Conference Motion: Prioritising Proportional Representation

Below is the text of a conference motion which LDER have submitted for debate at the Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference this year. We are now waiting to find out whether the motion will be selected for this year’s agenda, and will report back to our members and supporters once this is known.

We would like to thank all of the individual Liberal Democrat members and local parties and who have supported the motion.


Conference Motion: Prioritising Proportional Representation

Conference notes:

i. The result of the 2015 General Election was even more undemocratic than usual, with the Liberal Democrats, the Green Party and UKIP gaining approximately one quarter of the total number of votes cast, but only 10 seats out of 650, while the Scottish Nationalists won 56 seats with about 4% of the votes cast.

ii. Opinion Polls show that this result has led to a sharp and sustained increase in support for Proportional Representation (PR).

iii. The results of local elections in England and Wales continue to be even less democratic than those in Westminster; whilst the system for local elections in Wales is now a devolved matter, in England it remains under the control of Westminster.

iv. The House of Commons and local authorities in England and Wales are the only UK public bodies elected using First-Past-the-Post (FPTP).

Conference welcomes:

a. Support for insisting on PR for the House of Commons as part of any future coalition deal, from Tim Farron and Norman Lamb during the 2015 leadership election, and from Nick Clegg earlier this year.

b. That other parties, including the SNP, Plaid, UKIP, Greens and some in Labour, are increasingly vociferous on the need for PR and are regularly engaged in cross-party discussions on this issue.

Conference believes:

i. The Government of any nation should be “Of the people, by the people, for the people”; therefore, the test of an electoral system should be not how fair it is to political parties, but how fair it is to people.

ii. The continued use of FPTP distorts all aspects of government and politics and thereby undermines every other Liberal Democrat objective; its replacement with PR should therefore be the top priority for the Liberal Democrats. Insistence on PR is consequently justified, in light of its unique impact as an enabler for everything else the Liberal Democrats wish to achieve.

Conference further believes that the case for the urgent introduction of PR is now overwhelming following the EU Referendum, which demonstrated the extent to which FPTP has allowed politicians to become distanced from the people they purport to represent.

Conference reaffirms existing policy in favour of the Single Transferable Vote (STV) as the system of PR that best delivers fairness to people.

Conference calls for:

1. Liberal Democrats to make the campaign for PR a top priority, taking the lead nationally and making the case on the basis of fairness to people.

2. The Federal Party to ensure that in any future negotiation of a coalition government, the Liberal Democrats will insist on a clear commitment to the earliest possible introduction of PR for the Westminster Parliament and local authorities in England.

9 thoughts on “Conference Motion: Prioritising Proportional Representation”

  1. Whilst I fully agree with the motion and I cannot understand why the Federal Committee don’t buy this, it is a fact that the AV referendum was lost. I am currently reading David Law’s book ” Coalition” and he mentions several times how difficult it was to get the Tories to agree a referendum.

    Referendum talks on AV with Labour as potential partners in Government MIGHT be easier but I wouldn’t bank on it.

  2. AV is not a proportional voting system and the messy system proposed by the referendum was a useless concoction invented by the Labour party STV is the system we should be supporting and nothing else.

  3. The referendum on AV was, in my view, extremely badly handled – not least by the Liberal Democrats. My friend, Ken Cosslett, may well be correct in his view that other parties may be amenable to talking to us about AV, but our real target audience is the electorate. I have found that, once you have explained PR to electors, they generally acknowledge it as a fair system. We need to be talking – and to keep on talking – to voters, not politicians with a vested interest in the status quo.

  4. One further thought:
    Of course, I am deeply in sympathy with the aims of the conference motion, but I am a little disappointed that it makes so much use of the phrase ‘Proportional Representation’ and the term ‘PR’, and only in passing mentions the system most people, and the ERS, would prefer – STV.
    Proportional refers to proportionality as between political parties, and many rigidly proportional systems still leave the choice of who is actually elected largely in the hands of party machines, such as by incorporating lists in some way.
    STV is not strictly a proportional system, but it does put greater power in the hands of the voters to elect whom they wish, giving them a wider real choice, and diminishing the role of the party officials.
    Should not consideration be given to ditching the use of the term ‘PR’, and replacing it with the expression ‘fair voting’?

  5. My only comment is that this ties the hands of the negotiators a lot. It requires them to obtain agreement for an introduction to PR for BOTH Westminster AND local government. Given that AV was a very hard won concession in 2010 I just don’t see this as realistic. Perhaps we could water the requirement down – for example, if we insist on STV for local government elections (and I think this is possible, as Scotland and Northern Ireland both have STV so it would make it consistent across the UK) as a first step, but then commit the negotiating team to aim for agreement on PR for Westminster (without having it as a red line) then I would very much support this.

  6. I like the idea of ‘Fair Voting’

    And, I’d like us to be more ambitious too
    a) an elected upper house
    b) an elected President of the European Commission
    c) UK to elect its Commissioner

    If we are going to use the ‘Fair Voting’ label, we might as well go for it!

  7. This will be treated as a full-frontal attack, as indeed it will be, on the principal mechanism used to maintain the hegemony of both the Labour and the Conservatives over British parliamentary politics. It will be fiercely resisted.
    Any open attempt to push for PropRep should only be attempted AFTER a sustained public information campaign, over at least a year or two. This should anticipate, contradict and render impotent the predictable, well orchestrated tsunami of lies and misinformation that is sure to follow. It should not stop until mission accomplished …

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