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.
Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform