Call for conference stall volunteers!

Coming to Liberal Democrat conference in York? Fancy chatting to members about electoral reform? We’re looking for volunteers to help on our stall.

You don’t need any special knowledge – just a passion for a fairer and more democratic politics. We’ll be there to brief you on what to say and provide everything you need.

Just click here for our stall rota.

If you’d like to help, please enter your name on the left-hand side of the poll, and click any time-slots which you can cover. It’s a great way to help raise the profile of electoral reform within the party.

Sign the New Parliamentary Petition for Proportional Representation

A new parliamentary petition has been launched by our friends at Make Votes Matter calling for Proportional Representation (PR) in the House of Commons. The petition has gathered over 84,000 in four months. Reaching 100,000 signatures by April 2017 will help us make sure a full debate on PR is tabled in Parliament, simultaneously showing widespread, popular support for PR, and giving MPs from the Liberal Democrats and all the other parties a platform to make the case for changing our outdated electoral system once and for all.

We’ve made some good progress on the campaign for PR over the last few months and there’s a real sense of momentum building. The alliance for PR includes five of the seven parties holding a Parliamentary constituency in Great Britain and an increasing number of MPs from the other two. The petition can help us put PR right at the centre of the UK’s political debate and ensure that the call for fair votes from the vast majority of the population cannot be ignored.

Please sign the petition for Proportional Representation here.

Crispin Allard

Chair, LDER

Newsletter: Electoral Reform in a Liberal Society

New language for a longstanding liberal principle?

The gloves are off so far as the new political landscape is concerned – and the need for liberalism and our party are greater and more starkly urgent than ever.

One thing is clear: Liberal Democrats new and old see political reform as crucial. It ranks second among the values prioritised in the current Your Liberal Britain project.

The challenge: how should we express the benefits of voting reform to our members, to individual voters and to society as a whole? We know it is fundamental; but overall reform still eludes us. What can we learn; how should we adapt to the new political reality; how should we express the need to truly enfranchise, equally, all voters? We’ll be discussing this in York, so please bring your thoughts and suggestions to our stall!

Spring Conference, York: March 17-19

We will have our LDER stall in the Spring Conference exhibition, with the latest publications and prospects for electoral reform. More parties today back change and there is greater debate than ever within Labour about the case for a more fair and representative voting system.

If anyone can help staff our stand for a short period over the weekend, then please reply to this newsletter and let us know. All help appreciated.

Help shape our policies.

Two further policy working groups have been announced and are currently inviting applications from party members to join.

The two working groups are:
• Power for People and Communities
• Immigration and Identity.

The Power for People and Communities group will be looking at the power people wield in their local communities (including local government), the Liberal Democrat response to city deals and metro mayors, localism, community assets and initiatives, and workplace democracy. Investigating the potential for electoral reform to improve local decision-making and democratic accountability will be an essential part of this remit.

The remit of the Immigration and Identity working group has not yet been published.

The party regularly sets up policy working groups to investigate a policy area in some depth over the course of 12 to 18 months. The aim of each group is to produce a policy paper, supported by a motion to conference, based on consultations with members and expert evidence.

If you’re a party member, do you think you could make a contribution to either of these working groups?

For more on how to apply, go to: http://www.libdems.org.uk/policy-working-groups

Best wishes,

Crispin Allard
Chair

Updated endorsements for Federal Committees

As set out in our last post, LDER has a strategic goal to prioritise PR/STV in the party’s campaign strategy, its manifesto and its discussions with other parties, whether before or after the next General Election.  To help achieve this goal, we need to influence a number of key federal committees, and we are therefore endorsing candidates for the following committees:

  • Federal Board, which replaces Federal Executive and now takes on a new role of setting the party’s strategy
  • Federal Policy Committee, which is responsible for the party’s General Election manifesto
  • Federal Conference Committee, which decides the motions and amendments to be debated at Autumn and Spring Conference

You should now have received your voting instructions for elections to these committees.  We encourage you to vote for the following candidates, who are members of LDER and have made a commitment to support our strategic goal of prioritising PR/STV. Members of the LDER Executive Committee are shown in bold.

Federal Board:
Keith Sharp
Mark Pack
Richard Fagence
Alex Hegenbarth

Federal Conference Committee:
Joe Otten
Richard Fagence
Alex Hegenbarth
Geoff Payne
Paul Tilsley

Federal Policy Committee:
Michael Kilpatrick
Keith Sharp
Richard Fagence
Alex Hegenbarth
Sally Burnell
Simon Pike

Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform endorsements for Federal Committees

Message from Crispin Allard, LDER Chair:

Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform has a strategic goal to prioritise PR/STV in the party’s campaign strategy, its manifesto and its discussions with other parties, whether before or after the next General Election.

To help achieve this goal, we need to influence a number of key federal committees, and we are therefore endorsing candidates for the following committees:

  • Federal Board, which replaces Federal Executive and now takes on a new role of setting the party’s strategy
  • Federal Policy Committee, which is responsible for the party’s General Election manifesto
  • Federal Conference Committee, which decides the motions and amendments to be debated at Autumn and Spring Conference

You will be receiving voting instructions for elections to these committees very soon (if you do not already have them).  We encourage you to vote for the following candidates, who are members of LDER and have made a commitment to support our strategic goal of prioritising PR/STV.  We are contacting all candidates for these committees and will add to this list any other candidates who decide to do likewise.

Federal Board:
Keith Sharp
Mark Pack
Richard Fagence

Federal Policy Committee:
Michael Kilpatrick
Keith Sharp
Richard Fagence

Federal Conference Committee:
Joe Otten
Richard Fagence

Sign the Parliamentary petition for Proportional Representation!

Our friends at Make Votes Matter have submitted a Parliamentary Petition calling for proportional representation.  I encourage you to join me in signing the petition and ask your friends to do the same.

Thanks,

Crispin Allard
Chair,
Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform

Message from Joe at Make Votes Matter:

We need your help to get PR tabled for debate in the House of Commons. To make this happen, please sign and share the new, official Parliamentary petition calling for Proportional Representation.

As this petition is hosted by the Government’s official petition website, we can make sure it is debated by MPs if it receives over 100,000 signatures by April 2017. In just a few weeks it’s gathered more than 25% of the this target, but we need to keep signing and sharing to keep up the momentum.

With Liberal Democrats being joined in their support for PR by more and more MPs from Labour and even the Conservatives, this would be an ideal time to take this debate to the House of Commons. Securing a debate through a citizen-led petition is a great way to support these MPs by demonstrating broad public demand for electoral reform.

There are social media buttons on the petition page. Please use these to share the message with friends and contacts.

petition-generic

Prioritising Proportional Representation

Welcome

Firstly, a warm welcome to Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform to all those who have joined in the past month.  Featured in this newsletter are a report on Autumn Conference and details of how LDER will be endorsing candidates for this year’s elections to federal committees.

 

Autumn Conference Report

At Brighton, our PR amendment was successfully included in the Europe motion. See the revised Clause 7 in the motion as passed.

Less positively, our attempt to get a motion prioritising PR onto the Conference agenda – following the initiative of the late David Rendel – was rebuffed by Federal Conference Committee.

But at a time when electoral reform is increasingly being highlighted by other parties, it is strange that the Liberal Democrats are quiet on the issue.  It seems the upper echelons of the party still don’t get why we need to be prioritising this issue now.  LDER will continue working to convince them.

We also signed up over 150 members and supporters at our stall, and supported a well-attended Electoral Reform Society reception with guest speaker Dorothy Thornhill.

 

Federal Committee Elections

This year sees a number of significant changes to the election of federal committees, including all-member voting, a move to 3-year terms, quotas for under-represented groups and a new Federal Board.  For LDER, the key committees to influence are:

Federal Board: Prioritising PR in the party’s campaign strategy and its discussions with other parties, whether before or after the next General Election.

Federal Policy Committee: Ensuring our policy of STV for the House of Commons and Local Government features prominently in the Manifesto.

Federal Conference Committee: Getting our motions/amendments onto the conference agenda so members can show their support.

And for the first time, LDER will be endorsing candidates for federal committees, using our mailing list (over 800 active party members), Facebook page (over 4,000 members) and website.  We will endorse candidates who:

1.      Are members of LDER (if you’re not yet a member you can join here).

2.      Make a commitment to our strategic goals of prioritising PR/STV in the party’s campaign strategy, its manifesto and its discussions with other parties, whether before or after the next General Election.

So if you’re planning to stand for one or more of the above committees and are willing to meet the criteria above, please get in touch with me at crispin.allard@gmail.com as soon as possible.  Please note that nominations for all committees close on 2 November.

Regards,

Crispin Allard

Chair, LDER

How First-Past-The-Post caused “Brexit”

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

Three key effects of FPTP were at work:

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

 

  1. Safe seats:

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

An MP in a safe seat does not need to worry about getting re-elected; he or she does not have to listen to their constituents and does not need to explain their position to them (for example why the UK’s membership of the EU is a good thing).

Voters in a safe seat are effectively powerless to make a difference to a General Election result.  All they can do is contribute to the national headline percentage of the party they support, or use their vote as a protest.  They have no responsibility for the result and, at some level, most realise this – they get into the habit of voting irresponsibly.

Consequently, when it came to the referendum, many “Leave” voters did not believe their vote would actually make a difference.  Of those that did realise this was the one opportunity they had to cast a meaningful vote, many saw it as an opportunity to rebel against the establishment – to “take back control” from the politicians.

 

  1. Distorted results:

FPTP leads to grossly disproportionate results, allowing single parties to govern based on considerably less than 50% of the popular vote.

In 2015 the Conservatives gained an overall majority in Parliament on less than 37% of the vote, leading directly to the EU referendum, because it was in their manifesto.  (It has been widely reported that Cameron was happy to have this commitment in the manifesto because he believed he would not win a majority, and so would not have to carry it out.)

Meanwhile, FPTP resulted in 8 seats for the Liberal Democrats (instead of the 50 or so warranted by our vote share), diminishing the strongest voice in favour of the EU (or at least the media representation of that voice) at precisely the time it was most needed.

Paradoxically, UKIP only gaining 1 MP did not diminish the representation of their views in the media (there were other forces at work).  We are left to speculate whether UKIP gaining parliamentary representation in proportion to their vote in 2005 or 2010 might have forced the pro-EU majority in Parliament to counter their arguments earlier.

 

  1. Distorted politics:

FPTP does not just distort the results.  The behaviour of politicians and parties trying to win under such a twisted system distorts every aspect of politics.

In order to win, the Conservatives are a broad coalition party, rather than the two (or more) parties they should be.  The result has been to give undue influence to the anti-EU right wing of the party.  Similarly, Labour is forced to be a coalition of multiple parties; this undoubtedly contributed to their ineffectiveness in the referendum campaign.

 

Does it matter which system?

It’s certainly true that some of the problems with FPTP that led to the Leave vote would be solved by almost any system of proportional representation (PR).

But the Single Transferable Vote (STV), which is existing Liberal Democrat policy, has a number of advantages over other forms of PR.  Under STV, every constituency has a reasonable chance of some change at each election – safe seats as they exist now would disappear.  STV would give voters more choice of candidates and hence more control over the result.  And if the party structure becomes disconnected from the changing views of the public, STV provides a safety valve, with voters able to exert a gentle pressure to re-align politics through their voting choices.

 

In summary

FPTP has multiple distorting effects – on the relationship between voters and MPs, on overall election results, and on the entire conduct of politics. This article gives just a few examples of how FPTP distorts every aspect of politics and government in the UK; its effects can be seen in almost every area of public administration and policy.

It is probably the single biggest underlying cause of the vote to leave.  An insistence on replacing it with a proportional system must be part of any response to the referendum result.

The Liberal Democrats should continue to promote the Single Transferable Vote as the system of PR that best delivers fair representation and power to people, and thus best solves the defects in FPTP exposed by the referendum result.

By Dr Crispin Allard, Chair of LDER

This article was originally published on Liberal Democrat Voice

New opportunities for proportional representation

The dramatic changes in the UK’s political landscape following the vote to leave the EU are opening up new opportunities for PR.

The referendum result demonstrated the extent to which the FPTP system has allowed politicians to become distanced from the people they purport to represent – strengthening the case for reform.  It has also provided an impetus to those arguing for realignment on the Left, with the potential for Labour to split over the leadership, which would make PR essential.

One example is MoreUnited.uk, set up by Paddy Ashdown among others.  Whilst they have not yet fully defined the policies they will back, a number of “examples” are provided, including “Take the big money out of politics and reform the voting system to ensure every vote counts”.  Policies will be decided by its members, so I would encourage you to join me in supporting this initiative.

Autumn Conference – an opportunity missed …

Federal Conference Committee has failed to select our motion on Prioritising PR for debate at Autumn Conference, despite it being supported by 12 local parties and over 140 members.  To quote their response:

“FCC decided that they did not feel that now was the correct time in the political calendar, and taking into account the current political environment and the recent referendum result, to discuss this motion.”

We at LDER beg to differ!  We have decided to resubmit a cut-down version as an amendment to the Europe motion.

… and an opportunity to get pissed

Our friends at the Electoral Reform Society are holding a reception at 6pm on Sunday 18 September in the Gresham Suite at the Old Ship Hotel, King’s Road, Brighton BN1 1NR.

Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform – opportunities to get involved

As always, we will be running a stall at Conference.  If you would like to help out, just go to our Doodle poll  and indicate which slot(s) you want to do.  You don’t need to be an expert on voting systems – the main qualification is enthusiasm for the cause.

Our AGM will be at 2pm on Sunday 18 September at: The Quadrant (upstairs room), 12-13 North Street, Brighton BN1 3GJ.

In addition to an exciting constitutional amendment, we will be electing the LDER Committee for the coming year.  If you are interested in standing, or would like to know more about what’s involved, please contact me at crispin.allard@gmail.com.

Regards,

Crispin Allard
Chair, LDER