August 2020 newsletter

Calling all activists

Make Votes Matter (MVM)  has announced an Electoral Reform Action Day this coming August 22. 

MVM is calling on proportional representation supporters to join in a nationwide groundbreaking campaign day.

It will be online due to COVID; a brilliantly effective virtual action day was held recently in Lewes, Sussex. Activists posted online pictures of family, friends and themselves by local landmarks. Lewes campaigners report reaching even more people online and through social media than through traditional methods such as street stalls.

MVM is using this as the template for grassroots local action on August 22.

So do sign up. Work with local like-minded people who would like to see true democracy in this country. With Labour showing some positive signs, we want to press hard for reform and make sure it’s the Liberal Democrats, long believers in the principle of equal, proportional voting, that are leading the charge.

Sign up here.

 

Join the MVM speaker panel

‘Sharing points and arguments for reform with like-minded people was a real and unexpected boost. I’m geared up like never before to spread the message’ – MVM speaker panel introductory session participant.

The MVM speaker panel is going well — and the response to the appeal in our last newsletter has been – well, not bad! That means – we’ve room for many more LD members to join the panel!!

Sign up and you’ll join an online group of about eight others and you each have a five minute speech slot for everyone to listen to and share feedback on. It is a very positive experience – so don’t wait!

Read more about volunteering to be a cross-party speaker here.

Sign up here (tick the box for ‘Cross party speaker’)

Then you’re lined up to speak to local LD parties or to other civic groups as MVM finds the speaking slots.

Our virtual conference fringe meeting is… ON!

Breaking new ground – 18.45 on Saturday September 26 is the date and time for our first-ever virtual fringe meeting. Our front bench spokesperson Wendy Chamberlain MP will be our key speaker, along with Darren Hughes, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform SocietyPeter Dunphy of Unite to Reform; and Emma Knaggs, Grassroots Leader, Make Votes Matter.

It’s titled – UK: a ‘democracy’ that cheats the voter and we’ll explore how voters are left voiceless in the present rigged system; and how we are going to get change this time.

More to come – we’re also staging an online conference exhibition stall!

Sign up for the session as soon as the party announces more details.

 

PR questions at leadership hustings

We have to report disappointment here. LDER tried very hard to get the party HQ to agree to a themed leadership hustings on electoral reform. But we were turned down. We then applied for a Q&A session, which after initial encouragement, was also turned down… We move on…

LDER members have put forward questions about electoral reform to the various hustings that are taking place.  If it’s not too late by the time you get this, it would be great if you submitted questions that commit both Ed and Layla to PR as a key thrust of party policy.

Submit your question here.

 

Plenty else has been happening

Collaboration with the Green Liberal Democrats:

After a very quick turn-around, an event about PR and the environment took place during the Green Liberal Democrat (GLD) conference on 22nd June with Wendy Chamberlain and Klina Jordan as speakers, highlighting research showing that countries with PR are better at reducing carbon emissions etc. Klina and Wendy have each submitted an article each for the GLD magazine which is to be distributed to GLD members in August.

Building on our positive GLD experience, we are getting in touch with the Young Liberals to find ways of collaborating.

 

And other party groups…?

If you are a member of or have contacts in other Party Associated Organisations or SAOs, then it would be great if you could help us contact them. Let us know.

 

Wendy’s adjournment debate

Wendy Chamberlain led an adjournment debate in the Commons on June 8, where she cited the inequality and undemocratic results of the present electoral system. In particular, she told of the plight of the millions of ‘voiceless’ people in this country. For the Government, Chloe Smith MP came up with some rather esoteric responses, notably the unexplained politics of place… Thanks to good teamwork from our MPs (Christine Jardine, Wera Hobhouse and Layla Moran supported Wendy) Ms Smith acknowledged and agreed that proportional systems also maintain constituency links between electors and elected! Good ammunition for us next time our opponents try to hide behind that facade as an excuse for clinging onto the present system.
Over at the Labour Party

Many of us will have seen that the Labour Party recently decided to use the single transferable vote (ditching FPTP) for its internal elections to its National Executive Committee. This is great news in itself as it means Labour has taken a big step towards being more democratic. It also of course suggests more commitment to reform going forward. It’s too early to be over-optimistic (and we’ve been disappointed before) but we should acknowledge the efforts of reformers within the Labour Party who have battled long and hard to get this step forward.

Conference motion amendments, fringe event and stall

Electoral Reform Motion

In our January newsletter we reflected on last year’s general election, calling for the Liberal Democrats to stand up and campaign boldly for our core liberal and social beliefs – including electoral and associated political reform.

We are pleased that the Federal Policy Committee has put forward a policy motion on electoral reform for the upcoming Spring Conference in York. The motion will be debated on Saturday 14th March at 14:10 and you can see full details here. If you will be joining us in York, please come along to support the motion.

The deadline is looming for the submission of amendments to the motion and both LDER and other friends across the Party are doing so.

LDER amendment

Members of Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform Executive Committee will submit the following amendment. Please email info@lder.org by Sunday 1 March with your name, local Party and membership number if you are happy to lend your name to the amendment.

After line 48, insert new paragraph:

Conference recognises that restating the party’s principled commitment to electoral reform is important, but that, historically, efforts to bring the policy about have failed. And yet reform is ever more urgently needed, due to the evident, deepening crisis in our democracy.

Remove item 7, lines 72 – 75 and replace with new item 7:

7. The implementation of a system of automatic voter registration using existing databases.

Insert new items 8, 9 and 10:

8.The Party to view electoral reform as a key strategic issue for our democracy and party, and to create a fresh campaign strategy, focused on millions of voters’ dissatisfaction with their undemocratic predicament;
9. Take the lead in seeking non-party and cross-party alliances, recognising that we cannot achieve this goal on our own; and that there are others who also want reform;
10. Refuse to cooperate with or sustain any future national government unless it commits to enacting legislation to bring in voting reform for the House of Commons and for English local government.

The purposes of this amendment are:
To convey the importance and urgency of fully endorsing electoral and constitutional reform for the Party at this time, sentiments we feel the motion lacks. This amendment if passed will help to reverse what we see as neglect over recent years. This in turn will alter our campaigning, messaging and internal priorities.
To enable the Party to adopt a policy of moving to fully automatic electoral registration (AER) and campaign on this at every opportunity. The present system of annual electoral registration is time consuming, inefficient, ineffective and increasingly costly.

Helen Belcher’s amendment on the Good Systems Agreement

Helen Belcher, a long-standing advocate for electoral reform, will submit the following amendment. Please contact her at ld.helenb@gmail.com by noon this Friday 28th February with your name, local Party and membership number, if you are happy to lend your name to the amendment.

Replace lines 50 to 52 with the following (bold type indicates proposed additions):

1. Proportional representation by the Single Transferable Vote system to elect all MPs UK-wide and local councillors in England, being one of the voting mechanisms that would meet the Make Votes Matter Good Systems Agreement, signed by the Liberal Democrats in April 2019, which would:

Purposes of this amendment:
Make Votes Matter is a cross-party campaign, started after the 2015 general election, to introduce proportional representation for electing MPs. In 2018, the Liberal Democrats worked as part of the cross-party Make Votes Matter Alliance to create the Good Systems Agreement, which outlines the various criteria that need to be met for a voting system to be considered proportional. The party signed this agreement in April 2019, along with other political parties and campaign groups. It is aimed to assure agreement for PR in principle rather than getting bogged down in technical discussions about any particular voting system, thereby making it easier for other political parties to agree to.

LDER Fringe Event

With the support of Wendy Chamberlain MP, our parliamentary spokesperson for political and constitutional reform, LDER will host a participatory fringe event to discuss the ways in which we, as Party members, can take meaningful campaign action to bring about PR.

Is it time to “Unite to Reform”? And other ways to win PR.  
Saturday 14th March, 19:45 – 21:00, Novotel (Meeting Room 6)
Join Wendy Chamberlain MP and guests from the Electoral Reform Society, Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform and Unite to Reform for a lively workshop on what it will take to win proportional representation for Westminster – and how each of us can play our part. Refreshments will be available.

LDER Conference Stall

Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform will be hosting a stall in the Exhibition at York. Our stall will be active throughout the Conference. Do come and say “hello” to find out more about our campaign for electoral reform.

We’re also looking for members willing and able to spare an hour or two to help staff the stand. It’s great fun and don’t worry if it’s your first time – we’ll make sure an experienced member is there with you. If you can help, fill in our doodle poll here.

Updated endorsements for Federal Committees

As set out in our last post, LDER has a strategic goal to prioritise PR/STV in the party’s campaign strategy, its manifesto and its discussions with other parties, whether before or after the next General Election.  To help achieve this goal, we need to influence a number of key federal committees, and we are therefore endorsing candidates for the following committees:

  • Federal Board, which replaces Federal Executive and now takes on a new role of setting the party’s strategy
  • Federal Policy Committee, which is responsible for the party’s General Election manifesto
  • Federal Conference Committee, which decides the motions and amendments to be debated at Autumn and Spring Conference

You should now have received your voting instructions for elections to these committees.  We encourage you to vote for the following candidates, who are members of LDER and have made a commitment to support our strategic goal of prioritising PR/STV. Members of the LDER Executive Committee are shown in bold.

Federal Board:
Keith Sharp
Mark Pack
Richard Fagence
Alex Hegenbarth

Federal Conference Committee:
Joe Otten
Richard Fagence
Alex Hegenbarth
Geoff Payne
Paul Tilsley

Federal Policy Committee:
Michael Kilpatrick
Keith Sharp
Richard Fagence
Alex Hegenbarth
Sally Burnell
Simon Pike

Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform endorsements for Federal Committees

Message from Crispin Allard, LDER Chair:

Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform has a strategic goal to prioritise PR/STV in the party’s campaign strategy, its manifesto and its discussions with other parties, whether before or after the next General Election.

To help achieve this goal, we need to influence a number of key federal committees, and we are therefore endorsing candidates for the following committees:

  • Federal Board, which replaces Federal Executive and now takes on a new role of setting the party’s strategy
  • Federal Policy Committee, which is responsible for the party’s General Election manifesto
  • Federal Conference Committee, which decides the motions and amendments to be debated at Autumn and Spring Conference

You will be receiving voting instructions for elections to these committees very soon (if you do not already have them).  We encourage you to vote for the following candidates, who are members of LDER and have made a commitment to support our strategic goal of prioritising PR/STV.  We are contacting all candidates for these committees and will add to this list any other candidates who decide to do likewise.

Federal Board:
Keith Sharp
Mark Pack
Richard Fagence

Federal Policy Committee:
Michael Kilpatrick
Keith Sharp
Richard Fagence

Federal Conference Committee:
Joe Otten
Richard Fagence

Prioritising Proportional Representation

Welcome

Firstly, a warm welcome to Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform to all those who have joined in the past month.  Featured in this newsletter are a report on Autumn Conference and details of how LDER will be endorsing candidates for this year’s elections to federal committees.

 

Autumn Conference Report

At Brighton, our PR amendment was successfully included in the Europe motion. See the revised Clause 7 in the motion as passed.

Less positively, our attempt to get a motion prioritising PR onto the Conference agenda – following the initiative of the late David Rendel – was rebuffed by Federal Conference Committee.

But at a time when electoral reform is increasingly being highlighted by other parties, it is strange that the Liberal Democrats are quiet on the issue.  It seems the upper echelons of the party still don’t get why we need to be prioritising this issue now.  LDER will continue working to convince them.

We also signed up over 150 members and supporters at our stall, and supported a well-attended Electoral Reform Society reception with guest speaker Dorothy Thornhill.

 

Federal Committee Elections

This year sees a number of significant changes to the election of federal committees, including all-member voting, a move to 3-year terms, quotas for under-represented groups and a new Federal Board.  For LDER, the key committees to influence are:

Federal Board: Prioritising PR in the party’s campaign strategy and its discussions with other parties, whether before or after the next General Election.

Federal Policy Committee: Ensuring our policy of STV for the House of Commons and Local Government features prominently in the Manifesto.

Federal Conference Committee: Getting our motions/amendments onto the conference agenda so members can show their support.

And for the first time, LDER will be endorsing candidates for federal committees, using our mailing list (over 800 active party members), Facebook page (over 4,000 members) and website.  We will endorse candidates who:

  1. Are members of LDER (if you’re not yet a member you can join here).
  2. Make a commitment to our strategic goals of prioritising PR/STV in the party’s campaign strategy, its manifesto and its discussions with other parties, whether before or after the next General Election.

So if you’re planning to stand for one or more of the above committees and are willing to meet the criteria above, please get in touch with me at crispin.allard@gmail.com as soon as possible.  Please note that nominations for all committees close on 2 November.

Regards,

Crispin Allard

Chair, LDER