Take back control through electoral reform

This government is the worst in my living memory – and I have lived under quite a few bad ones. Most people, even Conservative diehards, would empathise, especially given the latest ‘stench’.

We will no doubt continue to debate the questions of ‘austerity’ and other failings, but undoubtedly the most ‘strong and stable’ government in recent times was, for all its faults, the coalition administration from 2010-2015. This, by chance, resulted from a General Election conducted under First Past the Post. But given a proportional system of voting, coalition government is almost inevitable – and is to be welcomed.

The Electoral Reform movement is at last gaining momentum, due in no small measure to increasing revelations of corruption and the misuse of a spurious Parliamentary majority. Of course, proportional representation does not of itself improve government standards but it is the ‘sine qua non’ for progress.

This Conservative government won’t contemplate electoral reform for obvious reasons.

The main opposition party won’t do it either, despite 83% of their membership and 80% of their conference delegates being in favour. So what is the reason for Keir Starmer’s deafening silence on the issue? Could it be that most of his MPs are in ‘safe’ seats?

The two largest political parties won’t do it, so change must come from the grassroots. The people and the smaller parties must take back control.

I was active in Labour’s Make Votes Matter which purports to be an all-party movement. I ceased to be active because I found it profoundly undemocratic at local level. I took part in street stall campaigns. In the course of this I spoke to many of the public. Almost without exception they were very much in favour of reforming the electoral system and we had no trouble getting them to sign a petition to that effect. But if the petition was ever presented to Downing Street it certainly has had little effect.

In the run-up to the next General Election or future by-elections, we should ask all the candidates whether they are in favour of a proportional voting system. Voters, no matter which party they would otherwise support, should vote only for those candidates that openly and genuinely support electoral reform. And for this sole exceptional occasion candidates’ views on other matters should be discounted.

The campaign should begin right now so that public awareness of this strategy is maximised. The North Shropshire by-election is a good opportunity to test the process.

If anyone has a better way to unblock this democratic impasse, I would be very interested to hear from them.

For many of us our General Election votes are wasted; but in this way we would make our votes count.

The people must Take Back Control.

* Michael Cole is a member of Barnet Borough Liberal Democrats. He is former chairman of Finchley & Friern Barnet Liberal and Radical Association. After a career as a practising Chartered Accountant he is now retired and concentrates on music. He is a working jazz musician and the double bass player in Michael Meadowcroft’s Granny Lee All Stars.

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126 Comments

  • David Evans 9th Nov '21 - 11:52am

    Sorry Michael, but I’m afraid your article is just a pleasant fantasy. The coalition government wasn’t the most strong and stable, it destroyed itself through our leaders allowing the Conservatives to use it to destroy us. Likewise we can all find nice people who will talk to us in positive ways about electoral reform, but it isn’t, never has been and never will be an election winner.

    There is only one way to get electoral reform.

    1) Work and campaign for years and years to get enough Lib Dems elected to parliament.
    2) Concentrate on issues that actually matter to the majority of the electorate (jobs, NHS, Education, poverty etc), not those that we like – PR, HoL Reform, Sex and Gender issues.
    3) Make sure we have a leader and a bunch of MPs who understand that the fight for Liberal Democracy is never ending and not just a five year quick fix and then its over.
    4) Have the courage to hold them to account!

  • John Marriott 9th Nov '21 - 12:54pm

    Yes, yes, yes, Mr Cole; but are the people that bothered? One thing. Please don’t get bogged down with systems. Anything has got to be better than what we’ve got now!

  • Chris Moore 9th Nov '21 - 1:45pm

    The strategy won’t work.

    Whilst a majority of voters if asked will favour electoral reform, for nearly all those voters it’s a concern that comes far down their list of priorities in deciding who they vote for at a GE.

    PR is one of our goals as a party. But espousing PR is not in itself a means to that goal. Prioritising PR above bread and butter issues will merely make LDs look irrelevant to nearly all voters and reduce our vote.

    You may remember a similar error was made in 2019, when we ended up appealing to the tiny “core” of voters who thought revoking the Referendum was the most pressing issue of the day. Let’s not make the same mistake twice.

  • Phil Wainewright 9th Nov '21 - 2:26pm

    The abuse of safe seats by the likes of Geoffrey Cox MP makes PR directly relevant to this week’s top issue in politics.

    Tories are saying that if constituents are horrified at the near £1m he earned in the past year from his ‘second’ job, then they can vote him out at the next election. But they know full well that the Tory voters of Torridge and West Devon aren’t going to abandon him in sufficient numbers in a General Election to wipe out his 25,000-vote majority. HIs safe seat allows Cox to treat his voters with contempt.

    STV in multi-member constituencies (and I do care which method of PR – this matters!) would give the voters in such areas a choice. They would still be able to vote for their preferred party but penalize poor MPs and candidates by giving them a lower preference vote. Safe seats are as inimical to our democracy today as the rotten boroughs of the 19th century and we should campaign to abolish them with PR.

  • Michael Cole,

    You wrote, “The two largest political parties won’t do it (reform the voting system for Parliament) and people “should vote only for those candidates that openly and genuinely support electoral reform. And for this sole exceptional occasion candidates’ views on other matters should be discounted”.

    The only way there will be electoral reform is if one of the two largest parties will vote for it in Parliament. There is no way that the majority of people would vote only on the issue of electoral reform. Is there a majority of British voters who support electoral reform? I doubt it.

    I wonder if petitions would help. This article (https://www.itv.com/news/2017-01-31/petitions-what-are-the-10-most-signed-and-what-have-they-achieved) from 2017 suggests that are not successful in bringing in change. The Chartists presented petitions with 3.3 million signatures and 5.75 million. They did not bring change at the time they were presented.

    A petition of more than 14 million might have an effect as this number is greater than the number who voted Conservative in 2019. Such a large petition presented just before the next general election would assist us in making electoral reform without a referendum part of any coalition agreement we made.

  • Let’s worry about Shropshie North, understand by election is going to be on December 16th, what a Xmas present for the party if we take this.

  • Well said Phil

    @Chris, I take the point that if it seems like all we care about is some academic change that might suit us more than the issues facing people in their day to day life, then it won’t look good.

    HOWEVER, it’s all about advertising our values. If we believe in fairness in how people live and work, we should want fairness in our voting systems. And not just fair because parliament should reflect how people vote, but one that produced a parliament that is answerable to the public and that isn’t riddled with sleeze and people on the take.

    As Phil says, using a system like STV that allows poor MPs from locally popular parties to be punished at the ballot box is key.

  • John Marriott 9th Nov '21 - 4:36pm

    @Phil Wainewright
    As I wrote earlier, you are illustrating the point I made. Stop obsessing with the type of PR that you think is best. If you aren’t careful the grey mist will descend quicker than you can say “STV”.

  • Michael Cole 9th Nov '21 - 5:23pm

    Dear David Evans,

    You seem to have missed the point.

    I am not an uncritical fan of the coalition government. The fact is that we were shafted by Cameron and by our own naivety. I challenge you to name an administration that was more ‘strong and stable’ in recent times.

    You say that “electoral reform … never has been and never will be an election winner.” We have to demonstrate to people that our corrupt system and governance will never improve without it. I do not for one moment suggest that we cease campaigning on other issues. As I say, it is the ‘sine qua non’.

    Your proposed remedies are irrelevant because they do not address the central problem of ‘safe seats and jobs for life’.

    As for your first remedy, I can agree with you that it will take “years and years to get enough Lib Dems elected to parliament.” But we do not have that long.

    o

  • Nonconformistradical 9th Nov '21 - 5:25pm

    Although it mightn’t be appropriate to make it the main focus of the by-election campaign, isn’t the issue of sleaze/political corruption coupled with safe seats a good opportunity to promote a key reason why we support electoral reform? i.e. to do away with safe seats?

  • Michael Cole 9th Nov '21 - 5:36pm

    Several readers have made the point that the electorate are interested in ‘bread and butter’ issues and that electoral reform is far down their list of priorities. That may well be true at present, but it is up to us (together with other PR advocates) to make them aware that real change and improvement will only come about with electoral reform. It is therefore central to our campaigning.

  • Michael Cole 9th Nov '21 - 5:45pm

    Phil Wainewright:

    Your observation that “Safe seats are as inimical to our democracy today as the rotten boroughs of the 19th century and we should campaign to abolish them with PR” is absolutely right.

    Yes, STV in multi-member constituences is my preferred option.

  • Russell Simpson 9th Nov '21 - 5:45pm

    @ Chris Moore
    Comparing the “shooting ourselves in the foot” Revoke policy with Electoral Reform (the 1st thing Vince Cable would change!) is ridiculous. Very difficult to see how ER happens without Labour. Hopefully they’ll realise eventually that they can’t beat the tories on their own in the forseeable future. Public opinion is 60/40 in favour of PR over fptp so it is possible.

  • Michael Cole 9th Nov '21 - 5:53pm

    Michael BG: You are right to say that petitions have not worked in the past but the gathering of 14 million signatures to a petition is a teeny bit unrealistic.

  • Michael Cole 9th Nov '21 - 6:06pm

    theakes: All candidates in the North Shropshire by-election should be asked to state their position on electoral reform. In no way would this be at the expense of our campaign generally. It is an opportunity to explain to people the central importance of this matter.

  • Michael Cole 9th Nov '21 - 6:11pm

    Fiona: If we were to campaign on this issue alone it would indeed be seen as merely seeking an “academic change”. I am not suggesting that we campaign on this to the exclusion of all other issues.

  • Michael Cole 9th Nov '21 - 6:16pm

    Nonconformistradical: ” isn’t the issue of sleaze/political corruption coupled with safe seats a good opportunity to promote a key reason why we support electoral reform? i.e. to do away with safe seats? ” Yes, indeed. That is exactly what I am advocating.

  • Michael Cole 9th Nov '21 - 6:20pm

    Russell Simpson: “Public opinion is 60/40 in favour of PR over fptp so it is possible.” Yes, that gives us good reason to believe that bringing this issue to the attention of the electorate would be popular and effective.

  • John Marriott 9th Nov '21 - 6:44pm

    @Michael Cole
    You’ve responded to most contributors. Doesn’t mine deserve a reply. Is it too vague or not ‘liberal’ enough?

  • There is one thing wrong with the idea expressed above, I don’t think the voters want to change the voting system.

  • Chris Moore 9th Nov '21 - 7:33pm

    @ Russell Simpson.

    It’s not a ridiculous comparison at all. It’s a similar strategic error.

    Revoke was something that appealed strongly to a lot of then Lib Dem members and a small % of the overall electorate; PR also appeals STRONGLY to Lib Dem members and a very modest percentage of the overall electorate.

    I am very much in favour of electoral reform: but to get electoral reform, we have to win under the FPTP system; to do that we have to appeal to the large number of voters with no interest in PR (or a very mild positive interest).

    Wasting precious time and energy during a GE campaign majoring on PR will not be successful. I understand Michael’s desire to persuade the electorate of the advantages of PR. But we have been there and done that at previous elections and it doesn’t work. It just turns most people off.

    Yes, we can make it clear that we support electoral reform, but we have to major and focus on bread and butter issues. We have to find something that appeals to the vast majority of voters who don’t care about the niceties of PR.

    How about for a start finding something to say to all those previously loyal, liberal-minded not very well-off voters in the West Country whom we alienated by not accepting the Referendum result. PR is not what’s going to win them back.

  • Brad Barrows 9th Nov '21 - 7:49pm

    Two points,
    If the 2010-15 government is an argument in favour electoral reform, count me out. Though I support STV, I would prefer a FPTP election returning a Labour Government on a minority of the vote to a Conservative/Lib Dem coalition.
    If we want to build the case for STV for Westminster elections, we may have to go through the route of securing it for local government first.

  • John Marriott 9th Nov '21 - 9:04pm

    @Brad Barrows
    The only fair voting system for me is one that delivers to each party the number of representatives their percentage of the national vote entitles them to. So, 10% of the votes should mean 10% of the MPs / councillors. Nothing more and nothing less.

    As regards “a FPTP election returning a Labour government on a minority vote”, do you really think that Labour would then legislate for any form of PR if it could ‘win’ under the present system?

  • Russell Simpson 9th Nov '21 - 9:32pm

    @Brad
    With PR a Labour/libdem coalition would have been on the table in 2010. And I’d prefer the conservative libdem coalition to the cons govt that followed

  • Michael Cole,

    You have written, “I do not for one moment suggest that we cease campaigning on other issues” which is contrary to what you wrote earlier in the article, “And for this sole exceptional occasion candidates’ views on other matters should be discounted”.

    Has there been an opinion poll which states 60% of people support PR and 40% support FPTP? Please post a link to it, if it exists.

    In 2019 the UK electorate was just over 47.5 million. 14 million is therefore only about 29.5%. In 1867 the UK electorate has been estimated at 2.5 million, with about one million being added in 1867, so before that the electorate was less than 1.5 million. 3.3 million is more than twice this number and 5.75 million over 3.5 times.

    If we can’t get 14 million signatures then how can we say having PR is what the British people want? A majority of the electorate in 2017 was over 23.75 million.

  • Katharine Pindar 10th Nov '21 - 12:53am

    In the Shropshire North by-election to be held on December 16, it would indeed seem useful for our campaign to point out the relevance of the by-election having resulted from the MP who has resigned, Owen Paterson, being found guilty of breaking Commons rules in his lobbying on behalf of companies that were paying him well for his services . And why was he able to get away with doing that for a long time? Because he has held a safe seat for 24 years. The voters deserve better – doing away with safe seats through electoral reform. For once that argument might cut through the general voter uninterest in PR.

    Whatever the result of the terrific campaign we are obviously going to conduct now in Shropshire North, Labour can’t win the next GE without us helping to dissolve the present huge Tory majority, and probably they will still need our support (possibly with the Scots Nats as well) to form a government. That is when. and probably only then, that we can insist on electoral reform – both in the voting system and in the replacement of the current House of Lords with an elected second chamber which should represent the regions, and hopefully the nations too.

  • John Marriott 10th Nov '21 - 7:41am

    @Katharine Pindar
    “The voters deserve better”. Of course they do; but do they really want better? It would appear from the way they tend to vote, that around 40% don’t and it’s this percentage, who resolutely vote Tory.

    I agree with the sentiments you express in your second paragraph. However, Labour, while ever it reckons it can win under FPTP, will never be won over to PR. Despite the Lib Dems’ best efforts – don’t forget whose motion was being debated this week in the House of Commons – the opinion polls still have it as a two horse race.

    As I have written in previous posts, in the opinion of many people, politics is something to be avoided, something slightly unseemly and divorced from the reality they experience in their everyday lives. One could counter that with the argument that it appears to be so because THEY allow it to be so; but blaming the voters doesn’t appear to be in fashion.

  • The 2010 coalition agreement should have included STV for multi member and AV for single member seats in all English local authorities.
    Our failure to make this a make or break issue in that agreement was a big mistake, failing to take PR forward.

  • Nonconformlstradical 10th Nov '21 - 8:32am

    @John Marriott
    “Of course they do; but do they really want better? It would appear from the way they tend to vote, that around 40% don’t and it’s this percentage, who resolutely vote Tory.”

    Are we having appropriate discussions (asking the right questions etc.) with voters with the aim of persuading them to think more deeply about why they might stick to past voting habits and whether there might be alternatives to be considered?

  • Peter Martin 10th Nov '21 - 10:02am

    Whatever the merits of PR, and I would agree that a change to AV would be a positive first step, the “take back control” argument is somewhat overdone.

    The Australians have pretty much always had that system, so do they have more control than UK voters? Other countries have voting systems which are more closely aligned to what Lib Dems consider ‘real PR’.

    Some 31 European countries use a Party List system. 2 have STV. 2 have a mixed member system.

    So which voters have “taken back control”? Can we have some examples please?

    Hint: I wouldn’t recommend giving Greece as an example after what happened in 2015.

    https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/which-european-countries-use-proportional-representation/

  • Dear Michael,

    I appreciate you responding, particularly where you point out that you are not an uncritical fan of the coalition government. As you rightly say, we were shafted by Cameron and by our own naivety. However, we all have to acknowledge that it is a disastrous trait of many Lib Dems, and particularly senior Lib Dems many of whom even now are in positions of enormous influence, to focus totally on the rose petal and ignore the pile of rubbish it sits on.

    We have to learn both old and new members the lessons of the past and not just keep on repeating the same old mistakes, just with new younger people making them.

    However, when it comes down to it, I am afraid it seems to be you who is rather missing the point and ignoring those lessons.

    You may indeed want to believe that the coalition government was more ‘strong and stable’ than many in recent times, (truly a rose petal) but you really are confusing strong with chronically weak and stable with unstable. Any government that relies upon one element of it being so naïve as to surrender on almost everything that matters to it and totally sacrificing itself for its arch enemy is chronically weak not strong, and a government which goes in a single election from power to no hope of repeating it in decades is clearly totally unstable.

    Ultimately any assessment of stability has to look at what happened when that claimed stability met its first real test from external forces, not just how fixed and moribund it was in itself, and the coalition totally failed its one real electoral test. That’s not to say that there were not warnings- they occurred each May for five years, but so many chose to ignore them and instead went for distraction than consideration.

    Real stability requires continuous vigilance and a willingness to change – sacrificing some bits of now for a real chance for future generations to do more in subsequent years, not sacrificing all including principle for a quick five year period in the sun.

    As for your question about better examples I suggest you look to the Blair years or almost any period of Conservative rule in the last 70 years.

  • Michael Cole 10th Nov '21 - 10:32am

    John Marriott: you say: “You’ve responded to most contributors. Doesn’t mine deserve a reply.” I’m sorry if you feel left out.

    I presume you are referring to your earliest comment: I answered your first sentence “Yes, yes, yes, Mr Cole; but are the people that bothered?” with my reply to several others: “Several readers have made the point that the electorate are interested in ‘bread and butter’ issues and that electoral reform is far down their list of priorities. That may well be true at present, but it is up to us (together with other PR advocates) to make them aware that real change and improvement will only come about with electoral reform. It is therefore central to our campaigning.”

    Your other point: “One thing. Please don’t get bogged down with systems. Anything has got to be better than what we’ve got now!” Up to that point I had never mentioned any particular system; later I expressed my personal preference for STV in multi-member constituencies. But I do agree that almost anything is better than what we’ve got now.

  • Michael Cole 10th Nov '21 - 10:41am

    Peter 9th Nov ’21 – 7:03pm: “There is one thing wrong with the idea expressed above, I don’t think the voters want to change the voting system.” That is not true. Voters are becoming increasingly aware that there is something wrong with our political systems. It is our job to demonstrate to them the failure of the current voting system and the central importance of reforming it.

  • Michael Cole 10th Nov '21 - 10:50am

    Chris Moore 9th Nov ’21 – 7:33pm: I agree with much of what you say but I have never suggested a “campaign majoring on PR”.
    I am only suggesting that this forms a small but important part of our campaign. It doesn’t take much effort or resources to ask candidates whether they support electoral reform in principle. If they declare in favour and are subsequently elected they can be held to it.

  • John Marriott 10th Nov '21 - 10:50am

    @Michael Cole
    Thanks for thinking of me. I’m afraid that this thread has morphed into a defence of STV. I still like the idea of a link between the MP or councillor for that matter and the area they represent. Thanks why, despite some approaches from other constituencies, I only ever wanted as an approved candidate in the 1990s to stand in the constituency where I lived.

    Despite the interpretation of many pundits, I still hold to the view that, when we vote in acGeneral Election, you are voting for someone to represent you, either in Parliament or the Council Chamber. That many people just look for the party of their choice is a fact of life about which all parties have learned to be aware.

    Andy Hyde’s ideas not only make sense in local elections; but a system like AV Plus for parliamentary elections makes sense as well.

  • Michael Cole 10th Nov '21 - 11:09am

    Brad Barrows 9th Nov ’21 – 7:49pm: I am merely pointing out that coalition government works; it is the norm in most European nations.

    I agree absolutely that STV should be secured for local government in England. The same strategy should be used: local government candidates should be asked their position on ER. You are no doubt aware that PR is already the case in Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

  • Michael Cole 10th Nov '21 - 11:24am

    Michael BG 10th Nov ’21 – 12:33am: You have written, “I do not for one moment suggest that we cease campaigning on other issues” which is contrary to what you wrote earlier in the article, “And for this sole exceptional occasion candidates’ views on other matters should be discounted”. I take your point that this may seem contradictory but when I use the word ‘discounted’ I do not mean ‘discarded’. The important thing is to get candidates to declare their position.

  • Michael Cole 10th Nov '21 - 11:29am

    Katharine Pindar 10th Nov ’21 – 12:53am: “In the Shropshire North by-election to be held on December 16, it would indeed seem useful for our campaign to point out the relevance of the by-election having resulted from the MP who has resigned, Owen Paterson, being found guilty of breaking Commons rules in his lobbying on behalf of companies that were paying him well for his services . And why was he able to get away with doing that for a long time? Because he has held a safe seat for 24 years. The voters deserve better – doing away with safe seats through electoral reform. For once that argument might cut through the general voter uninterest in PR.” Yes, I agree completely.

  • Michael Cole 10th Nov '21 - 11:32am

    Andy Hyde 10th Nov ’21 – 7:45am:
    “The 2010 coalition agreement should have included STV for multi member and AV for single member seats in all English local authorities. Our failure to make this a make or break issue in that agreement was a big mistake, failing to take PR forward.”
    Agreed.

  • Russell Simpson 10th Nov '21 - 11:47am

    @ Chris Moore

    “Revoke was something that appealed strongly to a lot of then Lib Dem members”. Although this Swinson inspired U turn somehow got the OK from Conference I can’t believe that more than 5% of members thought it was a “good idea” when “2nd Ref” was working was working so well. BTW, “2nd Ref” was in no way inconsistent with accepting the result of the 2016 vote.

    While PR would not necessarily be the Libdems no. 1 policy it should be on the front page of the manifesto as one of the party’s 4 or 5 red lines.

  • Michael Cole 10th Nov '21 - 11:48am

    John Marriott 10th Nov ’21 – 10:50am: “Thanks for thinking of me. I’m afraid that this thread has morphed into a defence of STV. I still like the idea of a link between the MP or councillor for that matter and the area they represent. Thanks why, despite some approaches from other constituencies, I only ever wanted as an approved candidate in the 1990s to stand in the constituency where I lived.”

    My prime objective is not to defend STV although I am pleased that others are willing to do so. But anyway, STV in multi-member constituencies does retain the link between the elected representative and the area they represent. In fact the link is enhanced because voters have a choice in regard to whom they approach with a particular issue. We should not fall into the trap of regarding the present constituency format as being permanently written in stone and unchangeable.

  • Michael Cole 10th Nov '21 - 12:02pm

    To all those who argue that ER should not be a priority, I quote at length the comments of Lord William Wallace in his article of 8th November:

    “I think we are at another tipping point in public concern about the quality of our democracy. And there’s more to come: the eye-watering sums wasted on outsourcing test-and-trace, the cosy links between outsourcing companies and the Conservative Party, and the flow of Russian money into Conservative funds, are still scarcely explored. We must take the opportunity to argue for a root-and-branch reform of British democracy: a revival of local democratic government – the bedrock of a citizen’s democracy; a voting system that gives a much wider choice among candidates and parties; and a Parliament with much greater power to constrain how government behaves. People are at last beginning to sit up and notice that the Conservative Party is no longer a real party; it’s a generously-funded centralised machine, run by a mixture of cynical careerists and right-wing ideologues. Let’s encourage the public to ask for something better.”

  • @Michael – “Fiona: If we were to campaign on this issue alone it would indeed be seen as merely seeking an “academic change”. I am not suggesting that we campaign on this to the exclusion of all other issues.”

    I didn’t think you were. I meant if it looked like we were, but I don’t think it will, especially if we lean into the wider ‘fairness’ implications. It is important we remember to do that.

    There’s a twitter account that shows what the revised HOC vote would be if parliament were elected via PR. There are a lot of caveats involved, but the premise is that each MP’s vote is weighted according to how many votes that party needed to get a seat in Parliament. As a result, Green & LibDems votes are worth a lot more than SNP & Conservative ones. This very often means that the outcome is switched.

    When people see how the same number of votes translates into different outcomes, outcomes more representative of the public mood, then it becomes real.

  • Peter Martin 10th Nov '21 - 12:13pm

    @ Michael Cole,

    You declined to provide an example of where voters have used a PR system to “take back control”. There are many countries to choose from. Can’t you think of one?

    My personal preference would be for AV, and the present constituency system, in the lower house and STV in the Upper.

    But if we want voters to “have control” we’ll have to put any proposed new system to them in a referendum. Presumable the 2011 AV referendum set the precedent. They may well knock it back like they did with AV. That’s what having control means even if we personally disagree.

  • Rearranging deckchairs – that didn’t take long…
    Why not grasp the opportunity and take advantage of the Conservatives being on the run and attempt some real reform of Westminster?
    Yes they will attempt to backslide, but then that is what happened with Magna Carta and subsequent kings had to be reminded of their obligations…

  • Russell Simpson 10th Nov '21 - 12:16pm

    I’d take any reputable PR system over fptp (including STV) but I reckon the best one is Mixed Member Proportional. Scotland uses a version of this but unfortunately, by breaking the country into regions for the party vote and not accounting for the overhang, it is not proportional. Germany and NZ are the best examples and Germans and New Zealanders are very happy with it.

  • Michael Cole 10th Nov '21 - 12:34pm

    Fiona 10th Nov ’21 – 12:08pm: Yes, I think we are agreed that the time has come for change.

  • Michael Cole 10th Nov '21 - 12:41pm

    Peter Martin 10th Nov ’21 – 12:13pm: “You declined to provide an example of where voters have used a PR system to “take back control”. There are many countries to choose from. Can’t you think of one?”

    I am not interested in providing such an example. I am advocating that we in the UK should take back control.

    I have stated my personal preference for STV in multi-member constituencies but this not the appropriate place to discuss the merits of various systems of PR.

  • Michael Cole 10th Nov '21 - 12:45pm

    Russell Simpson 10th Nov ’21 – 12:16pm:

    I agree that almost anything is better than FPTP. I have stated my personal preference for STV in multi-member constituencies but, as I say, this is not the appropriate place to discuss the merits of various systems of PR.

  • Hi Michael, I am impressed by your determined devotion to your cause, but I fear you are drifting much too close to the chimera of Electoral Reform and away from the bedrock of Liberal Democracy and building that fair, free and open society.

    Overall though I think that the real clincher on the instability of coalition is summed up in the fourth paragraph of the Coalition Agreement (the first three being general introduction and scene setting) which stated:

    “The Coalition Parties will work together effectively to deliver our programme, on the basis of goodwill, mutual trust and agreed procedures which foster collective decision making and responsibility while respecting each party’s identity.”

    As you might say “That didn’t work out well, did it?

    You then go on to say “We have to demonstrate to people that our corrupt system and governance will never improve without it.” But quite simply, we can’t, you can’t, indeed no one can demonstrate it to sufficient people to win an election. Many liberals and Lib Dems have pretended that it is easy but it has never registered as important to voters.

    It’s very important to you and political animals, but not to normal people. In contrast I believe the focus of all Lib Dems should be in achieving things for people that are a) Liberal Democrat and b) what they want, not clinging to views that have no traction with voters whatsoever and pretending it is vital we do the impossible and unsupported first.

    Next you tell me that – “Your proposed remedies are irrelevant because they do not address the central problem of safe seats and jobs for life,” but it is you who are missing the real central problem, that Lib Dems don’t win enough seats to even come close to being able to help people take back control and change things.

    As for your final point “We don’t have that long” to win seats, but in those last 50 years we actually got closer and closer to doing it, and it was only weak leadership that led to us not getting closer in terms of legislation. What we were never been able to do in those 50 years is persuade voters, or politicians that electoral reform is an important issue. What we can’t afford to do is waste ever more time trying to do something that we have never ever got close to, because we ignore the lessons of history.

  • Michael Cole 10th Nov '21 - 1:16pm

    David Evans 10th Nov ’21 – 12:50pm:

    Again, with respect, you are missing the point. I repeat, I am not proposing anything that significantly detracts from our campaigning for a “fair, free and open society.” I trust that you will agree that in fact ER is a vital component of a fair, free and open society.

    It is true to say that the electorate in general is not at present aware of the central importance of ER. It is our duty to make them more aware.

  • Peter Watson 10th Nov '21 - 1:25pm

    @Katharine Pindar “In the Shropshire North by-election …”
    I suspect that opponents of electoral reform would try to point to the by-election as an example of the current system working and making an MP accountable.
    However, it does beg the question of how a similar situation would be handled under the various PR systems. I’ve always supported electoral reform, but recent and planned parliamentary by-elections – some of which have been triggered by the sad deaths of incumbent MPs, others by their appalling behaviour – have made me wonder how an MP would be replaced in a fair and democratic way.

  • Phil Wainewright 10th Nov '21 - 1:53pm

    Most voters care little about the mechanics of democracy, but they care A LOT about the outcome! This is what makes electoral reform, and in particular the abolition of safe seats, an issue of concern to voters right now, because of how they feel about sleaze at Westminster. Fairness to small parties is just a side issue for most voters, but accountability of MPs matters to everyone, especially now.

    In his statement today, Sir Geoffrey Cox again repeats the disingenuous fiction that “it is up to the electors of Torridge and West Devon” whether he remains an MP and he “is very content to abide by their decision.” I know I am repeating my previous comment, but THIS is why we should be pushing electoral reform right now – because changing his and every other safe seat in the land into a multi-member STV constituency will give voters a REAL choice.

    I would also add that LibDems do not have to be in government to achieve this, we simply need to change the narrative by demonstrating the damage that safe seats are doing to our democracy and why abolishing them with MMSTV is the only sensible way to give back control to the people. (And I’m banging on about MMSTV because single-member AV doesn’t give people a choice between candidates from the same party, and any kind of list system leaves ranking in the hands of the parties. The mechanism is integral to the outcome).

  • Peter Martin 10th Nov '21 - 2:39pm

    “Sir Geoffrey Cox again repeats the disingenuous fiction that “it is up to the electors of Torridge and West Devon” whether he remains an MP and he “is very content to abide by their decision.” I know I am repeating my previous comment, but THIS is why we should be pushing electoral reform right now – because changing his and every other safe seat in the land into a multi-member STV constituency will give voters a REAL choice.”

    I’d just make the following points:

    1) PR under a party list system wouldn’t give the voters any real choice. So the method of PR is just as relevant as PR itself. This is, contrary to the protestations of Michael Cole, very much the appropriate place to discuss the merits of various systems of PR.

    2) STV is very much a minority system in Europe with just two small countries choosing it. By far the most common one is the Party List. If anything, I dislike this even more than FPTP. However, is it easy to see why the political parties like it. Beware of a bait and switch tactic if we ever do make the change. The bait will be STV but the switch will be to Party Lists.

    3) Even an STV system wouldn’t necessarily stop someone like Geoffrey Cox being re-elected. You’d simply need to group a few solid Tory seats together and he’d get back in. No problem. So, unfortunately he’s right. The voters will ultimately decide.

  • Peter Watson 10th Nov '21 - 2:59pm

    Phil Wainewright “Most voters care little about the mechanics of democracy, but they care A LOT about the outcome! ”
    But unfortunately for the Lib Dems, very few voters care about the party’s role in that outcome!
    Banging on about electoral reform is putting the cart before the horse. Instead, make enough people want to vote for the party because of its other policies so that the unfair gap between Lib Dem support and Lib Dem representation becomes something else they care about, an obstacle to creating the society they want.
    That sort of election strategy is, as David Evans makes clear, very hard work compared to the easy option of whinging about electoral unfairness and Boris Johnson.
    Campaigning for PR, now and for the foreseeable future, will simply look self-indulgent and self-serving (which was one of the ways opponents depicted the party under Nick Clegg in the AV referendum when Lib Dem popularity had collapsed to levels that are still slightly better than recent years). By all means, come up with an answer to the obvious question, “So exactly what voting system do Lib Dems want then?”, but don’t make that debate the be all and end all in the hope that anti-Johnson sentiment will inevitably sweep Lib Dems into power.

  • chris moore 10th Nov '21 - 3:50pm

    Hello, Michael and Russell, thank you very much for your follow up remarks. I can see there is much common ground.

    Maybe it’s been forgotten that the LDs did give huge importance to PR in previous GE campaigns.

    1987 and 1992 are the two that I recall. Imagine the dismay of Labour and the Conservatives as those canny Liberals, then LDs, used their guaranteed TV and radio time to major on PR for much of the campaign. The main parties went banging on about the NHS, crime, education, cutting taxes, poverty. We escaped from all that boring secondary stuff that with some authoritative lessons about electoral systems.

    Also has been forgotten the political party that fought a GE (don’t remember which) on the purest platform: everybody should vote for them for one election to get PR installed. This campaign was very successful with the scores – literally – of votes the PR party garnered (particularly in liberal-leaning constituencies) reducing the LD vote.

    Forgive my cynicism: PR is simply not a vote-winner. To get PR, we have to get large numbers of LD MPs into the Commons. To do that we have to re-build bridges that we’ve burned in the last ten years. At the last election, we were an irrelevance to most voters.

    Students are now forgetting the tuition fees betrayal. The poorly off have got a way to go before they trust us en masse, after some of the errors of Coalition. We spent five years trying to find the brightest reason why the first referendum wasn’t fair and telling half the population they were too stupid to understand what they voted for. So we’ve got making up to do with Leavers.

    So I do believe there are the glimmerings of hope.

    But giving PR significant prominence in our next campaign will simply cement the idea that we are out-of-touch and don’t care about the concerns of most voters.

  • Phil Wainewright 10th Nov '21 - 3:52pm

    Peter Watson – we are in complete agreement that arguing for electoral reform on the basis of fairness looks self-serving.

    That is why I say we shouid argue for it on the basis of accountability, taking back control and combating sleaze.

    Just as we should present each of our policy goals in terms of outcomes that voters care about (where those outcomes are consistent with our values). It is a matter of tailoring the message to the moment until it cuts through.

  • Michael Cole 10th Nov '21 - 5:17pm

    Phil Wainewright 10th Nov ’21 – 3:52pm: Yes, I agree we must not be seen as merely self-serving – although that is how our opponents will try to portray us.

    “That is why I say we shouid argue for it on the basis of accountability, taking back control and combating sleaze.” Agree totally.

  • Nigel Jones 10th Nov '21 - 5:36pm

    I agree with Katharine Pindar about using the by-election to point out the need for electoral reform. If Labour ever feel they need our support to get into government (her other point) then I hope we will be tough and not give in too much just ‘for the sake of the nation’ as we were not tough enough in the later years of the coalition with the Tories.

  • David Evans 10th Nov '21 - 5:39pm

    Michael, I respect your views on electoral reform are very deeply held, but quite simply they are dangerous to the party, because (if adopted) they take us ever further away from what voters regard as relevant and ever closer to oblivion.

    Quite simply there is no evidence whatsoever that campaigning on electoral reform wins us votes, and lots that it doesn’t work. Perhaps you really believe that you know just how to make the message that electoral reform is vital for the country, resonate with so many voters that it will carry us to success. Presumably the fact that Paddy Ashdown, Shirley Williams, Charles Kennedy, Roy Jenkins, Michael Meadowcroft and many, many others couldn’t or chose not to merely reflects how much better your approach would be than theirs.

    I’m sorry to have to say it, but it is close to an obsession for so many good Lib Dems, who prefer to spend their time trying to persuade others that theirs is the one true path, rather than choosing a ward, and winning it.

    I realised a long time ago which approach works and I hope you will some day too.

    In any case, all the very best to you.

  • Michael Cole 10th Nov '21 - 6:20pm

    David Evans 10th Nov ’21 – 5:39pm: You are wrong. Now more than ever the public is ready to be persuaded of the necessity of ER. The time is right. The fact that all the prominent politicians that you mention have argued for ER shows how vital it is for future good governance.

    You argue that giving prominence to ER would detract from concentrating on a ward and winning it. With respect, that is nonsense. Nothing that I propose will do that.

  • Elections are a market for political power in which the currency is votes. The big parties like FPTP because it raises almost insuperable barriers to entry for challengers. Yes, challenger parties can run guerrilla campaigns and may win a very few seats where the stars align for them but, in the scheme of things this isn’t going to challenge the duopoly.

    But if there are several challenger parties then, in the long run, the winner (if any) will be the one that is best run, most captures the zeitgeist etc.

    So, a couple of years after the Liberal-SDP merger when I realised that the then newish policy-making process wasn’t delivering the goods, it occurred to me that if PR were ever adopted it wouldn’t necessarily work out for Lib Dems. It wasn’t an automatic route to a share in power because Lib Dems would have to first beat any other challenger parties. They might do well initially but could later find themselves outcompeted as other challengers arose in the newly competitive market for power.

    I never thought that would be tested in practice in any shape or form, but it was twice – in European elections and in Scotland. In each case there was an initial lift in representation followed by a slump as Lib Dems lost out to SNP and UKIP. And after the Coalition – which didn’t result from PR but was the sort of result hoped for – the Greens are now more or less level pegging.

    If Lib Dems want to start winning, they will have to radically change their approach. For example, by radically rethinking and changing the way the party is run and by developing a coherent narrative for the first time. That is a big ask of course, but it’s perfectly doable if there is a will. But is there?

  • Alex Macfie 10th Nov '21 - 9:00pm

    Peter Watson: “but recent and planned parliamentary by-elections – some of which have been triggered by the sad deaths of incumbent MPs, others by their appalling behaviour”

    Voters don’t generally look back to the event that caused a by-election. This is why it is such a mistake not to contest Southend West. It can be seen from Eastbourne that the voters make their choice based on contemporary political events and the slate of candidates on offer, however tragic the event that caused the need to elect a new representative. They would have done the same in Batley & Spen (2016) and they would do the same in Southend West if they had that choice. And if the government is still unpopular at the time of the Southend West by-election and the Tory candidate seems to be taking the voters for granted, a bandwagon could easily form around a suitable anti-government independent candidate as an alternative. It would anyway be better than a far-right candidate as the only alternative to the Tory. The attempt to deny Southend West voters control over the choice of new representative is utterly undemocratic.

    The main case in which the event causing the by-election is a factor is when it the cause is something that somebody in the political class has done. This need not be malfeasance — voters also frown on unnecessary elections. An example is Leyton 1965, which was contrived to create a vacancy for a potential Cabinet minister who had unexpectedly lost his seat in the previous GE. He lost, narrowly. I’m often amused when commentators suggest that [some senior backbencher] might resign from Parliament for [politician some people would like to see in Parliament]. In the last Parliament it was Kenneth Clarke taking the Chiltern Hundreds to make way for Ruth Davidson; now the suggestion is that some Labour MP might do the same to make way for Andy Burnham (the bookies’ favourite for next Labour leader, despite not even being an MP). They don’t seem to get that voters tend to reject such parachutees.
    Or take Winchester 1997, caused by the sore loser who successfully challenged the GE result on a technicality, only to be resoundingly rejected by the voters in the resulting by-election. Or my own patch of Richmond Park, caused by a vanity resignation.

  • Malcolm Todd 10th Nov '21 - 11:40pm

    Phil Wainewright 10th Nov ’21 – 3:52pm
    “we should argue for it [PR] on the basis of accountability, taking back control and combating sleaze”

    That’s exactly what the AV campaign attempted to do – which, only 2 years after the expenses scandal engulfed the political class, should have been the optimum moment for that strategy to succeed. We know the outcome.

    (Yes, I know AV wasn’t proper PR, but it’s the tactic we’re talking about, not the goal.)

  • Peter Watson 10th Nov '21 - 11:57pm

    @Alex Macfie “Voters don’t generally look back to the event that caused a by-election.”
    I was thinking really about how a system of PR might affect the fairness of a by-election or whether a by-election would even be held.
    For example, in some systems of PR might the incumbent party simply nominate a replacement MP?
    Or if a constituency returned multiple MPs based upon the share of votes, would an election for a single replacement unfairly favour the party with the largest share even if the MP being replaced was from a different party?
    I’ve only ever thought of PR in the context of the results of a general election and never previously considered how by-elections might or might not fit in. The different reasons for recent and upcoming by-elections have also made me wonder whether they could affect what would be considered “fair”.

  • Michael Cole 10th Nov '21 - 11:59pm

    Gordon 10th Nov ’21 – 7:03pm: There is much truth in what you say, particularly when you speak of ‘… almost insuperable barriers to entry’.

    You go on to make the point that politics, particularly between challenger parties, is very competitive – and so it should be (within ethical limits of course).

    In your final paragraph you conclude that the “Lib Dems have to radically change their approach. For example, by radically rethinking and changing the way the party is run and by developing a coherent narrative …” Again, there is much truth in that.
    Perhaps you could contribute an article to LDV outlining the changes that you feel should be made.

  • Phil Wainewright 11th Nov '21 - 12:02am

    Malcolm Todd – we should never have compromised on AV, which (see my earlier comment) doesn’t deliver true accountability and therefore was seen as a self-serving bid for PR at any price. (Leaving aside all the other errors of judgement that sank the AV referendum campaign).

  • Andrew Tampion 11th Nov '21 - 7:01am

    Phil Wainewright; ” we should never have compromised on AV”
    So if only we had had STV or some other system considered genuine PR then the 2011 referendum would have been won? Really? You think?

  • Phil Wainewright 11th Nov '21 - 8:17am

    Andrew Tampion – that is not what I think at all. The referendum would have been lost whatever mechanism was proposed. It was sunk for a whole host of reasons, as I already made clear in my comment.

  • Alex Macfie 11th Nov '21 - 9:04am

    Peter Martin: Precedent isn’t set in stone. It doesn’t mean “We did it that way once, therefore we must always do it the same way.” Precedent can be overridden if it is shown to be no longer useful or valid. A strong far-right showing in the Southend West by-election would be an excellent reason to dump the Batley & Spen “precedent” of not standing candidates against the party of a murdered representative, for instance. And the 2011 AV referendum is an object lesson in how NOT to seek electoral reform, for reasons already given. It was for a proposed system foisted on the public through back-room negotiations, with no meaningful regulation of the campaigns — no fact-checking of the absurd claims particularly by the No2AV campaign, for instance. They should never have been allowed to notionally “spend” multiple times a grossly inflated notional “cost” of switching to AV, on things that the campaigners knew full well were never going to happen instead of an “alternative voting system”. The 2016 Brexit referendum campaign was also a treatise on how NOT to do things in the future. Any future referendum campaign needs, at the very least, to have strict fact-checking with a requirement for prominent retractions of claims ruled to be false.

  • Peter Martin 11th Nov '21 - 9:27am

    @ Alex Macfie,

    So you want the electors to “take back (some) control” but not too much?

    The concept of “false” presumes there is a corresponding truth and that both are absolute. This has always been my take on it too. However, more recent trend is for us all to be entitled to our “own truths”. So good luck with that!

    There’s also a lot of clever wording which the lawyers just love to get their teeth into. For example the famous wording on the bus didn’t actually mean what many take it to mean. Go back and take another look.

  • Peter Martin: How very Trumpian: “…for us all to be entitled to our “own truths””. I don’t think the freedom to spread disinformation constituted “taking back control”, except for those with enough power and money and loud enough megaphones. There are objective truths, which can, if necessary, be established in law. That’s why we have libel and slander laws, for instance. And yes, I know these can be abused by people with deep enough pockets, but then so would a licence to spread defamatory statements or disinformation without consequences. Similarly, making a false defamatory statement about a rival election candidate is illegal, and can lead to the election being voided and rerun.

  • Russell Simpson 11th Nov '21 - 10:52am

    @ Michael 620 pm and David

    Michael, I agree 100% that now is the time to highlight electoral reform.
    1 With Scotland gone to Labour it is their only realistic way to No 10.
    2 With PR so popular with Labour activists and their party’s tin ear it is the perfect time strike.
    3 The current corruption scandal in Westminster highlights the need for ER as it’s Johnson’s stonking majority from 43% of votes that allows him to so as he wishes.

    Incidentally, I see no harm in discussing tactics Michael (with or without referendum, which system etc) as these issues influence. I don’t understand why ER should not be one of the party’s main policies as almost everything else flows from a fair voting system. Vince Cable understood this.

  • Can I just comment on the New Orthodoxy that “Labour can’t win without a Progressive Alliance”.
    Currently the Tory Poll lead is averaging around 1%.
    The context is of Polls that are massively overestimating Green Party support – at the last Election only one in five Voters saying they would Vote Green actually did so, half ended up Voting Labour.
    All this is before the predicted fall in living standards kicks in.
    Overall, it seems to me that there is Avery good chance of Labour winning in 2024 or whenever, we need to get on with winning where we can & letting Labour win where they can.

  • No Michael, you are incorrect when you say I am wrong. I am making a rational conclusion based on past history, and pointing out to you that it never worked in the past, because the vast majority of people are much more swayed by other issues: Jobs, NHS, poverty, housing etc. etc. etc. These are facts – they were true at the time and are still true now.

    You seem to believe that “Now more than ever the public is ready to be persuaded of the necessity of ER,” but you have no evidence to support it. It is just a personal opinion. The fact that as you put it “The fact that all the prominent politicians that you mention have argued for ER shows how vital it is for future good governance,” omits the fundamental point that they didn’t build an entire campaign on it, even in the heady days of the alliance when we were at 30%+ in the polls. Also its failure to attract any real support on the occasions it was focussed on exposed the feet of clay such an approach.

    They realised it didn’t work and indeed couldn’t work until we had won many more seats than we had, and that it took much more than a rallying cry of “Electroral Reform or Die” to win those seats.

    You are telling us your opinion based on no historic facts or other than you think it is the “sine qua non” and “We have to demonstrate to people that our corrupt system and governance will never improve without it.”

    Of course as you know, it is impossible to demonstrate something will never happen, unless you are prepared to wait until the end of time, and that is what I am afraid your proposed solution will prove to be – quite simply a way to kick the can further along the road rather than a way to build and safeguard that fair, free and open society we all aim for.

    All in all, as I said before

    Electoral Reform is close to an obsession for many good Lib Dems, who sadly prefer to spend their time trying to persuade others that theirs is the one true path, rather than choosing a ward, and winning it.

    I realised a long time ago which approach works and have had my share of helping win seats and constituencies and I hope you will some day too.

    As I said, all the very best to you.

  • Peter Watson 11th Nov '21 - 1:40pm

    @Phil Wainewright “we should argue for it on the basis of accountability, taking back control and combating sleaze.”
    That begs the question, in the 5 years between general elections, how exactly would PR improve “accountability, taking back control and combating sleaze”?
    One could argue that improving the recall of MPs under FPTP would be a simpler way to achieve all that. And might some forms of PR actually weaken that? How accountable to the electorate is an MP from a list, and if they turn out to be a wrong’un, would their replacement simply be the next person from the same party’s list? As indicated earlier in the thread, I genuinely don’t know but have started to worry that the sort of electoral reform I would like to see might actually be deficient in the areas you highlight here!

  • Michael Cole 11th Nov '21 - 2:08pm

    Russell Simpson 11th Nov ’21 – 10:52am: I agree with you 100%.

    You say “I see no harm in discussing tactics Michael (with or without referendum, which system etc)”. Yes indeed, but I just feel this should be the subject of a separate specific thread.

  • Peter Martin 11th Nov '21 - 2:18pm

    @ Martin,

    “….the meaning that was intended to be conveyed was not the meaning.”

    It’s more about the power of language than left and right in political terms. For example we might see an advert claiming a certain slimming product can help us lose up to 10 lb. So the “intending to be conveyed” message is that buying the product will mean we’ll lose 10 lb in weight. But, that’s not what it says. Think about it.

    The wording on the bus was:

    “We send the EU £350 million a week

    Ok so the EU gave us half of that back, which isn’t mentioned. But it was still literally true that we sent off £350 million in the first place.

    “let’s fund our NHS instead.”

    We fund our NHS with ever increasing amounts anyway. The “intended to be conveyed message” was that the £350 million was to be transferred to the NHS. Again, though, that wasn’t what it said.

    I don’t personally approve of this tactic but this is the world we live in. Everyone does need to wise up to it.

  • Michael Cole 11th Nov '21 - 2:22pm

    David Evans 11th Nov ’21 – 11:36am: I see that you are determined to disagree with me. That is your privilege.

    Just to quote the final sentence of a bulletin sent yesterday by ‘Open Britain’ ” … And we must change our voting system so that the people’s will is reflected in the outcome of elections.” Other organisations such as ‘Unlock Democracy and ‘MVM’ share this view.

    I would once more make the point that ER should not replace campaigning for all the other issues dear to our heart, but should run (as with green issues) like a thread through all our policies.

  • John Marriott 11th Nov '21 - 2:25pm

    79 contributions (make that 80 unless someone presses ‘Send’ before I finish typing) and are we any wiser? It’s like spinning a line of plates. Just as some start to flag, the likes of Peter Martin step in and give them a bit of a tweak! They used to say that all roads lead to Rome. How come an article about voting reform ends up with another argument about the EU?

  • Michael Cole 11th Nov '21 - 2:29pm

    John Marriott 11th Nov ’21 – 2:25pm: Yes, but to be fair most contributions are on topic.

  • Russell Simpson 11th Nov '21 - 4:26pm

    @Peter Martin
    Re bus: it was a lie. We didn’t send £350m as the rebate was deducted 1st. If you buy a “£10 bottle of wine” for £5 you’ve paid £5.

  • Alex Macfie 11th Nov '21 - 4:41pm

    “How come an article about voting reform ends up with another argument about the EU?”

    Because both were the subject of referendums characterised by lies.

  • David Evans 11th Nov '21 - 5:29pm

    No John, I’m not determined to disagree with you. It isn’t personal – ever.

    I am determined that the party does not waste its time and resources on a scheme which has no objective evidence on its side, just lots of opinion from people and organisations many of whom have had little if any political success.

    I would be careful who you choose as your exemplars. Taking your latest batch

    1) Open Britain, previously called Britain Stronger in Europe which campaigned for a Remain vote in 2016. Lost. Nul points.
    – Had an internal coup in October 2019 just before the General election. Nul points.
    – Had 31 officers since established in June 2015, only one left now. Nul points.
    – Never been successful in elections. Nul points
    – Website with no “Who are we?” Not very open at all. -100 points

    2) Make Votes Matter, established 2015, lobbying group. Founders
    – Klina Jordan – No electoral successes. Nul Points.
    – Owen Winter – No electoral successes. Nul Points.
    -Joe Sousek – also on on the executive of the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform. Failed. No electoral successes. Nul Points.

    3) At least Unlock Democracy has some experienced politicos in it (Particularly Tom Brake and Catherine Bearder), but sadly they lost their seats). Perhaps that is why they don’t got for all out electoral reform but have a much wider ambit.

    As my final point, you will note I have engaged with your points specifically, while you seem to refuse to engage on my question to you – Do you have any evidence that your idea has your idea ever worked?

    but as I said before, all the very best to you.

  • John Marriott 11th Nov '21 - 7:09pm

    @Martin
    “Old dog”? I rather like that. At least I’m an old dog, who is not afraid to append his FULL name to his contributions!
    @David Evans
    Totally accept your sincerity. (I assume I’m the ‘John’ to whom you are referring). I’m just a miserable old cynic, who has seen most of it before and who has little faith that Joe Public is that bothered about politics in general and voting in particular.

    I’ll say it one more time. I want a voting system that, if the party I support gets X% of the popular vote, it gets X% of the MPs. Nothing more and nothing less.

  • @Russell Simpson – “Re bus: it was a lie.”
    Don’t disagree, however…
    I suggest you reread what Peter Martin actually said, he was really commenting on the format of the message and its intended interpretation and effect and not on the actual factual accuracy of the message content.

    If you want to see just how much you can distort a message and still be regarded as ‘news’ I suggest sampling the Express, which seems to be able to spin anything in a way to create outrage among its readers.

  • Peter Martin 11th Nov ’21 – 2:18pm:
    …it was still literally true that we sent off £350 million in the first place.

    We did, in fact, deduct the rebate before we sent our budget contribution to the EU. However, in addition to that we also sent the EU substantial contributions to various “off-budget” EU funds…

    ‘REVEALED: UK government has paid £billions to the EU without you knowing’ [April 2020]:
    https://www.facts4eu.org/news/2020_apr_secret_eu_billions

    These payments relate to EU funds which the EU describes as “off-budget”. We describe them as “off-the-books” because this is in effect is what they are. They are, however, officially documented and Brexit Facts4EU.Org has a record of these transactions.

    Below we provide our latest summary of these “off-the-books” payments to the EU and reveal how they will continue even after the Transition Period ends.

    And we later agreed that we had an accrued liability to send them further payments for commitments we’d signed up to but not yet paid for. Again, this was in addition to the reported budget contribution.

    Our rebate was also reduced whenever we received EU funding…

    ‘UK rebate’:
    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/UK_rebate

    The UK government was aware that two-thirds of any EU funding would have in effect been deducted from the rebate and came out of UK government funds. Thus the UK had only a one-third incentive to apply for EU funds. Other countries, whose contributions into the budget are not affected by funds they receive back, have no incentive to moderate their requests for funds.

    Furthermore, many EU grants are conditional on the recipient finding a proportion of funding from local sources, frequently national or local government. This increased the proportion coming from UK government revenue even further. This had the effect of artificially reducing EU expenditure returning to the UK and worsening the deficit which the rebate was intended to redress.

  • Russell Simpson 11th Nov ’21 – 4:26pm:
    Re bus: it was a lie. We didn’t send £350m as the rebate was deducted 1st

    It was an estimate of that year’s gross budget contribution. If we add to the actual net contribution the known “off-budget” contributions that we also sent to the EU and the accrued liabilities, averaged over that budget cycle, that we later agreed to send, then the £350m turned out to be remarkably accurate.

    The official remain campaign, Britain Stronger in Europe, claimed that “Britain pays £5.7 billion a year” – £110m a week. That was not in “fact” true, but it never appeared on the side of a bus.

    ’Get The Facts’:
    https://web.archive.org/web/20160620220218/https://www.strongerin.co.uk/get_the_facts

    If you buy a “£10 bottle of wine” for £5 you’ve paid £5.

    When purchasing a bottle of wine there are no additional payments required (that don’t go through the till) to fund sundry bodies such as The Wine and Spirits Education Trust, Drink Aware, Wine and Spirit Trades Benevolent Society, Alcoholics Anonymous, etc.; nor do you take on a liability to make a series of further payments to contribute to next year’s shop refit, carpark extension, and new store front because those projects happened to have been planned before you made your purchase.

  • Michael Cole,

    You wrote (10th Nov 10.41am), “Voters are becoming increasingly aware that there is something wrong with our political system”. Please post an opinion poll which shows a majority of British people wanting to change our voting system from FPTP to STV?

    You wrote (10th Nov 1.16pm) “It is true to say that the electorate in general is not at present aware of the central importance of ER. It is our duty to make them more aware”. In every election at least from 1983 we have pointed out that we want to change the voting system. As you wrote we haven’t succeeded and I don’t see you suggesting anything which would make us more successful.

    You wrote (9th Nov 5.53pm), “the gathering of 14 million signatures to a petition is a teeny bit unrealistic”. I have stated that 14 million was less than 30% of the electorate in 2019. I have stated why I picked this number rather than 23.75 million. It is clear from the 2010 general election that 6.8 million voters (the number who voted Liberal Democrat) is not sufficient. I don’t understand why if people think that PR is the most important thing they would not knock on doors to gather the signatures. If 10,000 people knocked on the doors they would only need to get 280 signatures each. Why is it unrealistic to expect there to be 10,000 electors who feel strongly enough about this issue to get 300 or so signatures. (If half of all electors supported PR I think that it would involve less than 28 hours of knocking on doors {in urban areas, more in rural areas} to gather the 280 signatures. Sixteen weeks of door knocking should be ample time to gather these signatures.)

  • Michael Cole,

    As you haven’t responded to Malcolm Todd comment of 10th Nov 21 11.40pm I will point out that in the 2011 AV campaign it was claimed that AV would eliminate safe seats, but evidence from Australia was used to say this not likely to happen. It was also claimed that if we had had AV we wouldn’t have the MPs expenses scandal. Only 32% of the voters (just over 6 million) voted to change the system. As these two issues did not provide a large level of support in 2011 then questions must be asked if they would do better now.

    Alex Macfie,

    It is not only for referendums that rules are needed to ensure politicians don’t make absurd claims. Such rules or laws should apply to all statements made by politicians and especially during elections.

    Considering Peter Martin’s comments on the wording on the bus during the EU referendum the rules need to include the implied meaning and not allow a defence based the actual wording not meaning what people thought they did.

  • David Evans 12th Nov '21 - 7:59am

    John Marriott,

    Oops! On this occasion, it wasn’t you I was referring to. For some reason, while writing a reply to Michael, I noticed your name from the post immediately after it and somehow it magically appeared in my response. On this matter, I largely agree with you – most people have no interest whatsoever in electoral reform, regarding politics and politicians with disdain at best. We both know it takes enough of an effort to get enough of them to vote for you even though you have spent the previous four years working your socks off in the community.

    So apologies to both Michael and yourself, the whole reply was to Michael, but the ‘all the very best’ would apply of course to you as well.

  • John Marriott 12th Nov '21 - 8:41am

    Wow, this thread really has taken off. No worries, David Evans. I know that I can at times say politically incorrect things, most of which don’t thankfully get past the LDV editors. You and I tend to agree on many things, so I was scratching my head somewhat. As with my wife, tend to get my apologies in first to save a war of attrition! Just in case.

    I notice that the instigator of all this current excitement is now, following retirement, concentrating on “music”. Perhaps he has temporarily swapped his double bass for a flute, as his rôle as Pied Piper appears to have attracted quite a following, even if some do not exactly like the tune he’s playing.

    “If music be the food of love, play on…….” Etc.

  • Michael Cole 12th Nov '21 - 12:39pm

    David Evans 11th Nov ’21 – 5:29pm: ” … my question to you – Do you have any evidence that your idea has your idea ever worked?” The simple answer is that never been tried before.

  • Michael Cole 12th Nov '21 - 12:40pm

    David Evans 11th Nov ’21 – 5:29pm: ” … my question to you – Do you have any evidence that your idea has your idea ever worked?” Should read :The simple answer is that it has never been tried before.

  • Michael, so you have no evidence of your plans viability even though it has been tried to a greater or lesser extent on numerous occasions. You really have to accept that your whole idea is just a hunch that somehow, magically, based on no new polling, market research or focus group work, talks with Labour etc. etc. etc. you are right and all those other Lib Dems like Paddy, and those Social Democrats and Liberals going even further back like Shirley Williams just weren’t up to it.

  • Michael Cole 12th Nov '21 - 12:57pm

    Michael BG 12th Nov ’21 – 1:20am: I wrote “Voters are becoming increasingly aware that there is something wrong with our political system”. Your reply: “Please post an opinion poll which shows a majority of British people wanting to change our voting system from FPTP to STV?”

    As far as I know no such poll has been conducted, for the good reason that it would be of no significant value. It does not need an opinion poll to substantiate the growing public awareness that there is something wrong with our political system.

  • Michael Cole (10/11 @ 11:59pm) – You seem to broadly accept and don’t challenge the point made in my earlier comment that, if barriers to entry are lowered, it doesn’t follow that the Lib Dems would win. In fact, as I pointed out when that has actually happened, they have lost badly after being outcompeted by other challenger parties.

    That doesn’t mean PR is a bad thing – quite the opposite in fact – but it does mean that if PR were introduced before the party is knocked into shape and made fighting fit, it would probably be a disaster for the Lib Dems.

    The difficulty with selling PR to voters is, of course, its benefit is not immediate and obvious like, say, recruiting more nurses but is one step removed – do THIS and the consequence will eventually be that THAT good but intangible thing happens. Some will buy into the PR proposition, but most will see it as just special pleading – THIS will help US win more seats.

    For myself, I’m convinced that PR that it would be a good thing but also that its enduring popularity in Lib Dem circles has a large component of self-interest. The voters know that and therefore discount it as a reason to vote Lib Dem.

    As for the reforms the Party needs, the place to start is by working out the recipe for the Conservative’s ‘secret sauce’. It’s potent stuff that gives them the ability to shrug off the most egregious mistakes and emerge looking as fresh as a daisy. Conversely, Lib Dems usually finish up wallowing in their mistakes. We KNOW the Lib Dem campaign management is deeply dysfunctional (see Thornhill) but I think its policy-related competence is even worse. For example, more than 30 years after the Liberal-SDP merger it still has not developed a coherent narrative.

    So, what do you think is the Conservative’s ‘secret sauce’? How does the self-described “Nasty Party” keep winning? And what are the lessons we should learn?

  • Michael Cole 12th Nov '21 - 1:07pm

    John Marriott 12th Nov ’21 – 8:41am: I am glad that this thread has created so much ‘excitement’.

  • Michael Cole 12th Nov '21 - 1:18pm

    Gordon 12th Nov ’21 – 1:03pm: I am not advocating ‘selling’ ER to the electorate. I am simply suggesting a way to make them more aware of its central importance.

    I accept that there may be a certain amount of self-interest in LDs wanting to reform the voting system, but this does not make it wrong.

    “So, what do you think is the Conservative’s ‘secret sauce’? How does the self-described “Nasty Party” keep winning? And what are the lessons we should learn?” The Conservative Party, to great extent, has control of the media. It also has heaps of money and power. That’s why any campaign for ER has to come from the grass-roots.

  • Peter Martin 12th Nov '21 - 2:13pm

    o, what do you think is the Conservative’s ‘secret sauce’? How does the self-described “Nasty Party” keep winning? ”

    The Tory Party is the first choice of the ruling class. As someone once said “The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas, i.e. the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force.”

    The also know that their first choice will, now and again, mess up big time and won’t always win. So they need what they consider an acceptable alternative as a fall back. A Keir Starmer led Labour Party will just about fit the bill. A Jeremy Corbyn led Labour party wouldn’t be. His 40% in the 2017 election was much too close for comfort. This meant he had to be nobbled afterwards. The Lib Dems might have a problem if you are considered too pro the EU. But you’ll just be ignored as long as your vote share remains as low as it is. ER is just a side issue.

  • Michael Cole,

    You wrote (12th Nov 12.57pm) “It does not need an opinion poll to substantiate the growing public awareness that there is something wrong with our political system”.

    Do you remember the expenses scandal in 2009 (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_Kingdom_parliamentary_expenses_scandal)?

    Do you remember the cash for questions scandal before the 1997 general election (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Cash-for-questions_affair)?

    There was substantial public awareness at both times. At neither period did it lead to a massive increase in support for changing the FPTP voting system.

    You have conceded that there is no opinion poll to support your belief that the public because of the current questions about MPs conduct now support replacing FPTP.

    You have ignored my raising the idea that if there was solid support to replace FPTP with STV it would be possible to gather 14 million signatures in support of this over a period of only sixteen weeks. I think your rejection of this idea means that you do understand that you couldn’t get the 10,000 people needed to do it in sixteen weeks.

    It is clear that you have no evidence for your belief that this current MP scandal will increase support for changing the voting system.

  • Christopher Moore 12th Nov '21 - 3:35pm

    In Spain we have PR. I can confirm that political corruption is far more widespread and serious here than in the Uk. Ditto for various other European countries.

    Arguing that PR will reduce levels of corruption is simply false.

    There’s probably no correlation between voting systems and levels of political corruption.

  • Michael Cole 12th Nov '21 - 4:39pm

    Michael BG 12th Nov ’21 – 2:25pm: The scandals that you mention, together with many subsequent examples of corruption and cronyism, are having a cumulative effect on the public. I would refer you again to the recent LDV contribution by Lord William Wallace on 8 November – ‘Bending the Constitution: can we make this a campaigning issue ?’

    You say, “You have conceded that there is no opinion poll to support your belief that the public because of the current questions about MPs conduct now support replacing FPTP.” I have not made any such ‘concession’. It is a question of fact. There has not been an opinion poll asking people “Do you believe that the Earth is flat ?” There is no good reason for such a poll. You seem to think that any political action should be preceded by an opinion poll.

    You say; ” …it would be possible to gather 14 million signatures in support of this over a period of only sixteen weeks.” No doubt you are going to initiate such a petition. Good Luck with it !

  • Michael Cole 12th Nov '21 - 4:44pm

    Christopher Moore 12th Nov ’21 – 3:35pm: I do not know the extent and reasons for political corruption in Spain. But have you considered that it might be even worse without PR ?

  • Michael Cole (12/11 @ 1:18 pm) – “I am simply suggesting a way to make them more aware of [ER’s] central importance.”

    But why would voters be interested? The Lib Dem party is run by and for those whose hobby is politics. Those whose hobby it is, and who find it fascinating and important, seem to find it hard to comprehend that others aren’t as interested as they are. So, they mostly finish up talking only to themselves.

    ”The Conservative Party, to great extent, has control of the media. It also has heaps of money and power.”

    That’s a cop-out. Money certainly helps but isn’t everything and control of the media is hardly seamless. See, for example, comments made on recent political stories in the online Daily Mail, allegedly a Tory rag. Some comments are plain barmy (as in any forum) but many are very sensible. Comments attacking Boris can be upvoted more than 100x the downvotes – i.e. the weight of opinion is typically massively anti-Boris. Even Tory actions that don’t directly involve Boris can be downvoted circa 20 times for every upvote.

    That suggests to me that the Tories are on very thin ice indeed and could easily suffer a catastrophic collapse. What keeps them going in the short term is, IMO, partly superior organisation and partly the lack of any alternative. In the medium term, their party structure and culture fosters diversity so when the Boris line fails, they will dump it along with him and jump to the strongest of the new versions of Toryism that have been quietly germinating in the party undergrowth.

    Compare that with the Lib Dem approach which is to craft a woolly consensus that has never had a clear idea where it is going in >30 years. It doesn’t foster diversity and innovation because the party culture is to listen politely to divergent views – only to flat out ignore them because they would disturb the carefully crafted consensus. It’s oddly like the Soviet system which was also supposed to represent the views of the people but lost them in the bureaucracy that was supposed to deliver on them.

    But Peter Martin is also right. You do need to get the ruling class – or at least some important part of it – onside. In the 1800s, Liberals allied with the industrialists against the landowners in the corn law struggle.

  • Michael Cole,

    You have accepted that there are no opinion polls which show support for replacing FPTP. Of course there are reasons for such a poll and such polls have been held in the past. You can’t know what people think unless they are asked by independent polling organisations.

    I have suggested you should take up the idea of gathering 14 million signatures to show the support you claim is there, is in fact there. I will not be doing it, because I believe support for PR is not as big as this. Perhaps the Electoral Reform Society will take it up. Currently it has a petition to sign with over 79,000 signatures but their target is only 100,000. Do the ERS not already call on candidates for Parliament to say if they support PR?

    I would expect that any national government we support would bring in STV for local elections without a referendum. I think it is unlikely that the Labour Party and all their MPs would support bringing in STV. If it was put to a referendum I expect STV would lose. I think Labour MPs are more likely to support using the Additional Member System with FPTP for the constituency seats and this would have to be implemented without a referendum.

  • Alex Macfie 13th Nov '21 - 9:40am

    Peter Watson:

    “how a system of PR might affect the fairness of a by-election or whether a by-election would even be held”

    The Republic of Ireland holds by-elections using AV, and this could indeed upset the proportionality of the multi-member constituency, but in what direction depends on the political mood of the time. Being the strongest party in the constituency would not necessarily guarantee a by-election win, especially if the party is in government. In Northern Ireland, a casual vacancy is filled from a list of substitutes nominated at the time of the original election, similarly to how it is done in party list elections in this country. I understand this rule to be in place to avoid upsetting the sectarian balance of a constituency (although I consider institutionalising sectarianism this way to be profoundly illiberal). In both cases, a by-election is held if the list is exhausted; I believe that has actually happened in Northern Ireland at least once. As the candidates/substitutes are nominated at the time of the original election, a party can’t “resign” a representative to parachute in someone not originally on the list.

    In Malta, casual vacancies are filled by countback, i.e. recounting the original ballot papers as if the representative who left wasn’t on them. This can lead to unpredictable results and might not reflect the political mood at the time of the vacancy, and is believed to make voters very reluctant to vote across parties.

  • Christopher Moore 13th Nov '21 - 12:33pm

    Hi Michael, have you considered that corruption might be worse here with PR?

    Look at all the factors that influence levels of corruption in democratic societies. I think you’ll find no correlation between levels of corruption and electoral system.

  • @Michael Cole You say, “The Conservative Party, to great extent, has control of the media. It also has heaps of money and power. That’s why any campaign for ER has to come from the grass-roots.” It’s very easy to blame your own party’s lack of support on supposed media bias or some other unfairness, but I think that’s incorrect. The ‘media’ includes the Guardian, the Independent, the Mirror, and most importantly, the BBC and ITV, and social media where the left is very active: None of these support the Tories.

    I don’t particularly like a lot of what the Tories do, but would say the biggest reason the Conservatives usually do so well is that they very often actually listen to what most voters want and adjust their rhetoric and policies accordingly, something that neither Labour nor the LibDems seem very willing to do.

    I would suggest that, if we did as you suggest and heavily pushed PR when it’s pretty obvious that most voters don’t care about PR, that would probably end up as just another example of, the LibDems ignoring what most voters are concerned about. If, while we do that, the Tories once again adjust what they are saying and what themes they are pushing, to match whatever voters are concerned about in 2023-24, then – guess who’ll win the election…

  • Chris Moore 13th Nov '21 - 7:20pm

    Yes, you are right, Simon R.

    At several GE’s in the not so distant past, we made PR a central plank of our campaign.

    It didn’t work out. We came over as not concerned with the pressing issues of the day.

    I hope the current leadership do not make the same mistake.

  • Michael Cole 14th Nov '21 - 11:17am

    Gordon 12th Nov ’21 – 5:44pm: Your contribution is largely a criticism of the Party. As such it does not merit a reply on this thread.

  • Michael Cole 14th Nov '21 - 11:23am

    Christopher Moore 13th Nov ’21 – 12:33pm: You say: “Hi Michael, have you considered that corruption might be worse here with PR?”

    The evidence is overwhelming that ‘safe seats’ and jobs for life have a corrupting effect. For instance, the latest scandal concerning Geoffrey Cox.

  • Michael Cole 14th Nov '21 - 11:31am

    Simon R 13th Nov ’21 – 4:52pm and Chris Moore 13th Nov ’21 – 7:20pm:

    I do not suggest that we make “PR a central plank of our campaign.” Campaigning for ER is more than an academic exercise. It is a theme that should run through all our policies. We need to make the public aware of the corrosive effect of FPTP.

    Besides which, it is not just the LDs who are urging reform – it is 83% of Labour members.

  • John Marriott 14th Nov '21 - 11:44am

    114 contributions and counting. Mr Cole needs to be congratulated for keeping those plates spinning. I used to think that Katharine Pindar was the most assiduous at responding to comments; but Michael is clearly the master in this art. That’s what I call ‘owning’ an article. Yes, Michael, you are quite right, most are ‘on message’.

    I don’t know what the record for contributions to a single piece is; but well into three figures just shows what a hot topic a possible change in the voting system is amongst political anoraks. The only problem is that this appears to be where it remains. “PR? That’s public relations innit?” “STV? Isn’t that what Lord Thompson of Fleet used to say was ‘a licence to print money’?” (That’s Scottish Television for those of you old enough to remember).

    Hopefully this current storm of navel gazing will soon blow itself out because there are a few rather worrying things going on around the world – and I don’t just mean climate change – and two of them appear to be involving Russia. If you can’t get excited about “a quarrel” in far away countries “between people of whom we know nothing” nearer to home there are some parliamentary by elections.

  • Andrew Tampion 14th Nov '21 - 12:17pm

    Michael Cole: “The evidence is overwhelming that ‘safe seats’ and jobs for life have a corrupting effect.”
    Maybe. But you assume that PR can’t produce safe seats. However if you use a list system, for example an additional member system and if Parties can choose the order of candidates on the list then seats could be just as safe as undere FPTP. There may be other examples of PR systems that could be manipulated to create safe seats.

  • Michael Cole 14th Nov '21 - 12:21pm

    John Marriott 14th Nov ’21 – 11:44am: Thank you for your kind words.

    You might consider that it is a tad unfair to describe this issue as “navel gazing”. Yes, of course there are ” … worrying things things going on around the world” but how can we hope to be a force for good with such a corrupt electoral system ?

  • Indeed John, mind you even LDV has its limit of ER anoraks. After all, 40 posts of those 114 you mention come from Michael himself – a statistic and a determination that I give great respect to.

    But as I have said so often in so many places, ‘Don’t just tell me your opinion of what we should do, show me some facts that people are interested.”

  • Christopher Moore 14th Nov '21 - 12:54pm

    Michael, your line about corruption and PR seems to have been developed in a void.

    PR is already in use you know in many countries and many of those have serious problems with political corruption. Wouldn’t it be helpful, if you escaped the UK for a while -and what you imagine might happen if PR was introduced here -and actually look how it works in practice!

    There are numerous long-term incumbents under PR systems btw.

  • Michael Cole 14th Nov '21 - 3:29pm

    David Evans 14th Nov ’21 – 12:31pm and Christopher Moore 14th Nov ’21 – 12:54pm:

    I would only say that, as far as I know, all our MPs and members of the HoL are in favour of ER.

    Christopher: “There are numerous long-term incumbents [in other countries] under PR systems btw.” Could that be because they do their job well and are therefore popular with the voters ?

  • Peter Hirst 14th Nov '21 - 4:00pm

    The question will be, “how can you be sure that PR will reverse the faults identified with our democracy?” First we can look at other countries’ experience. Also we need to apply some common sense. If you need half the electorate to win your seat you are going to be more careful about your actions. Safe seats will vanish overnight. You don’t have to travel far to see the result, preferably by rail or coach.

  • Michael Cole 15th Nov '21 - 12:45pm

    Peter Hirst 14th Nov ’21 – 4:00pm: You ask: “how can you be sure that PR will reverse the faults identified with our democracy?” Nothing is certain, but I suggest you refer to Michael Meadowcroft’s ‘The Politics of Electoral Reform’ or other writings of prominent LDs. Personally, I’m of the firm opinion that PR will reduce corruption and cronyism in UK politics.

    ” If you need half the electorate to win your seat you are going to be more careful about your actions. Safe seats will vanish overnight. You don’t have to travel far to see the result, preferably by rail or coach.” I’m not sure what you mean by this. Can you please clarify.

  • Michael Cole,

    14th Nov 3.29 “all our MPs and members of the HoL are in favour of ER”. (A huge majority of our members are in favour as well.)

    I don’t know what this has to do with your slightly changed aim of making PR “a theme that should run through all our policies. We need to make the public aware of the corrosive effect of FPTP”.

    You don’t say how we could link PR to building more homes, to providing the training and education people need so we can ensure everyone who wants job has one, to ending poverty in the UK, to making the NHS better, to providing social care, in a way people want, to everyone who needs it, or to dealing with the climate change emergency. (I expect other people can suggest other policies areas.)

    I am sorry my comment of 13th Nov was a little confused in my third paragraph. If “to the House of Commons” was added to the second sentence, hopefully it would be clear that in the rest of the paragraph (after the first sentence) I was talking about voting to the House of Commons.

    For any argument in favour of PR to be successful it must be able to present a case where it can meet the challenges made against it. The AV campaign failed in 2011. It was presented in the same way you wish a new campaign to be presented – it is fairer, it will end safe seats, it will stop there being corrupt MPs. It didn’t win the argument then when most MPs were involved in the expenses scandal. Why do you think doing the same will provide a different result?

  • Michael Cole 16th Nov '21 - 1:11pm

    Michael BG 16th Nov ’21 – 11:46am:

    “(A huge majority of our members are in favour as well.)” Of course. Agreed.

    “You don’t say how we could link PR to building more homes, [etc] …” This point has been made by several commentators. My reply is that corruption and cronyism causes poor spending decisions and wasted resources. For example, the practice of awarding lucrative contracts to party donors is widespread. In many cases resources are allocated for political reasons – not for the common good.

    The 2011 AV campaign failed for several well known reasons. Firstly, we should never have accepted this shoddy compromise. Secondly, the Conservatives either cynically ignored it or argued against it. Thirdly, our campaign was embarrassingly poor.

  • Michael Cole,

    You have not really addressed my points. You still seem to be suggesting doing what failed in 2011. I pointed out that the MP expenses scandal was a major part of the AV campaigning, that stated wrongly as you do, that changing the voting system will lead to honest MPs. You have not produced any evidence of an exclusive link, but others has suggested examples where PR systems have not resulted in honest government or/and representatives. It also stated wrongly as you do, that changing the voting system will end safe seats. You can argue that AV is not fairer than FPTP but that wasn’t what was wrong with the campaign. Nor was the Conservatives arguing against it (after all they are against it). The failure in my opinion was trying to make such linkage when the evidence was not there, rather than arguing that AV would produce fairer results than FPTP. Other factors outside the campaign were the idea that AV would benefit the Liberal Democrats while Nick Clegg and the most Liberal Democrat MPs were unpopular because they had just broken their personal pledges not to vote to increase tuition fees after a general election campaign which implied that the Liberal Democrats would never break a promise.

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