February 2019 Newsletter

Paul Tyler speaks out: Make Votes Matter People’s Lobby for Electoral Reform

On Tuesday 11th December,  LDER representatives joined more than 100 other activists from around 65 constituencies attending the People’s Lobby for Electoral Reform, organised by Make Votes Matter. The purpose of the event was to lobby parliamentarians for a change in the system that elects MPs to the House of Commons and to raise visibility, both around Westminster and online, of the urgent need for electoral reform. The event took place on the day that the meaningful vote on the Prime Minister’s deal with Europe was due to take place – and was later cancelled.    

We kicked off with an address by Lord Paul Tyler, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Constitutional and Political Reform. Lord Tyler made a compelling case for it being a “very good time” to be lobbying for electoral reform. He noted that the ‘Brexit’ crisis has undermined the claim that our current system provides “strong and stable”, decisive, government.

Participants then met in their constituency groups and headed to the House of Commons to lobby their MPs. Those of us who were unable to secure a meeting with our MPs made sure it was known that we had requested one.

The lobby concluded with remarks from Caroline Lucas, Stephen Kinnock and Vince Cable. Baroness Sal Brinton was awarded a Parliamentary Champion Award – awarded to cross-party politicians who have done the most to campaign for a proportional voting system in the UK.

Make Votes Matter will continue to focus on securing support for proportional representation from the Labour Party, as well as supporting activist groups across the UK.

You can view the highlights of the event, including remarks from Lord Tyler and Vince Cable here

 

Snap General Election? Getting prepared

With another snap General Election a possibility, we have updated our submission to the last manifesto and sent it to party HQ.

Our policy priorities are:

  1. Immediate introduction of STV for council elections in England.
  2. A Constitutional Convention or Citizens Assembly to cover UK level reform, including PR/STV for Westminster elections and reform of the House of Lords.

These should be ‘red lines’ in any post-election negotiations.

Also:

  1. Votes at age 16 for all UK elections.
  2. Take big money out of politics: cap donations to political parties at £10,000 per person each year; and full disclosure of all political donations.
  3. A UK-wide lobbying register.
  4. Increase the resources, scope and sanctions of the Electoral Commission.

 

Prioritising reform: Meeting with Lord Paul Tyler, Liberal Democrat Spokesperson for Constitutional and Political Reform

Following Lord Tyler’s speech at the December Make Votes Matter lobby and our policy submission to HQ, LDER Exec members Keith Sharp and Sarah Lewis met Lord Tyler to discuss prioritising our policies.

Lord Tyler said our policy proposals would be supported, but that there is a question regarding the level of priority given to electoral and political reform (it was high priority in our 2010 manifesto but has since dropped down the order).

We represented LDER’s position that in cross-party negotiations electoral reform must be given the priority it deserves – as ‘the reform that makes all other reforms possible’.

Lord Tyler noted that it would be critical to see how the Party’s General Election manifesto would translate into a core narrative or message going into any future election. We discussed ‘Politics is broken and we can fix it’ as a potential narrative plank for any early election, where potential components of such a campaign platform could include:

  • Electoral reform
  • Money in politics
  • House of Lords reform
  • Further devolution
  • The relationship between the legislature and the executive

Lord Tyler noted the upcoming opportunity to push for electoral reform in the Welsh Assembly, drawing on the powerful evidence from Scotland to show that alternative electoral systems can deliver better results from a voter’s perspective. He also mentioned that the prospect of boundary changes was also an advocacy opportunity. We agreed to remain closely connected on the question of the Party narrative and to consider LDER’s role across this broader agenda.

Lord Tyler also suggested that LDER looks to work with the Local Government Association and ALDC to find ways to support campaign work across the UK, potentially providing additional content and an up to date evidence base. We will explore this.

Finally, he kindly recorded a short video, which can now be found on LDER’s website and Facebook page.

You may also be interested in Lord Tyler’s recent piece in The Independent on how quickly a People’s Vote could be put in place.

 

The public supports change: new ComRes polling

Some recent ComRes polling has revealed a strong appetite for political reform in the UK. They found that:

  • 72% of adults agree the Brexit process has shown that the British political system needs a complete overhaul.
  • 72% support having a written Constitution.
  • 62% want more decisions to be made at local level rather than by Parliament.

 

Your view please! Conventions/Assemblies

Following our last newsletter, we’d welcome your views on using deliberative democracy, perhaps especially citizens’ assemblies, as a key change to our politics and a required route to the holding of any further referendums. The Brexit shambles has shown the inadequacy of the present party system, with its whipping and cajoling of MPs to vote the way the party wants, rather than in accordance with their beliefs and judgement. It’s in our key policy demands — further views please!

Paul Tyler on electoral reform

Lord Paul Tyler is the Lib Dems’ current spokesperson for electoral reform issues. Members of the LDER executive committee recently met with him, and he recorded this short video explaining why electoral reform remains a crucial issue even in the middle of the current Brexit crisis.

Transcript: Some people think that electoral reform is irrelevant at the moment. Not so – it’s extremely important. Not just because people feel they’re not properly represented by parliament, though that’s one of the reasons why we’re in this current mess. But also because of course First Past The Post, the present voting system, has delivered us something that is far from the stable, consistent, secure government that we’re entitled to expect.

We’ll have more details on our meeting with Paul in our next newsletter.

December 2018 newsletter

Reminder — People’s Lobby for PR, December 11, 12 noon at Westminster

The last major pro-reform event of 2018 is only days away — it’s a Make Votes Matter initiative, taking the case for reform directly to Westminster. Please click below to register.

Show your support for fair votes by coming to the Peoples Lobby for PR

More information about what will happen on the day is available here.

2019 priorities

Peter Hirst writes: As an LDER Executive newcomer, I propose broadening our remit  to include the Party’s long-standing commitment to a written constitution, created by a Citizen’s Assembly or Jury.

As some of you might know, the charity Involve, is dedicated to putting people at the heart of our democracy. Its website declares on its front page, “We’re the UK’s leading public participation charity, on a mission to put people at the heart of decision-making.”

It believes that decision making in the UK needs to be more open, participatory and deliberative.

To this end it has, with others, recently organised Citizens’ Assemblies on Brexit, Social Care and Northern Ireland with full details on their website. It also has a collaboration with the Electoral Reform Society, seeking to change our method of voting in a collaborative rather than divisive and confrontational way.

Typically, a Citizens’ Jury involves between 100 and 250 randomly selected citizens of the affected area who come together over two weekends. The process involves gathering information, discussing it and deciding on recommendations. This is done either by voting or consensus.

Proposal: LDER and the party would benefit by working with Involve (and others) to improve democratic governance and campaign for a full written constitution, compiled along the lines above. A next step could be for LDER to co-organise a conference fringe meeting to generate wider interest in this important component of a properly functioning representative democracy.

Any views/feedback on Peter’s proposal? Let us know!

The 2019 team

Our  Autumn Brighton Conference stall was busy as ever. We gathered on-stall feedback on key messaging to make the benefits of voting reform more immediate to the electorate (we’ll report back on this next time) and our members and supporters sign ups now number nearly 1,000. That’s great, but do get party friends and colleagues to join us.

New exec member Sarah Lewis led an energetic Your Liberal Britain stand discussion on electoral reform, with Make Votes Matter’s Klina Jordan as guest speaker.

We also elected the LDER 18/19 executive at our AGM:

Chair: Denis Mollison
Secretary: Penny Goodman
Treasurer: Richard Lawrie
Membership: Martin Walker*
Exec members: Crispin Allard, Peter Hirst, Sarah Lewis, Helen Parker, Keith Sharp
Keith was subsequently elected Vice Chair by the executive.

Particular thanks go to Crispin, who reverts to an exec member after being chair for six of the past seven years and who reconstituted LDER in its present form. He is now Chair of his local party and it’s great to have him continue as an exec member.

*Vacancy! — Membership Officer

Since Brighton, Martin has had to step down due to work commitments. Martin leaves with our membership and supporters lists in good shape, so our thanks go to him.

But we now seek to co-opt a new Membership Secretary onto the exec; someone to continue to keep our membership and supporters database up to date and to notify members when annual subs fall due.

Could YOU take up this simple but crucial role? If you’d like to join or to discuss this, please contact us on info@lder.org

LDER Executive

Event Alert: Join the People’s Lobby for PR

12 noon 11 December; Westminster

Will you join the People’s Lobby for Proportional Representation on Tuesday 11th December?

This December, the cross-party movement for PR will descend on Parliament for a mass lobby, organised by Make Votes Matter and co-hosted by MPs from five political parties, including of course the Liberal Democrats.

Disgust at the way our electoral system distorts and damages our politics, from the terrible Brexit mess to the spectacle of the DUP — with its total of 300,000 votes — calling the shots in Government, is growing.  Even the Labour Party – the traditional stumbling block for electoral reform – is coming under pressure from its own membership to back reform.

It’s a battle we can best win by taking joint action alongside supporters of all parties who want an equal, proportional system where the power and choice of the individual voter is enhanced.

We invite you to take action to help make PR a reality. Click on the link below for details and to register and confirm your attendance.

Show your support for fair votes by coming to the People’s Lobby for PR

We hope you can join us.

LDER executive

LDER AGM 2018

If you’ll be at Liberal Democrat conference this weekend, come along to our AGM! It’s your chance to elect our committee for the coming year and discuss our campaigning priorities.

We are meeting in the Rum Attic of Revolution, 77 West St, Brighton BN1 2RA on Sunday 16 September, 16.00-17.00.

 

The agenda is as follows:

1. Apologies for Absence

2. Minutes of the Annual General Meeting of 17 September 2017

Accuracy

Matters Arising

3. Reports

Chair

Treasurer

Membership Secretary

4. Annual Accounts

To consider and approve the annual accounts for 2017.

5. Membership fee

To set the annual membership fee at £10 and the concessionary fee at £5 for the year commencing 1 October 2018.

6. Election of Officers and Executive Committee Members

Chair

Secretary

Treasurer

Membership Secretary

Up to five Ordinary Members of the committee

7. Appointment of Examiner

To appoint an Examiner of the accounts for 2017.

8. Activities:

To discuss the activities of Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform.

Ends

 

You can download print-formatted copies of the AGM agenda and last year’s minutes here:

Pre-conference news from LDER

BRIGHTON CONFERENCE (September 15-18)

Why care about electoral reform? Your chance to comment

The LDER stand at Conference (stall 26, Exhibition Hall) is the chance for all members to post views on what messages will make electoral reform appeal powerfully to the general public — overcoming the age-old dilemma where voters support PR / electoral reform, but only rate it as low priority. LDER — with support from Your Liberal Britain — has devised a series of slogans/messages which ‘sell’ electoral reform from the public point of view. Come along to our stall and tell us which ones you think work best — and tell us of any you think will work better.

Staffing the LDER stall

As always, we’d appreciate volunteers to help us man the LDER Conference stall during Conference. If you have an hour or two spare, please let us know by completing this doodle poll: https://doodle.com/poll/ut6fnqizuzp9z89p

LDER AGM — recruiting new executive members and a Chair

Our AGM will be held on Sunday September 16; 4-5pm; at Revolution (in the Rum attic), 77 West Street, BN1 2RA.

Please join us. As always we welcome all party members, including potential fresh executive committee members.

This year also, our Chair Crispin Allard is stepping down having completed his three-year term. If you are interested and think you could become our next Chair, please contact Crispin to discuss the role and possibilities — info@lder.org

An electoral reformer’s guide to Brighton

Apart from visiting our stall and joining our AGM, here are some possible Conference highlights:

Saturday Sept 15: 14.40 (main hall): ‘Power for People and Communities’ policy debate. (note the call for STV for local government elections in the motion lines 49-50)

Sunday Sept 16: 18.15, Brighton Centre room 1A — ‘Is our electoral system fit for purpose?’
A joint Social Liberal Forum/Unlock Democracy debate on the recent Electoral Commission report and the Cambridge Analytica damage.

Monday Sept 17: 17:00 ‘What can I do to speed up electoral reform?’ Speakers’ Corner event next to the Your Liberal Britain stand (number 12) in the Exhibition, in collaboration with Make Voters Matter.

Monday Sept 17: 18.15 Hilton, room Surrey 2 — ‘Is compulsory voter ID sensible security; or voter disenfranchisement?’ A joint Rowntree Trust/Political Skills Forum debate.

Tuesday Sept 18: 11.30 (main hall); LD priorities for a better Britain. (note: supporting paper calls for PR for Westminster elections and votes at 16).

LDER

info@lder.org
www.lder.org
Facebook: LibDemsForElectoralReform

LDER Brighton Conference Stall

Are you coming to Liberal Democrat Conference in Brighton (15-18 Sept)? Would you like to help raise the profile of electoral reform as an issue within the party?

One great way to do this is to volunteer a couple of hours of your time to help staff the LDER stall in the exhibition area. No special knowledge is needed – just enthusiasm!

If you’d like to help, you can sign up for a stall slot to suit you using our Doodle Poll here. Just enter your name on the left-hand side of the poll, and click any time-slots which you can cover.

Once you’ve picked your slot(s), simply report to stall 26 in the Exhibition Hall at the time you’ve volunteered for, and we will show you what to do. The main activities are collecting contact details from people who would like to join our mailing list, giving people ballot papers for a survey we’re doing to find the most popular electoral reform messages and generally chatting to people about electoral reform!

Seeking new committee members

Would you like to get more involved in the work of Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform? We are currently looking for new ordinary members for our Executive Committee, as well as a new chair.
 
If you’d like to know more about what we do before putting yourself forward, you can read about us here, or our objectives here. You are also very welcome to email our current chair, Crispin Allard, at info@lder.org for more information about any committee role. Crispin will be very happy to provide pointers and guidance for anyone interested in taking over the role of chair.
 
The new committee will formally be elected at our AGM, scheduled to take place during Liberal Democrat conference in Brighton next month. However, you do not have to be able to attend the AGM to become a committee member – the process can be handled in absentia.

Spring Conference in pictures

LDER had a very successful and enjoyable Spring Conference in Southport. At our stall, we ran a consultation on Lords Reform, finding a wide range of views amongst party members and sparking lots of interesting conversations.

We also helped to support a fringe event run by Your Liberal Britain entitled ‘Why should anyone care about electoral reform?’ Liberal Democrats certainly do care, as was clear from the packed room full of people wanting to help identify successful messages which might convey the importance of the issue to voters.

Groups worked together to think about persuasive messages targeted towards different types of people, such as:

  • Do you want one party in perpetual control?
  • Steady the political ship.
  • Gets you representatives who love what you love.
  • You vote should count like everyone else’s.

We’ll now be working through the workshop outcomes in detail, to think about how and where the messages identified can best be deployed.

Electoral reform: current opportunities and threats

Spring conference in Southport

As usual, LDER will be at Liberal Democrat spring conference with two opportunities for you to get involved in electoral reform activities.

1. Fringe Event: Why should anyone care about electoral reform?

This will be a members’ interactive session about making the benefits of electoral reform clear and vivid to voters.

We know the problem: most people support fair, equal voting, but only see it as a ‘nice to do’ and not high priority.

Jim Williams (Your Liberal Britain) will lead the session so that we, the party members, can step up the campaign with fresh, arresting messaging. Good for reform and good for the Liberal Democrats.

Details: March 10; 1-2pm. Ramada Plaza Hotel, Promenade Room.

2. LDER exhibition stall

We are looking for colleagues to help us staff the stall. If you can spare an hour or two, please fill in our Doodle survey here. If not, please drop by for a chat!

 

Opportunities and threats

More broadly, 2018 is underway with a volatile mix of opportunity and threat for electoral reform.

 

Opportunites

Defining the outcomes and qualities of a good electoral system was the theme of January’s multi-party alliance session; hosted by Make Votes Matter and attended by LDER. All agreed party proportionality was the most visible benefit of a fair, equal voting system; but alongside this, increased voter choice and power and more diverse representation (gender, age and ethnicity) was backed heavily. This constructive discussion is a step towards finding consensus on the best system to adopt when the time comes to ditch FPTP. The Liberal Democrats were led by President Sal Brinton and Lord Paul Tyler

 

There are prospects for further reform in both Scotland and Wales.

In addition to the proposal of the Welsh Government to use STV instead of FPTP for council elections, the Assembly have now brought out a Report. This recommends changing the Assembly’s own electoral system to STV.  However, it is far from certain that either reform will happen, as the ruling Labour party are divided on the issue.

 

In Scotland, there is a new consultation on electoral reform that concentrates mainly on improving the current STV council elections system. It does not discuss the option of changing the Scottish Parliament system to STV, despite the numerous criticisms of the present Additional Member System: but it is of course open to respondents to suggest this.  The consultation closes on March 12.

 

And the threats

‘Every Voice Matters’ is the (we can only assume unintentionally) ironic title of a Cabinet Office paper which proposes to do away with Supplementary Vote (SV) for Mayoral and PCC elections – and replace it with FPTP!  Now, we are not huge fans of SV but it’s a sight better than FPTP. The slightly hopeful news is that the minister responsible for this has just been reshuffled (Chloe Smith has taken over from Chris Skidmore) and that might slow things down or better still bring them grinding to a halt. But we can’t be too confident: we need to watch this and work with our MPs to kill it.

 

Crispin Allard

Chair, LDER