Conference motion amendments, fringe event and stall

Electoral Reform Motion

In our January newsletter we reflected on last year’s general election, calling for the Liberal Democrats to stand up and campaign boldly for our core liberal and social beliefs – including electoral and associated political reform.

We are pleased that the Federal Policy Committee has put forward a policy motion on electoral reform for the upcoming Spring Conference in York. The motion will be debated on Saturday 14th March at 14:10 and you can see full details here. If you will be joining us in York, please come along to support the motion.

The deadline is looming for the submission of amendments to the motion and both LDER and other friends across the Party are doing so.

LDER amendment

Members of Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform Executive Committee will submit the following amendment. Please email info@lder.org by Sunday 1 March with your name, local Party and membership number if you are happy to lend your name to the amendment.

After line 48, insert new paragraph:

Conference recognises that restating the party’s principled commitment to electoral reform is important, but that, historically, efforts to bring the policy about have failed. And yet reform is ever more urgently needed, due to the evident, deepening crisis in our democracy.

Remove item 7, lines 72 – 75 and replace with new item 7:

7. The implementation of a system of automatic voter registration using existing databases.

Insert new items 8, 9 and 10:

8.The Party to view electoral reform as a key strategic issue for our democracy and party, and to create a fresh campaign strategy, focused on millions of voters’ dissatisfaction with their undemocratic predicament;
9. Take the lead in seeking non-party and cross-party alliances, recognising that we cannot achieve this goal on our own; and that there are others who also want reform;
10. Refuse to cooperate with or sustain any future national government unless it commits to enacting legislation to bring in voting reform for the House of Commons and for English local government.

The purposes of this amendment are:
To convey the importance and urgency of fully endorsing electoral and constitutional reform for the Party at this time, sentiments we feel the motion lacks. This amendment if passed will help to reverse what we see as neglect over recent years. This in turn will alter our campaigning, messaging and internal priorities.
To enable the Party to adopt a policy of moving to fully automatic electoral registration (AER) and campaign on this at every opportunity. The present system of annual electoral registration is time consuming, inefficient, ineffective and increasingly costly.

Helen Belcher’s amendment on the Good Systems Agreement

Helen Belcher, a long-standing advocate for electoral reform, will submit the following amendment. Please contact her at ld.helenb@gmail.com by noon this Friday 28th February with your name, local Party and membership number, if you are happy to lend your name to the amendment.

Replace lines 50 to 52 with the following (bold type indicates proposed additions):

1. Proportional representation by the Single Transferable Vote system to elect all MPs UK-wide and local councillors in England, being one of the voting mechanisms that would meet the Make Votes Matter Good Systems Agreement, signed by the Liberal Democrats in April 2019, which would:

Purposes of this amendment:
Make Votes Matter is a cross-party campaign, started after the 2015 general election, to introduce proportional representation for electing MPs. In 2018, the Liberal Democrats worked as part of the cross-party Make Votes Matter Alliance to create the Good Systems Agreement, which outlines the various criteria that need to be met for a voting system to be considered proportional. The party signed this agreement in April 2019, along with other political parties and campaign groups. It is aimed to assure agreement for PR in principle rather than getting bogged down in technical discussions about any particular voting system, thereby making it easier for other political parties to agree to.

LDER Fringe Event

With the support of Wendy Chamberlain MP, our parliamentary spokesperson for political and constitutional reform, LDER will host a participatory fringe event to discuss the ways in which we, as Party members, can take meaningful campaign action to bring about PR.

Is it time to “Unite to Reform”? And other ways to win PR.  
Saturday 14th March, 19:45 – 21:00, Novotel (Meeting Room 6)
Join Wendy Chamberlain MP and guests from the Electoral Reform Society, Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform and Unite to Reform for a lively workshop on what it will take to win proportional representation for Westminster – and how each of us can play our part. Refreshments will be available.

LDER Conference Stall

Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform will be hosting a stall in the Exhibition at York. Our stall will be active throughout the Conference. Do come and say “hello” to find out more about our campaign for electoral reform.

We’re also looking for members willing and able to spare an hour or two to help staff the stand. It’s great fun and don’t worry if it’s your first time – we’ll make sure an experienced member is there with you. If you can help, fill in our doodle poll here.

What do we do now?

Prioritising reform

For the past three elections (’15, ’17, ’19) the party has relegated electoral and linked political reform to the back pages (literally — see page 83 of the 2019 manifesto).

This has proven a big, strategic mistake.  If the idea was that we would be more successful if only we played down boring constitutional stuff, then our wretched performance in these three elections shows that was plain wrong.

At LDER, we are not naive enough to claim electoral reform as a stand-alone election winner.  But we do better as a principled party if we stand up and campaign boldly for our core liberal and social beliefs. Otherwise, our manifestos are reduced to well-intentioned, random-looking shopping lists of things we hope will please the voter. Electorate as Consumer is not what we are about. And it doesn’t work.

 

Any positive signs?

Well there are a few, and LDER is following up on all of them:

  1. Public and even media disgust that the Tories, with their undemocratic Commons majority, are now forcing the UK out of the EU, on 44% of a 67% turnout, far less than voted Remain in 2016.
  2. Whether we like referendums or not, the 2016 referendum did mean that everyone’s vote counted equally toward the result and this has been noted as a positive. This is why we must call for an equal as well of course as proportional voting system when we advocate PR/STV. The word ‘fair’ (or ‘fairer’) hasn’t resonated and is also forever associated with the massively unsuccessful 2011 AV referendum. We need this new messaging to reinforce and communicate our argument.
  3. Acting Leader Ed Davey has upgraded electoral reform to a shadow cabinet position. Newly-elected NE Fife MP Wendy Chamberlain has the Political and Constitutional Reform brief in the Commons. She has already advocated electoral reform in a Commons speech. LDER Chair Denis Mollison is in contact with Wendy, to help reinforce the arguments and give her all possible support. We continue of course to work with Paul Tyler, our indefatigable Lords spokesperson on reform.
  4. Federal Policy Committee has put forward a policy motion, embracing electoral reform, that will be on the agenda of the York Spring Conference. This is a key step forward. LDER has summarily and wrongly had attempts to put motions to Conference rejected in the past – even being informed on one occasion that PR was already party policy! As with Wendy Chamberlain, LDER exec is keeping close to the progress of this motion and will propose content as its shape becomes clear.
  5. Our alliance partners, Make Votes Matter, plan a major ‘Congress’ type public event in the near future. This will involve all parties, but excitingly also non-party movements such as Extinction Rebellion. LDER exec member `Keith Sharp is on the Congress working party and we’ll keep you informed.

 

On to the York Spring Conference (March 13-15)

LDER has an exhibition stall booked for Conference.

Here are some key questions we want to hear from you about – either at our stall in March or via our Facebook page:

  1. Do you agree electoral reform needs to be higher on our policy priorities than in the last three elections? Or do you think it’s right to play it down in favour of more ‘voter-eye-catching’ policies (what would those be?).
  2. How can we link electoral reform, make it enablingly relevant, to other key changes that need to happen? For example, in Germany, PR has seen Greens in Government. Is that a route to addressing the climate emergency in political terms?
  3. To win, we need the right policy and we need to win the argument. Our key messages in the past haven’t cut through, which is why (positive signs 2 above) our messaging is shaping up around ‘equal’ and ‘proportional’. But we also have to overcome the negative argument that voters don’t care; no-one calls for electoral reform on the doorstep. Maybe not, but we have seen huge voter dissatisfaction with FPTP.
  4. Can we still go it alone? Or to get reform, do we need a ‘Unite to Reform’ cross party collaboration at the next election? (modelled on but an expanded version of the promising if ultimately ill-fated ‘Unite to Remain’ agreement for the 2019 election).

LDER exec members believe it is essential to work with other parties – do you agree?

What else should we discuss? Join us in York in the battle for Equality at the Ballot Box.

 

Since last time

The meeting at the Royal Statistical Society on the bicentenary of STV (17 December) was well attended.  Klina Jordan of Make Votes Matter enlisted audience participation in the arguments for proportional voting. Ian Simpson of the Electoral Reform Society looked at the contrast between local elections in Scotland, which have used STV since 2007), and in England which still uses FPTP. Denis Mollison reviewed the history and rationale of STV since the first small-scale election pioneered by Thomas Wright Hill in 1819; a written version of Denis’s talk is in preparation.

 

Reform moves in Wales

Legislation to give councils the option of using STV for local elections is currently going through the Welsh Parliament (the Senedd).  And a Committee of that Parliament is consulting on electoral systems, following the recommendation of the 2017 McAllister Commission report that the Parliament should use STV rather than AMS. This consultation closes on 19th February; please email info@lder.org if you are interested in contributing to our response.

Bournemouth Conference’s Electoral Reform Agenda

Our AGM

As announced in our previous newsletter, we will hold the LDER AGM during Conference. As well as official business, it’s a chance for members to discuss the broader strategy for electoral and political reform; what we should be doing and what opportunities exist in the present social and political crisis.

Here are full details of the agenda and meeting timing and location (we’ve arranged this so you can easily get to the Conference Centre in time for Leader Jo’s closing speech).

Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform

ANNUAL GENERAL MEETING

Tuesday 17 September 2019, 12:30 – 13:30

Breakfast Room, Chocolate Box Hotel, 2 West Cliff Road, BH2 5EY

(Approx. 5 minutes walk from the main Conference Centre)

AGENDA

1.    Apologies for Absence

2.    Minutes of the Annual General Meeting of 16 September 2018

a.    Accuracy

b.    Matters Arising

3.    Reports

a.    Chair

b.    Treasurer

c.    Membership Secretary

4.    Annual Accounts

To consider and approve the annual accounts for 2018.

5.    Membership fee

To set the annual membership fee at £10 and the concessionary fee at £5 for the year commencing 1 October 2019.

6.    Election of Officers and Executive Committee Members

a.    Chair

b.    Secretary

c.    Treasurer

d.    Membership Secretary

e.    Up to five Ordinary Members of the committee

7.    Appointment of Examiner

To appoint an Examiner of the accounts for 2018.

8.    Activities:

To discuss

(a) possible widening of the remit of LDER;

(b) programme of LDER activities for 2019/20.

 

Our exhibition stall

You will find us on stand 32 in the main exhibition hall. As well as literature, questions and discussion, this year we’re offering the chance for you to rank, in order of importance, the qualities of a good electoral system.

We’re indebted here to Make Votes Matter, who launched the Good Systems Agreement in the Summer. The Agreement features several qualities inherent to a good electoral system — but which ones are the most important? Come to our stand and let us know (voting by 1,2,3…of course)!

 

Staffing the stall

Our stall will be active throughout the Conference. We’re looking for members willing and able to spare an hour or two to help staff the stand. It’s great fun and don’t worry if it’s your first time — we’ll make sure an experienced member is there with you.

Can you spare some time to help out? Fill in our doodle poll here.

 

Electoral Reform Fringe

‘Reining in the political Wild West’ — Electoral Reform Society (ERS)* and the Social Liberal Forum. Sunday, September 15, 2019: 18.15 Purbeck Suite, Highcliffe Marriott Hotel.

Real Democracy Now: a chance for Proportional Representation in 2019? Make Votes Matter, the campaign for PR for the House of Commons, is hosting a fringe event to mark International Democracy Day. The event will be held at St Stephen’s Church Hall, St Stephen’s Way BH2 6JZ at 19:30 on 15th September. Lord Paul Tyler, Liberal Democrat Constitution Spokesperson, and Wera Hobhouse MP are already confirmed speakers, with others to be confirmed shortly.

*Are you also an ERS member? If so, please note that, in the current Council elections, LDER exec member Peter Hirst is a candidate. Please consider a high preference for him: it would be good to have direct LDER/ERS links.

Summer special newsletter

Chuka talks to LDER

LDER exec member and Vauxhall PPC Sarah Lewis recently interviewed our new MP – Chuka Umunna – about his long-held belief in the need for electoral reform. It’s great to see him so resolutely supporting key Liberal Democrat principles and policies.

Click here or visit our Facebook page to watch the interview.

Jo talks to the Electoral Reform Society

During the recent leadership contest, Jo Swinson found time to discuss matters electoral reform with Darren Hughes, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society. Her commitment to PR/STV as a priority shines through the conversation. Click here to watch.

Notice of LDER AGM and elections to the Executive

Our 2019 AGM will be held during the Bournemouth Conference  — venue and timings will follow shortly.

A key activity is to elect a new executive for 2019/20. Positions available are:

Chair, Secretary, Treasurer, Membership Secretary; plus five ordinary members.

The executive meets, usually for an hour-long conference call, about ten times per year to pursue our remit of promoting an understanding of electoral reform among party members and to highlight its priority as party policy. Please let us know if you are interested in being on the executive; although it is also possible to nominate yourself at the AGM itself.

LDER at spring conference in York

Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform have had a busy weekend at the party conference in York. We had lots of visitors calling by at our stall, including Party President Sal Brinton. We were also pleased to support and attend the Electoral Reform Society’s panel discussion on Citizens’ Assemblies. A very enjoyable weekend spent furthering the cause of fairer, more representative politics! 

Pre-conference newsletter

Breakaway MPs, broken politics, and our emergency motion for PR

LDER has submitted an emergency motion for the York conference. See the last item in this newsletter for the full text.

The formation of ‘The Independent Group’ again shows how the current electoral system fails the voter by straitjacketing this country’s politics into two supposedly united but in truth warring parties.

Our motion reaffirms the need, more urgent and evident than ever, for a proportional system which  puts voter choice first, namely the Single Transferable Vote (STV) system. PLEASE BACK US in this bid to make electoral reform a party priority once again. It is fundamental to mending the UK’s broken politics.

If you are at the Spring Conference, PLEASE VOTE to get our motion onto the conference agenda as the chosen Emergency Motion.  Do this by checking the Saturday Daily Bulletin, which will give instructions on the ballot to choose the motions.

Also at York — an Electoral Reform Society fringe event

Citizens’ Assemblies – How can ordinary people inform politics? Saturday March 16, 1-2pm; Meeting room 6, Novotel Hotel.

A chance to learn more first hand about deliberative democracy — how citizens’ assemblies (or their variants such as juries or a constitutional convention) can help develop a popular consensus on complex issues; and how ‘ordinary’ voters can get genuinely involved in the democratic process beyond a vote every few years. Speakers are drawn from the Society, which has done much pilot work on citizens’ assemblies recently, from our MPs and also from Involve, a charity championing deliberative democracy.

LDER exhibition stall — visitors and volunteers invited

You will find us on Stand 31 in the main Exhibition Area at York, so please drop by.

If you’d like to help staff the stall, we’d love to have you with us! You don’t need any special knowledge – just a passion for fairer and more democratic politics. Joining an exec member for even just an hour or two will be a big help — we’ll provide everything you need.

Just click here to see our stall rota, enter your name, pick your slot(s), and then turn up on the day.

It’s a great way to help raise the profile of electoral reform within the party and to engage with other members.

Membership Secretary — a vacancy

LDER is on the lookout for a party member to join our exec as membership secretary — our previous mem sec had to stand down for work reasons, though he left our members and supporters databases in good shape. But we do need someone to fill the vacancy. It needs only a few hours a month liaising and updating our spreadsheet — do see us on our stall or write to us.

Emergency Motion: The Independent Group and Proportional Representation

Proposed by  21 members (drafted by LDER, also supported by East Lothian local party)

Conference notes:
A.  The recent resignations from both Labour and Conservative parties of MPs and their formation of The Independent Group.

B. That this follows on from a process of increasing disagreements, not only on issues but also on fundamental principles, within both the two main parties, which remain held together only because of the democratic and voter constraints of the `First Past The Post’ (FPTP) electoral system.

C. That The Independent Group have yet to endorse Proportional Representation, despite it being essential to their objective to `fix our broken politics’.

Conference welcomes:
i)  Vince Cable’s immediate overtures to The Independent Group to work together to change British politics.

ii)  The party’s support for cross-party alliance building initiatives, especially by Make Votes Matter, whose draft Good Systems Agreement sets out the features of a democratic voting system. These align with the party’s longstanding principles of proportionality, increasing the choice and voice of the individual voter; ensuring all votes count equally; and enhancing constituency links between MPs and electors.

Conference believes:
a)  That the FPTP system is not only fundamentally undemocratic, but that it also distorts politics in an extremely unhealthy way, narrowing the range of policies that can be considered.  It makes it difficult for new parties to evolve and for existing ones to change, thus preventing the views of many voters from being heard.

b)  The pragmatic justifications often given in defence of FPTP, that it provides strong, single party government, decisiveness and stability, have been exposed as utterly bogus. The chaos of Brexit confirms that FPTP is a fundamental cause of our broken politics.

c)  That to renew politics it is essential that we replace FPTP with a proportional electoral system, and reaffirms the Party’s preference for the Single Transferable Vote because it allows voters to express their true preferences among a wide range of candidates.

Conference calls for:
1. The Independent Group, together with candidates of all parties who believe that we need a fair and effective electoral system, to commit to making proportional representation a non-negotiable demand in any negotiations around forming a government after the next General Election;

2.  with a commitment to set up a Citizens Assembly or Independent Commission with instructions to choose a form of Proportional Representation that meets the criteria of paragraph (ii) (lines19-23), and to hold any subsequent General Election under that chosen system.

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.