LibLink: Tim Farron: Turmoil makes case for voting reform

Tim Farron has written a thoughtful article for the Yorkshire Post saying that we need to reform our voting system to make it fairer and to reflect the views of the people.

What’s surprising is that there’s more than just Lib Dems talking about it:

But just as extraordinary in its way has been the letters page of The Yorkshire Post. It has been bursting with debate on the need for electoral reform in the light of Brexit and the divided state of our country.

Tim went on to talk about conversations with Leave voters in Preston who felt that their concerns were not reflected in Westminster:

Many said that London had boomed while places that had been hit hard by the recession still haven’t seen much evidence of a recovery.

True, there were some who had voted Leave because they were worried about what they saw as an erosion of sovereignty. But many raised issues such as low wages, poor housing and lack of investment.

Even when immigration was mentioned, it was in the context of lack of training and opportunities for people in cities such as Preston to improve their lives and share in prosperity. I pointed out that London certainly has its share of disadvantaged people, but several people asked: “Where is the infrastructure investment in other parts of the UK?”

Electoral reform would ensure that government priorities reflected what more people wanted, so that communities weren’t left behind:

Electoral reform would force politicians to drop their theatrical insults and hammer out a programme that two or more parties could unite behind. Precisely because such programmes must command broad support, they are more likely to answer concerns of a wider electorate. I’m not claiming electoral reform is a silver bullet. But as the public increasingly wonders if the old two-party system delivers for them, even many in Westminster are talking about realignment.

You can read the whole article here.

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  • Richard Underhill 22nd Jul '16 - 11:12am

    One person in the Tunbridge Wells counting area wrote on the ballot paper that “This is a decision we elect MPs to take” without ticking either box.
    Many more said that. In an area where many people have given up voting in parliamentary elections because of the predictability of the result they develop a collective attitude to voting, which we experienced in local by-elections we hoped to win.
    The referendum compelled such people to seriously consider voting, hence the increased turnout, but very few of them were economists. Explaining that there would be less money about in the event of Leave winning was an uphill task.
    We won in Tunbridge Wells. The Tory MP supported and supports Remain, but was a sad site alone on the Conservative-In stall. He was at the Stronger-In stall on polling day.

  • jedibeeftrix 22nd Jul '16 - 11:57am

    Are you an economist?

  • James Hicklin 22nd Jul '16 - 12:49pm

    Tim Farron’s article is very confused. He notes that many people in many places have not experienced much of a recovery since 2008. While that is true, it has nothing to do with our electoral system as he tries to imply. Globalisation and technological change have adversely affected our older industrial areas particularly among those with low skills or obsolete skills.
    He claims that coalition government would give ordinary people a greater voice and speaks warmly of cross party cooperation during the referendum campaign. But both sides of that campaign were coalitions and the people spoke and said “Leave”. Tim doesn’t accept that and wants to fight the next election on getting us back in.
    Just prior to the last General Election he was critical of the party’s performance in coalition. In his first Leader’s speech to Conference he praised it. Confused indeed.

  • Lorenzo Cherin 22nd Jul '16 - 1:29pm

    Tim is correct on the need for us to make far more of the case for electoral reform . Johnny come lately is often welcome , other parties changing their mind and coming on board , fine , but this party and its two predecessor parties are what the issue is all about .

    Whether the voter feels the referendum is an avenue to lead us to a greater realisation of the need for that reform is another issue but the connection is there , as shown herein the interview with Tim .We need to make the case more vigorously !

  • We have to be very very careful as a party. Proportional Representation is not popular with the public as a whole and by giving all sorts of alternatives to people would probably spell our own death knell. Scotland’s list system is a glowing example, where we now languish 5th behind the Greens. Since the Referendum there appears to have been a lot of running around by the Centre Left Remain camp, at times resembling a headless chicken.
    Personally I do not know why we are worrying about such things, we appear to have finally got off the floor that followed our coalition participation and should see apportunities to advance that situation over the next 12 months. I am quietly optimistic.

  • Allan Brame 22nd Jul '16 - 3:52pm

    @James Hicklin
    Can we put a stop to this “the people have spoken” nonsense? Of those who “spoke” slightly over half said Leave; a little under half said Remain and nearly three in every ten said nothing at all.
    This was an advisory referendum and the advice offered to Parliament is confused and inconclusive.
    Brexiteers try to present this as a resounding endorsement for their viewpoint, whereas the outcome, while indisputably in their favour, was far more nuanced.

  • Andrew McCaig 22nd Jul '16 - 4:39pm


    We languish 5th behind the Greens in Scotland not because of PR but because of disastrous policy positions, being seen to prop up the Tories, and breaking our pledge… If it were not for PR we would be in an even worse position, since we did manage to win a list seat…

    Interest in PR comes and goes but I don’t know where you get the idea it is not popular with the public… For example:

  • Andrew McCaig 22nd Jul '16 - 4:50pm

    James Hicklin,

    Tim Farron says in that article that the problem with our so-called democracy is that the majority of votes do not elect the government. This makes people disillusioned with voting since their views are not represented and it is easy for the government to ignore them.. I do not see anything incoherent about his view..

    Meanwhile we should by rights have 52 MPs with our 8% at the last election. I would be astonished if we have that many after the next election in FPTP, even though I do expect us to get more than 8%…

  • Peter Parsons 22nd Jul '16 - 5:30pm

    Electoral reform is essential. While the current system remains in place, political campaigning (and therefore policies and manifesto pledges) are, by requirement, focussed on the swing voters in the marginals as this article from before last year’s GE highlights:

    Meanwhile, until there is some form of PR, the rest of us who live in the safe seats will continue to be either taken for granted or ignored as our votes are simply not as valuable.

    Independent academic studies show that in countries with some form of PR, voter turnout is higher, satisfaction with democracy is greater, wealth distribution is more equitable, scores on the Human Development Index are better, gender balance in politics is fairer, the probability of going to war is lower, environmental protections are stronger and action against climate change is faster, as this paper by Fair Vote Canada explains:

  • James Hicklin 22nd Jul '16 - 6:21pm

    @ Alan Brame

    But the fact remains people were asked and a majority “said” Leave. The Conservatives promised an In/Out referendum and pledged to honour the result which is where we are now. 52% beats 48% just as it would in a PR voting system.

    @Andrew McCaig

    “Tim Farron says in that article that the problem with our so-called democracy is that the majority of votes do not elect the government.”

    No, Andrew that’s not what he said. The relevant sentence is:-
    “Many have simply given up voting in general elections because they live in safe Tory or Labour seats where they don’t feel their vote will count.”
    We don’t vote to elect governments under our system, only our constituency MP.

    In the article he contrasts that voter apathy with the high turnout in the referendum which, he says, was “Because people realised every vote counted, and could really change the outcome.”

    So yes, people were fired up but voted Leave. They changed the outcome. But Tim want’s to overturn that and fight the next general election on it. I find that a contradiction.

  • When we went into Coalition in 2010, our local Oxford meeting was very gleeful about the prospect of a referendum on the alternative vote system. Speakers were much more concerned about this than what the party in coalition woud do to help the vulnerable in the light of the cuts, and one could have been forgiven for thinking this was the real motive for agreeing to the Coalition, with the state of the nation being put up as window-dressing. LibDems clearly saw winning the alternative vote referendum as a means to increasing seats in the long term, but it is a bad system, relying on our negative tactics of ‘the two main parties are a horrible lot of politicians but we are nice people so vote for us’. Maybe I was the only LibDem who voted against this system, but I did. Of course PR is fairer, but it wasn’t on offer. By going for a bad system on the thin-end-of-the-wedge principle and then losing, we set back the cause of proper reform for a very long time. Moaning now is merely whistling in the wind, I am afraid.

  • Arron Banks said he ran an American campaign during the referendum, and while a system exists to reward two-party politics negative campaigning with misinformation trumping facts will last and thrive. The idea that people are being left behind and an elite running things for their own interest will continue to produce “shock” results with wolves in sheep clothing saying they will champion the disenfranchised.

  • The Professor 23rd Jul '16 - 4:10pm

    I would like voting reform so that a new party could win seats at Westminster.
    This would be an Anti-EU Liberal party.

    Its primary policies would be:

    1. Renew a successor to Trident
    2. Brexit means Brexit (no to re-joining the EU and the Euro)
    3. Tuition fees re-structured so that economically strategic degrees (e.g. Engineering, Computer Science, medical degrees) are reduced to £1,000 per year.
    4. Immigration is controlled through an Australian-style points system.
    5. Retain UK’s membership of Council of Europe and ECHR.
    6. Scrap HS2 and re-deploy the cash to improving capacity on existing lines – plus new line to Cornwall (to remedy the vulnerable Dawlish line).
    7. Halve the International Aid budget and re-deploy the cash to the NHS.
    8. Scrap Hinkley Point – re-deploy cash to reducing national electricity demand by more locally produced power generation through solar panels.
    9. Referendum held to unify Ireland.
    10. Referendum on Scottish independence.

    Unsurprisingly this accords with my views.
    The Professor, Middlesex, England.

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