Wednesday, March 02, 2011

AV Referendum: why you should vote NO

Theodora Clarke is the London Youth Organiser for the cross-party NO to AV campaign.

There are less than ten weeks to go until the referendum on a change to the voting system for Westminster Parliamentary elections. On May 5th the public will be asked whether they wish to replace the current system of First Past the Post with the 'Alternative Vote' (AV).

Only last week the Prime Minister spoke out against the dangers inherent in replacing our current, tried and tested voting system with one that was “unfair, expensive and discredited". AV, he said, "allows candidates who finish third to steal elections".

So first of all what is it? Under AV the voters get to rank candidates in order of preference and anyone getting more than 50 per cent in the first round is elected. If that doesn't happen, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and their second choices are allocated to the remaining candidates. If no candidate at the second stage has a majority of votes, the next lowest candidate is eliminated and their votes are redistributed. This process keeps on occurring until a winner emerges.

What this means is that if you vote for a fringe party who gets knocked out, your other preferences will be counted. In other words, you get another bite of the cherry. However, if you vote for a mainstream candidate who is top of the ballot in the first round, your other preferences will never be counted.

This would cause election results to be based on passive approval rather than active acceptance. As the PM says, it would lead to "a parliament of second choices".

The Liberal Democrats demanded this referendum as part of the Coalition agreement - but the Conservative Party are actively campaigning for a 'No' vote. It is not clear that the Liberal Democrats even want this change. Just two weeks before the last election, Nick Clegg dismissed AV as a “miserable little compromise”.

Connor Burns MP (Bournemouth West) has joined the campaign just this week as a spokesman. Here are his reasons for voting NO to AV:

“Under First Past the Post, a winning party can implement the manifesto on which they were returned without recourse to backroom deals, leading to programmes never endorsed at the ballot box. The Alternative Vote is the compromise that no one genuinely wants. Britain is better by sticking to a system that we know, we trust and that works."

David Cameron said this is a referendum that will determine Britain's future. A Yes vote would be bad for democracy, politics and accountability.
I would like to appeal to all CWO members to vote no in the referendum and to lend their support to the campaign. Together, we can win this referendum and save our voting system.
Without your help, Britain's traditional voting system could be ditched for something that is unfair, expensive and allows candidates that finish third to win elections.


  • AV is unfair. With First Past the Post, everybody gets one vote. But under AV, supporters of extreme parties like the BNP would get their vote counted many times, while other people's vote would only be counted once.

  • AV doesn't work. Rather than the candidate with the most votes winning, the person who finishes third could be declared the winner.

  • AV is expensive. Calculating the results is a long, complicated process, which would cost the taxpayer millions.

  • No-one wants AV. Even the 'Yes' campaigners don't actually want AV - they see it as a convenient stepping stone to yet more changes to how we vote.


  • Go to the No to AV website and sign up to receive emails

  • Ask your local Conservative Association how you can help their campaign against AV

  • Join the NO to AV group on Facebook or follow them on Twitter

David Cameron explains why he is voting NO to AV

Graduate Recruitment - Report from the Forum

On February 15th the CWO along with Conservative Future (CF) held a successful Forum on "Graduate Recruitment" in Committee Room 5 of the House of Commons. A panel of four speakers including Andrew Stephenson MP, two recruiters from leading UK firms and a current student led the discussion.

More than fifty members of the public attended to hear the difficulties that young people face in the jobs' market today. The panel discussed the problems that graduates face in an increasingly difficult market where there are nearly 70 applicants for every job. During 2010 one in five students left university without a job as graduate unemployment soared to its highest level since the mid-90s.

Official figures published January 2011 showed 20% of ex-students were without work in the third quarter of 2010, with graduate unemployment increasing faster than the jobless rate among the UK as a whole. The Office of National Statistics' data suggests graduates have been hit harder by the economic downturn than the UK as a whole. These recent shocking statistics were the impetus being CWO and CF joining forces to discuss the pressing issue of graduate recruitment.

Pauline Lucas, CWO Chairman, welcomed everyone to the evening on behalf of the CWO and explained to those attending, that the Forums were established to give women the opportunity to debate topical subjects and challenging issues that affect women and their families every day.

Serene Richards, a current student at UCL spoke of the challenges she faced in finding a job and the gruelling application process. She spoke of a new generation of disillusioned graduates who believed that having a degree entitled them to a job. Many graduates, she said, found this to be false when after leaving university they struggled to find employment. Ms. Richards raised the question of the importance of internships and said that the reality was that many students could not afford to do unpaid work experience to climb the jobs' ladder.

The next speaker was Lucy Chamberlain, recruiter and director at Angela Mortimer Plc. She spoke of the increasingly competitive marketplace for graduates. Academic achievements, she suggested, were no longer enough with only 5% of CVs getting through to the interview stage. Ms. Chamberlain argued that graduates needed to learn to market themselves more effectively to employers and learn to use recruiters to find them a job.

Another headhunter, Tim King, the founder of Matchking, highlighted the importance of networking and online media. Many firms advertise opportunities online and use social networking sites to recruit and select candidates such as Linkedin. Mr King stressed the need for a professional online profile and the importance of a CV. Too many graduates, he said, had basic spelling mistakes in their CVs and failed to target their applications to the job or firm.

Finally, Andrew Stephenson, the Member of Parliament for Pendle and Vice Chairman of Conservative Future, spoke on the challenges facing graduates today. He explained that the Government was working hard to help get young people into jobs with schemes such as mentoring and the Job Centre Plus. He talked about his own experiences and difficulties in finding work that people face in his own constituency. He recommended that graduates should consider other paths to employment such as setting up your own business and called on those present to become the next generation of young entrepreneurs.

It was a lively discussion with contributions from current students, recent graduates, employers, parents, careers advisors and recruiters. Questions from the floor included concerns about the lack of careers guidance at schools and universities. There was a general consensus about the importance of work experience and the need to develop skills in addition to having a degree. The audience voiced concerns about the lack of opportunities for graduates and debated whose responsibility it was to tackle youth unemployment.

After an energetic discussion Pauline thanked everyone for participating and the speakers for their valuable contributions.

[You can read the complete minutes on the CWO Website at

Theodora Clarke, February 2011