The Demo for Democracy is being held to demand Proportional Representation for elections to the House of Commons. Organised by Make Votes Matter, it is on the anniversary of the most disproportionate election result in modern times.
As Liberal Democrats, we should be in the forefront of the campaign for electoral reform – so pass this on to your local party and get as many people as you can to come along.
Last year’s rally for electoral reform saw a strong Lib Dem presence.
A lively Spring Conference at York saw us recruit several new members, with over 50 party members signing up to our mailing list. Thank you to all those who visited the stall, and particularly to those who helped out: Crispin Allard, John Cochrane, Lisa French, Cliff Grout, Denis Mollison and Richard Lawrie, plus Ed Molloy from ERS.
We decided not to run a fringe event this year, instead supporting events organised by others:
The Electoral Reform Society held an event to present the results of their Citizens’ Assembly pilots and discuss how a Constitutional Convention might work.
Pro PR, a new organisation in the electoral reform field, hosted a debate on the merits of an electoral pact on the single issue of PR for the House of Commons.
Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform (LDER) are currently focused on ensuring electoral reform is re-cemented as a key element of the party’s liberal philosophy and values; and as a key policy for the future.
We have submitted two contributions to the party’s current reviews: one on governance and the main one on Agenda 2020, where we are calling for:
the role of a fair electoral system in empowering the individual and ensuring all votes count equally;
a Constitutional Convention to explore the shortcomings of the current system; what sort of democracy people want; and what is the best new system to deliver that improved democracy
continue to press for local government reform in England and Wales
advocate an elected (ideally fully elected, but at least majority elected) House of Lords, to replace the current over-large appointed house. Learning from last time, a reform package would need to define the role of a renewed Lords in relation to the Commons.
We’ll continue the dialogue with the party leadership to get our policies properly prioritized.
We are also evaluating approaches to, with a view to collaborating with, other pro-reform parties.
Enfranchising 16 year-olds – we tried
Congratulations to our peers, who were instrumental in defeating the Government in a vote which was set to allow 16 and 17 year olds to vote in the upcoming EU referendum. We usually think of electoral reform in terms of voting systems, but further democratizing the franchise is also a crucial progressive steps. The decision was of course ultimately overturned in the Commons but at least the argument has been made and the issue discussed. Next time…
Over in Canada
The Liberals’ stunning October victory in Canada has ushered in new hope for electoral reform. A manifesto commitment is to set up an all-party committee to make legislative recommendations within 18 months on the conduct of elections. Premier Trudeau is known to back ‘ranked ballots’ (preferential/STV voting to us). Needless to say, sceptics are now questioning whether reform will happen… watch this space.
Barely two weeks on from the dreadful Election results, four things are clear for our electoral reform movement:
With a majority Tory Government, decisive moves on electoral reform are virtually certain to take place after 2020 at the earliest.
There are now more parties than only us stinging from the results of our anti-democratic system (welcome all – we know how you feel!). A variety of different voices are now calling for change . Also, by its polarising over-exaggeration of support for SNP in Scotland and the Tories in England, first-past-the-post is putting artificial but tangible strain on the union.
From Nick’s resignation speech on, there has been an uprise in support for liberalism – our 11,000 new members for instance. We know that individual and civic freedom lies at the heart of liberalism; and that electoral reform, in increasing the choice and voice of the voter, is core to enhancing that freedom. The principled argument is ours to make.
Continuing devolution and constitutional change mean opportunity for electoral change, After all, despite the ongoing blind support for FPTP, no-one in living memory has been stupid enough to inflict it on any of our new assemblies and parliaments.
So surprisingly perhaps, only one of those four factors is a negative.
LDER is renewing the power of its message within and outside the party in the coming months, leading to the Bournemouth Conference. We will maintain our push for local government and Lords reform; and make the case for replacing the undemocratic FPTP.