09 Nov

The New Zealand electoral referendum: we analyse the values and narratives, and find the Conservatives storming ahead

New Zealand’s referendum on voting “reform” this month poses a major threat to anybody who cares about New Zealand’s democracy. Here at the Green Words Workshop we’re concerned that the progressive side is losing ground to a more emotionally and psychologically intelligent right wing. And we’ve seen this happen before. Like in Britain’s disastrously-run and heavily-defeated referendum in May , the question is essentially between a more democratic inclusive voting system (in this case “Mixed Member Proportional”) and the backward 19th century First Past the Post.

There are a number of extremely worrying signs – many of which we watched with horror in the UK referendum – that MMP’s historical lead in the polls could be reversed, with disastrous consequences that would include the decimation of the Green Party in New Zealand, the marginalisation of Maori voices, and a return to minority conservative rule.

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16 Jun

More values analysis of Britain’s Alternative Vote referendum: Lakoff’s categories of moral action

In my last post I identified the metaphors at work in George Lakoff’s two opposing morality systems of “Strict Father” (Conservative Authoritarian) morality and “Nurturant Parent” (Progressive Nurturing) morality, and applied them to Britain’s failed referendum on the Alternative Vote. This post goes further, exemplifying the way Lakoff applies those metaphors to create “categories for moral action”. This post will be of interest to anyone wishing to learn more about Lakoff or for a persuasive explanation of why the Alternative Vote failed.

In chapter nine of the book Moral Politics: how liberals and conservatives think, Lakoff lists the two sets of categories for moral (and hence political) action.

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07 May

How we might better have framed ‘Yes to fairer votes’?

Let the post-mortems begin. Because we need to know how to do much better next time. The next referendum – on PR – may be as little as 5 years away… And we should be pressing immediately for PR for the upper house, which would be a historic accomplishment.

Let’s get some obvious and crucial points out of the way first:

  • Clegg was of course an albatross around the Yes side’s neck.
  • The right-wing-press decided that it wasn’t going to tolerate AV, and that made a huge impact.
  • The No side had more money (it hasn’t declared how much more – that’s exactly how we know that it had more, because otherwise it would certainly have declared otherwise), and money buys votes in a ‘democracy’.
  • The plain lies of the No campaign and of senior Tories, and the strategy of ‘Confuse the voters as much as possible’, seem to have paid off.
  • The official Electoral Commission document that everyone received didn’t help.

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27 Apr

The No campaign is appealing to deep principles of natural justice. The Yes side list AV’s interesting features

For over half a decade now my Green communications colleagues and I have had the mantra “benefits not features” to steer us away from becoming too policy wonkish in how we communicate our positions. An example from the commercial world would be “this car has seatbelts with pretensioners and energy management” (features). Translation “it’s really safe” (benefit). A political example would be “our party is seeking to bring CO2 emissions down by 75% by the year 2050” (feature). Translation: “we’ll make sure you’re not going to die from catastrophic climate change” (benefit).

The Yes to Fairer Votes campaign however, has fallen into the trap of expressing the features that our electoral system would have under the Alternative Vote.

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02 Apr

“Make it 50” will come back to haunt the Yes to AV campaign

How do you make a slogan? It might surprise you the key rule of slogans is the public need to already like your slogan even before they’ve heard it.
Cognitively-speaking, you need to be activating an area of your audience member’s brain that is already associated with good and positive things in their mind, and then associate yourself with that.

Unfortunately, that cannot be said for “Make it 50”, the cryptic slogan unveiled today by Yes to Fairer Votes.

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29 Mar

AV is …[blank]… The Yes campaign are still missing the answer to “What is AV?”

“What is AV?” is the essential question that the official Yes to Fairer Votes campaign is not yet answering for me, and, it seems, the British public at large.

I don’t mean an explanation of how AV works. I mean the very simplest association in people’s minds of “What is AV?”.
And I don’t even mean just for the 16% of people who have never heard of it [YouGov, 9-10 Mar] or even the 37% of people who have heard of it but aren’t sure how it works.

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25 Mar

“Yes to AV” Postcards needs to be just one stream in a river of grassroots action

This post gives you the thinking behind our new Yes! Postcards site for the AV referendum. It is a longer version of an original post on Liberal Conspiracy.

When the No2AV campaign chose to lie last month about the costs of the coming referendum, Yes campaigners found there was no real arbiter of truth in British politics. Sunny Hundal’s complaint was batted back and forth between Advertising Standards and the Electoral Commission. Yes to Fairer Vote’s campaign to petition the authorities fell on deaf ears. It turns out referenda are somewhat loosely regulated, and the No campaign wasted no time in taking advantage of that.

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23 Feb

NO campaign leaving Yes to AV in the dust

I support the Yes to AV campaign for British electoral reform. My colleague here on the Green Words Workshop, Rupert Read, does too (and he’s written a couple of excellent recent pieces supporting AV here and here).

Unfortunately I’m concerned that the No campaign is leaving the Yes camp far behind, in terms of their framing, emotional appeal and general communication. The Yes camp just don’t know how to do cognitively-informed communication. The No side clearly do.
Martin Kettle rightly identifies the British people’s annoyance with politics in his Guardian piece last week “Public hostility to politics will deliver a yes to AV”.

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