Introducing Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform

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Giving the individual voter greater choice and voice – devolving democratic power to the individual and away from institutions – is integral to making the UK a truly liberal and democratic country.

So I’m urging new – and existing – party members to join Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform (LDER) and help us campaign to make this essential change a reality.

Take a look at our historic Parliament, supposedly the model for others to follow. Of its two houses, the Lords is totally appointed and expressly undemocratic.

The Commons is elected in a way, which distorts the democratic will of the people; and freezes millions out of any say in the result. For many people in ‘safe’ seats, voting is an exercise in futility.

In the meantime, local government in England and Wales has been neutered through lack of local autonomy. It features a grossly undemocratic electoral system, which creates virtual one-party authorities, despite substantial votes for other parties.

And in European Parliament elections, we are reduced to voting for a faceless party. The actual MEPs ‘elected’ are left up to the internal machinery of the political parties.

The Liberal Democrats advocate changing our electoral system to one, which addresses these ills; which allows the voter to exercise ultimate control, in the ballot box, over parties and state institutions.

Of course this would mean proportional representation – parties would win seats in the Commons according to the proportion of votes cast for them across the country. But, desirable and badly needed though that it is, the democratic prize is far greater.

That’s why our party supports in principle the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system. Already in use in Ireland and in Scottish local government; and used by many democratic organisations across the UK, STV uniquely delivers not just party proportionality, but also choice between different candidates of the same party. The voters’ wishes outweigh the chosen party list of candidates.

This is not a choice between electoral systems; it is a political choice about democratic outcomes.

Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform (LDER) campaign, inside and outside our party for:

  • a voter empowering proportional system (STV) for elections to the House of Commons. Given the current Conservative Government, the first step should be a Constitutional Convention or People’s Assembly to consider the democratic justice the current electoral system and what alternatives might be.
  • A democratically-elected House of Lords
  • Change England and Wales local electoral systems to the one in use in Scotland.
  • Increase voter choice for European elections, by ditching the fixed party list system.

A key to liberalism is breaking down concentrations of power that frustrate and stifle individual and community freedom.

Is electoral reform the all-purpose answer, on its own, to all these ills? No it isn’t. Will we achieve a liberal, people-empowered democracy without it? No, we won’t. It is a necessary condition for social and democratic progress.

Join us to today: www.lder.org or www.libdems.org/lder

 

* Keith Sharp is the Chair of Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform

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8 Comments

  • paul barker 28th May '15 - 1:29pm

    I cant agree that the bulk of The Lords is simply Appointed. In effect, most Lords & Ladies are indirectly Elected, in the same way as The Prime Minister & The Cabinet. We didnt claim that Gordon Brown was illegitamate just because he hadnt been Labour Leader at The Election. He was Appointed, without a vote by Labour MPs.
    Both The Lords & Commons have elements of Democracy in their make-up & neither are fully Democratic, both are “Legitimate”, for now. We have a duty to use both to defend Liberal values.

  • Excuse me if I am being thick, but does this plan involve entirely losing a local reprsentatives in the HoC?

  • STV proposes the creation of a smaller number of larger constituencies, each of which will elect multiple members (from three up to any number, but probably fewer than ten), with seats allocated based on a ranked ballot. It is not precisely proportional, but it allows candidates with substantial but less than plurality support to gain seats. It is also very difficult to explain how the counting works.

  • David-1 Thanks, it sounds better than FTPT, but I think we need some mixture of PR and local area representatives. I realise I might as well have been born on another planet as hope that this country will somehow get a voting system that works, but I’ll just keep dreaming anyway, I am not hurting anyone.

  • Matthew Huntbach 28th May '15 - 9:58pm

    David-1

    It is also very difficult to explain how the counting works.

    You divide the total number of votes by the number of seats + 1, and anyone who gets that many votes+1 wins a seat. So, if we have 5 seats and 600,000 votes, you need 100,001 votes to win a seat. That’s because if 5 candidates each have 100,001 votes, no-one can get more.

    OK, since you need 100,001 votes to win a seat, if you have more than that you have more than enough, so a proportion of those votes can go to others. If there’s no way you’re going to get 100,001 votes, your votes can go elsewhere to candidates who might stand a chance.

    Think of it as those 600,000 voters coming together in a big field and each has to stand in line behind their favoured candidate, and whenever 100,001 voters are standing behind a candidate, that candidate is declared elected. Well, if there’s already the 100,001 voters needed, some who would stand behind will move off to help another. And if there’s well under, those standing will want to move off to help another.

    STV just does all this by paper. The nice thing is that people define their own constituency. If someone wins with 100,001 votes all from one part of the multi-member constituency, that’s the bit they represent. But if it’s from people scattered across the multi-member constituency, well, it’s those scattered people who are represented by the candidate they voted for. Consider, for example, a “true-blue” southern county, right now with 5 Conservative MPs. A Labour candidate might decide to put his or her effort into all those small council estates scattered across the county, and if there’s 100,001 votes from all of them, be the MP for those council estates. How nice that those people, being scattered and not concentrated in one area now get a voice of their own.

  • Malcolm Todd 28th May '15 - 11:23pm

    That’s actually a very good description, Matthew, and I may use it in the future when I’ve pinned someone in a corner and won’t let them out until I’ve explained the beauty of STV to them. BUT:
    1) It’s a metaphor rather than a straight description, which means it simplifies but nevertheless comes in at about 300 words, which just confirms that what it’s describing isn’t very simple.
    2) If you tried to use it in a leaflet or an advert you’d be slaughtered, not only by the opposition, but by a legion of smart satirists.
    3) It doesn’t really compare well with “You count up all the votes and whoever got the most, wins”, does it?

    So I think David-1’s remark still stands.

  • Matthew Huntbach 28th May '15 - 11:35pm

    Malcolm Todd

    If you tried to use it in a leaflet or an advert you’d be slaughtered, not only by the opposition, but by a legion of smart satirists.

    Oh sure. But if you try to explain how FPTP works in terms of 37% of the vote resulting in over 50% of the seats, in terms of 90% of the seats in one place going to a party which got less than 50% of the vote there, you’d get into something similar. I realise we live in a country where innumeracy is considered something to boast about and “duh, I’m a bit thick, I don’t understand that” is considered to make you a better person than someone who is a horrible geeky type who does.

    So let’s just put it this way to those satirists – the Irish use that system, and are very happy with it and have supported it in referendums when there have been attempts to get rid of it. So are you saying the Irish are so much more clever than the English?

    To put it simply, I’d just say “Anyone who can get 100,000 votes becomes an MP, you put the candidates in order of choice, if the candidate you support gets over 100,000 votes a portion of your vote goes to your next choice, if the candidate you support is last he or she drops out and your vote goes to the next choice.”

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