The local campaign group had a post-mortem meeting last night - which crystallised my thoughts on the electoral reform campaign and the movement in the UK. I wasn't an official part of any campaign - just a supporter of democracy who did my own thing (tweeting, blogging and leafleting), and did a bit to help the local 'yes' group (stalls).
The referendum was not lost recently, it was actually lost over the preceding decades. The self satisfied, smug 'great and good' who have been doing 'very nicely, thank you very much' out of the various reform organisation have been sitting around preening themselves and not actually doing any thing that would actually make any difference.
The yes to av activists (and maybe take back parliament) were launching from a standing start. If the established organisations behind the official yes campaign had actually ever done any 'work' over the preceding decades then the activists would have had something to build on - but they didn't. Decades of time/money/effort spent on empire building, self promotion all to absolutely no effect regarding the mission/purpose of reforming the UK electoral system.
That was before the campaign - when the campaign arrived and some groups were already getting organised and getting things done, I think there was an unfortunate sense of 'deference' to the official yes campaign when it launched - the 'great and good' at the top expected it and many activists obliged.
Then the two most stupid mistakes in the use of volunteer/activist time/effort were made by the official yes campaign.
The first stupid mistake was to adopt a US style phone campaign, set it up from scratch and try to man it with volunteers - something completely untried in the UK. And as Andy May has highlighted it actually cost more to use set this up (even using volunteers time) than it would have cost to have got a commercial organisation to do it.
The second stupid mistake was to *not* use the freepost service of leaflets to every UK household. Again volunteer time/effort was used to deliver leaflets which meant very patchy coverage and delivery at random times.
Volunteers/activists spent time doing things that could have been done more cheaply by a commercial organisation (phone bank), or FREE by royal mail (leaflet drops). This was a double whammy - every minute spent by an activist on the phone, or delivering leaflets could have been done more cheaply by others but ALSO that activists time could have been spent on *useful* work.
The first part of a solution to this is the one thing that will not happen... The problem is the people at the top of these organisations - they are simply not up to the job. They will look to change things, and get advice and reviews, but they will not do the one thing that could make a difference in future, they will not step aside and let better people take over their jobs.
I hope activists will continue to campaign for reform - but I hope they have learnt that they, as the lions, should never have (and never should again) defer to the donkeys.
My message to the donkeys - just give us the money and let us get on with it.