Where next in the campaign for electoral reform?

Sometimes election results are indecisive but in the 2011 AV vote, the country gave a resounding no in the referendum.

What we’re not entirely sure of though is what the country were saying no to. Since the vote, the Conservative party in the main have claimed that people are happy with the First Past the Post system.

Progressives would argue that the result was simply a no to the Alternative Vote system – and people did state at the time they only wanted a change that would be proportional. In their opinion, AV didn’t go far enough. And they were right. The problem with AV was almost no one truly supported it without reservation. It was described at the time as a ‘miserable little compromise.’ It was the only system that Labour had advocated for in their 2010 manifesto but largely for what seems like short sighted political reasons, they didn’t support it fully when it came to the actual vote.

Last weekend, the Voting Reform Coalition, held a gathering opposite Parliament on College Green. Party activists, MPs and independents all gathered to support Electoral Reform. Incredibly heartening and hopefully a sign of consensus to come, there was a coalition of both the usual suspects such as the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party, with UKIP also joining in smaller numbers. The really great surprise being that we even had activists from Labour and the Conservatives. The two parties both traditionally opposed to voting reform or at least opposed whilst they were in power. 

People often argue that those of us who are politically engaged and campaigning on the ground should be focusing on the more immediate problems. The ripping up of the Human Rights Act, the attempts to undermine Europe and the Tories plan to slash £12 billion of welfare but here’s the crux. Those issues are fundamentally important. Yet, looming large over them as an arguably priority is the very system we use to elect the people who make these decisions. So even though there is disagreement, it was great to see  John Strafford of Conservatives for Electoral Reform at the rally giving a rousing speech. He said that whilst the General Election night was “fun” he raged that we do not have Government by the people, for the people.

The arguments and complaints are old. ‘They don’t represent me,’ they don’t listen to us’ and ‘there’s no point in voting.’ And sadly, both they and Russell Brand have a strong point. The election results this year were more disproportionate than ever and never has it been clearer that our system is producing unfair results.

1 in 4 people in this country voted for The Greens, UKIP or the  Liberal Democrats and they only got 10 MP’s between them. As an admittedly partisan Green speaker hailed down the megaphone ‘over 1 million people voted Green and the only person that represents them all is Caroline Lucas. Imagine how much we would get done with 25 Caroline Lucas’?

Those committed to the old, broken system usually for their own political narrow interests argue that it would allow parties like UKIP to get representation. I would argue that’s democracy – and actually stifling it just allows some of the more angry, negative politics we have in this country to breed within its own resentment. People should always be allowed a voice and through debate, engagement and votes democratic decisions can be made. Maintaining an unfair system because you’re worried about the results reminds me of the same reasons why my parents made us rotate the Banker role in Monopoly when we were younger.

They argue too, as Jeremy Corbyn disappointedly did this week, that it’s more important to retain link between the constituency and the MP.  This is a straw man argument though as under STV (Single Transferable Vote), voters would have access to an MP that will have been more likely to have had some preferential support from them – even if wasn’t the person at the top of the list.

Although it would be a lie to say its an easy situation to know that changes to the voting system will need Tory and Labour support, it’s sadly the crux of the situation. It’s convincing the two big parties, that benefit massively from the unfair current system, that they should change it. Pressure is mounting, though. As people increasingly spot the cracks in our voting system, they see it’s just as creaky and in need of redevelopment as Parliament itself.

There on College Green, although there was mass agreement on the principle, there was some disagreement where we go next. Whilst Peter Tatchell discussed ‘direct action sometimes being needed,’ Simon Hughes who pointed out that although the old system had worked pretty well for him since 1983 before something went ‘a little wrong’ this year, argued that change would come from local elections first of all. A lot of the objections to PR at the national level simply don’t apply to local politics. It will still require some change of heart, though.

For the necessary momentum, that change of heart is likely to need to come from Labour and a heavily covered leadership race seems a good time to press the candidates on it. Only Liz Kendall so far has said emphatically that she supports Proportional Representation – at a time when the public are being fed a narrative of how moral and upstanding Jeremy Corbyn is – it would be great to secure a commitment from him that if elected he will campaign in favour of proportional representation.

The ultimate question for the next Labour leader is if they’ll stand on the side of history with Cameron or join a progressive voting alliance with Tim Farron and Natalie Bennett?

* Zack Polanski is a Liberal Democrat member in Holborn and St Pancras

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54 Comments

  • I agree re STV for local elections. We could probably have got that in 2010 instead of the AV referendum. And then campaign for an STV-elected new second chamber to replace the Lords. Get people used to STV at local level and they might just see the point.

    This “constituency MP” rubbish really is the most depressing argument! STV still retains constituency MP’s and each MP still represents the same number of people. Geographically challenging but the several MP’s for a constituency can work together to solve that if they have any sense… But it is not just the old guard of Labour that oppose PR – I had a big argument with Rachel Reeves about this while she was out campaigning in 2010 (not in Leeds West, I hasten to add, but in Pudsey – I think it was the fact that she was campaigning outside her safe seat that really teed me off!)

    Meanwhile we have the opposite of STV happening in Birmingham, with Eric Pickles reducing the number of councillors and removing elections every year because those pesky councillors keep objecting to cuts and such… The Kerslake review really was a massive Tory fix on this…

  • paul barker 31st Jul '15 - 2:30pm

    The big drivers for reform will be the increasing crisis of legitamacy around The Lords & the splits in the 2 major Parties. The Tories have their split planned for next year while Labour are working on it now. Even the hyper-loyalist Labour List site are discussing the possibility. A lot of people on both sides in Labour are starting to see that they may need Fair Voting to survive.

  • David Evans 31st Jul '15 - 3:47pm

    I love Paul’s never ending optimism that first Labour and now the Conservatives as well are about to split. It simply won’t happen. How many MPs have the Conservatives lost in the last 50 years? How many Labour? Nick lost more than that in 2015 alone.

    Likewise Nick had the one chance for electoral reform in 2010 and he blew it with an enormously weak Coalition deal and finally destroyed it in his eagerness to sell out on tuition fees. As a result, his referendum was defeated and electoral reform has been put back a generation. We can waste our time talking about it as much as we like. That ship has sailed and won’t be coming back any time soon.

  • The key is to get cross party agreement on what the reform should be. If we can get the Greens, UKIP, The SNP, ourselves and god forbid Labour to agree on the structure and shape of how best to reform the voting system, come the next election if any of these parties get into government their red line for supporting one of the bigger parties would be electoral reform – it would be a real mandate to make it happen. And I mean agree in detail exactly what the shape of these reforms would be – (STV, Party List, Additional Member System etc) – so they could be implemented immediately, not kicked into the long grass. I know most would want STV, but if we have to compromise a little to get Labour or others on board that’s fine by me. ANY move to a more proportional system would be a start, we’ll wait forever for the perfect system.

    We’re tried and failed for years to get electoral reform on our own. Now we need to reach out to other parties and groups like Unlock Democracy – agree on the reforms we want and campaign together.

    @ David Evans – Couldn’t disagree more with you – you completely underestimate the annoyance in the electorate of this years results from UKIP and Green voters, plus the 50% of people in Scotland who didn’t vote for the SNP! A well run campaign backed by a diverse coalition of parties would make this happen.

  • Leekliberal 31st Jul '15 - 4:26pm

    I agree with his thoughtful piece. In Manchester, 95 of 96 councillors are Labour and the other one is independent Labour! Who will scrutinise the actions of this administration? I predict poor decision-making and corruption, not because it is run by by Labour, but because this is inevitable where there is no effective opposition as in this great city. As PR for parliamentary elections is now off the radar we MUST back demands from the Electoral Reform Society for PR preferably by STV in local elections in England and Wales.

  • David Evans 31st Jul '15 - 4:40pm

    Gareth, Sadly you haven’t learned the lessons of history. It has been said, roughly once every five years since the 1970s. It has failed because the Conservatives would never even countenance it, and when push comes to shove Labour would rather wait for their turn in the ministerial Limos. We have wanted it since the 1960s and had worked for 40+ years for the chance and Nick blew it. People were hugely annoyed about it even before you were born. However things don’t just happen because people are annoyed.

    You may want to waste your time believing it will just take one more push, some people 50 years ago believed it wouldn’t take too long, and were sadly disillusioned. Those who were prepared to fight for decades got us to the point where it could start to happen and Nick blew his chance and Labour preferred to use it to pillory him in the hope that their 35% strategy would work. In this it’s not the annoyance of a proportion of the electorate; it’s a majority of MP’s votes that count and that just isn’t there.

    Ultimately we’ve got a party to save. I’m focussing all my efforts on that. I urge you to as well.

  • The 2011 referendum was certainly a resounding NO to AV. This should enable us to put AV out of any discussion for many years.

    The reality was that if the Tories were allowed to oppose it; the only chance of reform in 2011 was AV on the basis that at the time AV had strong Labour backing. As Lords reform showed, in practice, Labour will not back any reform unless they are in the driving seat (from where they will water it down – p…ing over us). Had the vote been on PR (such as STV), wholesale opposition from Labour and Conservatives would have led to an even more dispiriting defeat. Perhaps a cuter tactic would have been a referendum on retaining FPTP, with a follow up in the event of a vote for change. I think this is how New Zealand achieved reform.

    Quite astutely, in one of his first interviews (with Marr I think) Tim Farron in answer to a question whether he would consider another coalition with the Tories or Labour, said that nothing is ruled out, but proportional representation is a precondition. I think we must stick steadfastly to this line and specify STV.

    Unless Labour embark on a series of deselections to scourge out the heretics, there will not be a split, just gloom and despondency with regicide at some point. There is more of a chance of a Tory split, but mostly if the UK votes for a Brexit., otherwise it is most unlikely.

  • John Tilley 31st Jul '15 - 5:17pm

    Martin 31st Jul ’15 – 4:44pm
    “…The 2011 referendum was certainly a resounding NO to AV. ”

    Martin
    There is a good argument that the result of the 2011 referendum was a resounding NO to Nick Clegg.
    If you remember the leaflets put out by the NO campaign they were highly personal attacks on Nick Clegg.

    Of course anyone with more than five minutes as an activist in UK Liberal Democrat politics would have expected nothing better from The Conservatives but Nick Clegg himself seemed rather surprised. His reaction seemed to be the same when The Conservatives pulled the rug from under him on Lords reform. A similar look on his face in May 2015. Although I am not sure that he has got the basic message about the Conservatives even now!

    The 2011 referendum seems so very long ago that I doubt if the average punter remembers it at all.
    If they are one of the tiny number of people who bothered to turn out to vote they may not even remember which way they voted.
    In the great scheme of things it was not even a footnote in the history of The Conservtives getting one over on Nick Clegg. There are so many much bigger and brighter examples — Tuition Fees, NHS, New Nuclear, etc etc.

    Of course any proper Liberal would have put AV out of any discussion at the very beginning of the 2010 negotiations on coalition. What were David Laws, Danny Alexander et al thinking?

  • Zack Polanski wrote:

    > Simon Hughes… argued that change would come from local elections first of
    > all. A lot of the objections to PR at the national level simply don’t apply
    > to local politics.

    Getting STV for local government is a worthwhile aim in itself.

    But the way local STV is increasingly put forward as a precursor to national PR implies that this would be more than just a useful ingredient in a national campaign, and in fact a necessary or compelling stepping stone. If that is the case, it would be helpful to discuss how one could lead to the other in detail.

    What are the options for getting local STV to eventuate into national PR?

  • Richard Underhill 31st Jul '15 - 6:04pm

    Elect Northern Ireland MPs by STV.
    Northern Ireland elects councillors by STV, and Assembly members and MEPs. MPs are elected first-past-the-post.
    We should not, of course, talk simplistically about “two sides”. Unionists have DUP, OUP, etc. They are unlikely to merge, but a partial elector pact happened in 2015. Transfer voting suits.
    The SDLP have a long history of non-violent representation of what is currently a numerical minority.
    Sinn Fein are in the Assembly and provide the Deputy first Minister.
    The Alliance Party of Northern Ireland is anti-sectarian, but has ministers, including its leader, David Ford.
    There is a Northern Ireland Green Party (ecological).

  • Richard Underhill 31st Jul '15 - 6:09pm

    Adrian PR 31st Jul ’15 – 5:22pm Simon Hughes is right about London and about the future.
    In Scotland the creation of a new body, without serving elected members defending their geographical areas, eventually enabled a proportional system through the Costitutional convention. After 8 years of coalition with Scottish Labour there was agreement for STV for local government.

  • Richard Underhill 31st Jul '15 - 6:16pm

    The AV referendum is history.
    The YES campaign started out with brilliant leaflets, but ran out of money in mid-campaign.
    We were winning in the polls at one stage.
    Gordon Brown had not delivered his personal support for AV.
    Ed Miliband was one of ten party leaders who signed up, but did not deliver the Labour Party.
    Without the possibility of a win in the AV referendum the special conference on the coalition might have gone differently, although i cannot be sure.
    Things that Paddy Ashdown had said about AV were quoted by Michael Howard.
    We should focus on STV.

  • Richard Underhill 31st Jul '15 - 6:36pm

    The Irish Republic elects to the Dail by STV.
    It is still possible to get a good Independent member elected.
    There is an increased focus on constituency casework by members who want to be re-elected.

  • Peter Parsons 31st Jul '15 - 6:48pm

    There was an interview on Radio 5 Live’s breakfast show earlier this week with a Conservative voter they called John (for reasons of anonymity) who lived in the North East and was paying £3 to be able to vote for Jeremy Corbyn in the Labour leadership election because he saw that as his only chance to influence the outcome of elections. He considered that actually voting in elections was a waste of time for him because of where he lived.

    How many other Conservative-voting and Labour-voting Johns are out there that would be prepared to support a change of system at local level to one which gave them a voice?

  • Peter Parsons 31st Jul '15 - 6:53pm

    The interview I referred to in my previous comment is available online here:

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p02y50zc

  • Roger Roberts 31st Jul '15 - 7:44pm

    There was a vote in the Lords a couple of weeks ago which would have made possible STV for local elections in England and Wales (already exists in Scotland) 222 peers opposed and only 71 were in favour (66 Lib Dems and 5 others). Turkeys don’t vote for Christmas !
    I’m organising under the title 37 – 63 (only 37% voted Tory this May) a meeting in Committee Room 3A on Wednesday, Sept 9 at 7 pm in the House of Lords. The aim is to see what we can do to advance the cause of Electoral Reform. It would be great to have a good attendance, so that we can, at the very least, move ahead together – co-ordinated action !

  • John Tilley 31st Jul '15 - 8:05pm

    Well done Roger Roberts.
    Campaigning in the Lords for STV.
    I hope you get a good turnout for the meeting in Committee Room 3A on Wednesday, Sept 9 at 7 pm, in the House of Lords

  • I wonder what the government would do if a local council (or even town council) announced they were going to elect themselves by STV next time, and simply put the necessary procedures in place and went ahead! Send in the tanks??

    We don’t have too many councils… but we do have some! It would be a high profile gesture!

  • Richard Underhill 31st Jul '15 - 10:21pm

    The Liberal Democrat – Labour coalition in Scotland did that for councils.
    Perhaps Wales should as well.

  • >> [Me]
    >> …it would be helpful to discuss how one could lead to the other in detail.
    >> What are the options for getting local STV to eventuate into national PR?

    > [Richard Underhill]
    > Simon Hughes is right about London and about the future.

    That may well be true. I’m sure his detailed reasoning regarding voting
    reform in Westminster would be an interesting answer to the question posed
    above, but a quick search did not reveal a transcript.

    > [Richard Underhill]
    > In Scotland the creation of a new body, without serving elected members
    > defending their geographical areas, eventually enabled a proportional system
    > through the Costitutional convention. After 8 years of coalition with
    > Scottish Labour there was agreement for STV for local government.

    A relevant factor in the second step (regional AMS leading to local STV) would
    have been that the change was being imposed by a higher tier of government on
    a lower one. The MSPs voting on the change were not directly voting on one
    another’s future.

    When you look at local STV as a precursor to national PR this convenience does
    not apply. If – if – the suggestion is that a good idea in one representative chamber
    will catch on and spread, I’m afraid there are ample examples of PR not
    catching on and not spreading in the way we want. (This is why I am looking
    for more detailed reasoning.)

  • David,
    I agree actually that expecting to get STV for the House of Commons is unrealistic (in a situation when any change is unrealistic, so we are talking about degrees of unrealism!). The nearest we could get would be AV+ as recommended by Jenkins… It is typical of Labour that they went back on that and in the end could not even support AV…

    An AMS system does have merits for an executive House. STV can lead to MP’s seeing things only in terms of their own constituency, and not the bigger picture. So having a large number of MP’s who are detached from the voters but elected on a regional basis is quite a good idea. Having AV+ (or more realistically AMS) for one house and STV for the other would be perfect.

    I think as Liberal Democrats we believe much more strongly than other parties that the electorate should be in charge of who represents them, not the political party leaders. As we have seen by the Kerslake review the Tories value “strong local decision making” far more than local democracy. And of course Labour love their one party states in northern cities… One cornerstone of our ideology is to promote democracy, while the others want to use democracy to impose their way of doing things on everyone… It is why we are accused of being “wishy-washy” and saying different things in different places.
    We should recognise that the supporters of electoral reform in UKIP, the Greens, and Labour are often “fellow travellers” who will change their minds if they ever get power through FPTP. So we need to be more absolutist about it if we ever get a chance again than we were in 2010 (it is a pity there was an abnormal situation of economic crisis which made emphasising electoral reform seem petty).

    Lords reform is still on the agenda. We should try and pin Labour and the others down to AMS to elect a new second chamber. That would be a good step… And we should emphasise STV in local elections, stressing the advantages in Scotland of removing the one-party fiefdoms

  • Simon Thorley 1st Aug '15 - 12:01pm

    Good article, Zack. As others have noted above, I think that an essential starting point is an inter-party agreement between all opposition parties on how they would proceed WRT electoral and constitutional reform should they form (either independently or in a coalition) the next government. Effectively, it all comes down to Labour – and if they can ever be persuaded that electoral reform is in their own long-term electoral interests, surely it is going to be during this parliament.

  • Richard Underhill 1st Aug '15 - 5:39pm

    Elect Northern Ireland MPs by STV. Northern Ireland elects councillors by STV, and Assembly members and MEPs.
    If having different systems for electing MEPs is acceptable, it should also be possible for MPs.

  • Matthew Huntbach 1st Aug '15 - 6:10pm


    They argue too, as Jeremy Corbyn disappointedly did this week, that it’s more important to retain link between the constituency and the MP.

    Right, so Jeremy Corbyn is in favour of propping up the Tories by giving them a much higher share of the number of MPs than their share of the vote.

    Can we make sure that we say this loudly and clearly and repeatedly, as often as Labour did when they accused us of “propping up the Tories” for following the logic (as we had no choice) of the distortional representation electoral system that they support and we don’t?

    For, let’s make it clear. We “propped up the Tories” because there was no alternative viable government thanks to the distortions of the system, but we did make them agree to stop the worst of what they wanted to do in return for that. Jeremy Corbyn as stated here, along with most other Labour people, want to prop up the Tories by giving them more MPs so they get a majority of seats even though they don’t have a majority of votes, and so allowing them to do whatever they like.

    Labour, led here by Jeremy Corbyn, are the BIGGEST Tory-proppers. Labour-Tory, old pals act, propping each other up by this electoral system they support.

  • Matthew Huntbach 1st Aug '15 - 6:14pm


    The problem with AV was almost no one truly supported it without reservation. It was described at the time as a ‘miserable little compromise.’

    Yes, but if you want something, and you can get something which a compromise, one step towards it, isn’t it best to go for it, if that’s all you’re offered?

    Of course, where we got it wrong (as with most of what we did in the Coalition) was to push it forward as if it was super-duper wonderful rather than use the line “OK, it’s a long way from our ideal, but it’s as far as the Tories would go, so on that basis, accept it as it’s better than nothing”.

  • Matthew Huntbach 1st Aug '15 - 6:30pm


    Progressives would argue that the result was simply a no to the Alternative Vote system – and people did state at the time they only wanted a change that would be proportional. In their opinion, AV didn’t go far enough.

    No-one influential made this argument when the AV referendum result came through. I do not recall a single commentator in the media putting it this way. The referendum result was universally written up as a rejection of all electoral reform. And if people who had vote “No” hadn’t intended it that way, wouldn’t they have risen up in anger at this universal media coverage and said “No, you have got us completely wrong”. But they didn’t, did they? And the “No” campaign itself was run to quite a large extent using arguments that were actually arguments against proportional representation rather than against AV. The “No” campaign most certainly did not use the line “Vote No as AV is an insufficient reform to the electoral system”.

    Of course, the real issue is that Labour turned the referendum into one on the question “Do you like Nick Clegg for propping up the Tories”, and many people voted “No” on that basis. There were a lot of people who voted “No” without having logically thought it through. Consider what it really means if you use the line that the “No” campaign used – that it is good to have distortion of representation in favour of the biggest party and against third parties in order to give complete control to the biggest party even if it had well under half the votes. What it really means is that you believe the Tories should have had complete control after May 2010. So, anyone who followed the logic of that line should have been applauding Nick Clegg when he “rolled over and gave in to the Tories” as that’s what they are saying should have happened, and they should have been condemning Nick Clegg when he stopped the Tories doing what they really wanted to do because that goes against what they are saying about it better for the biggest patty to have complete control.

  • Matthew Huntbach 1st Aug '15 - 6:30pm

    The only reason the Tories didn’t have a majority in May 2010 is because LibDem targetting gave them more seats. If the LibDems had spread their campaigning more widely they would have won the same or more votes and fewer seats. And Labour, led by Jeremy Corbyn, would have said that’s fine, that’s what we should have had in May 2010 – a completely Tory government.

    Jeremy Corbyn – Tory-propper-up-in-chief. Keep on saying that.

  • Matthew Huntbach 1st Aug '15 - 6:33pm

    My real point is that people didn’t realise what they were actually voting for, they were misled by Labour into voting to prop up the Tories by agreeing to the distortion that usually gives them such an advantage. We need to tell people that – you were fooled by Labour into supporting the opposite of what you thought you were supporting.

  • Richard Underhill 1st Aug '15 - 7:15pm

    Enid Lakeman always advised that we must have multi-member seats.
    Many MPs cling to their single-member seats, which is why they might have been persuaded by AV (as Gordon Brown).
    AV was the wrong compromise.
    STV for local elections initially is the right compromise, hopefully accompanied by more effective devolution.

  • Matthew,

    Can you sum up your Corbyn-propping-up-the-Tories argument in 3 bullet points? I quite like it, but it is a bit convoluted! (plus Corbyn seems to be softening his anti-reform stance…)

  • Little Jackie Paper 1st Aug '15 - 8:18pm

    ‘Imagine how much we would get done with 25 Caroline Lucas’?’

    I would be very, very careful with this line of argument. There is nothing at all inherent about PR that means that we somehow get, ‘better politics.’ There is nothing at all that would prevent, for example, scandals involving PR-elected MPs. I see no inherent reason why consensus politics (assuming you see that as a good thing) would be a product of PR. Those who advocate PR have a bad habit of over-promising. Indeed, FPTP at local levels has produced perfectly effective coalition politics. What is to say, for example that a block of 25 Greens wouldn’t promote some rather illiberal stuff? They might not do that of course but the fact of PR means nothing.

    PR is a mechanism by which votes are translated into seats – nothing more nothing less. Overpromising is, in part, what got YES to AV into bother.

    PR is right because FPTP is leaving too many people with no real skin in the game. But that is where it starts and stops. It’s about representation, not what comes next.

  • Little Jackie Paper 1st Aug '15 - 8:48pm

    Huntbach – ‘The “No” campaign most certainly did not use the line “Vote No as AV is an insufficient reform to the electoral system”.’

    Really? I don’t remember the NO campaign using that line, but I do remember a pretty strong undercurrent of that argument doing the rounds on the internet and the like. Hardly scientific methodology of course, but I recall having the impression that plenty of people thought of AV as insufficient. I doubt there was enough of that sentiment to change the referendum result. But I think there was more resonance to that line than you credit.

  • It was the Tories who made AV Referendum all about Clegg and Trust. Hughne apparently took them to task over this at Cabinet.

  • LJP
    I agree that PR does not lead to better politics, although it does mean that politicians have to get used to compromising, which I see as good..

    However STV does give the voters the chance to get rid of crooked or lazy MP’s even if the parties do not… You would see a lot less MP’s with two jobs for example…

  • I should have said “does not of itself lead to better politics”

  • Mathew, LJP,

    I did not feel enthusiastic enough about AV to do anything more than just vote for it…. I would have campaigned actively for STV, AMS or AV+

  • Of course I was pretty cross with the Liberal Democrats at that time as well, having recently resigned after 20+ years

  • And like everyone else I could see that Nick Clegg thought that AV would benefit the Liberal Democrats more than any other party…

  • (how wrong he was!)

  • Anthony Tuffin 1st Aug '15 - 11:06pm

    There is an even stronger argument for reforming local elections in England and Wales than reforming MP elections:

    One party Councils
    No change for generations
    Successful in Scotland and Northern Ireland
    Not asking the turkeys to vote for their own Christmas

    The electoral reform movement should unite behind one system and that should be STV, which is the system of the Electoral Reform Society and Liberal Democrats.

    It’s encouraging to see so much support for STV among contributors to this debate, but sad that some want to compromise.. Although there are many ways of achieving party proportionality so many compromises are available to those who want only party proportionality , STV is the only way to:

    Maximize voter power and choice
    Reduce party power
    Strengthen links between representatives and constituents
    Enable voters to vote against a candidate without voting against the party.

    There is no compromise on all these issues.

  • Anthony,
    Agree completely re local elections… The problem with STV for Westminster is that we would never get Labour, Greens or UKIP to back it. In the case of UKIP they would not get transfers so prefer a list system, while the Greens would likely not get much proportionality from STV either. Labour will retreat towards the Jenkins proposals at best.. The SNP have done well out of AMS.

    So to get STV for Westminster we unfortunately need a Liberal Democrat government, which looks improbable. That is why these days I would be prepared to compromise on AMS for Westminster..

    You and I once organised an STV mock election!

  • > [Andrew]
    > However STV does give the voters the chance to get rid of crooked or lazy
    > MP’s even if the parties do not… You would see a lot less MP’s with two
    > jobs

    How would that work (the kicking out part)?

  • Little Jackie Paper 2nd Aug '15 - 1:24pm

    Andrew –

    ‘I agree that PR does not lead to better politics, although it does mean that politicians have to get used to compromising, which I see as good..’

    Why does it do this? There is nothing at all about PR that means more, ‘compromising,’ will be necessary. A single majority is quite possible under PR.

    ‘However STV does give the voters the chance to get rid of crooked or lazy MP’s even if the parties do not’

    FPTP does this.

    ‘… You would see a lot less MP’s with two jobs for example…’

    Why? Nothing at all about PR means this. Assuming you actually see MPs having second jobs as a bad thing.

  • Anthony Tuffin 2nd Aug '15 - 6:40pm

    Andrew,

    Thank you for your broad support. You also wrote, “So to get STV for Westminster we unfortunately need a Liberal Democrat government, which looks improbable. That is why these days I would be prepared to compromise on AMS for Westminster.” I understand but disagree, because I want more voter choice and less party power etc at least as much as more party proportionality. Anyway let’s, as we agree, carry on campaigning for STV, especially for local government, and see what happens.

    You also mention a mock STV election we once organized. Was that in Ipswich in the 1970s? Please send an e-mail to editor[at]stvAction.org.uk to re-establish direct contact.

    Other readers, who would like to know more about STV, are also very welcome to e-mail me at that address.

  • Anthony Tuffin 2nd Aug '15 - 7:01pm

    Little Jackie Paper,

    You wrote that FPTP lets voters get rid of crooked or lazy MPs. Not really if the the seat is safe and the party supports him (usually not “her”). Tatton was an exception because the well-known Martin Bell stood as an Independent and the Lib Dems and Labour Party did not oppose him. STV uniquely allows voters to vote against a candidate without voting against the party.

    On the two-jobs issue, STV (but not other PR systems) lets voters vote against a candidate without voting against the party so they can choose between full-time and part-time MPs. Some, presumably like Andrew, would choose full-time MPs to devote their time to the constituency. Others, presumably like you, would choose part-time MPs because of their experience in the “real” world. The point is that, with STV, voters – not parties – would decide. It is quite possible that, in a multi-member STV constituency, some MPs would have one job and some would have more.

  • Richard Underhill 2nd Aug '15 - 7:59pm

    Anthony Tuffin 2nd Aug ’15 – 7:01pm
    “Martin Bell stood as an Independent and the Lib Dems and Labour Party did not oppose him.”
    Labour had no realistic hope of winning and willingly withdrew. The Liberal Democrat local party was more reluctant.
    Martin Bell was a personal acquaintance of Paddy Ashdown from the wars in the former Yugoslavia, so he rang up Paddy and asked for help, which a loud voice promised and delivered, in the form of a good agent.
    Martin Bell promised the Tatton Tory voters that he would only stand for one election, which he honoured, although his prospect of re-election in tatton was good. He was not elected in Brentwood.

  • Zack Polanski 4th Aug '15 - 8:54pm

    ‘What are the options for getting local STV to eventuate into national PR?’

    Hey Adrian – I think the logical argument is that when people get used to PR in local elections, it’s then very difficult to demonise it in the same way for national elections.

    I think pointing out to the electorate that under PR they have an increase in choice and options is a smart one for us to be making repeatedly during the various elections coming our way in 2016.

  • >>> [Me]
    >>> What are the options for getting local STV to eventuate into
    >>> national PR?

    > [Zack]
    > Hey Adrian – I think the logical argument is that when people get
    > used to PR in local elections, it’s then very difficult to demonise it
    > in the same way for national elections.

    Thank you for taking the time to reply, Zack.

    At face value, this ‘familiarity breeds comprehension’ argument would make local PR a useful ingredient in a recipe for reform – one among many.

    The question I was asking, though, was whether there were pathways in mind in which achieving local STV would be critical.

    For example, if the idea was to systematically arrange stand-aside deals for Westminster, one could argue that having a lot of sympathetic, STV-elected councillors in Labour and the Tories would be *necessary* to reach a critical mass in the pool of candidates.

    ***

    As it happens, I’m very ambivalent about the familiarity argument. I would like to think it could all go right, but far from confident that it would.

    There are a host of ways STV can be demonised, and the lived experience may not counter all of them. For example, even once you know how to vote under STV, that doesn’t give you the procedural knowledge you need to see through claims like “votes with two preferences count twice”.

    There are other risks too. Most worryingly, it would be very easy for opponents of PR to blame the failings of future local governments on the voting system. That could be disastrous.

    > [Zack]
    > I think pointing out to the electorate that under PR they have an increase
    > in choice and options is a smart one for us to be making repeatedly during
    > the various elections coming our way in 2016.

    We are agreed on this.

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