Archive | April, 2011

Yet more cats say #Yes2AV

28 Apr

Having been shown the video below

we’ve also found another cat’s take on Humans and Voting.

The humans are thinking about changing the way they elect their MPs. At the moment, they use a simple system called first past the post. Everyone has one vote, and they get to vote for who they want their MP to be. The person with the most votes wins.

That might sound simple (and sometimes I think that humans need to keep things very simple) but it does cause problems. (read the rest here)

King Taddle in the Weekly Taddlegraph


Join the Mullans in 7 days and say #Yes2AV

28 Apr

It is just seven days until the polls open and among other things we get a chance to change the way we elect our MPs. Ordinary voters all across Northern Ireland will be turning out to say Yes! people like the Mullan family from Portrush.

The Mullans preparing to say Yes! next Thursday

The Mullans may be voting in different ways on their ballot papers for the Assembly and Council elections next Thursday, but they agree on how they will vote on the AV referendum.

“We’re from different political persuasions, but we’re united in the belief that the current system needs reform.  We need to make the system to elect MPs fairer.  That is why we are supporting YES!

“At the last election, only three Northern Ireland MPs were elected on over 50% of the vote.  This means that far too many of our voices aren’t counted, something which a YES! vote will change.  It’s also easy to use, we’re already used to preferential voting here in NI, it’s as simple as 1,2,3.

“By voting YES! we will be giving ourselves a stronger voice in elections, because if your favourite doesn’t win, you can still have a say in who does – no more all or nothing.  It’s a small, progressive change which will lead to a big difference to our politics.”

Why not join with the Mullans and thousands of others in Northern Ireland and say Yes! next Thursday, 5th May. Polls are open from 7am until 10 pm.

Remember to vote in Northern Ireland you need to take your ID with you on polling day

  • A UK, Irish or EEA driving licence (photographic part)
  • A UK, Irish or EU passport
  • An electoral identity card
  • A Translink Senior SmartPass
  • A Translink 60+ SmartPass
  • A Translink War Disabled SmartPass
  • A Translink Blind Person’s SmartPass

McClarty joins growing Unionist voice for YES!

27 Apr

Londonderry East's David McClarty says YES!

Watching tonight’s UTV debate on the Alternative Vote referendum you would think that all the unionists in Northern Ireland were saying no. That is not the case as member of the both the main unionist parties are supporting the Yes! campaign.

But it is those outside the party machines who are standing up for fairness to the voters, something that is contrary to the no campaign’s claim that smaller parties and independents don’t support a move to the Alternative Vote. One of the first major unionist voices to back the Yes! campaign was Dawn Purvis who attended both our campaign launch and banner unfurling.

One of the other independent unionists from the last Assembly, East Londonderry‘s David McClarty has also added his voice to the campaign for a yes vote next Thursday. David was one of the moderates who left the Ulster Unionist party as it took a more hardline stance after the last general election, an election in which they attempted to tie themselves to the Conservative party for political gain.

David is on of the growing number of politicians in Northern Ireland who has realised that the people want fairness. When one five* in six of our MPs last May were elected with less than 50% support many voices were not heard. When the two main unionist parties attempted to stitch up a couple of seats by standing just one candidate against nationalist incumbents they showed contempt for the voters. It is something that they continue to do by saying no to the Alternative Vote.

Not one of the DUP’s MPs secured over 50% of the vote last year, indeed the three MPs with the smallest mandate were all in the DUP. For each vote David Simpson, William McCrea or Gregory Campbell received there were 2 votes against. This shows that the current system is only fair to the politicians allowing them to get elected with as little as one-third of the vote.

The Alternative Vote means that the winning candidate has to get over 50% of all the valid votes. That is a winning post that the politicians and parties cannot so easily control, that decision about who gets there lies in the preferences of individual voters. Elections will become more competitive as the candidates will have to reach out widely to gain that level of support.

Vote Yes! on the 5th May to have your say in who becomes your MP, to have your voice heard.

Remember that to vote in Northern Ireland you need to take your ID with out on polling day between 7am and 10pm.

  • A UK, Irish or EEA driving licence (photographic part)
  • A UK, Irish or EU passport
  • An electoral identity card
  • A Translink Senior SmartPass
  • A Translink 60+ SmartPass
  • A Translink War Disabled SmartPass
  • A Translink Blind Person’s SmartPass

* correction thanks to Joe Smith’s comment – nobody’s perfect.–Ed.

Showdown in the Pub – Wilson 0, Glenn 10

21 Apr

A few weeks after the botched attempt by the NO2AV campaign* to rig a debate in Belfast on the subject of the Referendum on the voting system on May 5, it might have been better for the NO campaign if Brian Wilson had stayed at home tonight as well.

Tonight was the Belfast Skeptics in the Pub – . The invited speakers were Brian Wilson for the NO2AV campaign and Stephen Glenn for the Yes to Fairer Votes campaign. The evening was ably chaired by Conor Prendergastin the Club Room of the Parlour Bar, Elmwood Avenue in Belfast.

Opening arguments from both speakers were to be about 10 minutes long. With a call of ‘heads’ from Brian and a toss of coin which showed ‘tails’, it was Stephen’s turn to speak first, followed by Brian, and then to questions from the meeting.

The two speakers could not have been more different in style. The former MLA and current North Down councillor read a speech from his notes, and then proceeded to get his notes all in a muddle. Stephen, Party conference veteran and speaker against the SNP, Labour and Tories in hustings in several elections spoke without notes, presenting some key facts, together with real arguments.

Stephen explained that last May in the Westminster election only three of our 18 MPs iwere elected with more than 50% of the vote; that 3 Northern Irish MPs only got 1out of 3 votes last May as well. Therefore 15 out of our 18 MPs were elected with a majority of voters not wanting them.
Brian Wilson agreed with this. In fact, Brian Wilson agreed with most of what Stephen said. It was hard to see exactly why Brian Wilson was speaking for the NO campaign – other than his suggestion that in Northern Ireland, AV will result in a sectarian head count. I should point out that we heard no arguments tonight propounding the benefits of the current system known as First Past the Post**.

Further facts from Stephen:

– In 1951 94% of MPs in Westminster were elected with more than 50% of the vote in their constituencies.
– Last year, in 2010, only 33.44% of MPs were elected in the same manner.

He explained that the Institute for Public Policy Research had stated that

FPTP is a system designed for an age of political tribalism which no longer exists. AV suits the electoral conditions prevalent in Britain today – particularly the shift to multi-party politics. Voters are much more promiscuous in the way they vote than in the past and AV is more adept at probing and reflecting the electorate’s political pluralism. There is clear support for AV among non-tribal voters.

from The Right Alternative: Assessing the case for the Alternative Vote

Brian Wilson presented no facts that I could discern from his rambling speech other than the fact that he was a member of the Electoral Reform Society and thought that we should vote NO at this point as AV was not really a reform that was worth campaigning for.

When asked questions about what was more important: how our politicians were elected or how they carry out the business of parliament when elected, Brian concentrated on the voting problems of those who designate as neither ‘Unionist’ nor ‘Nationalist’ in the Northern Ireland Assembly. As Stephen Glenn pointed out, the AV Referendum will not affect how MLAs are elected. It is solely on how MPs who sit in the House of Commons are elected. It seemed as though the Green Party had been taking lessons from Sinn Féin on how not to answer a question. It wasn’t quite Martin McGuinness‘s once stock answer of:

That’s not the question, the question is…

but it was coming quite close.

All in all, if the NO campaign can only muster a bumbling retired MLA as their spokesman with no clear, positive arguments for staying with the current system, I think it was clear tonight that there were more people being convinced by the well argued, well reasoned, factual points from the Yes campaign.

As I remarked on the way home, if I had debated in the style of Brian Wilson when in the Ballymena Academy Debating Society, I’d have been laughed out of the society. It really does go to show that the Assembly on the hill at Stormont has a debating style worse than school debates.

cross-posted from Gyronny Herald


* When Brian Wilson MLA (as he then was) of the Green Party failed to turn up to the NO2AV’s debate in Belfast, whilst Stephen Glenn, of the Yes to Fairer Votes campaign did turn up.

** But what post? At least in AV there is a post of 50% of the vote.

South Belfast voters are saying YES! to Fairer Votes

21 Apr
10,000 voter of the YES! campaign

South Belfast voter Andrew Liggins says YES! to Fairer Votes.

As you will see from here and other places online, the YES! campaign in Northern Ireland has been the length and breadth of the province – from Enniskillen, to Armagh, Belfast, Londonderry/Derry, Coleraine, Portrush as well as making the trip to Rathlin Island.

Today the campaign is out and about in South Belfast connecting with local voters including Andrew Liggins who said he is voting YES!

On May 5th Andrew’s MP, Alistair McDonnell who is a member of the SDLP will be voting YES as well. This will mean that in the next election he will need to get more than 50% of the vote to be elected.

If you would like to get more involved, please visit

not able to pound the streets – make a call from home

20 Apr

With millions of postal votes landing on doormats around the UK – you can make a difference to the result in the referendum by making some calls from home.

a couple of weeks to go – leaflet delivery in Belfast

20 Apr

With only a couple of weeks to go before Referendum day on May 5th, it’s a day when the local campaign will be out and about in Belfast, and will be delivering some leaflets door-to-door.

Watch out for the leaflets and remember this is a small change that will make a big difference.

Press Release: Friends of the Earth say YES! to Fairer Votes

11 Apr


Friends of the Earth Northern Ireland today officially declared their support for the YES! to Fairer Votes campaign. In the run up to the referendum on the voting system on 5th May, YES! to Fairer Votes is engaging the voluntary and charitable sectors about the importance of a YES! vote.

Speaking today in Belfast, James Orr, Northern Ireland Director said: “Friends of the Earth believe the environment is for everyone. It is a natural fit for us to
support a campaign which would make those who govern the environment be more responsive to people’s desires.”

Stephen Glenn, YES! to Fairer Votes Organiser for NI, said: “Naturally, we’re delighted to add the support of Friends of the Earth to our growing list. A YES!
vote means an end to having to vote to stop who you don’t want and allows people to express preferences for those who reflect what you actually believe. It

will force MPs to work harder and ensure every vote counts as MPs have to gain the support of 50% of the people.”


Notes to Editors:
1. Photo of James Orr, Director, Friends of the Earth NI , and Stephen Glenn, NI Organiser, Yes! to Fairer Votes is attached.

2. Yes! to Fairer Votes is registered with the Electoral Commission as the campaign for a Yes vote in the Referendum on the Voting System on May 5th.

3. The Referendum on May 5th is our one chance to change politics. The Alternative Vote will:

  • Make all MPs work harder
    Two out of three MPs won their seats when most people backed someone else. AV means all of them need to aim for support from 50% of voters to get elected. So they’ll have to work harder to earn – and keep – our support.
  • Make your vote count
    AV lets you show your support for any candidates you think are up to the job. So if our favourite doesn’t win you can still have a say – it’s as easy as 1, 2, 3…
  • Tackle the ‘Jobs for Life’ culture
    Most MPs are set for life in safe seats. It’s bred the arrogance we saw in the expenses scandal. AV forces lazy politicians to sit up and listen, and reach out to the communities they seek to represent – it makes safe seats less safe.

For interviews:

Stephen Glenn, 07585 400917

First past the post “an insult to democracy” – Kevin Maguire

6 Apr

Alternative Vote as easy as 1,2,3

Kevin Maguire the political correspondent of the Daily Mirror this morning backed the yes vote in the referendum on the 5th of May. He said:

“The Alternative Vote’s as easy as ranking candidates 1, 2, 3 and will increase people’s power ­­over politicians.

“I’m in favour because MPs will be more accountable.

“I’m in favour because MPs will have to work harder.

“I’m in favour because there’ll be fewer neglected safe seats.

“And I’m in favour because we’ll be able to vote with our hearts as well as our heads.”

This is man whose job day in, day out is amongst the MPs. He knows the ins and outs of Westminster like any other political correspondent and he says, “The old first past the post, winner takes all way we’re lumbered with is an insult to democracy. Twice the party with the most votes hasn’t formed the government.”

He says of the campaign for a no vote that they “treat people as fools when claiming they won’t understand a simple change.” This sort of approach has been insulting to people here in Northern Ireland where we do vote preferentially and do know the difference that a fair vote can have.

Don’t be taken for a fool, vote Yes! on 5th May.

Belfast Says Yes!

4 Apr
Belfast Says Yes!

Banner drop outside Belfast City Hall (Picture by Phil O'Kane: Used with Permission)

Once upon a time, not so long ago a very different message looked down on Belfast shoppers from the front of City Hall. But on Saturday local activists unveiled a different and new message to the lunchtime crowd, “Belfast says Yes!”. We also were not doing this alone over Saturday and Sunday in over 100 locations across the UK fellow activists for fairer votes were doing exactly the same.

Many stopped and took photos on their phones, taxi drivers on the rank opposite tooted their horns in agreement and many people said it was about time for people in Belfast to be positive about something.

At the last election only one of the four Belfast seats returned an MP with over 50% of the votes behind them, and he had abandoned them for a seat elsewhere. So of course the people of Belfast are wanting MPs that will work hard, reaching out beyond their core support.

Northern Ireland Organiser Stephen Glenn said:

“It was great to see the positive response from passers-by this afternoon. Belfast and Northern Irish voters understand the unfairness of First Past the Post, many of them can’t understand why we still have it for Westminster when they use their preferences to produce fair devolved and local government.

“As people were saying today it is about time people here were positive about something. It is good to see as we head into the final weeks so secure a Yes vote on 5th May.”

A Yes vote in the referendum on the 5th May will lead to hard-working MPs looking out for the concerns of their constituents as they strive to get and keep the support of over 50%. It will also do away with you, the voter, having to maybe lend your only preference to a party you may not necessarily agree with most just to stop someone else getting it. Voting yes means you can rank your candidates in order of preference for Westminster too.