Tuesday, May 19, 2009

COMMONS IN CRISIS - it's time for real change

Regular blog readers will know of my (very) long-term commitment to electoral reform, and to STV-PR in particular --- indeed, you could say this has all culminated in my being Chair of the UK-wide Electoral Reform Society since last December ...

... and, regular readers will also know that I was down in London for the most recent ERS Council Meeting just last weekend. There were some pretty significant decisions taken on Saturday, and I'm (personally) very pleased to see an important campaign starting to take shape today - some more background can be found here.

I'll explain a bit more in a second, but one of my colleagues summarised it very well on Saturday - a simple, clear explanation (I thought) and it goes like this:
  • politics is broken (who would now disagree with that?)
  • First-past-the-post (FPTP) is part of the problem
  • the winner-takes-all mentality clearly pervades our whole 'body-politic'
  • politicians cannot be trusted to fix this themselves
  • after all, they are about to admit they can't be trusted to fix their own expenses by agreeing 'independent' oversight!
  • to fix this problem, we need to ask those who matter most - the people of the UK
  • we need a referendum on the voting system
  • a promise of such a vote is, after all, a long-standing Government commitment
  • we need that referendum vote as quickly as possible
  • that should be on the day of the next General Election

And, as ERS Chair, I've just written to all our supporters laying out the need for the campaign that's been launched to achieve the above. I'll repeat that letter here:


“A formidable array of reformers is gathering to demand a referendum on the principle of PR be added to the ballot paper at the next election. Let the people decide if they want to blow fresh air into parliament.” Polly Toynbee, The Guardian

Dear Supporter

Westminster is in crisis. The events of the last week have dented the reputation of the entire political class, and shown to the country the growing gulf between politicians and public.

We need to call last orders on unrepresentative and ineffective parliaments, and on majority governments backed up by little more than a third of the votes. The present crisis has awakened people to the need for radical change and that gives us an opportunity to demand a new electoral system at Westminster.

That is why the Electoral Reform Society is joining with other organizations in demanding a referendum on the voting system on the day of the next general election. This may be Labour’s last chance to deliver on its promised referendum in 1997. We want to give people a chance to vote not just for their MP, but also for a fresh playing field for politics.

As a councillor in Scotland , elected by STV, I’ve seen first-hand how electoral reform has delivered real accountability in our town halls. If we are to see decent, accountable government at Westminster we will need your help.

It's time to take action ...

Today Polly Toynbee, Steve Richards, Helena Kennedy & George Monbiot have all taken aim at our decrepit system. But in every national, regional and local paper there is a living debate about the future of British democracy.

We need you to be a part of that debate. Get the message out in your area - on accountability, on choice, and on the need for real change at Westminster.

More information is available on our website. If you want to get more involved as our campaign for a referendum builds contact: referendum2010@electoral-reform.org.uk or phone 020 7928 1622.

Good luck!

Councillor Andrew Burns
Chair, Electoral Reform Society

Follow us on Twitter
Join us at Facebook


I hope some of you out there may join in :-)


John Wallace said...

I like it and I've joined the Facebook group. It may get us more of those white haired women and transport gurus who turn out to be complete bankers, but we can deal with them when they come along.

More than anything politics is totally broken in the United Kingdom.

It's also nice to see Toynbee grasping at straws to try and get something right - anything - just something.

The good thing that the last couple of weeks have shown us is that there are going to be an awful lot of gardens needing gardeners and a lot of furniture and TV shops needing assistants. I'm just not sure that the Prime Mentalist will not come out next week with Lord Twice-Fired and claim that this was a Labour job creation project created under cover all along. You know, British Jobs for British Politicians.

BTW - would you sign the contract?

Andrew said...


Re- the contract; I know much of it relates to Europe, but in principle I wouldn't have a problem with any of it as applied to any level of Government --- with the exception of responding to letters/e-mails within 24-hours :-(

--- I try my best (at the moment) to respond to everything within 10-working days, and in all honesty given the volume of stuff we get I sometimes struggle to achieve that for every single piece of correspondence I get.

Anyhow - rest of it seems perfectly logical to me and I'd like to think I'm doing most of it now at a local level ... with the exception of the 24-hours response-rate!


John Wallace said...

Cllr. Burns,

Thanks for the comments on the Contract. It is basically a charter for what should be done and really what everyone expects is done.

Obviously you know your mail load better than I, myself, I have found it sometimes difficult handling 3-400 emails a day in business where profits count (especially when at conferences, on holiday or teaching).

Seems the Sunday Times also likes the idea as well.

Andrew said...


OK: all fair points ... I can only repeat my honest response to the contract you sent - I believe I'm meeting all the requirements now, with the excepton of responding to all e-mail within 24-hours :-(


John Wallace said...

I'm with you 100%.