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.

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!

Paul Tyler on electoral reform

Lord Paul Tyler is the Lib Dems’ current spokesperson for electoral reform issues. Members of the LDER executive committee recently met with him, and he recorded this short video explaining why electoral reform remains a crucial issue even in the middle of the current Brexit crisis.

Transcript: Some people think that electoral reform is irrelevant at the moment. Not so – it’s extremely important. Not just because people feel they’re not properly represented by parliament, though that’s one of the reasons why we’re in this current mess. But also because of course First Past The Post, the present voting system, has delivered us something that is far from the stable, consistent, secure government that we’re entitled to expect.

We’ll have more details on our meeting with Paul in our next newsletter.

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

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 #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.

Sign the New Parliamentary Petition for Proportional Representation

A new parliamentary petition has been launched by our friends at Make Votes Matter calling for Proportional Representation (PR) in the House of Commons. The petition has gathered over 84,000 in four months. Reaching 100,000 signatures by April 2017 will help us make sure a full debate on PR is tabled in Parliament, simultaneously showing widespread, popular support for PR, and giving MPs from the Liberal Democrats and all the other parties a platform to make the case for changing our outdated electoral system once and for all.

We’ve made some good progress on the campaign for PR over the last few months and there’s a real sense of momentum building. The alliance for PR includes five of the seven parties holding a Parliamentary constituency in Great Britain and an increasing number of MPs from the other two. The petition can help us put PR right at the centre of the UK’s political debate and ensure that the call for fair votes from the vast majority of the population cannot be ignored.

Please sign the petition for Proportional Representation here.

Crispin Allard

Chair, LDER

Sign the Parliamentary petition for Proportional Representation!

Our friends at Make Votes Matter have submitted a Parliamentary Petition calling for proportional representation.  I encourage you to join me in signing the petition and ask your friends to do the same.

Thanks,

Crispin Allard
Chair,
Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform

 

Message from Joe at Make Votes Matter:

We need your help to get PR tabled for debate in the House of Commons. To make this happen, please sign and share the new, official Parliamentary petition calling for Proportional Representation.

As this petition is hosted by the Government’s official petition website, we can make sure it is debated by MPs if it receives over 100,000 signatures by April 2017. In just a few weeks it’s gathered more than 25% of the this target, but we need to keep signing and sharing to keep up the momentum.

With Liberal Democrats being joined in their support for PR by more and more MPs from Labour and even the Conservatives, this would be an ideal time to take this debate to the House of Commons. Securing a debate through a citizen-led petition is a great way to support these MPs by demonstrating broad public demand for electoral reform.

There are social media buttons on the petition page. Please use these to share the message with friends and contacts.

LDER at Autumn Conference 2015

Electoral reform was very much a hot topic at Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference 2015. At usual, LDER had a stall in the Exhibition Hall, modelled here by our secretary, Penny Goodman:

Hundreds of visitors stopped by to talk to us, including a couple of well-known faces. Here, new party leader Tim Farron shares his passion for electoral reform with incoming LDER chair Crispin Allard:

And here is Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, deep in discussion with visitors to our stall:

We had the pleasure of hearing Katie Ghose speak, too, on the Sunday evening as part of the ERS-sponsored fringe event, ‘Like Minds to Change Minds: building alliances for electoral reform’. Katie, Owen Winter MYP and Katherine Trebeck of Oxfam all spoke about the practical prospects for persuading people across all parties of the need for reform, and building alliances to achieve it.

The evening didn’t end there, though. Another fringe event on the topic of electoral reform followed, this time entitled ‘Changing the Political Map of Britain’, and concerned with the practical impact of STV for local government:

STV for local government has been a campaigning priority for LDER over the past few years, so we were pleased to have the opportunity to find out more about the work which Lewis Baston and Martin Linton have done to model its effects in practice for every local authority in England. Our incoming chair Crispin Allard also spoke about the benefits of STV at local government level, as a means of ensuring better voter representation and more effective opposition on local councils. You can download your own copy of Lewis and Martin’s report here.