Thoughts on politics and life from a liberal perspective

Sunday 24 May 2009

Electoral Reform - Referendum 2010 campaign launched

I received the following e-mail today from Malcolm Clark of "Make Votes Count":

Dear Mark,

We have already been active on this for the past week (and thanks for all the letters and emails already despatched to MPs and to the press), but today the public campaign is officially launched.  A broad range of civil society organisations and individuals have come together to call for a referendum on the day of the next general election to change the way we elect our MPs.

- launch letter in The Observer: signed by a range of leading figures from across the cultural, academic, political and civil society worlds.

 - accompanying article and editorial in The Observer.

 - campaign webpages and

 - campaign blog - which includes key facts, myth-busting, and all the latest reaction in the media, on the blogs, and beyond.

 Our message is simple and strong: real change, not just new faces. An end to safe seats and seeming jobs for life for some MPs.  Remove the power that MPs have to decide how they are elected ... and give that to the voters instead.  Bring in greater accountability for those who represent us; and greater choice at the ballot box in the first place.

 At the next general election, we want to give voters the chance to register their feelings twice: once to get rid of a tainted MP; and once to get rid of a rotten system and change things for good. One vote to elect a fresh face to represent them; and one vote (in a nationwide referendum) to bring a fresh start to politics.

 Elections affect all of us; this campaign is about all of us. We want your vote to count the same wherever you live and whoever you are. A list of influential people may have been necessary to launch the campaign and get media coverage, but now it is your turn to star.

 What you can do:

 1) Show your support for the campaign - add your name to the list of signatories. Send us a quick email ( with your name and postcode; or sign online in a few days time when the main campaign website goes live. Names will be published on that campaign site. If you'd rather sign anonymously, just indicate that.

 2) Promote the campaign to others - via word-of-mouth, email, facebook and twitter (use hashtag #ref2010).

 3) See our previous update for letter-writing and emailing we need you to do to your local MP and also to several Cabinet Ministers and newspapers.

 4) Give a donation to MVC to enable us to more quickly push this campaign forward and get the messages out to more people.

 5) Keep on spreading the word about the positives of PR elections in general; especially that your vote counts in the European Parliamentary elections on 4 June.  See our dedicated website

Best wishes on this sunny - and hopefully significant - day,


Malcolm Clark

Director, Make Votes Count

I am fully behind this campaign and feel it is the best way for the public to have their say in what should happen.

If you agree, please get involved as Malcom suggests!


The Half-Blood Welshman said...

I'm not actually a fan of PR. Historically I have noted it tends to produce weak and ineffectual governments (well, some of that might be welcome afte the last 30 years)! But more importantly, my experience of it in Wales is that the party list system tends to put huge powers of patronage in the hands of the party machine - who give it to their favourites, often rather unpleasant people.

Thus, you get odious career politicians (Foulkes in Scotland, Alun Davies in Wales) at the top of the list with what amounts to safe seats for life, and it is utterly impossible to get rid of them because there is no local party to deselect them, no electorate to kick them out (unless an entire region changes its political colours - ain't gonna happen) and therefore no accountability to anybody other than the party bosses, who protect their favourites. If we had a system such as the one outlined here right now, Mackay would still be a Tory candidate, and there would be nothing you could do about it. It was that meeting you attended that tipped the balance.

Moreover the sheer size of constituencies would make open primaries (such as those being pioneered by the Tories in e.g. London and Montgomeryshire) utterly impossible - too costly, too cumbersome, too lengthy. America has kept its FPTP system (admittedly a complex one) partly for this reason. A chance of truly open democracy would have gone.

If you have any thoughts on how these problems could be avoided, I would be interested to hear them - but until it is settled, I really think FPTP is more empowering to an electorate. Could a compromise be reached with 4-5 member constituencies (which were the norm until c. 1885) with local parties that retain some semblance of control, and open primaries to select the candidates? When that's settled, it would be time to think about a referendum.

By the way, thanks for the blogging on all this - you're doing a great job!

Anonymous said...

Not all PR systems are like that. The system you want is exactly what most people want, and it is called STV. Look it up here: