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

Volunteers needed to help on our conference stall

Fancy chatting to Lib Dem members about electoral reform? We’re looking for volunteers to help on our stall in the Exhibition Area at Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton, 17-20 September.

Just click here for our stall rota.

You don’t need any special knowledge to help out – 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.

If you’d like to help, 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.

2015-09-21 14.31.05

Conference Motion: Prioritising Proportional Representation

Below is the text of a conference motion which LDER have submitted for debate at the Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference this year. We are now waiting to find out whether the motion will be selected for this year’s agenda, and will report back to our members and supporters once this is known.

We would like to thank all of the individual Liberal Democrat members and local parties and who have supported the motion.

 


Conference Motion: Prioritising Proportional Representation

Conference notes:

i. The result of the 2015 General Election was even more undemocratic than usual, with the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party and UKIP gaining approximately one quarter of the total number of votes cast, but only 10 seats out of 650, while the Scottish Nationalists won 56 seats with about 4% of the votes cast.

ii. Opinion Polls show that this result has led to a sharp and sustained increase in support for Proportional Representation (PR).

iii. The results of local elections in England and Wales continue to be even less democratic than those in Westminster; whilst the system for local elections in Wales is now a devolved matter, in England it remains under the control of Westminster.

iv. The House of Commons and local authorities in England and Wales are the only UK public bodies elected using First-Past-the-Post (FPTP).

Conference welcomes:

a. Support for insisting on PR for the House of Commons as part of any future coalition deal, from Tim Farron and Norman Lamb during the 2015 leadership election, and from Nick Clegg earlier this year.

b. That other parties, including the SNP, Plaid, UKIP, Greens and some in Labour, are increasingly vociferous on the need for PR and are regularly engaged in cross-party discussions on this issue.

Conference believes:

i. The Government of any nation should be “Of the people, by the people, for the people”; therefore, the test of an electoral system should be not how fair it is to political parties, but how fair it is to people.

ii. The continued use of FPTP distorts all aspects of government and politics and thereby undermines every other Liberal Democrat objective; its replacement with PR should therefore be the top priority for the Liberal Democrats. Insistence on PR is consequently justified, in light of its unique impact as an enabler for everything else the Liberal Democrats wish to achieve.

Conference further believes that the case for the urgent introduction of PR is now overwhelming following the EU Referendum, which demonstrated the extent to which FPTP has allowed politicians to become distanced from the people they purport to represent.

Conference reaffirms existing policy in favour of the Single Transferable Vote (STV) as the system of PR that best delivers fairness to people.

Conference calls for:

1. Liberal Democrats to make the campaign for PR a top priority, taking the lead nationally and making the case on the basis of fairness to people.

2. The Federal Party to ensure that in any future negotiation of a coalition government, the Liberal Democrats will insist on a clear commitment to the earliest possible introduction of PR for the Westminster Parliament and local authorities in England.

Newsletter: Maintaining Momentum

Tim and reform
Tim Farron continues to make electoral reform a leadership focus – most recently as the first signatory in an Unlock Democracy-sponsored letter to The Times, calling for English councils to have enabling powers to introduce fair voting in local elections.

Electoral Reform rally – May 7
Our President, Sal Brinton, was a key speaker at a major rally for electoral reform in Westminster on May 7, supported by Make Votes Matter, Unlock Democracy and the Electoral Reform Society. She condemned the present system as putting ‘a real stranglehold on … politics for decades, and where large percentages of people feel their votes are worthless.’

The Liberal Democrats continue to work with reform groups and across political parties to build momentum for a change to the voting system.

Labour
Talking of other parties – John McConnell, Shadow Chancellor, has renewed his call for Labour to formally support electoral reform. Here is part of what he said in a national newspaper:

“It should be no surprise that there’s massive opposition to so many of the present government’s flagship policies. The stark reality is that most voters explicitly rejected the Conservative manifesto last year… If we are serious about democracy…we can’t accept this. Parliament draws its legitimacy from representing the will of the British people.”

The link to this on our LDER Facebook page scored over 6,000 hits. We all know that the route to electoral reform needs one of the major parties to join the cause. Labour’s traditional fence-sitting (Jeremy Corbyn claims to be undecided on the issue) has until now resulted in eventual rejection of change. Is Labour finally coming to its democratic senses?

What we can do
Reform will come about through grassroots and local as well as through national level campaigning. Remember to lobby your MP and Councillors – as individuals, with the local party or with a group of friends (not necessarily LDs) – on local and Westminster reform. A focused set of emails will do the job.

David Rendel
LDER would like to add our own tribute to the many others already paid to David Rendel who sadly passed away in May. David was of course a staunch, outspoken Liberal throughout his life. For us, electoral reform was his top priority – he was one of the founding members of LDER, and served on our Committee until standing down to concentrate on contesting a parliamentary seat in the 2015 election. He will be greatly missed.

A memorial celebration of David’s life will be held in Newbury’s Corn Exchange on Monday 4 July from 1.00pm. All members are invited to attend.

Crispin Allard
Chair, LDER

Newsletter: Join the Demo for Democracy

The Demo for Democracy is being held to demand Proportional Representation for elections to the House of Commons. Organised by Make Votes Matter, it is on the anniversary of the most disproportionate election result in modern times.

As Liberal Democrats, we should be in the forefront of the campaign for electoral reform – so pass this on to your local party and get as many people as you can to come along.

Demo for Democracy 2015
Last year’s rally for electoral reform saw a strong Lib Dem presence

 

Conference Report

A lively Spring Conference at York saw us recruit several new members, with over 50 party members signing up to our mailing list.  Thank you to all those who visited the stall, and particularly to those who helped out: Crispin Allard, John Cochrane, Lisa French, Cliff Grout, Denis Mollison and Richard Lawrie, plus Ed Molloy from ERS.

We decided not to run a fringe event this year, instead supporting events organised by others:

  • The Electoral Reform Society held an event to present the results of their Citizens’ Assembly pilots and discuss how a Constitutional Convention might work.
  • Pro PR, a new organisation in the electoral reform field, hosted a debate on the merits of an electoral pact on the single issue of PR for the House of Commons.

Crispin Allard
Chair, LDER