Eddie Izzard – saying Yes2AV all over Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter

Within an hour or so at landing at Belfast City Airport on the latest stop in his non-stop campaign schedule, Eddie Izzard had been greeted by Dawn Purvis (who’s in favour of AV), had a look inside the Black Box, given a pep talk to runners in tomorrow’s Belfast Marathon, met leading politicians from local parties supporting AV and retired to Malmaison for a purple (non-alcoholic) cocktail … as well as spontaneously canvassing numerous passers – even the receptionist at the Malmaison – about the merits of voting Yes to AV on Thursday 5th May.

Asked why he was supporting the switch to Alternative Vote, Izzard replied:

I think it’s a fairer system … I think it’s going to make MPs work harder for us … MPs will not only talk to their core campaign support but they’ll have to talk around it and get second choice votes, I think that’s better.

Northern Ireland voters are used to voting 1,2,3 in STV elections. But voter turnout is potentially a growing problem. Could AV do anything for engagement?

There’re a lot of people around the UK who feel this is a safe seat and I disagree with the politics of the person sitting in this seat so I’m not even going to bother voting. This gives them more of a chance.

At nearly all stages, a purple “Yes” speech bubble appeared behind the comic’s head. If there was a prize for maximising the number of purple-themed photo-opportunities within an hour, the Yes2AV campaign might be looking more hopeful than they are in the upcoming referendum.

Has anyone seen a fish?

Eddie Izzard giving some of tomorrow's marathon runners a quick pep talk

Representatives from local parties supporting AV meeting Eddie Izzard

Malmaison barman pouring a purple cocktail for Eddie Izzard #Yes2AV

Eddie Izzard sipping a purple cocktail in Malmaison #Yes2AV

Feel free to suggest captions for the photo immediately below. I’ll start with

“AV seeks to release the political roadblock?”


“Building a new style of politics?”

Eddie Izzard attempting to release political roadblock by backing Yes2AV campaign?
At one point, Alex Huston – 17 year old election agent campaign director for 18 year old independent Assembly candidate Stephen Stewart in East Belfast – interrupted proceedings to challenge Izzard about the downsides of AV. However, I think it’s fair to say the comic was under-impressed with the pinstriped youth’s argument.

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  • I’m a big fan of Eddie Izzard and would align with most of his political leanings. He’s wrong on this though and he’s peddling the same lazy and incorrect line that the Yes campaign have been pushing – that AV will somehow make politicians work harder.

  • Stephen Blacker

    Super to see Eddie calling over to Northern Ireland to seek a fairer system of selecting an MP. There is nothing wrong with your MP having to represent at least 50% + 1 share of the voting public. I will be voting for AV and I also have a proxy vote so I will be voting for it twice.

  • Steve, you have no way of knowing that that isn’t what we already have. AV provides enhanced validation but it also has the potential to create a winner who didn’t have the most first and second prefs. Is that a fair system?

  • The Word

    AV is a compromise to save face for the Lib Dems, who were really looking for PR.

    The notion of wanting politicians to work harder, when the reality is that they get very little free time, is fraught with difficulties. I don’t want them to work harder, but to do their best. That means quality rather than quantity.

    This AV system is predicted to lead to very little change in the ultimate result. So why bother to save face for the heathens that let my people die with green grass on their lips? They stand condemned by their own irrelevance.

  • Life imitates Art.
    Eddie Izzard on Alternative Voting is like something Alan Partridge would have thought up.
    But why not?
    Celebrities know everything.
    Bill Bailey on Baboons. Stephen Fry on America. Eddie Izzard on Alternative Voting.
    I am a big fan. I could probably have pretended to vote Yes to get Eddie Izzards autograph.
    At least Eddie Izzard is not the kinda celebrity to be airbrushed out of a “Yes to AV” photograph. That only happens to black folks.

    One small point of information. Alex Huston (17) is NOT Stephen Stewarts Election Agent. According to the EONI Mr Stewart is his own Agent.

  • FJH – apologies, he signs himself “campaign director”

  • Cynic2

    love the 3rd photo down – 3 comedians in a row

  • I wont hold it against you Alan

  • Ed AV allows people to vote with their heart as well as their head.

    In a sample re-run of the Fermanagh and South Tyrone election that the Yes to Fairer Team ran in Fermanagh in November, we found that the leading two candidates had benefitted greatly from tactical voting. In the end one of the two who were within 4 votes of each other didn’t make the final runoff as they were unable to gain any further support and one of the other parties who had performed poorly in the two headed nature of the contest was popular enough to challenge. If they were more representative of the people than a candidate that chose to make up the publics mind for them that is surely a good thing for the people.

    Our MPs are meant to represent the people. If they therefore best represent the opinions of over 50% of them that surely is good for democracy.

  • Stephen, I’m not disagreeing with any of what you have said. Do you conceed the points I raised? It’s possible under AV for a candidate who secured the most 1st and 2nd prefs to still not be elected. It’s also slightly misleading to say that MP’s who currently were elected with less than 50% are unfairly elected. It’s more than likely that they would still be elected under AV and that it just makes the verdict even more valid.

    I’m for full PR and I’m not a fan of stepping stone legislation, which if you’re honest is exactly what this is.

    Someone said quite correctly that the question shouldn’t have been whether we need AV or FPTP but whether we should retain FPTP at all.

    Hope I haven’t just lost your vote on Thursday!

  • Mick Fealty


    I would agree with you on the ‘work harder’ thing, up to a point. It may make MPs work harder, but my question is will be working harder at the right things? Here’s what the great Irish parliamentarian, Edmund Burke, had to say on the matter:

    “…it ought to be the happiness and glory of a representative to live in the strictest union, the closest correspondence, and the most unreserved communication with his constituents.

    “Their wishes ought to have great weight with him; their opinion, high respect; their business, unremitted attention. It is his duty to sacrifice his repose, his pleasures, his satisfactions, to theirs; and above all, ever, and in all cases, to prefer their interest to his own.

    “But his unbiassed opinion, his mature judgment, his enlightened conscience, he ought not to sacrifice to you, to any man, or to any set of men living. These he does not derive from your pleasure; no, nor from the law and the constitution. They are a trust from Providence, for the abuse of which he is deeply answerable.

    “Your representative owes you, not his industry only, but his judgment; and he betrays, instead of serving you, if he sacrifices it to your opinion.”

    I don’t say AV will effect the radical (and largely destructive) changes that STV would wreak… And in fact, I can quite see that a change in the voting system might be better than the masterly inactivity involved in leaving it alone.

    But we should be wary of anything that ties MPs up in obligatory casework that takes them away from the critical act of lawmaking.

  • Stephen Blacker


    I think it is a fairer system, the winner would have the biggest support from the voting public in their constituency. In the main 50%+1, of course it is mathematically possible to end up with someone winning with less than 50% but that is highly unlikely but it would be because the candidates were very strong or weak.

    Maybe the YES campaign got it a bit wrong saying MP’s would work harder but they would have to appeal to more people and that would possibly take more effort. The fairness is that the winner will have the knowledge they talk for the majority of voters in their area and I believe that is a good idea.

  • Mick,

    One of the many arguments put over by the Yes campaign is that it will make politicians reach out to ensure they appeal to the majority.

    I, like, Burke, see fault with this. I want a politician to form his policies and then go to the electorate and convince them to endorse those policies. What I don’t want is a politician who adjusts his policies (and principles) in order to get elected.

    The campaign on both sides has been really poor. Some very bad arguments made and an absolutely shocking amount of nonsensical analogies provided. The Yes campaign criticise the No campaign for saying AV is too complex and then helpfully provide us with simplified analogies thus proving the No campaigns point!

  • Cynic2

    Wow its so great to see Eddie Izzard spending the day here focusing on our local campaign on such an important issue.

    Except he didn’t. Here’s the BBC Wales refernce to his campaign there on the same day


    Indeed forgive my cynicism but all the ‘events’ on his schedule were planned within a 5 min taxi ride from City Airport so can anyone tell just just how long he stayed here for? Come on guys.

    The yes to AV campaign are all for openness and transparency aren’t they. So what is the answer? A whole day? Half a day? Three hours? Just enough tome for the photocalls and then back on the jet?

  • Zig70

    part of me wants to vote for av for the possibility of an SF/DUP/SNP/Welsh coalition running the english parliament. But most of me is just too bored with such a nerdy issue. Is it just me or has slugger got less interesting with the election? Did I miss the east Antrim thread?

  • lover not a fighter

    I want my vote to have as much say as possible and I want the politicians to know that and to take account of it.

    The number of safe seats with the FPTP system is a disgrace. Politicians in cushy seats with pensions and perks to go with it. Do you really believe that these politicians are going to give you more than lip service if you bring an issue to them.

    I will be voting yes to AV (admittedly I would prefer PR but that is not an option this time)

    Arrogant and dislocated politicians just have to be brought up close and personal with their electorates and that is certainly not the case in a large number of seats with FPTP !

  • Cynic2

    Alan In Belfast

    Can you answer my question above? Just how long did Eddie grace us with his presence for? I now see in The Times today that he was in Bristol on the same day (as well as Cardiff). I also see the hagiography piece in today’s Bel Tel about how his time as a child in NI was the best time of his childhood. Yeah, right.

    I have no problem with Campaigning but I dislike being sold something that isn’t true. So come on. What time did Eddie arrive in Belfast? What time did he leave?

  • separatesix

    I can’t understand Sinn Fein getting involved in the “yes to av” campaign, after all they want absolutely nothing to do with Great Britain and refuse to take their Westminster seats, av will effect British voters in the future why are Sinn Fein interfering in that? or is it just for their own selfish insular agenda.

  • Cynic,

    A quick look at Twitter has Dawn Purvis waiting on him arriving at George Best at 4pm and Eddie Izzard tweeting that he was on the plane ready to fly back at 7.25pm.

  • Reader

    Cynic2: I also see the hagiography piece in today’s Bel Tel about how his time as a child in NI was the best time of his childhood. Yeah, right.
    He would have left when he was 5 I suppose, and his mother was still alive at the time, but not for much longer. So it was probably true.

  • Cynic2

    So with travel to / from airport and check in / arrival time he was here for what? About 60 – 90 minutes tops? Wow. We are soooooooooooo grateful that he spared us the time and all to sprinkle a little stardust on Davy Ford’s head.

    What a complete con, Alan in Belfast. Some commitment to the Yes to AV campaign in Northern Ireland that was.

    I have little interest in this campaign and my own views on the referendum but I detest the shameless way they have tried to manipulate this

  • Cynic2


    “He would have left when he was 5 I suppose”

    Can you remember your childhood between say 3 and 5? I know I cant.

  • Wasted Ballot

    I’m a massive Eddie Izzard fan.. but standing with Gerry Kelly? Just wrong.

  • Reader

    Cynic2: Can you remember your childhood between say 3 and 5? I know I cant.
    I found his recollections of his time in Ashford Drive – they matched my recollections perfectly well. Perhaps he was fed those recollections by his slightly older brother.

  • Spotted the Hill Street Blues Brothers [jpg] on the internet.

  • Cynic2 – you’d want to pose all these questions to the Yes2AV campaign who organised the Izzard appearance in Belfast rather than to me – who as a blogger just got an invite to pop along and interview him during his brief visit.

    > What a complete con, Alan in Belfast.

    If you re-read the first paragraph, I did point out that it was a whirlwind trip as part of a multi-hop trip.

  • Cynic2

    “Eddie Izzard – saying Yes2AV all over Belfast’s Cathedral Quarter” – just not for very long

  • Cynic2

    Alan in Belfast

    My apologies – but hope you will agree that there’s whistle-stop and whistle-stop

  • Next time you read of a local party leader shaking hands in Bangor and Lisburn during a morning of campaigning, holding a press conference at lunchtime and then moving on somewhere else in the afternoon … it’ll all sound familiar!

  • By the way, no takers for the caption (non)competition?

  • “I am under impressed by the argument of the pin-striped youth………and feel free to quote me”.
    “A pin striped suit…..I wouldnt even wear that on stage”
    ” I want to be in and out of Belfast without being here long enough to go to the bathroom”
    “lets all go to Paddy Powers and count our losses”
    “Look a road sign warning of the dangers of trying to put up an umbrella on a windy day”

  • Cynic2


    I am fully aware of the process but dislike the attempt to make major constitutional change on the dubious back of celebrity endorsement and stories on ‘how I love we Belfast / Bristol / cardiff” in the apparent belief that it will con someone into voting a particular way

    The fact that all politicians do it does not make it right

  • Cynic2

    “no takers for the caption (non)competition?”

    PR stunt smells fishy

  • Cynic2

    Izzard signs urges Yes Campaigners to keep digging the hole,

  • Cynic2

    “Road Works …..but AV doesn’t”

  • Cynic2

    I spent 90 minutes in Belfast and all I got was the bloody sign

  • Cynic2

    Stalker wastes time trying to get Eddie to answer the big question

  • Cynic2

    Do I win a prize?

  • Seriously we are moving towards normalisation in politics and as yet (with the honourable exception of Harry Hamilton………er twice) no local celeb has actually endorsed a political platform like AV or a political party…..so far as I am aware.
    Why not?

  • I think Cynic2 does win the (non)prize. Congratulations – you made me laugh out loud.

  • Sean o Russell


  • Cynic2


    You seem to have a bad attack of PapDocitis

  • Sean seems to have it right….

    NO2AV. Never, Never, Never, – Never vote NO2AV

  • separatesix

    One positive thing about AV is if the system had have been in place at the last Westminster election Naomi Long woulden’t have been elected and Allistair McDonald woulden’t be misrepresenting South Belfast the way he is.

  • separatesix

    The above comment is not partisan! The combined unionist vote in South Belfast is stronger than the nationalist one, I remember the outcry from nationalists when the late William Thompson was MP of West Tyrone. Yet when unionists want a pact they’re condemned for it. Perhaps AV might be fairer.

  • Cynic2

    Great Alan. What’s the prize? A free extra vote?

  • Cynic2