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On Honesty

by ceebs Tue Apr 19th, 2011 at 08:11:05 PM EST

The other Day, Dr John Reid stood on stage with David Cameron and in the middle of his speech made an utterly false claim. Now that may be par for the course with politicians, especially during the current AV debate where honesty has been particularly lacking, but for once it was provably false.

Here's an excerpt from what he said

Labour Peer John Reid No to AV Speech in Full « Vote NO To AV

They say every MP would have majority support under AV. Again, not true. This could only happen if you made it compulsory for voters to mark a preference against every name on the ballot paper. And even then someone might be elected who was the first choice of only one in four voters.

They say it would increase turnout.

But when AV was introduced in Australia turnout fell sharply, and they ended up making voting compulsory.

Is that what we want - compulsory AV? Do we really think people want to waste their time in polling booths pondering whether the Monster Raving Loony Party deserves their sixth or their seventh preference?

 Now apart from the patronising superior attitude displayed "We know whats best for you so don't worry your little heads with all that thinking" there are two major flaws,  According to Antony Green the Australian broadcasters tame psephologist

Antony Green's Election Blog: Turnout at Australian Elections 1901-1925

Last month I published a post (at this link) where I dealt with the claim that the introduction of preferential voting in Australia caused a decline in turnout which led to the introduction of compulsory voting.

As I outlined at that post, this new theory has only recently emerged from the United Kingdom's referendum campaign, eight decades after the event. The theory has no backing in the Australia historic record or political science literature and is completely absent as an explanation of compulsory voting in any Australian source.

So firstly Turnout didn't fall sharply after AV was brought in (In fact it didn't fall at all) and as that didn't happen it can't have been the cause for the introduction of compulsory voting.

Now I have looked at complaining about false claims in elections before. Any electoral broadcast is not covered by the advertising standards authorities in the UK for a year before an election, as they "do not wish to interfere in the political process". How this can possibly work in a system where a prime minister can call an election basically whenever they wish, apart from as an excuse from the advertising authorities to abdicate any authority over what politicians are saying isn't entirely clear to me. All approaches to them end with them saying that the best approach would be to contact the Electoral commission.

So I wrote to the Electoral commission and said

During the last several weeks we have seen  lackluster campaigns from both sides in the AV referendum, however the No campaign has been putting forward arguments which are at times Factually incorrect.  Dr John Reid has claimed that it is a fact that AV in Australia reduced the number of voters which caused the Australian government to bring in mandatory voting. Both of the details of this purported fact are untrue. As this is an argument that will scare voters with false information, can he be forced to publicly withdraw this claim?

Today I get this reply

The Commission does not regulate political advertising. Campaign publicity material is subject to a number of requirements under electoral law and is also subject to the normal civil and criminal law relating to published material.  For example, no campaign publicity material may resemble a poll card or contain a false statement about the personal character or conduct of a candidate. Candidates can make any statement about politics or another candidate's or party's policies, but they need to be aware that campaign publications are subject to the general civil and criminal law. They must not contain statements or comments that constitute libel otherwise they could be liable to serious legal action. Statements or comments that incite violence and/or hatred would also leave them liable to criminal action.

We would recommend that you complain to the party in the first instance, but if it is believed that an offence has been committed and you are prepared to substantiate this allegation through a written statement, this should be brought to the attention of the police. Reporting allegations to the police should not be considered unless the complaint is substantiated by evidence and you are prepared to make a written statement.

So you can say whatever you like, true or false, unless you libel another candidate, looks like the law is there for them and not us. Now that is hardly a surprise, but it does look like a typical sending from department to department exercise, while being fobbed off at each stage. Think I will have to read through all the appropriate regulations and make sure im not being misinformed.

One good thing this referendum will do regardless of the outcome is provide a reasonably comprehensive list of NewLabour apparatchiks, for use in future purges of wannabe-Tories from the Labour Party.

- Jake

Friends come and go. Enemies accumulate.

by JakeS (JangoSierra 'at' gmail 'dot' com) on Tue Apr 19th, 2011 at 08:57:31 PM EST
I don't know for sure, but is there a country where politicians' claims during an electoral campaign are subject to official scrutiny?

Logically, it's the Yes campaign that should be nailing this "Australian" falsehood and seizing the opportunity to show Reid up for a liar (above all, make a fuss about it so the media have to cover it). But that would be to suppose that the Yessers are rapid-response-capable. Otherwise, in today's wonderful world of communications™, it doesn't matter. Once the meme is out there, it will be believed by a majority and will reliably pollute the "debate".


by afew (afew(a in a circle)eurotrib_dot_com) on Wed Apr 20th, 2011 at 03:42:53 AM EST
But that would be to suppose that the Yessers are rapid-response-capable....

...and are actually committed to a Yes victory on AV. Are they in fact so committed?

"It is not necessary to have hope in order to persevere."
by ARGeezer (ARGeezer a in a circle eurotrib daught com) on Wed Apr 20th, 2011 at 05:55:19 AM EST
if they were cynical the Labourites could sit it out, a No vote is definitely to their medium-term advantage. Bigger majority at the next election.

In the longer term, AV would be a better bet for Labour, because it gives them a buffer against the return of a Tory government, once the Libs stop being radioactive (what's their half-life? At least one parliamentary term?)

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II

by eurogreen on Wed Apr 20th, 2011 at 07:11:42 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Well im sure its something with a half-life, I know quite a few people who will still not vote for them under any circumstance, as they are partly made up of the SDP who split from Labour in the early 80's and so in their eyes betrayed the country to Thatcher

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Apr 20th, 2011 at 07:45:49 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Not to speak of the current coalition.

Economics is politics by other means
by Migeru (migeru at eurotrib dot com) on Wed Apr 20th, 2011 at 08:35:32 AM EST
[ Parent ]
That number will have increased dramatically now that they've repeated history and betrayed the Left for Cameron's benefit.

My guess is that unless Clegg offers free unicorns and ponies for everyone before the next election, the LD vote will split between the MPs who will continue to follow the party line, the LD Left who will jump ship en masse to Labour, and the LD right who will drift towards the Tories on the UKIP.

The big win for Labour in the next election will be a split between the soft Tories and the hardcore headbangers, who will be moving towards the UKIP and whatever other Euro-hating racist things crawl out from under a rock by then.

Labour don't need AV to win, but AV is pretty much guaranteed to strengthen the effects of that split. So I think it's in their interests to support it.

As for Reid - let's just say it's not a surprise to see him lying to help undermine a progressive policy again.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Wed Apr 20th, 2011 at 08:53:08 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Does the UK have no laws against this kind of hate-mongering against Australians?

Sweden's finest (and perhaps only) collaborative, leftist e-newspaper Synapze.se
by A swedish kind of death on Wed Apr 20th, 2011 at 07:27:00 AM EST
No. Australians are explicitly excluded from the hate-speech law. And rightly so.

It is rightly acknowledged that people of faith have no monopoly of virtue - Queen Elizabeth II
by eurogreen on Wed Apr 20th, 2011 at 11:57:20 AM EST
[ Parent ]
The whole country would end up in Jail after the ashes otherwise

Any idiot can face a crisis - it's day to day living that wears you out.
by ceebs (ceebs (at) eurotrib (dot) com) on Wed Apr 20th, 2011 at 12:18:02 PM EST
[ Parent ]
So that´s why they really hate the Irish after we beat them at cricket, or rugby, or whatever...

Index of Frank's Diaries
by Frank Schnittger (mail Frankschnittger at hot male dotty communists) on Fri Apr 22nd, 2011 at 05:27:48 AM EST
[ Parent ]
As are New Zealanders excluded from Australian hate language laws...
by asdf on Sat Apr 23rd, 2011 at 10:09:13 AM EST
[ Parent ]
No need to exclude the pommies from Ozzie hate language laws, no one'd bring the charge.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.
by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Apr 24th, 2011 at 12:30:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]
From the very, very little I've seen of the campaign (I hardly watch TV), I've been appalled.
Namely, two titles in the free press when taking the tube.

Cameron "vote with your guts and repeal AV". OK, so we are now officially proclaiming intestinal thought. How very illuminating.

Hague "AV is decidedly non-British".

Oh come on, THAT is what you come up with?

Earth provides enough to satisfy every man's need, but not every man's greed. Gandhi

by Cyrille (cyrillev domain yahoo.fr) on Fri Apr 22nd, 2011 at 03:01:07 AM EST
It's working, though.

As I said - the pro-No swing is enough to make me wonder how many of my fellow voters have managed to attain the robust sentience of a potato.

by ThatBritGuy (thatbritguy (at) googlemail.com) on Fri Apr 22nd, 2011 at 06:18:18 AM EST
[ Parent ]
Boiled potato, or living potato in the ground?

Lots of the electorate somewhere in between there.

I've been accused of being a Marxist, yet while Harpo's my favourite, it's Groucho I'm always quoting. Odd, that.

by BruceMcF (agila61 at netscape dot net) on Sun Apr 24th, 2011 at 12:31:17 AM EST
[ Parent ]

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