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The No To AV campaign had a good week in Birmingham

By Tim Montgomerie

Here's five reasons why:

(1) David Cameron made it very clear that he will personally campaign for a 'no' victory. There had been some suggestion that he might stay above the fray. He told activists in the National Convention on Sunday that "we can win the argument" and in his main speech on Wednesday he said: "I don't want to change the electoral system any more than you do." Interviewed for ConservativeHome he went further:

"I think the argument for the First Past The Post system is strong and I will be making that argument. I think the No campaign has a strong argument: the Labour leadership election was not exactly a great advert for Alternative Vote - you end up with your second choice."

(2) The rest of the Cabinet were also clear in their condemnation of the Alternative Vote. William Hague told Conference on Monday that “As Labour have discovered, under the alternative vote system, one candidate gets more votes and a different candidate wins. No wonder Ed Miliband is in favour of it" and Sayeeda Warsi opened Conference on Sunday with "I will fight against AV in the planned referendum campaign because I believe it is the wrong voting system for our country".

(3) The CCHQ machinery is also taking the referendum campaign very seriously -- there were four well-attended briefing sessions in the Party's training theatres to explain how the campaign will fit in with the campaigns for next year's local elections and the elections in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

(4) But it's clear that the 'No' campaign can rely on a strong, independent and well-organized group -- which it needs to be in order to get more than 50% of voters to vote 'no' next year. Matthew Elliott and Charlotte Vere have clearly been busy over the summer and the cross-party NO2AV campaign was out in force: they had a well-attended fringe event on Tuesday morning and their 'NO2AV' stickers were the 'must-have' accessory of the 2010 conference, sported by activists and Cabinet Ministers alike.

(5) The 'Yes' campaign won't be able to caricature the 'No' side as conservative dinosaurs -- some of the Party's most radical reformers, like Douglas Carswell and Dan Hannan, made it very clear that they see AV as a fig leaf, not a step in the right direction. Both urged a 'no' vote at a Conservative Action for Electoral Reform (CAER) fringe event, arguing that we need real reforms like the power of recall, citizens' initiatives and true open primaries if we want to change our politics for the better.


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