Tag Archives: electoral reform

Union delegates block electoral reform motion – despite 79.5% support from Labour members

The Independent reports:

Trade unions have blocked Labour from campaigning for proportional representation after a tight vote at the party’s conference in Brighton.

Delegates sent by members to the gathering overwhelmingly backed a motion in favour of electoral reform by 79.5 per cent to 20.49 per cent.

But the vast majority of delegates sent by trade unions voted against the plan, meaning the motion was lost by a total of 42 per cent to 57 per cent.

Ed Davey commented:

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Affirmed None of the Above Options

The Liberal Democrats and others endorse Proportional Representation as a panacea to the problems inherent with First-Past-The-Post. FPTP is designed to discourage electoral participation, whether due to the spoiler effect of voting for minor parties, the adoption by major parties of fringe policies simply to win votes, smear campaigning supplanting positive campaign promises, or the disconnect between vote and seat shares. Is it any wonder that at the last five general elections, more than thirty per cent of eligible voters abstained from voting, not wanting to make unsavoury compromises or believing that their votes did not matter?

Our current electoral reform platform of adopting PR, and improving ballot access and voter participation, may not go far enough to repair the damage done by FPTP to public trust in politics, already materialising as depressed electoral turnout. The endorsement of any additional precedented reform measures, such as compulsory voting or holding Election Day at the weekend or on a bank holiday, would fail to take this into account.

Posted in Op-eds | 13 Comments

Alistair Carmichael MP writes…Electoral reform can happen, but it will take concerted action

When I joined the Liberal Party in the 1980s, I was optimistic that the UK would replace its unrepresentative voting system in the not too distant future. Fast forward to 2021 and we remain stuck with First Past the Post and, at first glance, little reason for optimism.

The current set-up has never been ideal for the UK or indeed any modern democratic society. First Past the Post results in governments elected by a minority of voters, with policies supported by a minority of the electorate being imposed on the majority. This leaves far too many people feeling excluded and unrepresented. With a distorted link between voters and MPs, how can the UK call itself a representative democracy>

The answer, as we know, is Proportional Representation (PR). Replacing First Past the Post with a fair alternative will make our democracy truly representative. Pluralism is a key tenet of democracy. As a liberal and a democrat, I recognise the need for a voting system that allows multi-party politics to show itself rather than be hidden by the illusion of First Past the Post. Proportional Representation provides a framework for multi-party politics to flourish and voters to be represented.

We have all heard the tiresome arguments against PR, all the more worn-out considering that the UK is now the only democracy in Europe to use the outdated First Past the Post system for its main elections. The myth that reform would end the constituency link is nonsensical, considering the range of systems that can preserve and even strengthen it by improving voter choice both at the ballot box and in between elections. Those resistant to change also argue that a switch to PR would be a risky, unnecessary experiment. Considering that Proportional Representation is used in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and is well established across Europe, this doesn’t stand up to scrutiny.

All major opposition parties apart from Labour support Proportional Representation for UK-wide elections and groups like Make Votes Matter are pushing the debate in the right direction. The establishment of the All-Party Parliamentary Group for Electoral Reform is the latest boost in the campaign, ensuring a strong coordinated voice in parliament to champion the need for change.

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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.

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An outgoing Regional Party President reflects…

As I come to the end of my six years as President of the Party in South East England I have been reflecting on lessons to be learnt from a time that has been particularly significant both for our Country and our Party. When I began we were in Government and as I leave the final arrangements for departing the EU are being confirmed. We have had four leaders during this period.

It has been a tumultuous time dominated by our relationship with the EU. As a committed European I now realise that people like me have to take a lot of responsibility for how the referendum turned out as I adopted the approach like many others of keeping my head down, not offering the strong reasons for remaining and hoping that the issue would go away. It is though worth noting that as the Supreme Court ruled the referendum result was non-binding and twenty nine million people either voted to remain or did not express an opinion. It would nevertheless, because of the way the referendum was presented, have been very difficult immediately after the vote for parliamentarians to reject the outcome.

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Scots need hope for a progressive United Kingdom

Boris Johnson has clearly demonstrated this week that he is a severe threat to Scotland’s place within the United Kingdom. Liberal Democrats need to consider any strategy which can give Scots a vision of a progressive United Kingdom freed from Boris Johnson’s “leadership”.

This is a speech I intended to deliver at Scottish conference last month, and I dearly hope this course can be seriously considered and deployed in good time to positively affect our performance in elections next May.

“I am deeply worried about Scotland’s place in the United Kingdom. I see polls showing support for Independence at 58%. I see within those polls that younger generations support Independence at a rate close to 4 to 1.

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We MUST stop using the language of votes “not counting” and “wasted votes”

As Liberal Democrats we all care about electoral reform. Nevertheless, we really don’t make a strong case for it by saying that people’s votes in safe seats “don’t count” or that we have untold “wasted votes“. That is of course one way to look at it, but completely ignores the reality that any electoral system will have people who vote for candidates or parties which aren’t then represented – even with Proportional Representation (PR), such as those voting for parties which achieve less than 5%.

More fundamentally, even under the current First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) system every vote counts (and I’d be the first to take to the streets if it didn’t) since every vote is literally counted to see which candidate has the most (such an act is, of necessity, a comparison and involves weighing every pile of votes against every other). By talking about wasted votes we are conflating voting at all with voting for the winner – a specious argument since the very idea of electing someone (again, of necessity) means choosing between competing candidates and therefore having both winners and losers.

That is not to say that FPTP is a good system, it isn’t! Outside the United States (which is an exclusively two party polity in a way the UK hasn’t been for decades, a presidential system, and otherwise not a democracy we should wish to emulate for a whole host of reasons) almost no liberal democracy in the world still uses FPTP – certainly no other in Europe. But in making the case for reform we should rely on and encourage voters’ innate sense of fairness when presented with the facts of the result, rather than a present a questionable interpretation of their role in democracy as it stands.

As such, it would be far better to focus on the HUGE disparity between the numbers of votes cast for different parties and the MPs these actually elected (i.e. in 2019 ~26,000 for an SNP MP vs ~51,000 for a Labour MP and a staggering ~335,000 for a Lib Dem MP). Add this point to the threat to democracy manifested by any party which gains only a MINORITY of votes thereby acquiring absolute power by having a MAJORITY of MPs, with no checks on that power save a weak House of Lords (presenting examples such as Blair taking us to war in Iraq despite the public being overwhelmingly against it, or Thatcher introducing the poll tax, or Boris delivering a devastating no deal Brexit, if that goes on to happen) and you have a very powerful argument for reform.

Posted in Op-eds | 24 Comments

Enough talk about pacts, let’s make votes matter!

Last year, I participated in an experiment. After more than a year of solid campaigning in anticipation of a general election, I stood aside in favour of a formal electoral alliance of different parties devised in order to maximise their number of seats and try to stop Brexit. Whilst the success and tactical merits of the Unite to Remain alliance can be debated at length, it at least saw parties band together in common purpose and try to play the first-past-the-post system against itself.

This controversial proposal was consistently met by claims from anti-reform politicians, including the Labour MP in whose constituency I stood aside and tried to unseat, that we were being anti-democratic, denying voters their right to vote for the candidate or party they most believed in, and for trying to rig elections for our own political ends. There may well be some merit to these claims, but what these politicians have to confront is that the same criticism they had could be applied directly to FPTP.

Posted in Op-eds | 36 Comments

Ed and Layla set out electoral reform hopes

It wouldn’t be a leadership election if we didn’t talk about PR at some point.

Layla and Ed have both written for the Electoral Reform Society setting out what they want to see in terms of changing our rubbish voting system.

Here are some highlights:

Layla

Under my leadership, the Liberal Democrats would therefore look to establish a common cross-party statement of support for legislation for PR ahead of the next elections.

The aim would be to establish a firm pre-election commitment to PR with support from across different parties. Keir Starmer has voiced his support for a fairer, proportional voting system, and it’s becoming clear that Labour is being increasingly disadvantaged by First Past the Post. This means there is an important opportunity for all those who believe in electoral reform to deliver on it.

I believe that under my leadership, the Liberal Democrats would be better placed to have these discussions with Labour and other political parties, and to help build a cross-party consensus for electoral reform.

Electing me as leader would send a strong signal that the Liberal Democrats are refreshed as a party and have put coalition behind us. That is why I am urging all those who believe strongly in electoral reform to support me at this election, so we can move forward together as a country and build a voting system in which everyone has a voice.

Ed

In respect of elections it is shameful that the United Kingdom continues to use the antiquated, First Past the Post System. I believe we should look to introduce a proportional system to both Westminster and local elections, at the earliest possible moment.

This is not just because the system is needed for both, but because the problem in some local areas is acute. There are areas which have become almost ‘one party states’ with votes for all mainstream parties being ignored and authorities left with little or no opposition scrutiny.

I am passionate about devolving power – all the more reason to make sure the scrutiny of these bodies is representative and effective. I believe there is an appetite to devolve powers from some in other parties and think making common cause on reforming our electoral process as we pursue this is a way to secure the changes we need.

Other areas around how we run elections are ripe for reform – we should introduce automatic voter registration to make it easier for people to vote and scrap the ridiculous plans to require voter ID at polling stations. The Conservatives’ desire to require ID creates another barrier and ends up with more people – likely from minority communities – not exercising their democratic right: it is indefensible.

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Wendy Chamberlain leads parliamentary debate on electoral reform

Every night, House of Commons business closes with an adjournment debate for half an hour. It’s a half hour in which an MP raises an issue and a Government minister has to respond.

It was worth staying up last Monday night to watch Wendy Chamberlain lead a debate calling for electoral reform. She made a brilliant case both for PR and votes at 16. She was supported by Wera Hobhouse, Christine Jardine and Layla Moran.

You can watch the whole thing here – and it is worth doing so to see how well they make the case – and how the Government Minister responding is all over the place, presumably because she knows fine that they were right.

Here are some key highlights thanks to Make Votes Matter:

 

You can read the debate in Hansard here and Wendy’s speech in full is below:

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8 June 2020 – the overnight press releases

  • Lib Dems to use emergency debate to warn Rees-Mogg is threatening public health
  • Covid-19 has exposed politics as not fit for purpose, Lib Dems warn

Lib Dems to use emergency debate to warn Rees-Mogg is threatening public health

The Liberal Democrats will today use an emergency debate in Parliament to warn Jacob Rees-Mogg that if an MP falls ill to COVID-19 or there is a spike in cases because of travel to and from London then he must take personal responsibility and resign.

The debate, secured by Liberal Democrat Chief Whip Alistair Carmichael MP, was agreed following alarm at Business Secretary Alok Sharma becoming …

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First Past the Post Wins!

Many argue that our political system is broken but why? – is it simply sour grapes from candidates who didn’t win?

There is plenty of evidence to show that in the UK a political party can win a majority of seats in government without gaining a majority of votes cast.  In the 2005 election for example Tony Blair’s government won 355 seats with only 35% of the total votes cast. In contrast the Conservatives won 198 seats having polled 32% of total votes cast.

This imbalance of the “first past the post” election system is further compounded if results of the ballot box and allocation of parliamentary seats are compared to the total number of people who were registered to vote, regardless of whether they did or not.  In 2015 for example the Conservatives gained a majority with 36.8 per cent of the votes cast, but ….

… If the measure is then broadened to consider the proportion of support that the party received from the electorate as a whole, the figure plummets to 24.4 per cent. This means that three-quarters of those who were registered to vote did not support the government.

Matthew Bevington: Unrepresentative democracy and how to fix it: the case for a mixed electoral system

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Reasons To Be Cheerful

I am absolutely not feeling cheerful. I am gutted that my party has once again been drubbed at the ballot box, and the loss of Jo just 5 months into her leadership feels like a kick in the teeth. Watching her in this campaign I always felt that although it wasn’t her moment just yet, her moment would undoubtedly come. Now I just despair at the senselessness of it.

And Boris Johnson! There is a woman in an Iranian gaol because of his carelessness! What is it about this man and his continuous affairs and in-numerate children that the British …

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The 200-year quest for fairer voting

The first use of the Single Transferable Vote was on 17th December 1819, so the bicentenary will fall on the day when our new parliament assembles.

It couldn’t really be more ironic, with a Prime Minister claiming a “powerful new mandate” on 43.6% of the vote, and where a majority of votes were cast for parties opposing the Brexit deal that was the key policy on which he fought the election.

A meeting tomorrow at the Royal Statistical Society will celebrate the anniversary, and give an opportunity to discuss the prospects for electoral reform. Klina Jordan of

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The irony of the Tory Voter ID plans

Our democracy in this country is pretty much broken.

On one hand we have a government that constantly bangs on about the will of the people, whilst simultaneously doing its damnedest to undermining it.

The irony of that is not lost on me.

A Government that actually did care about the will of the people would make sure that the people got the parliament they asked for, for a start, by introducing a proportional system of voting. This is not boring constitutional stuff – we should be doing more to frame it as a fundamental issue of trust.

In recent years, the introduction of individual electoral registration has led to a severe democratic deficit. Just last month, Electoral Commission research showed that 17% of voters were not correctly registered.

That’s not far off one in five people, who are more likely to be young or from marginalised groups – and least likely to vote Conservative.

That is, surely, a much bigger problem than some confected spectre of “voter fraud” which is being used as a justification to bring in this measure.

The Electoral Reform Society has this to say on that subject:

Thankfully electoral fraud is very rare in the UK. Where voter fraud has occurred, it has been isolated and therefore is best tackled locally.

Out of 44.6 million votes cast in 2017, there was one conviction resulting from the 28 allegations of in-person voter fraud – that’s 0.000063%. Adding a major barrier to democratic engagement off the back of this would be a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

And our Tom Brake said that this measure was a blatant attempt at voter suppression and rig future elections:

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The opportunity for electoral reform

In the present political turmoil, there is increasing recognition that our present electoral system should carry much of the blame, Amber Rudd being the latest convert to this point of view.  If the opportunity to replace it suddenly opens up, we need to be ready to seize it.

Fortunately, the kind of proportional system for Parliamentary elections that the Liberal Democrats have long believed in has the added advantage that it could be implemented quickly. Constituencies for elections using the Single Transferable Vote (STV) can be based on local authority areas, mostly electing 3 to 6 MPs, as the attached map illustrates.

Aligning constituencies with community boundaries in this way helps maintain a strong local connection: it is good for both voters and representatives, avoiding division of responsibility and duplication over local issues.  And while some will regret the loss of having a single local MP, there will be many others who rejoice in at last having at least one MP they actually voted for, and a choice of whom to approach over any specific issue.

Another advantage is that boundaries would need to be changed only very rarely; changes in the number of voters can instead be accommodated by changing the number of MPs for the constituency.  And the scheme is very easy to keep up-to-date, using the current year’s electoral register.

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Compulsory Voter ID – sensible security measure or deliberate disenfranchisement?

Did you know that the Government has a manifesto commitment to bring in compulsory ID for Parliamentary elections?  They plan to require us to show some sort of ID before we are issued with our ballot paper in a polling station. 

The idea was piloted in five Boroughs in the recent council elections, and the Government is now looking for pilot sites for next May’s elections. The Cabinet Office and the Electoral Commission have both published evaluations of the pilots. There is also an excellent report from the Electoral Reform Society setting the issue of voter ID in the context of other priorities for electoral reform.

I took part in a project, funded by the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust Ltd, to find out how voters experienced these pilots.  We contacted Lib Dem and Labour campaigners in the five Boroughs and asked them to survey their residents and to give us their own views. We received responses from 21 campaigners and 329 residents from four of the five Boroughs (Woking, Bromley, Watford & Swindon). We also held a fringe meeting at Federal Conference, where Peter Taylor, the Liberal Democrat Mayor of Watford, spoke about the Watford experience.  

The Five Pilots

The five Boroughs piloted different approaches: Woking, Bromley and Gosport tested various forms of photo ID requirement, although in Bromley and Gosport two forms of non-photo ID were also allowed; Swindon and Watford piloted a requirement to bring a poll card which was electronically scanned, with Watford also allowing other ID in the absence of a polling card.

Voters Turned Away

The Electoral Commission evaluation states that, according to the Returning Officers, 1,036 people attempted to vote without the correct ID, and that between 326 and 350 did not return later in the day, an average of 0.23% of all polling station voters.  The “did not return” rate varied between councils, with 57% of those initially turned away not returning in Woking (where the ID requirements were strictest) and about 27% not returning in Bromley and Watford. 

Campaigners in our survey gave some examples: 

“A gentleman  with a Surrey Senior Bus Pass was refused a vote because his Bus Pass had two names and apparently his name on the Electoral Register contained an additional name”. (Campaigner from Woking)

“I heard of …one person turned away despite having a digital copy of a bank statement, he was told to go home and print the statement out.” (Campaigner from Bromley) 

Voters put off due to the need for ID

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Let this be the last first past the post election in London Boroughs

On 3rd May all the Borough Council seats in Greater London are up for election, which happens every four years. The Borough I live in is typical and has 18 3-member wards. Each voter votes by putting up to 3 Xs on the ballot paper. In each of these wards the top three candidates in terms of Xs on the ballot win. Hence F3PTP rather than FPTP (First Past The Post).

So what’s wrong with that? Five national parties are contesting the borough election, plus around four parties with Residents’ Association in their name, who are active in their own patches. Usually, a party sees its whole slate of three elected, but sometimes one candidate impacts more on the electorate, positively or negatively, and the result is a ‘split ward’. But I have seen nine candidates from three parties having each around 30% of the vote, but only one party gets the councillor seats. Natural justice suggests that they should have had one councillor each. With three councillors of one party, we KNOW that they were NOT the first choice of 70% of the electorate; at worst, the three victors could be the LEAST favoured candidates of 70% of the voters.

It gets worse. Some parties are so entrenched in certain seats that the others have given up. A friend of mine expressed it as ’If you put up a feather duster for XXXX party in YYYY ward, it would get elected.’ Two national parties contest all 54 seats, but the presence of the parents, spouses and children of local party worthies on the ballot papers gives a strong hint of what they think. The voters in such wards show what they think by not turning up to vote for the council, which, more than any other body, delivers government services to them.

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Why didn’t they chant for the Greens?

The Green Party is a great illustration of how much UK politics is shaped by First Past the Post. Corbyn supporters tell us that the country has been crying out for an anti-establishment, left-wing alternative for years. But the Greens have been pushing that message for decades. Yes they disagree on some policy areas, especially on Brexit, but Corbyn’s political ideology is pretty much identical to theirs.

The Greens got only 4% of the national vote in 2015 though. And the latest Britain Elects poll which has Labour at 45% has the Green Party at just 1%. Why will people support Jeremy Corbyn when they didn’t support the Greens?

The truth is that the Green Party, and other small parties like ourselves, face obstacles which Labour and the Tories don’t. They are trapped as an outsider in a two-party system, where their votes count for less, their message is muted, and they are seen as a wasted vote. We’ve come to accept this sort of thing as normal – but it makes a sham of our democracy. How can we justify a system which is so structurally biased, that two parties can give almost the exact same pitch to the people, and one is seen as a revolution, while the other is seen as an irrelevance? 

Posted in Op-eds | 28 Comments

Cut the Electoral Corruption!

“Follow the money” has always been a good tip for an investigative journalist or politician.

 In recent weeks and months there have been plenty such trails to follow.  In reverse order:

  • “Arron Banks faces EU referendum finance investigation” (BBC 1/11/2017);
  • “Trump, Assange, Bannon, Farage … bound together in an unholy alliance” (Observer 30/10/2017);
  • “Who paid for the leave vote?” (Guardian 28/6/2017);
  • “Labour MP calls for probe into Tory use of voter data” (Guardian 27/5/2017);
  • “Watchdog can’t stop foreign interference in election” (BBC 17/5/2017);
  • “No Conservative election charges from 14 police force inquiries” (Guardian 10/5/2017);
  • “The

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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).

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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:

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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 …

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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.

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Sal Brinton writes…My speech to the Demo for Democracy

Sal Brinton at Demo for DemocracyToday’s excellent Make Votes Matter demo outside parliament was both well attended and fun. A range of bodies, such as Unlock Democracy and the ERS joined with the Make Votes Matter group to urge us into action to make sure that the politicians don’t forget we still need PR for Westminster as well as for local government in England and Wales. All the major parties were represented – even the Conservatives – but neither the Tories nor Labour have signed up as parties.  We, of course, have, as well as the Greens, UKIP, SNP and Plaid Cymru. Paul Tyler is our representative at the cross party discussions.

Make Votes Matter is led by Owen Winter, an extraordinary young campaigner from Cornwall, who speaks with passion and enthusiasm about electoral reform. The event started with election lottery, where people picked out a card with one party on it, and then had a second, most of which didn’t match.

I was invited to speak on behalf of the Liberal Democrats, and I started by reminding people that we as liberals have been pushing for PR for over 150 years. It was John Stuart Mill in 1861 who wrote in his essay Considerations on Representative Government:

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Discussing electoral reform in York

Five years after the Liberal Democrats comprehensively messed up on electoral reform, the ludicrously disproportional 2015 general election result has put it back on the agenda.

There will be two related fringes at York, organised by Pro-PR (1-2 p.m. Saturday, Hilton) on the idea of an electoral pact for 2020, and by the Electoral Reform Society (6.15-7.15 p.m. Saturday, Novotel) on the idea of a Constitutional Convention.

Electoral reform is about more than fairness (avoiding disproportionality, safe seats and the need for tactical voting). As Ed Straw sets out in his recent Treaty for Government, our present voting system of FPTP distorts the fabric of politics, leading to wasteful `zigzag government’. Getting politicians to allow change in how they are elected is always a difficult matter, as the long struggles for voting rights illustrate. FPTP is defended by the two parties that benefit from it; perhaps the greatest current hope lies in Labour’s recognising how difficult it is going to be for them to win a majority in the foreseeable future.

Opportunities for reform in Scotland came with Labour’s rush to devolution in 1997, and the Liberal Democrats’ successful coalition negotiation with Labour in 2003.

Posted in Conference and Op-eds | Also tagged | 9 Comments

Don’t be left voiceless

Last year’s election was brutal. It was a disaster for the country and it made us all realise that politics needs to change.

I’m not talking about the Lib Dems’ electoral defeat. I’m not even talking about the Tory majority. Last year’s election made a mockery of British democracy. 1 in 4 voters voted Lib Dem, Green or UKIP, but have just 10 MPs to represent them. That is appalling.

Why then do the Westminster elite stand up for this broken system? Pure selfishness. I’m afraid that is the only answer I can think of. So many Labour and Tory MPs think they should be elected not because they have the most support, but merely because that is the way it has always been. MPs aren’t elected to protect their positions at all costs. They are elected to represent the people. Without proportional representation (PR) they are failing to do that spectacularly.

Posted in Op-eds | 38 Comments
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