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Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform


These questions and answers relate most directly to LDER and the Liberal Democrats.

Please also go to the FAQs of key allies:



Q1. Why do the Liberal Democrats support electoral reform?

A1. A proportional voting system, where seats in Parliament match votes cast, and where voters have equal voice and choice, has been a core belief of our party since we were formed.

Our present voting system simply isn't democratic. Yes, over 18 year olds have a vote but election results distort, not reflect, how the people as a whole voted.

In 2019 alone:

- The Conservatives got well less than half the votes - 43% - but 56% of the seats in Parliament; which in this country means pretty much 100% of the power. The minority ruling over the majority is not democracy.

- The Conservatives won a parliamentary seat for only every 32,000 votes cast. At another extreme, the Greens got just one seat for 865,000 votes cast. Liberal Democrat voters were also diminished - 300,000 votes for each seat won.

This inequality is blatantly undemocratic and makes a nonsense of 'one person, one vote.'

The people of this country deserve an inclusive political system where the majority, not the minority, has power; and where votes are equal. We need to make seats match votes; and ensure equal votes for equal citizens.

We support the Single Transferable Vote as the system which delivers maximum choice and power to the voter, as well as party proportionality. The Liberal Democrats are also signatories to the Make Votes Matter 'Good Systems Agreement', a multi-party agreement which sets out what electoral reform will mean and do for our society and democracy.

Q2. The average voter doesn't care about electoral reform. It's a nerdy sideshow from what's important. We Lib Dems need to relate to what people care about.

A2. There is evidence of ever- increasing voter dissatisfaction with our politics and our democracy

a) In 2021, Electoral Reform Society-sponsored polling finds that just 5% of people feel they have a lot of opportunities to influence decision in Westminster - a damning critique of the UK's centralising political system.

The same poll finds that 57% of people feel their counties or boroughs are either not represented, or represented only a little, in national decision making at Westminster - a figure that rises to 62% when people think about how their local neighbourhoods are represented.

Polled by Savanta ComRes: 2,092 UK adults aged 18+ online from 12-14 March 2021. Data was weighted to be demographically representative.

b) In the run up to the 2019 General Election research showed:

61% of voters were dissatisfied with the state of UK democracy
32% of voters felt obliged to vote tactically (negatively) in the 2019 General Election
Only 25% of voters felt they lived in a constituency that could possibly change party and therefore influence/affect the election result.
Sources: BBC and Electoral Reform Society

That level of disillusion has to be our call to action. It is broadly true that voters do not demand voting reform as a priority - but they know the problem if not always the solution. It's up to us to make the link between the problem and the solution. We're not totally there yet, but we are making progress eg developing campaign materials for local parties to use.

Q3. But we lost the 2011 referendum on electoral reform.

A3. That referendum - on the alternative vote (AV) - was not about proportional representation or equal votes. AV has some merits but simply is not a proportional system, so we are talking about something very different. For example, AV fails to meet the terms of the MVM Good Systems Agreement. AV has never been Liberal Democrat policy. You could say we got stuck with it under the 2010 Coalition Agreement. That was a tactical mistake for which we paid a heavy price. But that is history and we have learned. We are now arguing for something entirely different to AV.

4. If the party already supports electoral reform, why do we need LDER?

4. Our role is to inform and motivate as many party members as we possibly can to get behind the campaign for electoral reform. While many members are well-informed and ready to campaign, a lot of members know generally about party policy on electoral reform but have gaps in their knowledge. That's fair enough - it's our job to inform and explain.

We also work to ensure electoral reform has the right level of priority within the party's strategy. We're not suggesting reform should be the lead - or the one and only! - party policy, but nor should it be relegated to a paragraph on page 89 of the manifesto (that was in 2019). Importantly, there is now a strong recognition that we need to have electoral reform as part of the party's narrative. For instance, we're delighted that Wendy Chamberlain MP accepted our invitation to become LDER President in 2021.

Q5. Surely we need broader constitutional and political reform. Changing the voting system's only a drop in the bucket.

A5. LDER supports the party's package of political and constitutional reform. However we focus our campaigning on electoral reform to make the most of our available resources; and because we believe voting reform is the pre-requisite to the change we all want to see. Electoral reform is not on its own sufficient but it is absolutely necessary.

Current campaigns include introducing proportional representation for local government in England and Wales and maintaining the pressure for an elected (by STV) House of Lords.

Q6. Do you work with other parties who also support reform?

A6. Yes we do, mainly through non-party, all-party reform organisations like Make Votes Matter, the Electoral Reform Society and Unlock Democracy. We can be leaders in this but we cannot do it on our own - and nor should we try to. We want a more collaborative, cooperative politics, not the destructive tribalism we suffer from today.

Q7. British people don't know about proportional systems. How are we going to persuade them?

A7. PR is in use in the UK - throughout Northern Ireland snd Scotland ; in Wales and for many elections such as the Greater London Assembly in England. As well of course as most democracies around the world.

Q8. The Liberal Democrats only want PR because they can't win under the present system. You want to be the power 'kingmakers' like in the hung Parliament after the the 2010 General Election.

A8. A proportionate system, where seats match votes and where all votes are equal, has been in this party's DNA for a century. It's essential to a liberal society and we aim to reaffirm that commitment at our Autumn 2021 Party Conference. As for being third party 'kingmakers', the country was in serious financial and economic crisis on 2010 and we stepped up to the plate. It was the appropriate action based on how the electorate had voted. As we now know, we suffered heavily for that in the 2015 election and have been recovering and fighting back ever since. But that too was the verdict of the electorate. In a democracy it's the electorate that decides and we want a system that reflects, not distorts, those decisions.

Q9. Under PR, losers can win. FPTP gives a nice clear result and a winner.

A9. Losers win all the time under FPTP. Every Government since WWII has been elected on a minority of the popular vote! More people vote against than for the 'winning' party. We saw this in 2019 when Boris Johnson's Conservatives 'won' on just over four out of ten votes cast. It can be even worse than that - in 2005 (Blair's Labour) and 2015 (Cameron's Conservatives) the 'winning' party got only about 35% of votes cast. Where's the winner and where's the democracy in that?

Q10. Why should I join LDER?

A10: By joining Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform, you will strengthen our influence in the Party. As a member you will be able to help decide our policies and priorities. Your support will help us promote our message inside and beyond the party throughout the year.

You can sign up now via this website.