Five Liberal Democrats elected to Electoral Reform Society Council

Five Liberal Democrats have been elected to the Electoral Reform Society’s Council. They are Crispin Allard, Paul Pettinger, Keith Sharp, Jon Walsh, who were re-elected, and new arrival Wera Hobhouse. There are also 4 Labour, 1 Green and 5 non politically aligned members.

The society has its AGM today at which the new Council takes office.

What surprises me, from the official announcement, is that there were only just over 3500 valid voters of whom less than 30% actually cast their ballot. I would have expected ERS to have more members and for those members to be more engaged in the future course of the organisation.

What ERS does actually matters. They need to be a key force in the next few years, creating a cross-party consensus for serious voting reform and building the case in the country. How well that is done will help determine this country’s course during and beyond the 2020 election.



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  • Phil Rimmer 5th Sep '15 - 1:31pm

    I can’t say that I am surprised at the state of the ERS. I realise that the reasons we lost the Electoral Reform Referendum was largely down to Brand Clegg being reduced to trash and the bad system proposed. However, the actual campaign, which appeared to me to be ERS led, was awful and did nothing to help the situation. I would need some convincing to ever hand over cash to the ERS again.

  • Richard Underhill 5th Sep '15 - 4:11pm

    Phil Rimmer 5th Sep ’15 – 1:31pm
    The tories did not mind us having a referendum on the voting system providing we did not win.
    When it looked as though we might win, they turned nasty, for instance deploying Michael Howard, talking nonsense.

  • John Tilley 5th Sep '15 - 7:48pm

    I think it is very UNFAIR to criticise ERS for the result of the AV Referendum.

    The purpose of ERS is to work for the introduction of STV in multi member constituencies.
    It is not the purpose of ERS to bring in some system designed on the back of Nick Clegg’s fag packet when looking for an excuse for not getting a proper commitment to a proper reform into The Coalition Agreement.
    I have never heard Clegg talk about the merits of STV and sometimes wonder if he actually knows the differences between the two systems.

    Some members of ERS wanted nothing to do with AV and took no part in The Referendum campaign.

  • Phil Rimmer 5th Sep '15 - 8:55pm

    Richard Underhill – so one Tory MP sank an entire campaign? I think not.

    However, regardless of ones opinion on the reason for defeat, the ERS campaign should at least have built a solid foundation for electoral reform. Instead, despite wide cross party and one party support, it failed utterly.

  • Well -I am actually an ERS member who voted in this election.
    Has anybody else around here done so?

    Because if you did, you would know that the ballot paper came with 47 manifestos (one candidate failed to send one).
    A surprising number of those manifestos were of a very bad quality (for example beside the point, such as sending plain CVs without any reference to the ERS agenda). Many were pretty long.

    I gave them a fairly serious skim read just to figure out how to filter out the top ten or so among those 48. It took me a whole evening (over 3 hours, I think).

    I was wondering afterwards whether it was worth it… but then…. as an ERS member, I take elections seriously!

    But I honestly cannot blame anybody who didn’t find the time to do this.

    If the ERS (and its commercial branch Electoral Reform Services) can’t find a way of running an election that at least the most committed election geeks can actually engage with – and they clearly didn’t this time -, then something is clearly going quite wrong.

  • Maria,

    I hold my hand up that I just got defeated by the number of candidate statements!

  • Dave G Fawcett 6th Sep '15 - 1:46pm

    Like Maria I am a member of ERS. Like Maria, I waded through all 47 manifestos (many of them made for somewhat turgid reading) . In the end, and because I didn’t know any of the candidates, I decided to vote for those who were members of the Lib Dems. Again because I didn’t know any of them, I ended up by ‘sticking a pin in the list’ to decide which of my candidates got which preference. I suppose it’s as good a way to choose as any!

  • Michael Cole 6th Sep '15 - 2:09pm

    Yes Maria, I too waded through 48 (I blank) candidate statements and similarly questioned whether it was worth it. It’s not surprising that less than 30% voted. I was very tempted to consign the whole thing to the recycling bin.

    I joined ERS last May and asked them for contact details of any local campaigners; I received no response.

  • Peter Galton 7th Sep '15 - 10:33am

    I also voted and yes it did take some time to read the candidates statements. Some were quite bad. I did filter out the Lib Dems and vote for them first. I hope that they do a good job.

  • I was a member of ERS for a couple of years, but after hearing almost nothing from them in my time as a member, and then asking me to renew my membership six months before it was due I gave up on them. Regardless of what happened in the referendum I hoped ERS would be an organisation actively campaigning to change the voting system but in honesty I don’t really know what it does.

  • Richard Underhill 7th Sep '15 - 2:03pm

    Anders 7th Sep ’15 – 1:54pm i am not a member of ERS, but receive frequent emails from them and was even invited to stand, providing of course that i joined. Currently i operate mainly within the Liberal Democrtas.

  • Keith Sharp 7th Sep '15 - 2:59pm

    I am one of the five Liberal Democrats on the Electoral Reform Society Council.

    I read the criticisms of the Society in the posted comments. We’ll be reviewing our strategy, after the Council elections and post the General Election in the coming weeks/months. If anyone has ideas about we get to — or get closer to — our objectives of PR/STV for public elections in the UK, please post them up. All suggestions welcome.

    On the recent turnout in ERS own Council elections I was too disappointed. There are several factors of course, but I have had feedback that the sheer volume of candidates (48/49) and statements made hard going and put some people off voting. This is ironic as we worked hard to encourage people to stand, especially as we have many new members recently join up. We could make candidate elegibility more stringent — eg requiring candidiates to have a number of (how man — 5? 10?) member proposers, but this of course could work against new members who just don’t know many other members because they have only just joined. Is this the best route to take?

    And as for the quality of candidate statements: there are requirements (no more than one side of A4; max no. of words) but it would surely be invidious to censor/edit/rule out candidates opn the basis that their statements weren’t very good or were poorly laid out.

  • Julian Tisi 7th Sep '15 - 5:10pm

    Hi Keith

    Like Maria, I voted but it was only after a lengthy process. I didn’t just go for the Lib Dems, I wanted a good mix of people (young but enthusiastic, experienced, a mix of political affiliations – but then Lib Dems did tend to do better).

    I found some of the poorer manifestos just made it easier to reject the candidates – and you could have an internal laugh at their expense. Perhaps you could limit the manifesto to say 1/2 a page and half as many words? Or include some basic “key” information next to every candidate statement – e.g. number of years a member? served on Council before / current Council member / attendance record if so? – this might make it easier to filter them. I agree with you about perhaps not increasing the number of ERS members you need to nominate you and for the reason you say.

  • Denis Mollison 8th Sep '15 - 9:29am

    The problem surely lies in trying to elect 15 members in a single constituency! Most advocates of STV (including I think ERS) suggest that constituencies with 3-7 members work best.

    Instead of electing their whole council of 15 at once, for a 2-year term, why don’t they elect 5 each year for a 3-year term? Electing all at once may be appropriate for political contests but not so much for a body that I assume values consensus and continuity.

    As a further improvement , they could follow the John Muir Trust and London Mathematical Society by using STV allowing equal preferences: I find this a help when ordering long lists of candidates.

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