Freesteel Blog » We need a brain transplant not propaganda from the Taxfiddler’s Alliance

We need a brain transplant not propaganda from the Taxfiddler’s Alliance

Saturday, March 12th, 2011 at 5:37 pm Written by:

As you would expect from the background of the NoToAV campaign director, Matthew Elliott of the Taxpayers’ Alliance, it’s going to be about shameless misrepresentations of costs in order to distract attention away from any of the substantive advantages.

Oliver Wright of the Independent spotted these discrepancies last month, but the ads are still going up.

I’m going to refer directly to the source document put out by the NoToAV campaign.

As usual this claim is elaborated as though the money is actually being withdrawn from the public services — which it is not:

Here is how the figure is added up:

So let’s take this in parts.

Cost 1: £82million for running the AV referendum itself

This is cited in their document in the following way:

Here is the complete statement by Mark Harper, Parliamentary Secretary for Political and Constitutional Reform, that was somehow cut short.

Mark Harper (Forest of Dean, Conservative): Many of the cost elements of running the proposed referendum on the alternative vote system will be similar to those for a general election. The previous Government estimated the cost for conduct elements of the 2010 general election in Great Britain at £82.1 million, Hansard, 30 March 2010, column 1079W.

Based on this, and our modelling for the 2009 European and 2010 general elections, it can be estimated that the cost of conduct elements for the proposed referendum will be similar.

We have made initial assumptions about the conduct costs of a referendum were it not to be combined with any other polls and on that basis we currently estimate a saving of £17 million on the conduct costs of the referendum through combination.

Guess what? The referendum is being combined with the local elections poll on May 5!!! And everyone knew it.

Mr Harper refers, for the number in his statement, to a written answer by Michael Wills, Minister of State for Justice, last year:

Michael Wills (Minister of State, Ministry of Justice; North Swindon, Labour)

The Government have now made the Parliamentary Elections (Returning Officers’ Charges) Order 2010. From the information set out in that order it can be estimated that in Great Britain if the forthcoming general election is held on 6 May 2010 and therefore combined with other elections to be held on that day, the cost of the conduct of the poll would be £82.1 million; if it is held at any other time, the cost of the conduct of the poll would be £89.6 million.

We have not carried out a detailed assessment of the possible cost of conducting a general election under the alternative vote system. However, the features of a general election using the alternative vote system would broadly be the same as under the existing system: for example, in terms of the provision of ballot papers and polling stations. The count process might take longer in some cases, where no candidate wins outright on the first round; however, recounts may already extend the time taken to count under the existing system.

In other words, here is the allowed budget for the 2010 general election, no one has worked out a budget for the referendum, and we don’t really see any reason for it to cost much more to run an election based on AV other than the chance of a slightly longer counting process in some places.

Right, that’s the end of the story.

We can go home now.

Cost 2: £9million the cost of voter education ahead of the referendum

Here is the complete answer from the minister:

Gary Streeter (South West Devon, Conservative)

The Electoral Commission informs me that the Cabinet Office is currently developing cost estimates for the running of a national referendum.

The Commission further informs me that the estimated cost of its own activities would be approximately £9.3 million. This includes the costs of its activities in fulfilling its statutory responsibilities and of making grants of public money, up to a maximum of £600,000 each, available to the designated organisations appointed as lead campaigners for each of the referendum outcomes.

Right, that was last July. Obviously the Taxpayers’ Alliance guru would be interested checking out from the Cabinet Office how far they have got with their estimates, rather than manufacturing false figures.

Or maybe not. I’ll tell you, with this kind of disinformation freely spread around like this, we’re not getting enough voter education to counter it.

Somehow it is seen as a healthy sign that public money is prevented being used to counteract political propaganda, so as to allow it to get its goodness into our hearts.

Cost 3: £90-120million the cost of electronic vote counting necessitated by AV

This figure might not be inflated, owing the the fiasco that has resulted from most electronic counting system procurement. To get it right it would need to be implemented a bit at a time by evolution, maybe applied in one city for a couple of election cycles till it proves itself before being rolled out nationally. Perhaps it should be using infrastructure, such as the National Lottery terminals.

Whatever happens, it’s not going to be brought in for the next general election, and there are no plans for it to be. Here is the only justification for it:

How “traditional” is this anyway? Since the invention of the telephone? Back in 1826 a General Election could be run over a period of one month. Traditions change.

That footnote 7 links to a footnote from the Report on the Financial Memorandum of the Local Governance (Scotland) Bill 2004, referring to Gupta, Col 735, Official report, 16 December 2003.

After a bit of effort I have located the verbal statement here:

We also state in our submission that we anticipate that an STV count would take about four times as long as the first-past-the-post count takes. That is based on the experience in Northern Ireland. We compared the first-past-the-post system for elections to Westminster with the STV system, which members will be aware takes between one and a half and two days. That is another considerable on-cost.

Ah, he is referring to a written submission made in December 2003 when the Scottish Parliament was deliberating changing to a Single Transferrable Vote

Guess what? The plan is for Alternative Vote, not Single Transferable Vote.

And anyway, since the Scots adopted STV for their 2007 election, why not have a look at how long it took to count in reality, than this obscure four years before estimate, eh?

Turns out they used electronic counting. I haven’t got time to look into that any more.

But I do have time to check out the procedure in Australia, which is actually available and relevant because it’s AV and done by hand — and not some obscure statement about a different electoral system before the fact.

When the polls close at 6pm on election day, the votes are counted. The count is conducted by officers of the Australian Electoral Commission, watched by nominated volunteer observers from the political parties, called scrutineers, who are entitled to observe the whole voting process from the opening of the booth. The votes from each polling booth in the electorate are tallied at the office of the returning officer for the electorate. If one of the candidates has more than 50% of the vote, then they are declared elected.

And what does happen at a decisive Australian election?

At 8.00pm, the first personality to call the election was former Labor leader Bob Hawke on Sky News. At 10.29pm AEST, approximately two hours after the last polls in Western Australia closed, Liberal deputy leader Peter Costello conceded that the Coalition had lost government. At 10.36pm, John Howard delivered a speech at the Sofitel Wentworth Hotel in Sydney to concede defeat. At 11.05pm, Kevin Rudd delivered his victory speech.

But why bother looking at relevant information when you can gin up some non-applicable statement to produce an inflated number to splash across the ads and misinform people?

That’s perfectly okay

Apparently it’s perfectly legal too and there is no one to complain to.

Which means that when a well-funded propaganda machine is in full-throttle deliberately lying to the electorate, there is nothing at all we can do.

And that is the state of affairs that these politicians think is perfectly okay and happy.


  • 1. Car Rental Headland replies at 22nd March 2011, 4:13 am :

    it is a nice post

  • 2. &raq&hellip replies at 4th April 2011, 10:14 am :

    […] okay to knowingly publish false information in a political message to win votes, but what you cannot do is defame someone in […]

  • 3. Rick replies at 11th April 2011, 11:10 pm :

    thanks for this post, good information

  • 4. &raq&hellip replies at 14th April 2011, 11:45 am :

    […] covered this claim in detail in my blog last month, and it was already exposed as false during a press conference in February where the […]

  • 5. &raq&hellip replies at 6th May 2011, 12:10 pm :

    […] the Alternative Vote referendum was a brief ray of hope before it was buried under a land-fill of lies — not helped by the mind-blowing incompetence of the Yes campaign whose organizers and […]

  • 6. Freesteel&hellip replies at 8th May 2011, 9:38 pm :

    […] the Alternative Vote referendum was a brief ray of hope before it was buried under a land-fill of lies — not helped by the mind-blowing incompetence of the Yes campaign whose organizers and […]

  • 7. Freesteel&hellip replies at 12th November 2011, 12:27 pm :

    […] this is like any of the other Taxpayer alliance projects I have looked into, the information Mr Sinclair would have so eloquently obtained would have been […]

  • 8. Freesteel&hellip replies at 29th November 2011, 1:17 pm :

    […] with. It was so bad it seriously looked like sabotage. Meanwhile, the No Campaign could pump out more and more lies to its heart’s content, knowing there was no […]

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