Wendy Chamberlain MP becomes LDER President

Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform have a new President – Wendy Chamberlain, our MP for North East Fife.

Since entering Parliament in 2019, Wendy has made her mark as an articulate, vivid advocate of electoral reform. Through most of 2020, as our Political and Constitutional Reform front bench spokesperson, she led the campaign both inside and outside Parliament. Last June, she initiated an adjournment debate on the need for reform. In August, she urged party members to join a Make Votes Matter (MVM) nationwide ‘virtual’ Action Day, which saw hundreds of Liberal Democrats get involved.

A strong believer in linking reform to improving peoples’ everyday lives, also last June, Wendy spoke alongside Klina Jordan of MVM at a Green Liberal Democrats’ conference session on Electoral Reform and the Environment. In September, she led LDER’s virtual fringe meeting, along with the Electoral Reform Society, Make Votes Matter and Unite to Reform.

Our Parliamentary Chief Whip and Work and Pensions spokesperson, Wendy, has maintained her commitment to electoral reform. In February, she became a Vice-Chair of the newly-formed All-Party Parliamentary Group on Electoral Reform. (Alistair Carmichael, Wera Hobhouse and Lord Paul Tyler are also APPG members). Wendy is also a member of the APPG on Deliberative Democracy.

Wendy said:

In an era of increasing identity politics, the place has increasing importance to many. With Covid-19, however, the straining of centralised decision making at Westminster, and better recognition of the devolved administrations in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, could mean electoral reform’s time has come. It’s increasingly clear that the fundamental change required to ensure the future of the UK and a representative democracy starts with electoral reform.

Wendy has already agreed to host a virtual meeting on Zoom for all LDER members and supporters, setting our the goals as she sees them and, of course, taking questions and comments. LDER will announce details soon.

LDER is the party affiliate body for electoral reform. Its role includes informing and motivating party members to campaign for reform, often on a cross-party basis such as with Make Votes Matter, and ensuring electoral – and wider constitutional – reform stays high on the party’s agenda for progressive change. There’s more at lder.org; on Facebook – LibDemsForElectoralReform; and Twitter – @LibDem4ER

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

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14 Comments

  • Brad Barrows 10th Mar '21 - 12:46pm

    It saddens me to say that the Liberal Democrats had the opportunity to achieve electoral reform after the 2010 election and failed to take it. Instead of holding out for meaningful change, the party agreed to back the Conservatives taking power on nothing more than securing a referendum on Alternative Vote – not even a system that produces proportional election results. It is clear that no party that can win power under the existing voting system will be willing to change the system – we must therefore hope that a future election will lead to a hung parliament where a major party may concede electoral reform to gain power. Truth is, it is more likely that the SNP will find itself in that powerful position than the Liberal Democrats, and their price will be securing an independence referendum rather than electoral reform.

  • Russell Simpson 10th Mar '21 - 2:07pm

    @Brad
    It seems that PR was not on the table with the Conservatives in 2010, which was a shame I agree. An even bigger shame that Labour didn’t support the minor improvement that AV would have been. AV would not have been the end but a potential stepping stone to PR. The Conservatives will never concede on Electoral Reform. Labour would rather not (despite it being popular amongst its members). The best way I can see PR happening is if Starmer recognises that he won’t have enough MPs in 2024 to form a government on his own. In which case he will need to choose between the SNP (and allow Indy2) or Libdems/Greens (and by inference share power). It’s a reasonable assumption that Libdem/Greens will be about 15%. If Labour “gave way” on the 80 or so seats that they can’t win and had the same PR policy in their manifesto as Libdems/Greens there would be no “moral” requirement for a referendum. No. 10 will one day be occupied by a Labour leader again (eventually it’s time for a change) but if Starmer wants it to be 2024 rather than 2029 or 2034 then he’s got a decision to make. And sooner rather than later.

  • I think it’s worse than that Russel. Labour had previously indicated it would support AV, and so it should have been a fairly good bet that they’d back the campaign, or at least not campaign against it.

    The ongoing problem with the idea that we could have held out for a better offer from the Tories before helping them to power is that if we’d not come to some kind of agreement, they’d have been more than willing to blame us and all other opposition MPs for refusing to be grown-ups at a time of national uncertainty, then trigger a new election where not only could they claim the moral high ground, but they were the only party with the funds to fight it.

    Whilst we can and should reflect on how things could have been handled better, it’s important not to be too idealistic and presume we could have stopped a Tory-led government for more than a couple of months.

    I’m pleased to see Wendy take on this role. It’s long been party policy, so widely accepted internally that we forget to talk about the benefits and why it’s more important than ever. The larger parties try to shame us for supporting a policy that will make the voting system more fair, but I do think the momentum is with us now, and it’s becoming increasingly difficult for the Labour leadership to pretend FPTP is fine.

  • I’m a fan of Wendy Chamberlain and wish her well.

    As far as PR is concerned, it was well done to Paddy & Antony Charles Lynton Blair – and especially to Donald Dewar – for arranging a form of PR for the Scottish and Welsh Parliaments (plus local councils). Holyrood is thus more representative of popular opinion than Westminster.

    However it requires a majority in the House of Commons under first past the post (plus the House of Lords) to legislate for PR at Westminster. It’s a big leap in the dark for a party (Labour or Tory) to vote itself out of single party government.

    Oddly, but unsurprisingly, when the Libs still thought they were a big party (in 1918 when the Liberal LLG was PM in a Coalition) the majority of them voted against PR during the passage of the 1918 Representation of the People Act. Libs discovered PR after the 1922 debacle.

    Johnson opposes PR – whereas Keir Starmer is on record as saying : “We’ve got to address the fact that millions of people vote in safe seats and they feel their vote doesn’t count”………………

  • Well Labour resiled once didn’t they (Blair was up for it, set up Jenkins Review and then their dinosaurs said they’d never govern alone again if they went for PR and it was dropped – wonder whether they regret that yet!).
    Personally I think in 2010 the Tories could have been got to agree to the next election to be by PR. Doubt they will now. Our only hope is to work as hard for democracy as the right have to undo our EU membership, and now this pseudo culture war claptrap
    Imported from Trump. We should start by refusing to recognise any government based on fewer than 50%+1 of votes cast as legitimate, and always repeating this. We also need to undo the mood music that England is a conservative country at heart – across the U.K. at the last election the combined right had about 47% of votes. They have no right to an 80 seat majority in the one vaguely democratic bit of our government and we should be outraged.

    Honestly though without an opportunistic lucky strike or one of the main parties deciding to budge, it isn’t going to happen and people like me, already in middle age, will never see a government that I voted for.

  • Alex Macfie 11th Mar '21 - 8:39am

    Brad Barrows:L It’s actually worse than that. Clegg thought he had a gentlemen’s agreement with Cameron whereby the Tories would not campaign aggressively against switching to AV. Instead we got a No2AV campaign masterminded by Dominic Cummings that notionally “spent” multiple times the £250M it wrongly claimed was needed for the switch. Just one sign among many of the naivety of Clegg and his coterie.

  • If or when the Lib Dems get an approach to form a coalition government again maybe they should take advice from the DUP. Not that I thought they got everything wrong back then even though they were let down badly by the nasty party. Sadly electoral reform will be out of my personal time scale.

  • Once more with feeling; comparisons with the DUP don’t work because the DUP is in a completely different position to the Lib Dems in UK politics. It is a small regional party that doesn’t even stand anywhere in Great Britain, so it is not in competition with the Tories electorally. The agreement with the DUP was basically that the DUP would vote through a government programme that mostly didn’t affect Northern Ireland, and which the DUP would likely have voted for anyway in a Tory majority government, in exchange for a cash injection to Northern Ireland mainly in DUP constituencies. DUP voters are extremely parochial and don’t care much what happens outside their backyard, and so were hardly going to switch to Sinn Fein becuase they were dissatisfied with the size of the bung that Arlene brought back.
    The DUP’s detachment from mainland British politics essentially shielded it from the shafting that the Lib Dems got in Coalition.

  • Alex [email protected] I do understand the difference just wanted to make the point of extracting the most out of any future cooperation.

  • Denis Mollison 11th Mar '21 - 2:18pm

    @David Raw – the Liberals discovered PR long before 1922.
    It was Liberal MPs that brought forward the first PR bill in 1872 – a scheme using STV in multi-member consituencies based on boroughs and counties not very different from the one I produced for the LDs to put forward in 2009/10.
    And, without looking up the details, I’m pretty sure it was Liberals who had initiated the reform process that Lloyd-George reneged on in 1918, as part of his disastrous political manouevreing towards the end of WW1 that ended up destroying the party. But one spin-off from that process was the introduction of STV to Ireland where it still flourishes.

  • Peter Hirst 11th Mar '21 - 5:09pm

    Why does this Party “invest” so much energy in revisiting the past? We’re now in a different situation and electoral and constitutional reform is more important than ever. Add deliberative democracy and we have a recipe for a thorough revolution in how we conduct politics in this country. It might even save the union.

  • Denis Mollison 11th Mar '21 - 6:23pm

    @Peter – `Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.’
    (George Santayana)

  • @ Denis Mollison….. “the Liberals discovered PR long before 1922”. Indeed so, Denis, and as always I’m grateful to you for reminding me.

    Yes, (some) Liberal MPs did. Unfortunately, back in 1872, a Liberal Government in office with a 115 majority and Gladstone as PM, their Bill was rejected by 154 votes to 26. It appears PR is advocated when people lose.

    I completely agree about ‘the Welsh Wizard’. A pity old Squiff was well over the effectiveness hill by then.

    It’s also a pity Peter Hirst echoes Henry Ford’s “history is bunk”. Modern British Ministers would have done well to study the lessons of history (Cleggy for starters) and Blair’s ignorance of Afghanistan and Iraq came with some cost.

    As the late Prof Bernard Lewis (London and Princeton) once said, “History is the collective memory, the guiding experience of human society, and we still badly need that guidance”.

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