mary's blog

Mary Southcott joined LCER in 1988 and served as its Parliamentary and Political Officer from 1990 until 2020. The Plant Commission had recently been set up by Labour leader Neil Kinnock to report on democratic reforms; one of Mary's first achievements was a successful campaign to extend the Commission's remit to include elections to the House of Commons. Following the publication of the Plant Report, Labour leader John Smith offered a referendum on voting reform; in the years after his death, Mary campaigned to retain the referendum in Labour's 1997 election manifesto.

Mary has briefed numerous politicians and activists, notably the late Robin Cook and Mo Mowlam; she continues to promote voting reform among politicians, academics and Labour party members.

Mary stood for Parliament in 1987 and sat on the National Policy Forum for eleven years. She has authored numerous articles and books on voting reform, including Making Votes Count with Martin Linton.  

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  • 17 Sep 2021 10:49 | Mary Southcott

    Labour campaigners for voting reform under 40 only know its greatest campaigners, Mo Mowlam and Robin Cook, from history books or talking with their parents.  Don't knock that.  Andy Burnham puts his conversion partly down to his dad, see his pitch for levelling up at www.chartist.org.uk.    

    What made Mo and Robin so distinctive as politicians?  Will their legacy be voting reform or will they be remembered for Northern Ireland or Iraq?  That depends on whether Labour plucks up courage to change its mind.  They would point out to trade unions, socialist societies and constituencies the advantages not simply to our party but politics.   

    Both Robin and Mo were capable of joined up thinking.  Neither sounded as if speaking to a script.  They addressed, or in some cases changed, the question.  They represented safe Durham and Scottish seats but were prominent in general election campaigns visiting marginal seats.  They knew their own constituents and where Labour had sunk to third or fourth place were taken for granted.  Both enjoyed engaging with those who did not share their views.  

    Mo had one characteristic which people who knew her remember.  Whoever she was talking with she would consult.  People felt their opinions mattered after speaking with her.  When we get voting changed we will not be concentrating on swing voters in marginal constituencies but asking every voter to become engaged.  

    One of Robin’s special gifts was about listening.  When in his Livingston surgeries, though known for not suffering fools gladly, gave each constituent time.   He worked out the legislative change which would help prevent the problem.  When chairing a meeting he didn't rely on the majority/minority principle.  He read the room.   He would find a synthesis, so everyone felt they had contributed.  

    Both appeared on Labour for Electoral Reform platforms.   They would speak last not simply to keep the audience but so they built on what the other speakers had said.  Once when called a synthesiser, Robin reacted sharply.  "Are you saying I have no original ideas?".  No, it was a compliment.  When we have PR we will all have to listen to different views and distil them into action.

    Robin predicting the 1997 landslide.   He helped find the overlapping consensus on democratic reform, the Cook – Maclennan Agreement, which paved the way for informed tactical voting.  He knew First Past the Post was better left to horse races, for gamblers and political addicts.  It does nothing to create solutions in areas of conflict and division.   When Labour wins once in a generation we can get into office without winning the arguments, working with others or bringing people into the frame to defend our actions.  The price everyone pays is the wilderness years. 

    Robin said of the 1980s, Labour won all the arguments but lost all the votes.  Now the opposite is true.   With an artificial majority, this Tory Government can lose all the arguments but win all the votes.   Voting reform has never been a Left versus Right issue.  It has strong support across the Party.  It is about democracy.  

    Robin Cook and Mo Mowlam were confident about their ideas.  They were the giants of their time. The way they worked for consensus tells us much about how the Labour Party would work to pursue their policies under a PR system.  We would need votes everywhere.  We would not shut down the voices we need to hear in our unequal society.  

    Labour can at last learn the lessons of history drawing on the inspiration Robin and Mo provide and the reasons they believe in voting reform.  We can make the next general election the last fought on our archaic voting system.    

    Mary 

    Former LCER Parliamentary and Political Officer (1990 to 2020) 

    077 125 11931  

  • 12 May 2021 02:01 | Mary Southcott

    Labour Reformers elected around the country

    The 2021 Mini General Election – Thursday 6 May  

    Electoral reformers did well in many case.  Updating those who won and those who lost is a reality check.  

    East of England 

    Suffolk County Council LCER Chair Sandy Martin won in Rushmere in Ipswich 

    and Emma Bishton lost in Great Cornard Suffolk 

    East Midlands 

    West Northamptonshire Unitary, Daventry West was won by LCER Treasurer Ken Ritchie 

    Greater London 

    In constituencies Marina Ahmad won in Lambeth and Southwark and Leonie Cooper won in Merton and Wandsworth. 

    On the London list: Elly Baker and Sakina Zahra Sheikh came in on the list top up whereas Murad Qureshi, James Breckles, former LCER Executive failed to be elected.

    North East 

    Hartlepool by-election - Dr Paul Williams former MP and LCER Sponsor.  

    Unfortunately one of the first results on Friday 7 May which set the tone for the weekend announcement of more optimistic result. .  Who thought that a seat where the Labour MP had had to stand down, who given 10,603 to the Brexit Party in the 2019 General Election would vote for a man even if a GP. 

    Commiserations also to LCER Vice Chair Julie Ward who stood in Evenwood ward in Durham County elections.  Simon Henig, electoral reform supporter, stood down as Leader of the Labour Group although remains a Councillor.  

    North West 

    Andy Burnham, new convert to electoral reform, reelected as Mayor of Greater Manchester. 

    Liverpool  

    James Roberts former LCER Executive Greenbank 

    Liam Robinson Kensington and Fairfield 

    Steve Munby Riverside 

    South East 

    Oxon 

    LCER Vice Chair Duncan Enright was elected both to Oxfordshire Council Council in Witney North and East and in Witney East for the West Oxfordshire District council.  

    Commiserations to former LCER Admin Coordinator Catherine Arakelian in Kidlington South and Martin Stott in Kirtlington and Kidlington North 

    West Sussex 

    Commiserations to Lynne Armstrong, LCER Women's Officer, Felpham; Alan Butcher, Littlehampton Town; Roger Nash, Bognor East

    Congratulations to the three Worthing candidates who won: Worthing East, Mrs C Baxter, Worthing Pier, Mr J M Turley, Worthing West, Dr B Cooper PR positions unknown.  

    South West 

    Stroud   Doina Cornell in Dursley Ward

    Robin Layfield LCER South West in Rodborough 

    Commiserations to David Drew, former MP and LCER Sponsor, Farmhill & Paganhill; Mark Huband former PPC in Minchinahampton.   

    However David Drew won the Stroud Central seat on Gloucestershire County Council defeating Molly Scott Cato.   

    Bristol Mayor, Marvin Rees 

    West of England Mayor, Dan Norris 

    In Bristol: Fabian Breckles won St George Troopers Hill 

    Commiserations to Kye Dudd in Central and to Aileen McLoughlin in Windmill Hill.    

    Scotland 

    Labour dropped two MSPs but the following won and are in the new Scottish Parliament: 

    Anas Sarwar ex MP, Labour Leader, Glasgow 

    Neil Bibby West Scotland 

    Sarah Boyack Lothian 

    Daniel Johnson Edinburgh Southern constituency  

    Pauline McNeill Glasgow 

    Alex Rowley Mid Scotland and Fife 

    Paul Sweeney ex MP LCER Sponsor, Glasgow 

    Martin Whitfield (South) ex MP

    Others elected, some for the first time, positions not known for definite.  : 

    Jackie Baillie (constituency Dumbarton); Claire Baker (Mid Scotland and Fife); 

    Foysol Choudury (Lothian); Pam Duncan-Glancy (Glasgow); 

    Mark Griffin (Central); Monica Lennon (Central); Michael Matra (North East) 

    Carol Mochan (South); Paul O’Kane (West); Colin Smyth (South) 

    Mercedes Villalba (North East)

    Commiserations to the following: Johanna Baxter West Scotland NEC; Stephen Curran Lothian and Glasgow Councillor; Richard McCready Dundee Councillor North East Scotland; Kevin McGregor South Scotland; Keiran O'Neill in the Constituency Glasgow Maryhill and Springburn Open Labour and L4ND 

    Wales 

    MS Member of the Welsh Senedd 

    Mark Drakeford First Minister Cardiff West

    Alun Davies Blaenau Gwent

    Julie Morgan ex MP LCER Sponsor Cardiff North

    John Griffiths Newport East

    Lesley Griffiths Wrexham

    Jane Hutt Vale of Glamorgan

    Huw Irranca-Davies Ogmore 

    Jenny Rathbone Cardiff Central  

    Others elected with a position not known for definite: Mick Antoniw Pontypridd, Hannah Blythyn Delyn, Dawn Bowden Merthyr Tydfil; Jayne Bryant Newport West; Hefin David Caerphilly; Rebecca Evans Gower; Vaughan Gething Cardiff South and Penarth; Vikki Howells Cynon Valley; Julie James Swansea West; Jeremy Miles Neath; Sarah Murphy Bridgend; Lynne Neagle Torfaen; Rhianon Passmore Islwyn; 

    David Rees Aberavon; Jack Sargeant Alyn and Deeside; Ken Skates Clwyd South; Lee Waters Llanelli; Buffy Williams Rhondda

    Yorkshire

    Tracy Brabin MP and LCER Sponsor won to become the first West Yorkshire Mayor.

    Let us know of other electoral reformers you can identify or perhaps just ask them their position.   

    Mary marysouthcott@hotmail.com

    077 125 11931  

  • 3 May 2021 23:12 | Mary Southcott

    Looking Forward, Voting Reform a Priority: 

    What you can do as the results come through or in unsocial hours: 

    1.     Sign this petition from the Electoral Reform Society perhaps after Election Day: https://action.electoral-reform.org.uk/page/2401/petition/1?_ga=2.76087708.808895513.1620030835-1934765104.1620030835

    2.     Sign up to Labour for a New Democracy: https://www.labourforanewdemocracy.org.uk/#signup
     
    3.
         Read the latest Chartist Magazine or go to their website – see Mark Serwotka’s article on trade unions and voting reform, Karen Constantine’s on the National Policy Forum, Ewan Wadd’s on his work in Darlington https://www.chartist.org.uk.  
     
    4.
         Read and respond to GetPRdone!’s blog on Mo Mowlam and Robin Cook: here: http://getprdone.org.uk/cook-mowlam-labour-pioneers-for-electoral-fairness/
      
    5.
         Find out whether your CLP is on the Labour for a New Democracy list who have put forward resolutions, here: https://www.labourforanewdemocracy.org.uk/clps.  Even if you have passed a resolution you need to check it was send to the NPF and/or resubmit it to the Justice and Home Affairs Commission consultation on Electoral Reform: https://www.policyforum.labour.org.uk/commissions/home-affairs
     
    6.
         To repeat, whether or not your constituency is included in the cast of 214, cited by L4ND, introduce a resolution for Conference at your next CLP AMM or GC and whether prioritised or not if passed send to the NPF.  If your CLP is there on the list check it was actually sent or just send it again on behalf of your CLP to the new 2021 consultation on electoral reform.  L4ND needs 30 or more resolutions to conference which is about the same number as LCER got in 1987 to 1992.  
     
    7.
         Also, your CLP is entitled to two delegates to National Women’s Conference, 26-27 June and one resolution, maximum words 250, relevant to women and not rule changes.  Maybe the change of political culture that moving from first past the post would work for women rather than arithmetical nicety.  You can apply to be your CLP delegate if a woman or you can go as a visitor for £15 or £10 unwaged.  There is a fringe meeting L4ND run by Charlotte Cornell, with Debbie Abrahams MP, Jackie Weaver, Jennifer Nadel who is the Director of Compassion in Politics and former MP and now Public First pollster, Natasha Engel. Laura Parker will chair. Contact LCER Women’s Officer, Lynne Armstrong, lynnea@aol.com who is working on a women’s leaflet.  

    Mary 

    marysouthcott@hotmail.com 

    077 125 11931 

  • 3 May 2021 23:04 | Mary Southcott

    Altogether there are 143 councils holding elections across England:

    ·       3 newly formed unitary councils

    ·       26 Other Unitaries 

    ·       24 Shire Counties 

    ·       36 Metropolitan District Councils 

    ·       54 Other District Councils 

    140 out of the 143 were held in 2016 and 2017 

    ·       47 are held by the Conservatives 

    ·       54 by Labour 

    ·       6 by the LibDems 

    ·       33 under NOC (“no overall control”) 

    County Elections 

    English locals, regionals, districts and unitaries and Mayorals 

    There are 24 Shire County elections in England for those counties which have not postponed their elections until unitary councils have been established.  These were scheduled for this year.   There are Metropolitan and other district elections which were postponed from last year and some were going to happen in 2017 anyway.   All elected by first past the post.  All are controlled by the Conservatives except Cumbria (No Overall Control - NOC - Labour and LibDem) and Nottinghamshire (NOC - Conservative and Mansfield Independent Forum) and Oxfordshire (NOC - Conservative and Independent)

    Unitary Authorities 

    1 April was the first day of Buckinghamshire Council – this new unitary authority has replaced Wycombe, South Bucks, Chiltern and Aylesbury Vale District Councils and the old Buckinghamshire County Council. On the same day North Northamptonshire Council (Corby, East Northants, Kettering and Wellingborough) and West Northamptonshire Council (Daventry District, Northampton and South Northants) came into being.  All three will be elected for the first time on Thursday.

    Unitary Authorities with all out elections: 

    New: Buckinghamshire, North Northamptonshire and West Northamptonshire.  

    Labour: Bristol, County Durham, Halton and Warrington.  

    NOC LibDem and Independent: Cornwall 

    NOC Conservative: Northumberland 

    Conservative: Isle of Wight, Shropshire and Wiltshire   

    NOC Conservative and Brexit: Hartlepool.

    Unitary Authorities with a third of the Council up:

    Labour: Blackburn with Darwen, Hull, Plymouth, Reading, Slough and Southampton. 

    NOC Labour Minority: Milton Keynes,

    NOC Labour, Independent, Libdem: Southend 

    NOC LibDem Minority:  Portsmouth.

    NOC Conservative Minority: Derby, Milton Keynes, Peterborough, Thurrock 

    Conservative: North East Lincolnshire, Swindon, Wokingham 

    English district councils postponed from last year and up in 2021

    Metropolitan Boroughs only three up, all all out, all Labour: Doncaster, Rotherham and Salford.

    Elections by thirds: the majority are Labour: Barnsley, Bradford, Bury, Calderdale, Coventry, Gateshead, Kirklees, Knowsley, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, Newcastle upon Tyne, North Tyneside, Oldham, Rochdale, St Helens, Sandwell, Sefton, Sheffield, Solihull, South Tyneside, Sunderland, Tameside, Trafford, Wakefield, Wigan and Wolverhampton. 

    No Overall Control (NOC) with a Labour Minority: Stockport and Wirral. 

    NOC Conservative Minority: Bolton and Dudley 

    Conservative:  Solihull and Walsall  

    Other District Elections 

    Of 54 District Elections, keen watchers are looking to Cannock Chase District Council in Staffordshire County council which was moving against Labour and has a third, a third, a third elections postponed from 2020 and Worthing, West Sussex County Council which is moving towards Labour.  They will try to judge if the Brexit effects are still evident.   

    ELECTED MAYORS 

    Combined Authority Mayors 

    New and hopefully Labour: West Yorkshire region, (Bradford, Calderdale, Kirklees, Leeds and Wakefield) with Labour’s Tracy Brabin standing. There is a first time mayor to be elected in West Yorkshire, as the Metropolitan Authorities closed down by Margaret Thatcher in 1980s are reconstructed as elected Mayors. People will be asking whether Labour can win in the West Midlands where it lost seats in the GE2019 or attract the third party voters’ second choice votes against the Conservative Mayors there or in Tees Valley or indeed West of England. 

    Conservative: 

    Cambridgeshire and Peterborough, Tees Valley (Darlington, Hartlepool, Middlesbrough, Redcar and Cleveland, and Stockton-on-Tees) where the LibDem candidate in 2017, Chris Foote-Wood, is now in the Labour Party, West Midlands (18 local authorities Birmingham and the Black Country (Andy Street v Liam Byrne); West of England (WECA) – Dan Norris (former MP).    Worth watching to see if third party supporters have learned to use their second preference against the Conservatives. Last time the Green and LibDem parties voted for each other and their votes were thrown away.  

    Labour: 

    Greater Manchester (Andy Burnham) Liverpool City Region (Steve Rotheram) 

    Single Authority Mayors 

    All Labour: 

    Bristol (Marvin Rees), Doncaster, Liverpool (with new Candidate Joanne Anderson standing to replace Joe Anderson, no relation), North Tyneside, and Salford.   

    PCC elections in England and Wales 

    The 39 Police and Crime (and some add Fire) Commissioners cover everywhere in England and Wales.  These and mayoral elections are elected by SV.   

  • 3 May 2021 23:02 | Mary Southcott

    Scotland

    We have heard much about SNP squabbles and Salmond’s new Alba party. Party leaders debates have been held, the last one on Tuesday, see LCER’s Scottish Representative William Bain’s report of the first: http://progressonline.org.uk/anas-sarwar-hope-for-a-scottish-labour-recovery/.  In Scotland, Labour may be saved from almost extinction, which practically happened under first past the post in GE2015 and GE2019, by their Additional Member System to elect 129 MSPs.  The SNP needs half that number, 65, for a majority and more for a super majority.  It is to be seen how the Green Party committed to Independence and the splinter Salmond’s Alba will do on the list in competition with the Pro Union parties, Conservative, Labour and LibDems and whether there is any movement from the SNP one party state in the first past the post Constituency seats. 

    There will be no overnight counts in Scotland. Only 44 of the 73 constituency seats will be counted on Friday and many of the marginals are not due to be counted until Saturday, such as Tory-held Dumfriesshire, Aberdeenshire West, and Galloway & West Dumfries, Caithness, and Sutherland and Ross. So 29 constituencies on Saturday and only then will the list seats be counted and allocated. John Curtice (who kindly did many of the tables in the 1998 book, Making Votes Count) will be everywhere, https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-scotland-scotland-politics-56969880.  This is the only election with UK wide constitutional significance. 

  • 3 May 2021 21:36 | Mary Southcott

    Elections Elections Election – Thursday 6 May 2021 

    You may have already voted but help is still needed at a place near you, particularly eve of poll and during the whole of election day.  Postal voting is expected to be higher this year.  Some voters need to be reminded that they can take their postal vote to the polling station and if lost Electoral Services may replace.    

    Comparators 

    There are lots of differences in the elections this year, since these elections happened four or five years ago.  As they are compared with when they happened last, a lot depends whether they were fought before the EU referendum ie May 2016 postponed from last year or after the result of Brexit ie May 2017, scheduled for this year.  And over a year of Covid, how that affects turnout, social distancing knocking up and length of counts. 

    Counts and Judgment

    Counts will be happening every day from after polling stations close at 10 pm on Thursday 6 May until long into the following Sunday.  For BBC coverage see: https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-56930132. There will not be one but many pictures or judgments on the Johnson government or Keir Starmer’s first year or even Ed Davey’s.  Some of this has been unlucky for Labour.  The success of the vaccine rollout mainly down to the NHS health workers credited to the Government.  The byelection is in a red wall area.  Splintering of votes with not one but two smaller regional parties.  There is uncertainty how 16 and 17 year olds will vote in Scotland and Wales and the popularity of independence in both countries.  

    Wales and Scotland and Greater London

    The Welsh Assembly is now the Senedd, which means Parliament.  Their First Minister has always been their Prime Minister in Welsh. The Scottish Parliamentary elections has had hustings where Anas Sarwar seems to be doing a good job.  He was pro PR when he was an MP.  The Greater London Mayoral and Assemblyelections which has many new candidates. These all use additional member system except the Mayor which like all Mayors is elected this year by Supplementary Vote (SV).  

    Mini 2021 General Election 

    Last year I prepared a paper for the LCER Executive showing how we have a mini general election on 6 May 2021 where everyone in England, Scotland and Wales has at least one vote.  There are places which get four, or if you count choices and second preferences you are influencing the election of up to seven candidates.  We need a General Election turnout to match the hugely important choices to be made and a voting system that makes more votes count.  

    How many votes per voter ?

    If you haven’t already used your postal vote, you can go on the website of the Electoral Commission and type in your postcode and you will know how many ballot papers to fill in when you get to the polling state but see: http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/voter or https://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/voter/which-elections-can-i-vote.

    Priti Patel wants the Tory voting system everywhere 

    Although this year’s elections will be still be using more proportional systems where they are in place in Scotland, Wales and London, the Home Secretary Priti Patel’s attack on them and the more inclusive element of Supplementary Vote for Mayors and Police and Crime Commissioners showed just how much the Tories benefit from first past the post which divides their opposition and currently unites the right. 

    Why is it that the Tories know how to stay in power and Labour is still fighting over a voting system that has produced more Conservative government than Labour, and recently seen our Red Walls crumble, first in Scotland, then in northern England and the midlands and parts of Wales: See here: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/priti-patel-london-mayor-voting-b1818148.htmlhttps://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/mar/18/labour-electoral-system-priti-patel-mayoral-elections.    

    Analysis Alternative 

    Some of my last year’s analysis is rendered unnecessary as LCER and NEC member Luke Akehurst has writing most of it up in LabourList here: https://labourlist.org/2021/04/what-would-good-election-results-for-labour-in-may-2021-look-like/.  What is good about working for voting reform in the Labour Party is that we cover the whole spectrum of the Party, it is not a Left-Right issue and we can discuss together as Democrats.  Momentum is to back PR at the Annual Conference in September: https://labourlist.org/2021/04/momentum-backs-proportional-representation-and-15-minimum-wage/.  

    The Hartlepool Byelection 

    Added to the list I compiled last year we have in addition the Hartlepool byelection.  Regional parties, theYorkshire Party, the North East Party, the Northern Independence Party (NIP) all make first past the post elections even more distorted.  This will be especially true in the election which will most catch the headlines outside London, Scotland and Wales, in the Hartlepool Byelection where Dr Paul Williams former MP is standing for Labour.  Paul won his seat in next door Stockton South in 2017 but lost it in December 2019. This of course is the seat the Peter Mandelson won in 1992 and vacated in 2004 to become European Commission: https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/hartlepool-election-poll-keir-starmer-b1827153.html

    The Survation poll, commissioned by the Communications Workers’ Union, CWU, predicted a Tory victory (Tories 49 and Labour 42 per cent).  Single constituency polling is notoriously inaccurate and does not take into account the unique circumstances or the number of Labour volunteers who have been working there and will on Election Day.  Usually Labour does better than the polls as we near Election Day.  The Count will start as soon as Polling Stations close with a verification count until about 1.30 am and then the count of the byelection will start.  The result is not expected no earlier than 4 am. 

  • 26 Jan 2021 18:40 | Mary Southcott

    Did you notice that Joe Biden in his inaugural speech on 20 January said “This is Democracy's Day.  A day of history and hope. Of renewal and resolve.”

    When Robin Cook wrote his preface to the book I wrote with Martin Linton, Making Votes Count, he asked that every day be a Democracy Day not just one day in every four or five years. Isn't that what changing the voting system is about. Enfranchising every voter and making it more likely Governments will listen to the people. Democracy is not called the rule of the people for nothing and there is a difference between democracy and popularism. 

    We need to show this year to people in Labour Red Wall and what used to be called "Labour safe” seats, the trade unions and socialist societies why voting reform would lead to a Labour led government after the next General Election. And then we change the voting system.  

    No more fixed term parliaments?

    Five years was always too long.  And we have had two and a half year terms since 2015 and only one five year term after the Tory led coalition ushered in a Cameron government which kept an unregulated pledge for the EU Referendum.   

    Thursday 6 May was going to be an early mini general election where all the people in England, Scotland and Wales would have an opportunity to vote. Uncertainty hangs over the date this year but we need to be ready earlier than the anticipated December 2024 date after the fixed term parliament legislation of 2011, FTPA, is changed to:

    • repeal the FTPA (clause 1);
    • reinstate the prerogative power to dissolve Parliament, thereby triggering a general election (clause 2);
    • provide that courts could not, among other things, question the exercise of that power (clause 3);
    • automatically dissolve Parliament on fifth anniversary of its first meeting if the dissolution power has not been exercised by then, thus preventing non-use of the power to prolong any given Parliament beyond five years (clause 4).

    Constituency Boundaries

    We have boundary changes consideration going on which will reward the regions which have increased registered voters on a low register and punish Scotland and Wales by reductions of three and seven, alongside the regions where Labour used to do best, the North East and West, and the West Midlands, where they lose two or three. It will report in the summer. 

    By their very nature, boundaries defeat the idea or permanence of that magic MP-Constituency Link by breaking it each time boundaries change. And we may find some Labour seats and targets are vulnerable. One of the advantages of moving to a voting system that makes votes count is that by counting all the votes the result of the boundary commission is not decisive in the subsequent general election. 

    All the emphasis of Labour voting reformers needs to focus after the national and local elections, on Labour's Annual Conference, the trade union conferences before that which had resolutions to update their position; constituencies which had yet to send submissions and resolutions, we rejoice in the quarter or more, about 140 who have already done this; the socialist societies who can take up positions; individual Labour representatives who need persuading. 

    Labour in Scotland – a Commission not a Convention

    Scottish Labour is holding another Leadership election. We believe that Anas Sarwar MSP was in favour of voting reform when an MP and his opponent is Monica Lennon MSP whose position we need to know. Richard Leonard will stand to be elected in May but was pretty fixedly against change. Nominations are flooding in for Anas Sarwar from GMB, Community, the Jewish Labour Movement and the Scottish Co-operative Party and Monica Lennon from Unite, UNISON and CWU.  

    The interesting thing about these Scottish Parliamentary elections is that Labour will find it easier to win the regional list seats. It could be saved this year by a proportional Additional Member System as last year the same system, under another name, Mixed Member Proportional, Labour won a majority Labour government and its second Labour woman Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern.

    Gordon Brown's Constitution work will be a Commission not a Convention but could still be good to engage with for those who want devolution and voting reform which in the past have always gone hand in hand. The SNP knew how to fight PR elections while Labour was still focused on switch voters in marginal constituencies. 

    Making Labour Rural Voters Count 

    Speaking to a well attended zoom organised by LCER - South West, Luke Pollard spoke with Liz Pole, PPC 2019 in Honiton and Tavistock, and David Drew former MP for Stroud where the Green Party split the anti Tory vote, but still doing his magic.  The Shadow Cabinet member, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, spoke about the promised land, what PR is for. He knows his colleagues David Lammy and Jonny Reynolds support our work. One interesting thought is that the Tories are taking their rural voters for granted perhaps mirror imaging labour "safe" Labour seats. The poor, unemployed and low paid, in areas where the industrial revolution took place, are everywhere post Covid-19. We need to look at coastal towns and towns generally. We need to get registration done and connect with the issues of young and new voters and win anyone who voted for the Tories to get Brexit done, back.  

    Enfranchisement 

    We need to encourage political education in constituencies and trade unions. We need to remember how we fought for the vote and not let it be devalued by first past the post. We are letting down those who fought for the vote and a voice in generations past, at Peterloo, the Tolpuddle Martyrs, the Chartists, the trade unions, the Suffragettes and Suffragists. That vote is a symbol of our Democracy, as it was in Apartheid White South Africa and in Selma, Alabama. We need everyone to make a difference when they vote, we need citizenship education in schools, we need to see the end of fake news and unsubstantiated stories. 

    Chartist Magazine 

    Has three articles, four pages, on voting reform, from Ann Black, Don Flynn and LCER Chair, Sandy Martin.  It is worth subscribing to this coming year when Chartist is having a New Democracy section.  Let me know and I will get a sample edition to you free or go on their website and subscribe or read or both.   

    What can we do? Marge Piercy had it at the end of her poem, the Low Road.

    It goes on one at a time,
    it starts when you care
    to act, it starts when you do
    it again and they said no,
    it starts when you sayWe
    and know you who you mean, and each
    day you mean one more.

    do keep in contact via marysouthcott@hotmail.com

    077 125 11931 0117 924 5139

  • 1 Jan 2021 05:40 | Mary Southcott

    2021 should be the year for electoral reform if everyone does something in their Constituency or especially their Trade Union.  

    My last report as LCER's Parliamentary and Political Office which went to the November 2020 Annual General Meeting is posted below.  John Doolan has taken over this role.  

    We now have the possibility of the appointment of Gordon Brown to head a UK constitutional convention, see: https://www.dailyrecord.co.uk/news/politics/gordon-brown-line-head-labour-23142265.  

    We also have the interim report of the Justice and Home Affairs Commission of Labour's National Policy Forum, see here: https://www.scribd.com/document/487529762/Interim-Report-Justice-and-Home-Affairs?secret_password=yqym75A6TyFjaUVFwHGR#download.

    What is more the Commission is now consulting on electoral reform.  This means it is make up your mind time for trade unions, socialist societies and of course Constituency Labour Parties.  

    Labour for a New Democracy (L4ND) is coordinating work towards Annual Conference 2021 which we hope will be post Covid and no longer virtual.  

    Here is my thinking as of November 2020 which you may have missed: 

    LCER Parliamentary and Political Officer Report 2020

    First, thank you for electing me for the first time since 1990 on to the LCER Executive.  This year has been different but amazingly busy, creative and successful, particularly pre Covid regional Conferences, developments from Clive Lewis’ speech at our AGM, work with Labour for a New Democracy, our partner organisations, GE2019 MPs, former MPs and other candidates and the most successful virtual Labour Connected for PR, ever.  Let me flag up opportunities to rehearse arguments for PR: 

    Federation, Devolution, Regions and Nations: Regional Conferences may be done virtually or kicked back till November 2021.  North West and South West in 2020 were successful: NW fringe with Julie Ward and Mike Amesbury and a resolution which would have passed but for the trade unions but no card vote.  SW: resolution fell (a hurricane prevented the delegate being there) but Sarah Church and Luke Pollard spoke from the platform about the need to change the voting system. PPCs were contacted. LCER Members in the South West got together to work for discussions, champions, resolutions in constituencies and trade unions.  This could be seen as a successful pilot and rolled out.   Sandy Martin and I had zooms with Scotland (William Bain) and Wales (LCER speakers) and he joined the zoom of LCER members in the South West. 

    Labour NEC, National Policy Forum, Commission on Justice and Home Affairs:  We contacted every nominee for the NEC and added those in favour to the data base.  Some great quotes and some new friends. Four members of the Constituency section NEC support reform, two are members of LCER. This is up from one who covered Wales and the South West, Darren Willisms.  Opponents can be contacted and enlightened and reformers encouraged and thanked.   

    Boundary changes:  The Conservatives seem to be postponing some elections in May 2021 to change some shire councils to unitaries and abolish some districts, an opportunity to argue for STV in the larger councils.  Setting up a pro reform Labour councillors network is realistic after our fringe chaired by Duncan Enright. The boundary commissioners not reducing to 600 from 650 but legislation is coming through: https://commonslibrary.parliament.uk/research-briefings/cbp-8921/.

    Working with Labour members of other pro reform groups: Sandy Martin and I had meetings with Make Votes Count, Electoral Reform Society, Unlock Democracy and negotiations with Chartist and UD which used our Zoom Room at Labour Connected.  And our work in Labour for a New Democracy. 

    Work with MPs and other candidates: Contacted the new MPs, LCER MPs we lost and many PPCs, adding people to the database. Analysed the PLP, available to others who would like to see it.   Work in progress on councillors, Mayors, Police and Crime Commissioners, Members of the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Senedd, Peers including former Workington MP, Baroness (Ann) Hayman of Ullock.  Some of those in favour are standing down and we need their personal emails. (Jenny Chapman, former MP for Darlington, was elevated to the House of Lords:  https://www.thenorthernecho.co.uk/news/18966197.peerage-former-darlington-labour-mp-jenny-chapman/.)

    Work with Trade Unions: our working group needs to be set up, invite new members from our database, and draw on the exemplary work of a retired trade union official, Paul Dunn, who brought together key trade union leaders in the region and did a zoom with LCER members in the South West, with Billy Hayes representing LCER. 

    Work on other countries’ elections: notably New Zealand and USA illustrating the upside of PR and the down side of not considering the popular vote only swing states, like our constituencies.  

    Executive Working Groups: Recommend ones on messaging and trade unions having worked on systems, LCER constitution. The LCER SW work done by Paul Dunn, former NUPE full timer, was exemplary, with leading trade unionists joining a zoom with Billy Hayes.  

    Speakers and Speakers Meetings:  LCER Speakers were the basis of the work done with Make Votes Matter. Speakers going out to Labour meetings are encouraged to join LCER and get constituencies to affiliate.  Work was done in the summer updating contact details and availability.  Nearly one hundred were handed over to become Constituency Champions. 

    Website Development: Read LCER – Mary’s Blog for updates and ideas.

    Contact Mary by email marysouthcott@hotmail.com.

  • 12 Dec 2020 05:36 | Mary Southcott

    This article appeared in Chartist in January 2020: 

    No more Labour Red Walls?

    If you had one wish for a replay general election, what to choose?  Different Leader, EU policy, anti-Semitism or islamophobia, time of year, no rain. What about another voting system, a political culture from doing things for people to empowering people to do things together?  What did Labour say about democracy?  Most people thought democracy was fulfilling the referendum. After finding a way to win the next General Election, let’s move from relying on Red Walls to finding Labour voters everywhere with a PR system.  

    Paul Mason, from defeated Leigh, wrote: “Once Farage stood down in 317 seats, the only thing that could have stopped the Tories was (a) an electoral pact between progressive parties, (b) an unprecedented turnout by progressive young voters, or (c) massive tactical voting”. None of these happened. Jo Swinson spent as much time vilifying Jeremy as Johnson.  We never mentioned votes@16.  And although the Mirror’s guide to tactical voting would have defeated the Tories, Labour opposition let the voting system triumph.  Now some say: "No More Labour Prime Ministers without Progressive Pacts and Electoral Reform".  

    Let’s look back to UKIP winning the 2014 European elections. Instead of discovering why some red wall ‘working class’ voters were supporting this social conservative, English nationalist party, we told ourselves that they were taking votes from the Tories, while Lynton Crosby ensured they kept their voters by offering that EU referendum. When the 2015 exit poll gave the Tories a slender majority with the loss of all Labour seats in Scotland, except one, Labour’s first red wall had collapsed. We blamed the Scottish Independence Referendum but it was just as much about our safe seat mentality. 

    Straight into the Euro Referendum without the aid of a Written Constitution which might helpfully have said, what a Labour or LibDem opposition might have raised, a threshold of fifty per cent of the electorate or two thirds of votes cast, advisory not mandatory. The 2016 WARP, ‘without all those Reading pads’, assumed traditional Labour voters would either vote Brexit or stay at home.  We didn’t knock them up. Had we talked with them we might have changed their minds or alerted ourselves to the future.  in seats where Labour was, they thought, always going to win, our Red Wall, voters could make a difference, protest at being taken for granted, or blame something and the EU was as good as anything. At last they had an effective vote, to say here I am, have you noticed?  Where the industrial revolution begun, Labour voters voted Leave. Did we approach them?  Or join their condemnation? 

    Regional offices based tactical decisions on polls at the start of the 2017 General Election.  This massively warped the work that was being done with people misdirected from seats that were won. Labour’s Leadership was fighting for the popular vote as in a PR system.   We only have to mention Al Gore or Hilary Clinton to know that wasn’t going to work. In the age of twitter, you don’t need to be in a marginal to communicate to those who are digitally enabled.  Our manifesto was a PR one whereas in a general election the effective voter is an uncertain switcher in a targeted seat who needs constant reassurance while the media play on fears of immigration, crime and national security.  

    The Labour membership is skewed to the south and policy moved from “Labour heartlands” to university metropolitan cities. Labour’s members in Red Wall constituencies, often untypical Remain voters, didn’t raise Brexit. it would lose votes. The voting system played a canny role masking the results of Theresa May’s 2017 incursions into Labour territory. Many seats were vulnerable to the 2019 Tory onslaught. 

    Without a decision on our relationship with the EU, Labour was totally vulnerable.  MPs who said what they were hearing from constituents about ironically ‘getting Brexit done’ were ignored. To be successful Labour needs to nurture its link between those who need a Labour government in the way the 2019 Manifesto elaborated and those who see the benefit of a more equal society, what we have in common rather than what divides us.  Polarised into Leave and People’s Vote broke this coalition.  

    In 2007, the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform, wrote a pamphlet entitled Reversing Labour Retreat.  We warned about under registration, overtargeting, boundary changes which the Tories can legitimately implement, the need to endorse voting reform while in government.  It is high time Labour acknowledged that its membership is already pro PR.  Of 632 Labour candidates over a quarter, 163, were open in their support and 60 went on to be MPs. Make Votes Matter commissioned YouGov research showing that seventy five per cent of Labour’s membership supports PR.  

    We will be working with extra parliamentary forces while still being a Westminster response to a rabidly right, one national Tory government.  Is there anything, but money, to stop us holding a citizens’ assembly on our democracy or a Constitutional Convention trailed in our Manifesto? Couldn’t we join up the dots on English devolution, financing local government, citizenship education, votes at 16, registration, Lords replacement.  We need to find space to find anti Tory consensus which means working in a non tribal but assertive way with supporters of other parties also opposed to the Johnson agenda.  That is the challenge and to find a leader that understands why our policy going into the next general election has to be PR.  

    Do contact me at marysouthcott@hotmail.com or 0117 924 5139.  

  • 7 Nov 2020 21:54 | Mary Southcott

    We have in the rest of 2020 opportunities to work with other reform groupings.   

    Besides the South West trade union meeting on 19 November, on 17 November we have the annual meeting of the Make Votes Count which still functions as a cross party electoral reform intelligence meeting chaired by Jonathan Reynolds MP.   

    Chartist Magazine has just joined Labour for a New Democracy.  In their new magazine,  you can read their article, Voting change at heart of new democracy, by Tessa Milligan, co chair of Open Labour which itself has pro reform position and in the LfaND coalition.  And Chartist is looking to publishing a series of New Democracy articles in the New Year on voting reform and allied issues on the Constitutional Reform agenda, including devolution and federation, a written constitution and voting reform and issues like Votes@16 and Lords Reform which Labour is already committed to.    

    We have the Annual General Meetings of Unlock Democracy with speakers including Clive Lewis MP and Neal Lawson, Compass, on Saturday 17 November with their new Director, Tom Blake former LibDem MP who only won when his Labour opponent was given the role of throwing the General Election to the LibDems.   

    Then the AGM of LCER on 26 November, and of Electoral Reform Society on 5 December.  On 12 December Make Votes Matter has one of its action days.   

    Lockdown apart, and do stay well and safe, some of us have done more reading than in recent years: I aim to catch up with autobiographies, Rodney Morgan and Paul Flynn, Caitlin Moran’s More than a Woman and Helen Lewis’ Difficult Women,, Yanis Varoufakis’s Another Now, Paul Foot’s The Vote and perhaps Notes from the Graveyard of Diplomats by the Swedish Ambassador Ingemar Lindahl.  I ought to read the former UK Ambassador to Washington’s autobiography, Nigel Kim Darroch, Baron Darroch of Kew’s Colateral Damage: Britain, America and Europe in the Age of Trump.   

    This has ironically been a busy and productive year.  We need the next, 2021’s New Year’s Resolutions to be resolutions, from trade union branches, Labour branches and all member meetings or constituency Labour Parties.  Let ‘s focus in on the trade unions and the Red Wall Labour seats, lost or won where discussions on our voting system could turn around the default support of first past the post.  

    We need to thank all those who made our collective fringe meetings the success they were: Apsana Begum MP, Ruth Cadbury MP, Cllr Doina Cornell, Mike Davis, Billy Hayes, Clive Lewis MP, John McDonnell MP, Sandy Martin, Jonathan Reynolds MP, Alex Sobel MP, Paul Sweeney, Nadia Whittome MP, Daniel Zeichner MP, Cllr Mark Child; and outgoing members of the LCER Executive, Andy Burkitt, Theo Morgan and Jane Speller and outgoing Vice Chairs, Paul Blomfield, who served as the Chair after William Bain from 2016 until this year now working with the Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Rachel Reeves, as Brexit and EU Negotiations Shadow, alongside Cat Smith and Helen Hayes, and in the Shadow International Trade with Emily Thornberry  Also our other Vice Chairs: the Peer Ruth Lister, and Sam Tarry MP and our two Honorary Members, whom we decided to create this year, Ron Medlow who took over LCER in 1983 and stayed on until he retired and Lord Jeff Rooker who was LCER Chair for the vital years from 1989 to 1994 when voting reform was as now in the air.   

    We need to convene our LCER trade union working party and have a look at new cultural messaging and narratives.  We can draw on the arguments we used in the last thirty years.  Making votes matter prevents taking people for granted and does not allow the rich and powerful to bribe or send different messages to the only sections of the electorate that matter.  We the people can change that.   You cannot fool all the people all the time but you can win elections with first past the post by fooling or communicating with some of the people, some of the time.  

    Let’s change that by telling people our roadmap to a better voting system.  It is about listening, learning and working cooperatively even with people who don’t agree with us about everything. 

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