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

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.