The #Hungry4Democracy fast begins

As I wrote yesterday, I’m joining Sal Brinton, Stephen Kinnock, Natalie Bennett, Polly Toynbee and a few hundred others in fasting for 24 hours. It’s organised by the Make Votes Matter campaign and it’s to highlight that our democracy is broken and how badly we need Proportional Representation at Westminster.

Just before 8pm, I finished my meal of Macaroni Cheese and oven chips (going for the carb loading there) and that’s it until 8pm tomorrow. Unlike the brave women of the early 20th century  who went on hunger strike and endured unspeakably cruel force feeding, I doubt I’ll get to the end of the day without some significant whinging. It is very not like me to go without food for any reason. I expect I’ll whinge a lot less if some of you contribute to the fundraiser that’s going alongside it. The funds will be split between Make Votes Matter, the Fawcett Society and the food bank charity, The Trussell Trust.

So why am I doing it? Well, I’m lucky. My vote has elected someone to Westminster. Once. in 30 years and 8 elections. That’s just not good enough. In most of the country, the result of any election to the Westminster Parliament is a foregone conclusion. It first struck me as a teenager back in 1983 when there was less than 2.5% between Labour and the Liberal/SDP Alliance, yet Labour got 209 seats and we got 23.

We might all have a vote, but we really don’t get the Parliament we ask for. Channel 4 did an analysis after last year’s election of what the House of Commons might have looked under first past the post, the alternative vote and two PR systems. It’s a game changer. I don’t think it actually reflects how people would vote in those circumstances though, because there would be less need for polarisation. People would be able to freely vote for the party of their heart, or at least the one that comes closest.

Unlike a woman born 100 years before me, there was never any doubt that I would be able to vote. I’d like all my votes to count, though. As a Scot I am lucky enough to cast my local election vote by Single Transferable Vote and my Scottish Parliament vote has a top-up Additional Member System list.

Sadly, I’m being short-changed on my Westminster vote. It doesn’t work as well and it’s time for that to change. There haven’t been many governments that actually command the majority of the voters. In fact, Thatcher’s mammoth 1983 win gave her huge amounts of power that she didn’t deserve. She had a whacking great majority in parliament on less than half of the popular vote. 

The success of PR in Scotland and most of Europe and virtually everywhere else with a healthy democracy shows that it works. The arguments I heard in the 1980s about PR causing instability have been shown to be hogwash. In Scotland parties are forced to work together and that is no bad thing. The old Labour council fiefdoms in the Central belt have been swept away. It’s been good for democracy.

I want to see that happen at Westminster. However hungry I get in the next 24 hours, it won’t be a patch on how hungry I am to see that radical political change. Let’s commit ourselves to giving people the Parliament they ask for.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Good on yer, Great choice of charities, Caron. Yes, the suffragettes were brave – especially poor Emily who is buried in Morpeth – but so were the suffragists.

    Hopefully you’ll recover pronto – and then if you get time – try reading Jo Vellacott’s books on Catherine Marshall. Jo’s now in her nineties but we’re hoping to put up a blue plaque to Catherine in Keswick to mark the centenary with some help from Catherine’s great nephew.

    Odd how things go in circles. My great great Granddad walked 50 miles in 1

  • typo, – got cut off ….. Great G.t Granddad William walked 50 miles to York in the 1840’s to demand the vote and release from prison of the Chartist MP Feargus O’Connor – but wasn’t till 1918 that Granddad George got the vote (Granny Jinny somehow fed five kids through the 1926 General Strike had to wait till 1929).

    Anyway, Caron, here’s a song to sing tomorrow to cheer you up.

    The March of the Women (Shoulder to Shoulder) on Vimeo
    Video for March of the Women▶ 2:28 › Wild Love Music › Videos

  • Gremlins about..

    The March of the Women – YouTube
    Video for March of the Women▶ 2:59

  • Good stuff It’s important we keep reminding people that First Past the Post isn’t compatible with modern democracy and push for something better. Donation on the way.

  • “The success of PR in Scotland and most of Europe and virtually everywhere else with a healthy democracy shows that it works”

    Germany, Austria, Italy and many other EU countries are obviously great examples. I think I’ll stick with countries like the UK, Canada and the USA thanks.

  • @malc – satire?

  • Stephen Hesketh 6th Feb '18 - 7:15pm

    Thank you for joining in and promoting this great cause Caron.

    The Make Votes Matter team are making a great contribution to advancing the arguments for a fair voting system attending party conferences and other events up and down the country – including speaking, with some success, to Constituency Labour Party groups. PR was one of the reasons I joined the Liberal Party in the first place. It remains the most important game-changer British politics needs.

    And as for you Caron, just 45 minutes to go!

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