Wednesday, December 01, 2010

Yes to Fairer Votes start ambitious phone calling effort -how you can help make history

With just over 5 months left until polling day in the referendum on the Alternative Vote system, the Yes campaign are launching what they describe as the most ambitious voter contact operation in British political history. They want to speak to more people than all of the political parties did during the last election.

That's an awful lot of people, so it's a big ask for a grassroots campaign, dependent on enough volunteers putting in time and effort. With the interest shown so far, though, Yes To Fairer Votes are sure it can be done.

This Saturday sees the launch of the first 50 phone banks across the UK. They will be open 6 days a week, staffed by volunteers who are giving up just an hour or two a month to make calls, so even if you have elections, as we do up here. In fact, it's even more important that this operation gets off the ground quickly here.

Even better, if you don't live near a major town or city, come the middle of December, you'll be able to call from home via the virtual phone bank. I know this is sad, but I actually love canvassing online. I loved the E-Canvass software from a few years ago, and I completely fell in love with the system Ros Scott used when she was elected President. It was so easy to use and it was great to just sit with laptop on my knee, on the sofa, with cup of Earl Grey at my side calling voters. All the information you need is on the screen in front of you and they give you a script so you know what to say.

The beauty of this is that everyone who believes in the Yes to Fairer Votes cause can take part whether they live in the Shetland Isles or the centre of London. Already 140,000 people have signed up to help.

AV might not have been my first choice of electoral system, but it is an important step forward. It means that voters can be sure that their MP will have the support of half of local people. MPs will therefore have to get out of their comfort zones and give a good account of themselves across their constituencies. At the moment, under First Past the Post, it's possible for an MP, with the support of around 20% of those entitled to vote, to basically have a job for life. AV will make it much harder for an MP to take their constituents for granted. It may only be a small change to the political system, but it will make a big change to the political culture.

The No Campaign has shedloads of money representing powerful vested interests who don't want to give ordinary people more power in the political system. The Obama Campaign 2 years ago showed that these reactionary forces can be defeated when confronted with a strong grassroots network You can sign up here to volunteer. Why not give it a go?

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