Latest news and views on the fair votes campaign in partnership with Make Votes Matter in Herefordshire and other political parties. Like the group on Facebook.

We believe fair votes is the key to unlocking progress on climate change, equality and much more.

If we had PR, would we be in this mess?

Neither Labour nor the LibDems seem to be showing much interest in an electoral pact with each other and with the Greens – though, the last I heard, Caroline Lucas was saying that the door might still be open. It seems to me that Labour are very suspicious of Proportional Representation (PR) – which has surely got to be a deal breaker – and that is deeply, deeply sad – writes blogger Libby Hudson.

I say this because, as luck would have it, about a week before the election was called, I took delivery of ‘The Alternative’i and have been dipping into it occasionally, particularly during the long, dark night of the soul which followed a claim that the Tories had hit 48% at the polls. (Incidentally, let’s hope this means the era of the ‘shy Tory’ is now well and truly over).

Anyway, I flipped through to Katie Ghose’s chapter on PR (‘Embracing Electoral Reform’) and it struck me, whilst reading it, that if we had had a decent system of PR, we probably wouldn’t be in the mess we’re in now. (If you don’t agree we’re in a mess, it’s probably not worth your while reading any further.)

I voted for PR at the last opportunity – which was 2011, by the way. Yes, it does seem like a lifetime away. However, I was sceptical – I was worried about losing the constituency link, and I was even more worried about focusing power in the hands of party leaders. I was a Labour party member back in the day, and the leadership’s behaviour over regional lists in the EU elections in 1999 was one of the first indications that the Blair project wasn’t turning out quite as I’d hoped.

Ghose’s comments on how constituencies have worked out in Wales and Scotland were suitably reassuring, but what really leapt out at me was this comment (about STV):

Candidates can be put forward who reflect different wings of a party – challenging the dominance of any one faction”.

And so, I surmise, if we had a decent system of PR:

  • Maybe Cameron wouldn’t have needed the referendum to appease his own right-wing. It would either have one control – thereby probably forcing a Tory split – or been slapped into place by the electorate.
  • The Labour party would have a relatively pain-free way of resolving their internal issues, not least of which is the supposed discrepancy between what members want, what voters want, and what the so-called ‘Westminster elite’ thinks.
  • Furthermore, if PR of almost any kind had been operating since 2011, UKIP would probably have gone off like a damp squib, and the Greens would have more of a voice.

All arguments about PR handing power to extremists are blotted out by the puss oozing from the running sore of news stories about people being abused or beaten for the crime of being foreign and hate-inducing headlines about ‘Enemies of the People’ and ‘Saboteurs’. There’s something pleasingly ironic in the Daily Mail wrapping itself in the Union jack and yet using the same words as Lenin when he sent armed troops to dissolve the All-Russia Constituent Assembly.

In summary, then, my answer to the headline question: If our democracy worked properly, would we still be in this mess? Probably not. And, let me add that if Labour are holding back from a pact because they don’t like PR, then they are actually refusing what is probably the only remedy for their current malady.

iNandy, L., Lucas, C & Bowers (eds) 2016, The Alternative : Towards a new progressive politics’. Biteback publishing.

Diana statement on ‘progressive alliances’

I agree that the country can’t afford another Tory government, and I’m proud to represent the party which started the ball rolling for a Progressive Alliance, enabling the LibDems to oust Zac Goldsmith in Richmond.

This fast growing movement to prevent another undemocratic Conservative victory is very encouraging, but it must be intelligently targeted. The Compass thinktank has been doing excellent groundwork with Greens, Lib Dems and Labour, and will soon publish the target constituencies where we have the best chance of beating a Tory. Based on analysis of 2015 results, Hereford and South Herefordshire isn’t one of them. If we try it everywhere it won’t work – it will weaken opposition parties and play into Conservative hands.

I hope this is the beginning of more collaboration between progressives, and look forward to finding common ground with local Lib Dems and Labour in the future. In particular, I want us to work together for a fair electoral system which will put an end to this kind of voting dilemma!

Make Votes Matter in Herefordshire

Following a well attended Big Green Conversation at Left Bank, a cross-party campaign group on proportional representation is being formed and it’s first meeting is on Monday 20th.

With 100,000 people now having signed the petition, this issue will now be debated in parliament. We want to raise awareness of this in Herefordshire, and make the link between a fairer voting system and things voters care about such as a better NHS, action on air quality and schools funding. Bring your ideas and enthusiasm to help us make votes matter!

The meeting details are as follows:

Monday 20th March
7:30 – 9:00 pm
De Koffie Pot (upstairs), Bridge Street,
Hereford, Herefordshire

Check out Make Votes Matter news on this site, and on Facebook. To join the group, contact co-ordinator Natalia Waring or message the group on Facebook.

Hereford says Make Votes Matter

Great turnout for a fabulous evening at Left Bank with Klina and Joe from Make Votes Matter, looking at what’s wrong with our electoral system and how we can put it right. We welcomed a number of Labour and Liberal Democrat supporters as well as Greens and those of no affiliation!

Interesting to see the link between countries with fairer voting systems and better progress on child poverty, inequality, environmental protection, and political engagement.

We also learnt about how the UK has one of the lowest percentages of public support for the government in power, so they lack a democratic mandate. Our current majority government only has support from 37% of those who voted and 24% of the electorate – but other governments with fairer systems get over 50% support.

Defenders of the current nineteenth century system used to say it stopped extremists, but the election of Trump under the US system which is similar to ours has put paid to that!

There was agreement that the current system means millions of voters are not represented in our national parliament. Millions of votes simply do not count, especially in safe seats such as North Herefordshire. Far from complicating things, a fairer system would mean that instead of trying to work through the complexities of who to vote for to keep who you don’t want out, you could, for example, simply number candidates in order of preference.

Surely even our MPs Bill Wiggin and Jesse Norman can count to five? Or perhaps they think we can’t.

Email addresses were taken, and a representative from Hereford will attend the MVM Local Groups Congress on February 5th in London. If a local group is set up, actions could include dramatic representations of the unfairness in High Town and lobbying our MPs.

The key issue is helping people understand how our antiquated voting system is holding up progress on everything else. Most people want to protect a public NHS, yet a government with only 24% support is dismantling, breaking up and privatising it.

If you would like to be added to the MCM email list just head to www.makevotesmatter.org.uk and sign up.

De Koffie Pot to host Make Votes Matter campaigner

An innovative Hereford discussion cafe event is hosting a top campaigner with Make Votes Matter, the national fair votes alliance, on Wednesday 25th January at 7.30pm.

Klina Jordan will be at De Koffie Pot to lead a discussion on different voting systems and how reform could ensure everyone’s voices are heard. Entry is free and those from all political persuasions and none are welcome.

This is the latest in a series of Big Green Conversations presented by Hereford Green Party. The events are relaxed, informal and sociable and take place upstairs in De Koffie Pot at Left Bank every fourth Wednesday in the month. Topics so far have included Brexit, Progressive Alliances, Personality Types and Politicians, and Hereford’s ongoing bypass saga.

Organiser Rob Hattersley said: “We’ve had great turnouts so far for these sociable events. The idea is to listen to each other and understand different viewpoints. With Klina from Make Votes Matter, we’ll be asking how we get majority government with only 24% of the vote, about voters feeling their votes are wasted in ‘safe’ seats, and how different voting systems could mean everyone’s vote really matters.”

Is the Richmond Park by-election a test bed for a better politics?

‘We support a progressive alliance: Greens are not standing a candidate’. That’s the Green Party leaflet for the Richmond by-election happening this Thursday, following the resignation of Zac Goldsmith in October over Heathrow expansion, writes Josiah Mortimer of Left Foot Forward.

And it’s brave stuff. This is the first time in recent history that a political party has put out materials backing (albeit indirectly) another party.

Something interesting is happening in Richmond. As I left the train station this Saturday, I was greeted first by a Green stall, explaining why they’re backing a Liberal Democrat-led ‘progressive alliance’ – and by activists from Compass, the left-pluralist think tank who want left-wing parties to work together.

Read the full article here.

Big Green Conversation for Jan 2017: Make Votes Matter

The Big Green Conversation is switching to the 4th Wednesday each month from January 2017. We’re looking forward to welcoming KLINA JORDAN from Make Votes Matter – the fair votes campaign – to lead a discussion on why we need electoral reform in order to change anything else.

We will also look at how to make the link between fair votes and everyday concerns, and reduce the confusion about the different PR systems the UK could and does already use. Come along and learn enough to impress your friends with your encyclopaedic knowledge of different voting systems!

So that’s at De Koffie Pot, Left Bank Hereford, 7pm for 7.30pm on WEDNESDAY 25h January.

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Shropshire Greens: new constituencies shouldn’t divide counties

Green Party candidates for Church Stretton and Craven Arms in the May 2017 Shropshire Council elections put fairness and democracy at the centre of discussions about electoral boundaries.

On Tuesday, 8th November 2016, Hilary Wendt and Steve Hale who have been selected as Green Party candidates for the Church Stretton and Craven Arms division  in the May 2017 Shropshire Council elections took part in an Electoral Commission meeting in Shrewsbury to discuss boundary changes.

 In a wide-ranging discussion they requested that 4 key principles be met before any changes are made:

  1. Parliamentary constituencies must exactly match council areas and should not straddle a Shropshire-Herefordshire boundary
  2. Parliamentary constituencies should take into account the special circumstances of sparsely populated areas like South Shropshire.  Imposing a “one size fits all” population number risks making constituencies far too big in terms of square miles and does not take into account the difficulties of accessing MPs who may well be many miles away from towns and villages.  Our poor quality public transport in Shropshire makes accessibility much more difficult than it would be in a more densely populated part of the country
  3. We must have proportional representation and actively promote a fair electoral system where the number of MPs in any Party accurately reflect the number of votes for that Party
  4. We must not indulge in any kind of gerrymandering.  Boundary changes that favour one party more than another must be rejected 

Commenting on the meeting in Shrewsbury, Hilary Wendt said:  “Our voting system is clearly very unfair and proportional representation is urgently needed to make sure that the way people vote is reflected in the number of MPs from different parties in the House of Commons.

Steve Hale added:   “There are many things wrong with the current voting system and the way we elect MPs but as we make progress towards PR we must make sure that we do not make things worse.  This means we must make sure constituencies exactly match our council areas and very large constituencies in terms of area should not be imposed on sparsely populated areas.  There is a persuasive case for smaller constituencies (in terms of population) in places like South Shropshire where it is very difficult to move around.

Fair Votes Now

The 2015 election has shown once again that our voting system is broken beyond repair. It denies voters real choice, produces unfair results and delivers unrepresentative governments. The current government has a majority with only 37% of the vote, and only 24% of the population when non-voters are included. Many of them don’t vote because they feel the system doesn’t allow their choices to be respected.

Take a look at the fair votes information here from Unlock Democracy, and then please sign their petition for a fairer and more inclusive system.