Sarah Harding writes… Fairer Votes: young people are leading from the front

On the 5th of May, we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to effect a change 100 years in the making.

This is our chance to finally fix the broken system that has failed the people of Britain. And Liberal Youth will not waste it.

Young people are leading from the front in the fight for fairer votes. University and college campuses across the country are coming alive with a new wave of political participation. Young people from all political parties and none are uniting to fix our political system, and to give us a electoral system fit for the 21st century.

Liberal Youth are helping lead this fight for change. We are raising awareness of the referendum up and down the country, and equipping young people and students for the biggest battle for electoral reform we are likely to see in our lifetimes.

We are driving up voter turnout in student wards, getting young people registered for postal votes and conducting a training tour on winning the youth and student vote in the Referendum.

We are taking part in and facilitating the hundreds of purple banner drops, and from Edinburgh to Aberystwyth we’ve marched down the street, started flashmobs and tackled the biggest obstacle to electoral reform – ignorance of our broken system.

From next week, packs on how to win the AV referendum will be winging their way to every single one of our youth branches and local parties. Within them, we’ll have template artwork for all member emails, materials for street stalls and a guide on how to achieve maximum impact in campaigning.

We will also be including ideas for a poster campaign to put student union elections to shame, and advice on using social networks to drive up voter turnout.

On the 2nd of April, immediately following Western Counties conference, the Liberal Youth say YES! Rally will take place at the University of Bristol with an evening of famous faces, top speakers from within our own party and an evening of YES! To Fairer Votes Comedy.

Don’t doubt that Liberal Youth are going to be leading the fight to a YES! Vote, and helping every local party across the country achieve the same.

Young people and students today are not the disaffected youths stereotypes portray us as, we are not the apathetic, the lazy and the ‘me’ generation. We care about fairer votes for all, about ending seats for life, and for restoring trust and accountability in our political system. we are giving the YES! Campaign everything we’ve got because it deserves everything we’ve got.

We will be out on May 5th, and we will vote YES! We have had enough. It is time for change.

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This entry was posted in Op-eds.


  • It was all going so well up to the penultimate paragraph.

    ‘We care about fairer votes for all, about ending seats for life, and for restoring trust and accountability in our political system.’

    Of all the argument that the YES could make, those are three of the weaker ones. Fairer votes for all who do not live in a constituency where someone gets 50%.

    Even if seats for life did not just reflect how the voters vote, AV would not end them – and neither necessarily would PR. AV surely is about reflecting votes differently, not necessarily ensuring that there is a turnover of representatives. How would this argument go down in an area with a popular, long-serving MP?

    I have often thought that term limits would be better than changing the voting system, but that’s for another day.

    As for trust and accountability, how do these relate in and of themself to the electoral system? Is there some reason to believe that MPs elected under different systems are somehow de facto more or less trustworthy?

    It’s great to see a youth effort at civic participation, but these arguments don’t seem that strong to me.

    And to save everyone asking – I will be voting no – and no, I am not active in the campaign, I have no agendas, there is no, ‘plot,’ here. Just an honest, face-value comment on an open talkboard.

  • @Duncan – I know you said ‘for another day’ but can you explain your thinking on term limits? My view is that If we had term limits under our current Electoral system then all that would change is that we’d have politicians parachuted into safe seats en-masse every other (or third) general election as opposed to just as and when as happens now.

  • Jim – OK.

    To an extent, parachuting is not a problem. After all, if the voters don’t like it they can vote for someone else. Indeed, I am not totally clear why some people see long-standing MPs as a problem in and of themself, still less how AV would solve it.

    However, I believe that there should be time limits in the Commons (I leave the Lords out here) regardless of the seat. Say a three election or 15 year limit. The person would then not be allowed back to the commons for a period of time equivalent to that which they were in the commons. So if MP A served for ten years, they would have to be out of the Commons for 10 years before they could return.

    This would allow some independence from the whips whilst preventing total free-for-alls.

  • excellent piece by Sarah – all the polls suggest that the highest levels of support for the Yes campaign are amongst young people. Given that differential turnout could be key to the eventual result, the work of Liberal Youth will be critical.

  • “This is our chance to finally fix the broken system that has failed the people of Britain.’

    It’s not, you know. Had PR been on the table you’d be right. As it is, you’re replacing a broken system with another system which is at best extremely flawed. Now you might say, it’s a better system, but it’s not really fixing much of anything.

    One of the problems the Yes campaign has is it’s really difficult to get worked up about something which at best is a halfway house without descending into hyperbole. I’m sort of supportive of the campaign, i.e I’ll hold my nose and vote yes, but lets be honest, AV is simply a less poor system than FPTP (and even then some of the benefits are questionable). A year ago I doubt very much Tim, Nick or Sarah would have been quite so glowing about how great AV is.

  • Old Codger Chris 20th Mar '11 - 10:54am

    It’s great that some young people are getting involved in a campaign. Just a shame that the best we can offer is AV, which will be a huge disappointment if it happens.

  • Old Codger Chris 20th Mar '11 - 2:52pm

    Following my previous post, a second thought has penetrated my thick and aged skull.

    It’s actually a good thing we can’t ask young people to support a Yes2PR referendum. After the tuition fees u-turn by the We Are The Ones You Can Trust party, the prospect of Lib Dem participation in future coalitions would have sent most young people onto the streets in support of the No campaign.

  • Stuart Mitchell 20th Mar '11 - 4:12pm

    “…we have a once in a lifetime opportunity to effect a change 100 years in the making… This is our chance to finally fix the broken system that has failed the people of Britain… give us a electoral system fit for the 21st century… We care about fairer votes for all, about ending seats for life, and for restoring trust and accountability in our political system.”

    Like Tim Farron’s speech, this would all be great stuff if it were about PR – but sounds ludicrous when applied to AV, at least to those of us who haven’t lost our sense of perspective in the excitement of the campaign.

    I appreciate the Yes campaign will naturally want to big up AV, but there’s a real problem here. If you keep on over-selling AV to this degree, then it will become ever more difficult to justify a referendum on PR in the future (though I realise such a prospect seems remote anyway whatever the result on 5th May).

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