Local action for electoral reform

I sent the following message to all ERS Council members today:

“The following letter appeared in yesterday’s Chichester Observer, our local newspaper:

“Democracy requires that the will of the people be reflected in the outcome of an election, whether or not a voter backed a winning candidate or party. That almost 25 per cent of the electorate who voted Green, Lib Dem or UKIP are represented by just 10 MPs has worrying implications for the legitimacy of our government. That supporters of the SNP, with fewer than 5 per cent of the vote share, can be represented by 56 MPs undermines belief in the fairness of the system.

That the Labour Party can win millions of votes in the south of England, and that the Conservative Party can win millions of votes in the north and for this to be un-recognised by our electoral system is a recipe for disillusion, resentment and disconnect.

Our ‘First Past the Post’ voting system is a disincentive to good local government and political participation, discouraging good candidates from putting themselves up for election, and encouraging parties to field unenthusiastic ‘paper’ candidates in uncompetitive elections.

We therefore – winners as well as losers in the recent elections – call for the urgent change of our electoral system to a proportional one which gives more choice and power to voters.

For further information please contact the cross-party (and non-party) campaign: makevotescountwestsussex@gmail.com.”

It was signed by me as (non-party) Chair of Make Votes Count In West Sussex and seven members of the Green, Labour, Lib Dem and UKIP parties. Sadly, but perhaps not surprisingly, we could not find a Conservative to sign it in the very short time available. 

I am not telling you this to boast. The letter was not my idea and I did not draft it. I am telling you because I would like you to know that at least one local group is doing what it can to campaign locally. Some of you might have preferred different wording but the key issue is the principle of local campaigning.

One letter in a local paper may not seem much, but one thing can lead to another. Already one of the signatories, who was not previously one of our supporters, has offered to organize a public meeting for us. Although it is too soon to know whether that will take place, we shall at least discuss her offer with her so watch this space!
Is the ERS asking its own members and encouraging local groups to campaign locally? I have seen no sign of it and that’s a shame; the ERS is not making use of its membership, which is one of its most valuable assets.

I know that the ERS has no local groups of its own to instruct, but there are independent local electoral reform groups it could encourage. Also, I am sure that many individual ERS members would campaign locally with a little encouragement and some ideas from the centre.

Perhaps the ERS could encourage less top-down culture and more co-operation within the Society to achieve its main aim [STV]?”

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