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

December Newsletter

Cross Party Alliances

On October 17, Make Votes Matter (MVM) held an electoral reform all-party alliance meeting in Westminster. LDER was there, along with party President Sal Brinton and Lord Paul Tyler, our Lords Spokesperson for Political and Constitutional Reform.  Paul and Sal both spoke about principled support for a system which serves not cheats the people. Narrow party advantage is the wrong perspective. All parties, with the notable exception of the Tories, were there. Labour reps (including Jonathan Reynolds and Paul Blomfield) were also convincingly pro-reform. Let’s see if they can convince the Corbynistas…

On October 30, following a public petition led by MVM with support of the Electoral Reform Society, a Westminster Hall debate on electoral reform took place. This time some Tories were there (!) presenting Neanderthal pro-status quo arguments, based on falsity (claiming AV was a proportional system), and a nostalgic-cum-deranged belief that if it was British, then it had to be best. Our new Bath MP, Wera Hobhouse, provided powerful pro-reform arguments, drawing in part of her experience of her native Germany to do so. Labour (including Stephen Kinnock) was again present and forcefully pro-reform. Make Votes Matter have posted a report of the event, including videos of the main speakers, here.

Whether this ‘momentum’, especially within Labour will finally lead to change remains to be seen. We will ensure our party’s positive involvement in next steps to reform.

 

Votes at 16

Our MPs have also been working with Labour, SNP, Plaid Cymru and Green colleagues to extend voting rights to 16 and 17 year olds for all UK elections. A private member’s bill put forward by Jim McMahon MP (Lab/Co-Op, Oldham and Royton) and selected by Oldham youth council, provided an opportunity for debate in the Commons on this important topic.

McMahon introduced the Representation of the People (Young People’s Enfranchisement and Education) Bill by emphasising that it commanded cross-party support.

For the Liberal Democrats, Christine Jardine MP highlighted the success of involving 16 and 17 year olds in the Scottish referendum, noting that their contributions had been among the most informed, enthusiastic and incisive, and had brought many more young people into politics. Addressing some of the arguments against the bill, Wera Hobhouse MP drew comparisons with the case to resist votes for women a century ago.

Unfortunately the debate had to be adjourned due to time constraints and will resume on 1 December. This bill is unlikely to become law, but has raised public awareness of the issue and attracted considerable media attention. The UK Youth Parliament and NUS are currently campaigning actively for votes at 16, and have also been discussing the subject in recent weeks.

 

Can you help?

At LDER’s September AGM, a new exec for 17/18 was elected: Crispin Allard (Chair), Penny Goodman (Secretary), Richard Lawrie (Treasurer), Martin Walker (Membership) plus Denis Mollison, Paul Mott, Helen Parker, Keith Sharp and Philip Smith.  (At our November exec, Keith was elected Vice Chair.)

But there is lots to do! An AGM suggestion was to share our programme and work agenda with our activists, so people can chip in and support the cause according to expertise and availability.

A current priority need is a literature (print and on-line) refresh. Our ‘general’ leaflet is factually up to date (as of June ’17 election), but could really do with a re-design, to make it more punchy-looking. We are also writing updated leaflets on Lords reform and England and Wales local government and so need help both in writing and designing.

So: if you are a great (or even only pretty good!) layout designer or writer, please write to us (see below). Any other contributions you can make – please let us know that too.

Crispin Allard

Chair
Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform

Make votes matter in Wales

If you would like to see a fairer voting system used for council elections in Wales, please respond to the Welsh Government’s consultation on electoral reform before 10th October.

If you want to respond to the whole consultation (there are other interesting issues, including votes for 16 and 17 year olds), you can fill in a form available online here. Note that if you want to support STV, it is probably best to do this under the final Question 46 (“other related issues”).

Alternatively, you may find it simpler to write your own response as an email to RLGProgramme@wales.gsi.gov.uk with subject: “Consultation on Electoral reform in local government in Wales” and stating which parts of the consultation you wish to comment on, e.g. “Section 4. The voting system”

One simple response would be to ask that the Welsh Assembly to follow the example of the Labour/LD coalition in Scotland, which brought in STV for council elections through a simple act of the Scottish Parliament, the Local Governance (Scotland) Act 2004.  Note also that Northern Ireland has had STV for council elections since 1973 (brought in by a Conservative government at Westminster).

Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform executive committee member Denis Mollison has written an article on this issue for Liberal Democrat Voice which includes more information about the consultation, and what sort of responses might help to secure fairer voting in Wales.

AGM agenda

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 at The Balmoral Hotel, 11-13 Kerley Rd, Bournemouth BH2 5DW on Sunday 17 September, 15.30–16.30.

 

The agenda is as follows:

1. Apologies for Absence

2. Minutes of the Annual General Meeting of 18 September 2016

Accuracy

Matters Arising

3. Reports

Chair

Treasurer

Membership Secretary

4. Annual Accounts

To consider and approve the annual accounts for 2016.

5. Membership fee

To set the annual membership fee at £10 and the concessionary fee at £5 for the year commencing 1 October 2017.

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 2016.

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:

LDER at Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference

Exhibition Stall

As usual, LDER will have an exhibition stall at the Bournemouth Conference. You can find us at Stall CZ3, in Solent Hall (the main exhibition area). Do visit us for a chat or to ask any questions you have.

We are also looking for volunteers to help out on the stall for an hour or two. No special knowledge is needed – just enthusiasm – and it’s a great way to help raise the profile of electoral reform within the party.

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

Annual General Meeting

Our AGM this year will be held on Sunday 17 September, 15.30–16.30 at the Balmoral Hotel, 11-13 Kerley Rd, Bournemouth BH2 5DW. You can see a map of the location here.

All members are very welcome – this is your chance to come and elect the new committee, and to contribute to the discussion on what we should do in the coming year.

If you are interested in getting more involved with the activities of Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform, we are also looking for new committee members. If you’d like to know more about what’s involved and how you can help, you can come and have a chat in person at our stall in the exhibition area or drop us a line at info@lder.org.

Other Highlights

Other opportunities to promote or discuss electoral reform while at conference include:

Main Auditorium:
•    Saturday 10.10–11.40: Consultative session: Party Strategy Consultation.  Have your say to ensure electoral reform features strongly in the party’s strategy for the next five years.

Fringe:
•    Sunday 13.00: Social Liberal Forum – Dark Money: a threat to the integrity of UK elections? Highcliff Marriott, Sherbourne Suite.
•    Sunday 18.30: Electoral Reform Society & Make Votes Matter Drinks Reception. Hilton, Rule to Blot Room.
•    Monday 13.00: Electoral Reform Society – Citizens’ Assembly on Brexit. Highcliff Marriott, Sherbourne Suite.

August Newsletter

Another undemocratic election result

Record numbers of wasted votes; a tiny minority wielding power in Westminster – once again, the British electorate has been cheated by First Past The Post (FPTP).

Electoral Reform Society research shows 22 million votes were wasted in June 2017; and that 6.5 million voters felt the need to vote tactically to get what they wanted. The rise of tactical voting websites during the election is even more recognition that FPTP frustrates, rather than reflects, voters’ views.

And for power, the Conservatives rely on a party – the DUP – which gained less than 300,000 votes in total. Another irony. FPTP, we are told by its advocates, assures single-party majorities and governments, but with the second hung parliament in three elections, a tiny disproportionate party is kingmaker (contrast that with 2010, when we had nearly seven million votes or 23% of votes cast).

It’s only the self-interest of the two main parties that perpetuates this rigged system.

 

Vince’s reform pledge

It’s great to see that Vince Cable has included political reform among his top five ambitions for the party. He says:

“Our political system is broken and no longer fit for purpose.

The House of Commons is unrepresentative and tribal.

The Lords are chosen by patronage, not the people.

The party funding system gives wealthy people undue influence.

English local government has been nationalised, creating the most centralised system of government in the Western world.

I want our party to be in the vanguard of demands for radical reform.”

 

A look ahead to Autumn Conference (16-19 September)

LDER will be running an exhibition stall at the Bournemouth Conference, so do visit us.  We are also holding our AGM on Sunday 17 September, 15:30–16:30 at the Balmoral Hotel, 11-13 Kerley Rd, Bournemouth, BH2 5DW.

Fuller details of our conference activities, and how you can get involved, will follow soon in our Conference Special newsletter.

Make Votes Matter #SaveOurDemocracy event

Our friends at Make Votes Matter are running a major event to show support for Proportional Representation next Saturday, 24 June 2017, from 2:30pm to  4:30pm at Old Palace Yard, Westminster, London.

The event will feature a range of speakers from campaign organisations and political parties, and will be family-friendly. Please go along to show your support – we need to keep making a noise about this until parliament reflects what voters actually think!

Full details are at their website, and show in the image below.