Tag Archives: electoral reform

Opinion: Electoral reform – How to

House of Commons at NightWe all know that electoral reform to both houses is important to us a party, quite rightly so. The current system is appalling, First Past The Post for the Commons does not bring fair votes for the electorate and at best only around 40% of voters voted for any government of the day (meaning of course 60% didn’t). The House of Lords is even worse, un-democratic and reeking of an old boys’ network.

However, that’s not to say that we shouldn’t have a two house system – of course we should. The scrutiny of a second chamber of government is vital to well thought out and properly debated laws and policy. But how do we get to the utopia of two proportionally elected chambers?

The answer is, I think, remarkably simple: piecemeal.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 19 Comments

Caroline Pidgeon writes… Power to the people – why conference paper has my backing

Last July I wrote a piece for Lib Dem Voice about devolving powers to London and other large cities. My article was drawing attention to a report published last summer called Raising the Capital (pdf). This report had been produced by the London Finance Commission, an authoritative and wide ranging group of experts from both inside and outside politics, and crucially including experts from Birmingham and Manchester and chaired by the highly respected Professor Travers of the London School of Economics.

The report highlighted that barely seven per cent of all the tax paid by …

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Opinion: 2016 is the year Bristol should adopt STV

Understanding the cycle of elections for local authorities can be a complicated process for the elector. Last year, a vote at Full Council resolved that Bristol City Council would change its cycle from ‘elections by thirds’ to whole council elections or ‘all ups’, to commence in 2016. This is a unique opportunity for Bristol to prove it’s not afraid for bold change and to introduce the Single Transferable Vote (STV) electoral system for elections to the council.

Turnout in local authority elections in England has always been lower than for Westminster elections. By introducing proportional representation in the form of STV, …

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Would PR spell the end of the Liberal Democrats?

It is one of the biggest yet most under-appreciated ironies of British politics that the policy that unites the Liberal Democrat party membership in its most fervent rapture — the introduction of proportional voting to Westminster elections — is also, probably, the thing most likely, if implemented, to lead to the end of the party is we know it.

That is not to say that PR would necessarily lead to the break up of the party, but it is undeniable that majoritarian electoral systems force together the relatively broad coalitions that are the pre-requisite to winning elections.

The way in which individuals …

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Opinion: It’s time to prioritise electoral reform for local government

As Liberal Democrats, we all know First Past the Post is a terrible voting system. But in this year’s local elections it has sunk to new depths.

With the arrival of genuine four-party politics in England, the proportion of votes that actually make a difference to the result has reached an all-time low. And of the 16 county councils that returned a single party majority, not one of those ruling parties gained a majority of votes – in fact most got less than 40%.

This is not just a dry academic point or a moan about unfairness. It makes a real …

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Opinion: Could Nigel Farage’s success lead to cross-party support for proportional electoral reform?

The pain has almost ceased, yet it is clear many in the Liberal Democrats feel it is an opportunity lost for a political generation. Mark Pack’s five point plan for the next Liberal Democrat manifesto was clear in its advocacy of wholesale local election reform- a change to the way we elect our MPs to Westminster is no longer on the table. Yet if the political landscape on the right has shifted to the extent many believe, the opportunity may come sooner than expected.

Nigel Farage has become many things to many people: a crusader reliant on a

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Local government reform: a progress report from Spring Conference

Between the AV referendum and the House of Lords, the cause of electoral reform has taken a few punches recently. But this year’s Spring Conference showed that Liberal Democrats have far from given up the fight.

Member contributions at consultative sessions on Political & Constitutional Reform and the next General Election manifesto revealed a strong appetite for reform to local government elections in England and Wales. And the same issue was addressed in detail at a packed Saturday evening fringe entitled ‘Worst Past the Post: why local government desperately needs electoral reform’.

The event, jointly sponsored by Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform …

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New report from the ERS: Reviving the Health of Our Democracy

After months of independent research, the Electoral Reform Society has now published a report on Reviving the Health of Our Democracy. On the plus side, we discovered that most people are as politically charged as ever, albeit mostly through individualistic modes of participation such as single issue campaigns. The downside, of course, is that they feel less and less like their political ideas and aspirations can be reached via traditional representative democracy. Turnout at most sets of local elections is now below forty percent. Even more alarmingly, last year’s Hansard Audit of Political Engagement discovered that the percentage of people …

Posted in The Independent View | 8 Comments

Opinion: Worst past the post? Debating electoral reform for local government

Last year in May, Scottish voters were given the chance to vote using the Single Transferable Vote to select their local councillors for the second time since the introduction of the Local Governance (Scotland) Act of 2004. The Bill owes its life to the Liberal Democrats; it was a key demand for us entering into the Lib-Lab coalition government in Scotland. Almost ten years on from when the Bill became law, STV has done what it says on the tin. It has produced almost proportional results (exact proportionality is pretty much impossible under any system), it has almost doubled the …

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Eastleigh shows why the Tories and Labour should now support PR in local elections

imageIf only, if only… Instead of holding out for a referendum on the Alternative Vote the Lib Dem negotiators had secured proportional representation for all local council elections instead.

Hindsight’s easy, I know. At the time of negotiating the Coalition Agreement, electoral reform at Westminster was the party’s deal-breaker. The Lib Dem vote had gone up by a million, our number of MPs down by five. The public were in favour, or so the polls said. It’s possible the party wouldn’t even have approved entering the Coalition if the Westminster voting system had been left untouched.

And yet, and yet… Proportional representation at a local council level would’ve been a far more transformational way of shifting the power dynamics in this country, of introducing genuine electoral competition into contests up and down the country. Eastleigh shows us how.

Posted in Local government and Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 27 Comments

Opinion: We feel the handbrake of history on our Liberal reforming.

I doubt it’s gone unnoticed, but there are rather a lot of Tories in parliament.

Some 306 Tory MPs were elected in May 2010 (47% of the total on 36.1% of the vote), compared to a meagre 57 Lib Dems (only 9%, despite the party actually getting 23.0% of the vote).

And so the Lib Dems in parliament have had quite a battle to achieve their successes so far in government.

First Past the Post is neither a fair, nor a kind system …

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Opinion: Where now on Electoral Reform? (France!)

Electoral reform is off the public agenda for now whether we like it or not, but campaigners should be planning the future.

Some argue that the deceptions of the “No” campaign means that a re-run could be won if only the honest arguments are put and/or full PR was offered. But idea that we should have “another go” at similar arguments for AV+ or STV and expect a different outcome is wrong. All the arguments against AV are even stronger so for AV+ and STV. They will be defeated by an alliance of Tory and Labour tribalists, just as AV and House of Lords reform were.

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged | 70 Comments

Opinion: Boundary changes are an opportunity to elect 50 MPs by PR

The current proposals for electoral boundary changes include the idea that the number of constituencies and MPs should be reduced from 650 to 600. My suggestion is this: let’s keep the overall number of MPs at 650, and let’s agree to reduce the number of constituency MPs to 600 on the condition that the other 50 (less than 10%) are elected from party lists on the basis of proportional representation.

In a democracy, all votes should be equal. Votes will never be equal in the UK until the country adopts the proportional representation (PR) voting system. Under the ‘first past the …

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Psst! Whatever you do, don’t tell the Tories democratic reform is in their own best interests

A few weeks ago I wrote an article for Conservative Home offering some unsolicited advice to David Cameron’s party. I argued that a party that had achieved electoral success in the 1980s by appealing to the classless entrepreneurialism of aspirant ‘Middle England’ had once again become established in the electorate’s eyes as the party of established wealth and privilege. If the Tories want to regain the voters they have lost, they need to take drastic action to counter that view.

Reform of the House of Lords was one policy area I said the Tories should seek to make their …

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Liblink: Andrew Duff MEP “Why do MEPs fear electoral reform?”

Andrew Duff, Liberal Democrat MEP for the East of England has written for EU Observer about his attempts to change the electoral system for MEPs. He wants to see 25 MEPs elected on a pan European basis, a proposal he believes will improve the legitimacy of the Parliament:

Now the Union is moving to greater fiscal discipline and the probable installation of a more federal type of economic government which will have to be made directly accountable to Parliament. But do we sincerely believe that the European Parliament has attracted the desirable levels of loyalty and identification of the EU citizens

Posted in Europe / International and Op-eds | Also tagged , and | 6 Comments

A new start: Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform

On Saturday, 10th March, at Spring Conference in Gateshead, we launched a new organisation – Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform. At the moment, LDER has over 70 members and is aiming to gain the status of an Accredited Organisation (AO) at the earliest possible opportunity.

Electoral reform is not exactly a new cause, you might think, and the voters have told us exactly what they think about it. As I went around the conference centre asking Liberal Democrats to sign up for LDER, I was asked repeatedly: ‘Why electoral reform?’ ‘Why …

Posted in Op-eds | 11 Comments

New Liberal Democrat Electoral Reform Group

There’s nothing that warms the cockles of most Liberal Democrat hearts quite like electoral reform.   Those of us who attended Federal Conference found ourselves approached by very nice young people  with clipboards who invited  us to join a new organisation, Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform. LDER styles itself as “the home for Liberal Democrats who want to see a fairer and more effective voting system.”

Today, their acting chair, Crispin Allard sent out an e-mail to all the supporters who’d signed up.

It has been a while since we were in touch at Federal Conference, so I thought I should update

Posted in News | 16 Comments

What part of Yes do you not understand?

We don’t normally republish lengthy pieces from other people’s blogs, but in the case of James Graham’s review of Don’t Take No For An Answer by Lewis Baston and Ken Ritchie, which doubles up as a detailed post-mortem on the AV referendum, we’re happy to throw those rules out of the window because of both the post’s excellence and the importance of the issues to future campaigning and hopes for electoral reform.

So here is a slightly revised version of the post which first appeared on James’s blogYou can also read Mark Pack’s (much shorter!) review of Don’t

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Opinion: Never Mention “STV” Again

The Liberal Democrat Conference opens today in Birmingham with perhaps the most depressing talking shop ever put on a Lib Dem Agenda. It’s the consultative session for the “May 2011 Election Review”: a big drop in the popular vote; a major setback on local councils; a disaster in Scotland; a total and utter thrashing in the AV referendum. And it’s the last that looks the most hopeless.

Is electoral reform finished for good, or at least for a generation? Instead of endlessly debating what went wrong, there’s one major change we can make right now to improve things next time: …

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5 posts to read before casting your Electoral Reform Society council vote

If like me you’re a member of the Electoral Reform Society, you’ll have recently received a thick wad of paperwork through your letterbox. The reason? It’s time for the election to the Council of the ERS. The deadline for voting is this Friday, 26th August, so time’s not on your side to wade through the 53 manifestos of those standing for election.

Simon McGrath wrote about the elections here on Lib Dem Voice this week, sparking an interesting discussion thread. But here’s a further five posts (in no particular order) I’d personally recommend reading before deciding how to …

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Opinion: Private sector tenants are disenfranchised

There has been a lively debate on Lib Dem Voice this week on housing policy. Well-argued articles from Alex Marsh, Mike Tuffrey and Stephen Gilbert have ignited equally interesting debates in the comments. All sorts of intriguing policy ideas have been proposed to address the growing crisis in housing supply.

However, a great idea is just the starting point on the long journey to create a successful policy. For a mainstream party with ambitions to form the next government, it is crucial that ideas enjoy popular support with voters. Housing development invokes strong feelings amongst the electorate, both …

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Independent View: Time for Lib Dems to ditch STV

With the loss of the AV referendum, electoral reformers across Britain are now looking at what went wrong and what changes they can make for the future to ensure it doesn’t happen again. We need our political parties to do the same, and that means a re-evaluating their electoral reform policies.

As absurd as it is, the perceived complexity of AV was a significant factor in its rejection by the public. The whole concept of preferential voting has now been tainted for a generation as overly complicated. If we are to engage the public interest in the future we need to …

Posted in The Independent View | Also tagged and | 52 Comments

LibLink: Chris Huhne – No reform now means bigger reform later

The Independent on Sunday featured an article by Chris Huhne, the energy secretary, arguing that, while the AV referendum result was clearly a setback for electoral reformers, the pressures that still exist within the system will at some point make change inevitable. Now that such a change has been delayed, Chris argues, when the time for reform does come again, it will be on a much bigger scale than the relatively modest reform that AV would have been.

Here’s a sample:

The problems to which electoral reformers are responding have not gone away and will continue to demand an answer. British society

Posted in LibLink | Also tagged and | 14 Comments

Baroness Warsi’s car-crash interview on AV

It’s not quite Jeremy Paxman vs Michael Howard, but there’s a definite echo of it with Adam Boulton’s repeated questioning and Baroness Warsi’s unwillingness to answer. So if you’ve missed it doing the rounds on Twitter and Facebook so far, here it is to enjoy (or is that suffer?):

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Voting experts unanimously reject first past the post

The London School of Economics reports:

22 voting theory specialists voted to select the “best voting procedure” to elect one out of three or more candidates.

Each voter chose from a list of 18 nominated voting procedures as many as she/he approved of. From a possible maximum of 22 votes, First Past The Post (FPTP)­ –­ also known as Plurality Voting – received no votes. Approval Voting won the contest with 15 votes. The Alternative Vote (AV) took second place with 10 votes.

Meanwhile the Yes To Fairer Votes campaign has released a new campaign video:

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Go and see Nick Clegg’s electoral reform speech tomorrow morning

Tis the day for tickets for events in London it would seem, as the IPPR have been in touch about a few spaces left for tomorrow’s speech on electoral reform from Nick Clegg:

The Shape of the New Politics
Keynote speech by Rt Hon Nick Clegg MP, Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal Democrats

Thursday 21 April 2011, (9.45am for) 10 – 11am
ippr offices, 14 Buckingham St, 4th Floor, London, WC2N 6DF

Deputy Prime Minister and Leader of the Liberal Democrats, Nick Clegg MP, will give a keynote speech at ippr outlining the case for the Alternative Vote as part …

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PODCAST: AV referendum debate at Gladstone Club

On Monday 4th April, in the run-up to the AV referendum, the Gladstone Club hosted a debate in the National Liberal Club on electoral reform which featured Lib Dem Voice’s co-editor Mark Pack and the Chairman of the Edmund Burke society, Ian Alston. Both took a look at the lessons which can be learnt from history by those deciding how to vote in the referendum.

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“AV is a very British reform” – watch Nick Clegg’s speech

Yesterday Nick Clegg gave an excellent speech at the London Region Liberal Democrats conference, putting the case for a Yes vote in May’s AV referendum. I tried out filming it on my iPad, an experience that mostly worked pretty smoothly*, and you can watch the resulting footage here:

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David Schneider supports the Alternative Vote

Two minutes, twenty-one seconds of humorous campaigning for electoral reform courtesy of David Schneider. Enjoy:

Posted in News | Also tagged and | 1 Comment

Opinion: Fairer votes – the Pret A Manger test

There are lots of ways to make the case for a fairer voting system for electing MPs, but I think I may have come up with the most novel. I was in the staff kitchen at work the other day when colleagues starting chatting about the referendum, triggered by a newspaper article about it. They were split between the YES camp and the NO camp, both drawing on what seemed like standard arguments deployed by both campaigns.

I started trying to win over the antis, but wasn’t really getting anywhere. Then a thought occurred to me. I was peckish at the time, about to head out to buy something for a very late lunch. It was the sort of time in the afternoon when the range of sandwiches at the nearby Pret A Manger starts to dwindle – maybe they’ll have run out of smoked salmon, BLT, chicken avocado or whatever else.

“I’ll buy everyone here a sandwich from Pret. You can choose what you want using either first-past-the-post, or the alternative vote. If you choose first-past-the-post then you get one choice and if it’s run out then you get nothing. If you use the alternative vote then you can, of course, let me know what you want ideally, but if they’ve run out of it you can let me know what you want as a second and third choice.”

You’ll be unsurprised to learn that they all decided to use the alternative vote, and I think this little exercise won over the sceptics too.

Of course if you meet someone who wants a less sandwich-based explanation of how the alternative vote works, I can heartily recommend this video that Jonathan Wallace shot of me setting out the case for change and explaining how the alternative vote works. Take a look:

Posted in Op-eds | Also tagged and | 29 Comments

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