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!

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

Newsletter: Liberal agenda 2020 – and electoral reform

Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform (LDER) are currently focused on ensuring electoral reform is re-cemented as a key element of the party’s liberal philosophy and values; and as a key policy for the future.

We have submitted two contributions to the party’s current reviews: one on governance and the main one on Agenda 2020, where we are calling for:

  • the role of a fair electoral system in empowering the individual and ensuring all votes count equally;
  • a Constitutional Convention to explore the shortcomings of the current system; what sort of democracy people want; and what is the best new system to deliver that improved democracy
  • continue to press for local government reform in England and Wales
  • advocate an elected (ideally fully elected, but at least majority elected) House of Lords, to replace the current over-large appointed house. Learning from last time, a reform package would need to define the role of a renewed Lords in relation to the Commons.

We’ll continue the dialogue with the party leadership to get our policies properly prioritized.

We are also evaluating approaches to, with a view to collaborating with, other pro-reform parties.

Enfranchising 16 year-olds – we tried

Congratulations to our peers, who were instrumental in defeating the Government in a vote which was set to allow 16 and 17 year olds to vote in the upcoming EU referendum.  We usually think of electoral reform in terms of voting systems, but further democratizing the franchise is also a crucial progressive steps. The decision was of course ultimately overturned in the Commons but at least the argument has been made and the issue discussed. Next time…

Over in Canada

The Liberals’ stunning October victory in Canada has ushered in new hope for electoral reform. A manifesto commitment is to set up an all-party committee to make legislative recommendations within 18 months on the conduct of elections. Premier Trudeau is known to back ‘ranked ballots’ (preferential/STV voting to us). Needless to say, sceptics are now questioning whether reform will happen… watch this space.

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Tim Farron on electoral reform

In relation to the party leadership election, Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform wrote to both candidates to ask whether we could count on them to make electoral reform a priority if they were elected. Tim Farron wrote back to us with this reply:

It is becoming increasingly clear to the population at large that our current electoral system does not reflect the voting preferences of the people. The system has allowed the SNP to turn Scotland virtually into a one-party state. It has elected a majority Conservative government which polled only 37% of the vote. We Lib Dems should now have 51 MPs. And – perhaps ironically – we find ourselves aligned with Nigel Farage as he highlights the inequities of the voting system.

The only good thing about this situation is that it is becoming clear to a largely disgruntled electorate that all is not well with the status quo where First Past The Post is concerned.

The conversation in the local of one of my staff in the days following the election was that it seemed no-one had got what they wanted. And whilst we – in common with every other political party and commentator – were in shock at the inaccuracy of the predictions, it would in fact seem that those predictions more accurately reflected the predilections of the electorate than did the real result.

So where do we go from here? Well, obviously the Tories aren’t going to whoop with joy and plunge in to change the system which has supported them so outstandingly for so long. So it’s up to us to work to change this.

I suspect that in the months to come the position of the SNP and the majority rule of the Tory party will cause the FPTP system to come under increasing scrutiny in the press. Indeed, Nick took the opportunity of taking a shot across the bows of the Tories in his final speech as leader to the House.

We will be ideally situated, with our long history of campaigning against it, to keep this issue on the agenda.