

Ouija boards are the must-have festive gift

Simon Usborne explores the appeal - and mysteries - of a century-old parlour game