LCER Briefing February 2019
Paul Flynn MP (1935-2019)
We are sad to hear that Paul Flynn has died. Paul was a supporter of electoral reform. In the 1980s he was one of the few Labour supporters interested in the devolution debate then going on in Scotland. He won his Newport West seat in 1987 at same time that Robin Cook and Jeff Rooker joined LCER. When we held our Democracy Dinner, because we had no money to do anything, Paul sent signed copies of his books for Damien Welfare to auction. Actually the current CEO of the Electoral Reform Society, Darren Hughes, did the auction for us. The books were, from memory, How to be an MP (1997), How to Fix an Election: New Labour and the Ballot Box (2000) and The Usual Suspect (2010). He wrote a biography of David Taylor MP, also an electoral reformer, after he died and called it "Clockwinder who wouldn't say No". Paul supported Remain but has not been able to vote recently because of illness. We and politics will miss him.
New Independent Group in the Commons
You will have heard that seven Labour MPs have left the Party. This is sad and takes the pressure off the Government at a time when we need alternatives to a NO Deal Brexit. It is interesting that most of them are supporters of first past the post. Luciana Berger, Chris Leslie, Gavin Shuker and Angela Smith are on record as opposing electoral reform. Mike Gapes voted for Alternative Vote in the Referendum in 2011 but opposed PR. Ann Coffey was a sponsor of LCER in 1997 but hasn’t been active recently. Chuka Umunna inspired the relaunch of LCER in 2017 and has appeared on many platforms being our Vice Chair at that time. We thank him for all the work he has done to draw attention to our broken politics and the need to change our voting system. We still have more in common than what divides us except tactics.
Women’s Conference 2019
Are you going to Women’s Conference in Telford on Saturday 23 February. If so LCER and Make Votes Matter have a Stall – come and see us. Our Women’s Officer, Jane Speller, and Mary Southcott will be there and would love to see you. Voting reform is a women’s issue! Contact Jane at email@example.com or text her on 07847 627 307.
Regional and Constituency events
Are you attending the London regional conference on 2 and 3 March? Let us know if you are attending any events in your region or perhaps your constituency or branch would like a speaker on electoral reform. Contact us know on firstname.lastname@example.org.
Make Votes Matter awards
Jane Speller received the Make Votes Matter Group Campaigning Democracy Award from Rory Bremner for LCER on 11 December in Westminster. She thought the People’s Lobby for Proportional Representation, organised by MVM, a huge success. You can read more onwww.makevotesmatter.org.uk/nebuws/2018/12/17/lobbyists-meet-mps-in-westminster-to-make-the-case-for-fair-votes. If you want to keep up the good work please visit our website and consider joining LCER here: email@example.com.
Constitutional Reform in Wales
There is a petition going around to extend the promise of Votes@16 in Wales (see https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-42848685) and in Scotland to UK parliamentary elections.
Politics for the Many have produced a model resolution for trade unions to use for their conferences. Read it here
LCER believes that in addition we need the Labour Party to be open to changing the voting system we use to elect MPs. If you agree add:
d) A voting system for Westminster which makes votes count, which reaches out to safe Labour seats and which illustrates how Labour will exercise power with the people.
UD continues to campaign across the constitutional reform spectrum. It has just sent out an email linking their issues with bread ‘n’ butter ones. “Millions of people are angry about the situation of the NHS, the housing crisis and the undermining of other public services. From a farcical voting system to a constitution that lets ministers continue to centralise power, these are all connected by our unreformed, archaic
political system.” Farces are funny but what a fine mess our voting system has got us into.
How to win PR ? according to Make Votes Matter
New supporters and experienced activists are welcome to the “How to win PR” movement meetings in Harrogate on 9 March and Bristol 16 March. As long as you are committed what they call real democracy – see here
If there are a group of people in your geography who would like Labour specific speaker training in April and you don’t have local elections on Thursday 2 May, or in May, June or July, if you do, let us know and perhaps we can bring people together this year to support each other to convert the Labour Party away from the current voting system.
This year constituencies can send resolutions to Annual Conference starting 21 September in Brighton. We can send you model resolutions which link the need for electoral reform with registration, boundaries, representativeness, environment, Labour values of equality and democracy. At the Fabian Conference on BREXIT on 19 February one break out group, the Road to Number Ten, raised the issue of electoral reform without which we might not win the general election and three of the four platform speakers supported changing our voting system.
Vernon Bogdanor’s new book
John Newham attended the Constitution Unit’s launch of Vernon Bogdanor's new book, Beyond Brexit, published by Tauris this year and reports back: There was little cheer for electoral reformers except acknowledging that Brexit could prove a catalyst for a written constitution. He predicts that the road to electoral reform has grown steeper in that Brexit makes electoral reform at Westminster less likely - which he regrets. He predicts that Labour will split (sadly prophetic) but not the Conservatives (but see above). We know our current voting system is keeping both parties together but if splits happen, that would be a good reason for introducing PR, but perhaps after the horse has bolted. The bulk of the talk however was on the relationship between Legislature, Executive and Judiciary rather than the mechanics of the electoral system or the fortune of the political parties. Even so … the long march continues!
APPG on Electoral Campaigning and Transparency
Stephen Kinnock MP has launched an All Party Group on electoral campaigning and transparency. Read it here
Last but not least let’s learn from other countries - Linking the debate we are having to the one we need to have
Professor Neophytou Loizides writes: “Unlike continental European political systems, Westminster politics lacks the key institutional incentives to ensure moderation. The most politically stable EU countries elect their MPs through proportional representation, which is more likely to lead to multi-party legislatures. Each party, even the largest ones, must reach out to allies to form a credible coalition after elections. In Germany, the Netherlands or Finland the norm is for no single party to govern by itself and therefore party leaders are dependent on each other. Initiating an honest debate on institutional reform that can move the country beyond the first-past-the-post electoral system is likely to induce moderation. In the very short-term, it could even provide incentives for constructive compromises within segments of the Conservative and Labour parties, even if their leaderships fail to do so.”https://theconversation.com/brexit-how-a-third-party-mediator-could-break-the-parliamentary-impasse-110065
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