Tag Archives: electoral reform

Make votes matter in Wales

Currently, excitement at prospects of electoral reform in the UK is mostly focused on the forthcoming debate  on 30 October in the House of Commons, arising from a petition organised by Make Votes Matter.  While this is an excellent piece of consciousness-raising, it seems sadly unlikely to lead to any reform in the near future.

In contrast, there is a real opportunity for progress in Wales, where the devolved government is considering introducing the Single Transferable Vote (STV) for council elections, along with a range of other election-related reforms.  The deadline for responding to the Welsh Government consultation on this issue is 10 October.

Reform in Wales could be key for the wider UK context: Northern Ireland and Scotland already have STV for local government elections; if Wales could follow their successful example, we would be in that much stronger a position to persuade England to do the same, giving all UK voters the experience of a fairer voting system.

One consultation after another…

The background to the current consultation is a little complicated.  Earlier this year the Welsh Government ran a more general consultation on reform of Local Government; a summary of the responses was published in July. This first consultation had just one, albeit wide-ranging, question on electoral reform, which included both asking for those in favour of changing to STV (12-8 against), and asking whether changing the system should be left for individual councils to decide (26-1 against). It would be interesting to know who the 12 against STV were: of the 169 responses to the consultation overall, 19 were from county and county borough councils but only 9 from members of the public.

The current consultation is focused on electoral reform. Like so many consultations that appear to have been designed to discourage public response, it is a very long document, asking 46 questions.  These include (Qs 13-14) the idea of reform being an option left to each council, despite its strong rejection in the first consultation, and indeed make it worse by suggesting that it should only happen if a 2/3 majority of councilors vote for it.  Yet astonishingly this time there is no question as to whether you are in favour of STV.  This despite the fact that one answer to many of the other questions on the lines of `how do we engage better with the electorate so that more people vote?’ is: use a fairer system so as to make votes matter.

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Why we need UKIP in the fight for Electoral Reform

 

Pursuit of electoral reform was once a defining policy of the Lib Dems, and it remains one of the key reasons why I am a member of the party. But the disastrous AV referendum in 2011 seems to have kicked the issue into the long grass. I have the same hangups about that referendum as many other Lib Dems do. Labour’s support was non-existent; the Murdoch press spread lies; and the vote was used as a way of punishing Nick Clegg. In short – the establishment pulled rank.

One popular observation about electoral reform is that no party in Government would ever support changing a voting system which had just given them power. I don’t think that this argument is as tautological as many claim it is, but it’s certainly a major concern.

However, none of this hides the fact that voting reform has never gained much support from the general public, unlike other anti-establishment causes. Electoral Reformers are in the uncomfortable position of being hated by the establishment but treated with disinterest by the wider electorate too. It is so often seen as peripheral issue, which only middle-class policy wonks from the liberal elite can be bothered to care about (a problem which the Lib Dems are oh so familiar with).

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 44 Comments

Electoral reform, Donald Trump … and Theresa May

 

For years, it was said that there was a threat to western democracies from far-right parties with extremist or populist opinions. The BNP were, in the 2000s, supposed to be ‘our’ version of this phenomenon, before they collapsed and – arguably – their vote went elsewhere.

But, still, the possibility of a small extremist nationalist party gaining undue influence was held to be a convincing argument against electoral reform. I think it may now be possible to say with great certainty that this was either a fallacy or a lie.

Why? Because there are two countries where, this year, populist/nationalist agendas have upset the existing political order: Firstly, the USA (in the person of Mr Trump); and secondly, this country (in the shape of Brexit). That is to say, two countries with plurality voting, who have historically rejected voting reform and proportionality as alien to their political culture.

And why might this have come to pass?

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LibLink: Paul Tyler on the need for electoral reform – not new boundaries

In the wake of the latest boundary commission proposals, Lord (Paul) Tyler has been writing in the Western Morning News emphasising the need for electoral reform, rather than boundary tinkering:

Posted in LibLink | Also tagged and | 9 Comments

How FPTP caused the catastrophic vote to leave the EU

The EU Referendum demonstrated the extent to which the “First-Past-The-Post” (FPTP) system has allowed politicians to become distanced from the people they purport to represent and has contributed to a sense of powerlessness amongst large sections of the UK population.

Three key effects of FPTP were at work:

  1. Safe Seats
  2. Distorted election results
  3. Distorted politics

1. Safe seats:
Under FPTP, safe seats (where a change in the party holding the seat would only happen in very unusual circumstances) account for the majority of parliamentary constituencies.

An MP in a safe seat does not need to worry about getting re-elected; he or she does not have to listen to …

Posted in Op-eds | 33 Comments

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?”

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We need to look forward. Let’s start with electoral reform

This is not a great day, the referendum is over. Remain lost. We can put away our posters, our hyperbole and our support for George, Dave and Jeremy. There is work to be done.

Perhaps more clear than a desire to leave the European Union. The result and accompanying commentary illuminates the stark divisions in our society. This was not just a no to the EU, its rules, and its immigration policy, it was a slap in the face of the political establishment. Yet the decision will not be an easy one to reverse, if possible at all. The recurring position of the EU was that out is out, to conspire through political back channels to return us to the union would be undemocratic and illiberal. Perhaps the only situation where this is possible would be if an election was called by the new Conservative leader before the activation of article 50, and the winning party stood on a manifesto on returning. Even still it is unlikely and our efforts would be better spent on working for a liberal, outward looking Britain moving forward than undermining the British public. 52% of such a large turnout is a mandate greater than that of most sitting governments.

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 8 Comments
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