The UK: a ‘democracy’ that cheats the voter

Why the UK badly needs true democracy – and how to get it

Liberal Democrat Autumn Conference is taking place online this year!

Join Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform at our Conference fringe debate.

Time: 18.45-19.35, Saturday 26 September

Speakers:

  • Wendy Chamberlain MP, until recently Lib Dem spokesperson on Political and Constitutional Reform
  • Darren Hughes, Chief Executive, Electoral Reform Society
  • Peter Dunphy, Unite to Reform
  • Emma Knaggs, Grassroots Leader, Make Votes Matter

To join us, you need to register for the conference. The fringe debate will be hosted live via the conference’s HopIn platform. Our panel members will each speak for around five minutes, after which you’ll have the opportunity to ask them questions.

Virtual Conference 2020: Electoral Reform, the strategic debate

For your calendar – Our Fringe:

‘The UK: A Democracy that Cheats the Voter’;
6.45pm Saturday September 26

Electoral reform is emerging as a strategic issue between now and the next General Election.

It must be our price for any form of cooperation with Labour, for the sake of the millions of voiceless voters left disenfranchised and cut off by the present system; and therefore for the future health of our democracy.

How do we win the argument for equal, proportionate voting; and how can we make it happen next time round?

We have a great, timely fringe meeting to discuss all this:

Wendy Chamberlain MP, until now Political and Electoral Reform* spokesperson, will lead the meeting.

Our guest speakers:

Darren Hughes, Chief Executive, Electoral Reform Society;

Emma Knaggs, Grassroots Leader, Make Votes Matter,

Peter Dunphy, Unite to Reform

There will of course be plenty of time for you to put your questions to our panel. LDER Chair, Denis Mollison, chairs the meeting.

Look for party Conference announcements about how to sign up and log in to this debate.

* As members will have seen, in early September, Wendy moved to an exciting new role as Chief Whip and Work and Pensions spokesperson. At LDER, we were delighted that she kindly agreed to fulfil this commitment of leading our fringe meeting. Political and Constitutional Reform now moves to our Home Affairs remit under Alistair Carmichael and we look forward to working with Alistair and his team.

Our ‘Virtual’ Exhibition Stall

As always, LDER will have a stall at conference, so we can reach as many members as possible.  Naturally, it will be a virtual stall, hosted as part of the online Conference.  Details are still being finalised, but we can confirm that we will have members of the LDER Exec available for online Q&A, at 17.30 – 18.30 on the Friday, and 12.00 – 12.45 & 16.30 – 17.15 on the other three days.  Alternatively, members and supporters will be able to send queries to us at conference@lder.org during the conference period.

Our Annual General Meeting

We’re going on-line (zoom) for this year’s AGM. Papers and details will follow, but note the date/time now:

October 27, 2020; 7-8.30pm

We will have, at the AGM, our annual elections to the LDER executive. We particularly encourage and welcome applications from individuals interested in joining the exec whose background or identity is not currently well-represented within LDER. This encompasses factors such as regions or countries (e.g. Wales) in the UK, age, disability, ethnicity, gender, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, socio-economic status and caring responsibilities.

Ed Davey

Congratulations to Ed Davey on becoming our new leader. Ed is a strong and powerful advocate for electoral reform and LDER is already in touch, working with him and his team.

Reform debate on LD Voice

LDER exec members have been active in this online debate, started by Neal Lawson of the pro-reform Labour group, Compass.

Make Votes Matter

Day of Action…

On August 22, thousands of Liberal Democrats around the country joined other reformers in an innovative campaigning day. The report is here.

…and Speaker Programme

MVM is still looking for more people to join its speaker programme – click here to get involved.

Also, speakers are now available to speak to local and regional LD parties. If you want to invite a guest speaker to your group, please click here.

Review of Associated Organisations – LDER

The Party has commissioned a review of Party organisations – known as Associated Organisations (AO) and Specified Associated Organisations (SAO).

This review is highly relevant to LDER as an established AO. The Review Group has created a survey so that all SAO or AO members can have their say on the support the Party gives SAOs and AOs and what changes can and should be made.

So, as a member of LDER please fill in this survey – so our voice is heard and so we can create a better future for our organisation. All responses will be treated anonymously.

A word from us:

LDER is an officially recognised Associated Organisation of the party. Our remit is to educate and inform all members and supporters about electoral and political reform; and to assure the policy is high on the party’s priority agenda. We also work with like-minded organisations such as Make Votes Matter, Unlock Democracy and the Electoral Reform Society on joint campaigns and to facilitate collaboration between interested parties.

This newsletter goes to around 1,000 party members and we very much hope you like it. Most of you are registered supporters with us – we’ve met at exhibition stalls at a party conference or similar occasions.

We are of course happy to send this newsletter to as many supporters as possible.

But to achieve our goals, we do need funding. The on-line fringe meeting (as above) alone costs hundreds of pounds. Our sole income is from those of you who, as well as supporting us, also pay to be members of LDER.

It’s only £10 per year (£5 concessions) so we hope as many of you as possible will join. You can do so here.

Thank you for reading –

If you enjoyed reading this; can you think of other Liberal Democrats who would like to get it?

Please forward it on email, FB or twitter – or share the newsletter sign up page – with other people you know. Thanks!

LDER at the Make Votes Matter Action Day

Our friend at Make Votes Matter held a national Day of Action on 22 August to highlight the need for Proportional Representation in UK elections.

Liberal Democrat MP Wendy Chamberlain marked the day by explaining why she feels electoral reform is so important.

And many Liberal Democrat members across the country joined in with their own banners and pictures – including members of the LDER executive committee!

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.

May 2020 newsletter

Firstly, all best wishes to our readers; we trust you are keeping well, occupied and positive in these extraordinary times.

Much political work has of course been delayed or stopped due to the pandemic; however, we had a LDER executive meeting (via Zoom of course – though in our case we’ve already been using Zoom for a few years, so it was biz as usual in that regard!) and have this report.

 

MAKE VOTES MATTER – call for PR speakers
Do you want to raise awareness of proportional representation and the urgency of electoral reform? Now is your chance –

Make Votes Matter (MVM) already has a PR speaker database. Until now it has focused mainly on Labour; going forward it wants to expand its speakers list to include local Liberal Democrat parties, as well as other relevant organisations and parties.

LDER is backing this expansion of speakers.  Local and regional Liberal Democrat parties sometimes ask us for a PR speaker – it has not always been possible to respond positively and we want to change that.

We appreciate this initiative from our MVM colleagues: getting electoral reform onto local party events and agendas will be a very positive upgrading of our efforts. Informing and motivating our own grass roots members is an LDER key goal. (Obviously face to face meetings will depend on lifting of lockdown restrictions: in the meantime we can use remote platforms such as Zoom).

If you would be willing to join the MVM PR speaker list, please click and complete this form. MVM will respond directly. Thanks in advance for joining this effort.

 

PETITIONING MPs FOR PR

Liberal Democrat member Theo Morgan has set up a petition, demanding a parliamentary debate on PR. It needs 100,000 signatures by September to be debated in Parliament, so please click and sign: Introduce proportional representation for all UK elections. We need to use all tools to keep up the pressure for change and for a democracy fit for the 21st century.

 

ELECTORAL REFORM PODCAST

John Potter’s ‘LibDemPod’ no 16 (April 24 2020) has an interview with LDER exec member Keith Sharp on the prospects for electoral reform. John’s idea is to find out what visitors to our exhibition stall in York would have heard, had the conference not been cancelled due to COVID. Listen to it here.

 

AUTUMN CONFERENCE – GOING VIRTUAL

We had a great York Conference in March lined up – as well as our popular exhibition stall, we were set for a great fringe meeting, led by Wendy Chamberlain MP, our spokesperson on political and electoral reform, and with speakers from allied organisations Make Votes Matter, the Electoral Reform Society and Unite to Reform. There was also to be a conference debate on our electoral reform policy.

And then — all of course stopped when COVID caused the conference to be cancelled.

We’ll keep trying! We know the September Conference will have to be held remotely, given continuing social safety restrictions. Once we know the conditions and format of this first virtual conference, we will do our best to recreate the excitement and activities that were set for York. We’re already discussing possibilities with the Federal Policy Committee.

It’s early days: as soon is this situation becomes clearer, we’ll be back in touch.

What do we do now?

Prioritising reform

For the past three elections (’15, ’17, ’19) the party has relegated electoral and linked political reform to the back pages (literally — see page 83 of the 2019 manifesto).

This has proven a big, strategic mistake.  If the idea was that we would be more successful if only we played down boring constitutional stuff, then our wretched performance in these three elections shows that was plain wrong.

At LDER, we are not naive enough to claim electoral reform as a stand-alone election winner.  But we do better as a principled party if we stand up and campaign boldly for our core liberal and social beliefs. Otherwise, our manifestos are reduced to well-intentioned, random-looking shopping lists of things we hope will please the voter. Electorate as Consumer is not what we are about. And it doesn’t work.

 

Any positive signs?

Well there are a few, and LDER is following up on all of them:

  1. Public and even media disgust that the Tories, with their undemocratic Commons majority, are now forcing the UK out of the EU, on 44% of a 67% turnout, far less than voted Remain in 2016.
  2. Whether we like referendums or not, the 2016 referendum did mean that everyone’s vote counted equally toward the result and this has been noted as a positive. This is why we must call for an equal as well of course as proportional voting system when we advocate PR/STV. The word ‘fair’ (or ‘fairer’) hasn’t resonated and is also forever associated with the massively unsuccessful 2011 AV referendum. We need this new messaging to reinforce and communicate our argument.
  3. Acting Leader Ed Davey has upgraded electoral reform to a shadow cabinet position. Newly-elected NE Fife MP Wendy Chamberlain has the Political and Constitutional Reform brief in the Commons. She has already advocated electoral reform in a Commons speech. LDER Chair Denis Mollison is in contact with Wendy, to help reinforce the arguments and give her all possible support. We continue of course to work with Paul Tyler, our indefatigable Lords spokesperson on reform.
  4. Federal Policy Committee has put forward a policy motion, embracing electoral reform, that will be on the agenda of the York Spring Conference. This is a key step forward. LDER has summarily and wrongly had attempts to put motions to Conference rejected in the past – even being informed on one occasion that PR was already party policy! As with Wendy Chamberlain, LDER exec is keeping close to the progress of this motion and will propose content as its shape becomes clear.
  5. Our alliance partners, Make Votes Matter, plan a major ‘Congress’ type public event in the near future. This will involve all parties, but excitingly also non-party movements such as Extinction Rebellion. LDER exec member `Keith Sharp is on the Congress working party and we’ll keep you informed.

 

On to the York Spring Conference (March 13-15)

LDER has an exhibition stall booked for Conference.

Here are some key questions we want to hear from you about – either at our stall in March or via our Facebook page:

  1. Do you agree electoral reform needs to be higher on our policy priorities than in the last three elections? Or do you think it’s right to play it down in favour of more ‘voter-eye-catching’ policies (what would those be?).
  2. How can we link electoral reform, make it enablingly relevant, to other key changes that need to happen? For example, in Germany, PR has seen Greens in Government. Is that a route to addressing the climate emergency in political terms?
  3. To win, we need the right policy and we need to win the argument. Our key messages in the past haven’t cut through, which is why (positive signs 2 above) our messaging is shaping up around ‘equal’ and ‘proportional’. But we also have to overcome the negative argument that voters don’t care; no-one calls for electoral reform on the doorstep. Maybe not, but we have seen huge voter dissatisfaction with FPTP.
  4. Can we still go it alone? Or to get reform, do we need a ‘Unite to Reform’ cross party collaboration at the next election? (modelled on but an expanded version of the promising if ultimately ill-fated ‘Unite to Remain’ agreement for the 2019 election).

LDER exec members believe it is essential to work with other parties – do you agree?

What else should we discuss? Join us in York in the battle for Equality at the Ballot Box.

 

Since last time

The meeting at the Royal Statistical Society on the bicentenary of STV (17 December) was well attended.  Klina Jordan of Make Votes Matter enlisted audience participation in the arguments for proportional voting. Ian Simpson of the Electoral Reform Society looked at the contrast between local elections in Scotland, which have used STV since 2007), and in England which still uses FPTP. Denis Mollison reviewed the history and rationale of STV since the first small-scale election pioneered by Thomas Wright Hill in 1819; a written version of Denis’s talk is in preparation.

 

Reform moves in Wales

Legislation to give councils the option of using STV for local elections is currently going through the Welsh Parliament (the Senedd).  And a Committee of that Parliament is consulting on electoral systems, following the recommendation of the 2017 McAllister Commission report that the Parliament should use STV rather than AMS. This consultation closes on 19th February; please email info@lder.org if you are interested in contributing to our response.