No to AV needs to keep the fight for voters clean.Not my words, but those of the Channel 4 FactCheck blog when dissecting the ridiculous claims by the No 2 AV campaign that the introduction of AV would require the purchase of costly voting machines. Central to Channel 4's evidence was that of an Australian who confirmed that Australia manages perfectly well without e-counting.
Presumably the no campaign are putting their mud out early in the hope that some of it sticks in people's minds, or are repeated as fact by lazy journalists for the duration of the campaign.
The No Campaign ads are pretty disgraceful. Emotive pictures of sick babies and soldiers have been appearing in papers and online up and down the country with the slogan that "He needs a maternity unit/bulletproof vest and not a new voting system." It's interesting, though, that the No Campaign's representative on Earth, Labour MP Tom Harris, didn't use the arguments in these ads when he debated the issue with Malcolm Bruce last night on Politics Now shown up in Scotland. It's one thing for these papers to appear in the media, quite another for people to stake their personal credibility on them.
However, I have reservations about the Yes to Fairer Votes Campaign's decision to ask the Advertising Standards Authority to intervene. Previous dealings with the ASA have convinced me that it's pretty toothless and extremely timid. A refusal by the ASA to get involved is bound to give the No Campaign an excuse to crow.
My particular gripe with the ASA came over a photoshoot Katie Price did for OK magazine (reported here in the Guardian) not long after her daughter was born. Despite extremely strict rules regarding the advertising of infant formula, Miss Price was shown on several pages feeding her baby out of a branded bottle of infant formula. Some of the next pages contained full page advertisements for the same brand of follow on formula (which to my mind is an invention of the Prince of Darkness designed primarily to get around the International Code on the Marketing of Breast Milk Substitutes anyway). I and many of my friends complained to the ASA, who sent a very bland, non committal reply and did nothing. If the ASA won't take on an issue where the law is fairly tight, they aren't going to risk intervening in a political campaign where the law is more vague.
The Yes campaign wants people to sign this letter to the ASA. I'm not going to, because I think it could ultimately be counter productive because I have no confidence in that organisation. However, that's just me. Charles Kennedy thinks differently - an e-mail came in from him today saying this:
Over recent days No2AV have published a series of ads in local papers that can be described as distasteful at best, shocking and outrageous at worst.
The premise behind the ads is that the country can't afford the alternative voting system. That by saying Yes to AV, voters will be taking £250 million away from sick babies in need of care, or soldiers in need of armour.
I say this kind of behaviour shows exactly why the UK can't afford to say no to AV.
It's clear that the No campaign don't have the integrity to regulate themselves, but this is our once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to change politics in the UK. We mustn't let the country get distracted by the No campaign's cheap tricks.
Yes to Fairer Votes are calling on the Advertising Standards Authority to issue guidance on this campaign - and fast. Please add your name today.http://www.yestofairervotes.org/cosign-ASA
This debate must centre on the future of politics in the UK, re-engaging voters and giving a voice to people, this is too important to be sidelined by petty backbiting and cynical campaigning.
UK voters are entitled to decent, honest and truthful advertising campaigns - these adverts fail on every count. Join us in calling for the ASA to step in today, so that we can get on with the debate the country deserves.
We can't waste this opportunity.
I won't go into a strop if you listen to him instead of me - but I wouldn't be confident that it will get the desired response, even though the Yes Campaign's argument is pretty watertight.
And if you haven't discovered it yet, go and have a play on Argh to AV. It's truly genius and lots of fun.