Saturday, 5 March 2011

The Bristol AV debate

So I have just got back from the Bristol debate, but before I stave off my hunger and get cooking I thought I'd just put a few notes down.

1) Bristol Yes was represented very well at the debate, I'd say roughly 2/3rds of the people there were Yes sympathetic, at least.

2) Billy Bragg is, of course, a great speaker and put Tory MP Chris Skidmore on the back foot more than once (reducing Chris to having to play a game of "No, you answer MY question" childishness at one point)

3) People really do get too focused on the Lib Dems and Nick Clegg...far too much time was spent making points (rather than asking questions) about the Lib Dems. This is a reform that could stretch on for decades, the Lib Dems may not be the focus in 10 years time...let's get over this short term thinking.

4) Full respect to Labour PPC in 2010, Paul Smith, for putting the balanced and common sense case on the table for Yes, highlighting just how much of those speaking for No were relying on hyperbole and half-truths.

5) A "No" campaign weakness is certainly getting them to do as Chris Skidmore tried to do and that is explain in public how Run Off voting is so fundamentally different from AV.

6) Another "No" campaign weakness is questioning them on how they're happy to accept tactical second preferences under FPTP from BNP supporters and the like, through ignorance, but wouldn't under a more transparent system that showed them how they're really supported with AV.

7) Chris Skidmore needs to stop saying majority when he means plurality.

8) The debate, organised by "No", was actually fair and impartial so I take back any criticism of it so far (though I'm sure those in Sheffield left stiffed by poor organisation still have a legitimate concern). The only point of lack of impartiality was the "independent" chair arguing with Billy over what tactical voting actually means.

9) "No" also clearly have more money to spend on shit, at least by the show of various bits and pieces at the debate. Canvas bags with logo, filled with some things I didn't bother to try and look at, three sets of leaflets on every seat, and god knows what else. Yes by contrast gave one much less glossy leaflet, some stickers and some cardboard "Yes" cutouts to hold for the picture afterwards

10) The debates still feel somewhat pointless, with people that have already decided what they want to do telling other people that aren't going to change their minds. The only good thing will, hopefully, be a fair write up in the local press including all of the groans and dissatisfaction with weak arguments put up by the "No" speakers.

11) (Should have put this higher!) More needs to be done to shut down the ridiculous argument of AV still encouraging tactical voting. Yes, tactical voting can still take place under AV in *certain circumstances*, it can also be counter-voted with other tactics that mean it's extremely risky, leading to someone you hate being voted in...hardly something you want to try to do on a whim.

EDIT 12) I can't believe I forgot this and took so long to put it here... Chris Skidmore was also pressed on, if he's so fond of FPTP, why Cameron is leader of the Tories when he came second to David Davis on first preferences. The answer was that Mr Skidmore thinks it's clear that there are many in the Tory party unhappy with Cameron. Ouch!

Now. Time for tagliatelle.

Edit2: Tagliatelle was good, walnuts not so much.


  1. Good info, thanks Lee. I hope to get to the debate at Reading on Thursday, so forewarned is forearmed.

  2. Ah, I was also at the debate and would largely concur with your assessment although I did think the chair was weak and there was a certain lack of control throughout.

    The Yes representatives missed some points they could have responded too while it was unsurprising that the "No" campaign were resoundingly negative - although they thankfully didn't make the ridiculous £250m claim!

    My housemate, who was undecided has still come away with questions though - we had our own mini debate on the way home!

  3. Yeah, I think the only thing I'd have made more clear (and Billy would have made more clear if the chair hadn't intervened at that point, rather than all the others he could have) is that Chris Skidmore is clearly happy to ignore that he gets support from people he doesn't like right now, but ignorance must be bliss for him.

    I was tempted, but didn't want to retread fresh ground, to ask if he'd be happy to increase his percentage at the next election because an opposing party didn't run and their supporters gave him votes under FPTP. I feel that sort of question will put people on the spot.

    Interesting that your friend was still undecided, I assume he's a pro-PR, anti-Lib Dem person? :p

  4. I was gutted that someone thought, after my question, that I was from the no crowd.

  5. I think it happened a couple of times, people were keen not to get caught out on the panel, especially Paul!


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