English ‘democracy deserts’ would be eradicated with proportional representation

“England is facing “democracy deserts” in next week’s local elections with 148 seats going totally uncontested, according to the Electoral Reform Society.

The seats in the elections on Thursday next week where only one person is standing are spread across 47 councils in the country, the pressure group’s research said.

Of these the Conservatives will gain 137, Liberal Democrats will get five, four will go to independent candidates and Labour will get two.

The society also highlighted parties or independent candidates have also been guaranteed an additional 152 seats through multi-member wards going ‘under contested’ – where a lack of competition means that at least one seat in the ward is guaranteed for a particular party.

There are around 580,000 potential voters in these types of wards, and a further 270,000 voters who are in areas that will see no electoral challenge at all.

About 850,000 voters will be affected by the 300 uncontested or under contested seats, the group added.

The East Midlands has the highest number of uncontested seats, followed by the East of England, West Midlands and the South East, the research said.

Darren Hughes, chief executive of the ERS, said: “Elections are a cornerstone of our democracy. Yet around 270,000 are being denied the chance to exercise their most basic democratic right and have their say on who represents them. Clearly something is not right, with voters going totally unheard.

“Large parts of England are at risk of becoming ‘democracy deserts’, with seats going uncontested and residents having no say who represents them.”

Hughes noted Scotland has almost entirely eradicated “the scourge of uncontested seats” since introducing proportional voting in 2007.

This method, where voters rank their preferred representatives as opposed to selecting one candidate, could bring an end to what the ERS calls “rotten boroughs”.

“It’s time we brought the era of rotten boroughs to a close, by scrapping the broken first-past-the-post system in England and ensuring there is always real competition. A more proportional system would end the crisis of local ‘one party states’ and open up our politics at last,” he added. “


“50 MPs From Seven Parties Join Forces On ‘Issues Ignored Because Of Brexit’ “

“More than 50 MPs have launched a cross-party movement to work together on “issues ignored because of Brexit”.

The ‘More United’ group, dubbed ‘politics for the Netflix generation’, features politicians from seven different political parties, including Labour, Tory, SNP, Lib Dem, Green, ChangeUK and Plaid Cymru.

The new network, which includes leading MPs David Lammy, Nicky Morgan and Caroline Lucas, will help fund candidates who campaign on poverty and homelessness, responsible technology, mental health and urgent climate dangers.

Backed by 150,000 members, it has already helped MPs from different parties to work together on issues like immigration visas, restoring the ‘Enable Fund’ for deaf and disabled people and access to Legal Aid.

MPs who lead and support More United campaigns will be eligible to receive money and volunteers from the movement at general elections, with almost £500,000 raised via crowdfunding and 54 candidates supported in 2017.

The group is not and never will be a political party and as result offers a ‘safe space’ for MPs from opposing parties to join forces on areas of common interest.

Lammy said: “A rare silver-lining to come out of the disastrous Brexit process is a new willingness among MPs to cooperate beyond traditional tribal loyalties.

“MPs have found that there is a special power in cross-party working and by publicly committing to seek out strong alliances that protect shared values we can help create positive changes that benefit the entire country.”

Morgan added: “All MPs come in to politics because they want to improve the lives of the people they represent. Of course we don’t always agree on how to do that but where we can find agreement across party lines there is often a compelling case to be made to the government of the day. The More United Network will give MPs across the Commons a chance to do just that.”

In a HuffPost UK blog, Morgan and Labour’s Tulip Siddiq and Lib Dem Christine Jardine said: “Each of us is strongly committed to our own party. We have plenty of healthy disagreement on all sorts of topics. Yet when it comes to issues that outlive any one Government we think cross-party working is vital.”

More United CEO Bess Mayhew said that the public see cross-party working as a proxy for trust in politics.

“When polling shows that only three out of ten people believe they can make a difference by getting involved in politics something has to change,” she said.

HuffPost UK understands there is no whip, but MU will refuse to direct election resources to MPs who openly oppose their campaigns and vote against in tight votes.

The group aims to have 100 MPs on board by the end of 2020.”


“Beware far-right candidates posing as ‘independents’ in local elections” [or even as Tories] …

This is in Yorkshire but may easily have East Devon parallels. And in East Devon, you also have to cope with Tories calling themselves Independent too!

Check credentials – REAL Independents will have a good track record of community action over a long period – not just since the last election!


The Hermione Grainger of local politics – able to be in two places at the same time!

Phil Twiss (who is NOT the East Devon Tories Whip but is a Tory agent has sent this to Owl.

Just one thing Phil – if she’s been so busy in the Axe Valley, how has she managed to do so much in West Sussex! On parish and district council there and many committees.

Do we have a Hermione Grainger here – able to be in two places at once?

“Well done Owl; you have excelled yourself in getting at least half of the story correct.

I am happy to confirm that Jacquie Russell, a Conservative candidate in the forthcoming East Devon District Council elections on the 2nd of May (with fellow Conservative Marcus Hartnell) has lived in East Devon since 2017, where she is a Governor of the Axe Valley Academy, attended by one of her children. Admittedly not a born and bred local, but in that respect no different to EDA candidates including former Labour Party PPC Martin Shaw, Paul Arnott, Paul Hayward, Cathy Gardner etc………………………………..

More details are of course available on her Election leaflets that is going to all electors in the Seaton ward.

Promoted by Phillip Twiss on behalf of Jacquie Russell both of PO Box 57, Colyton, Devon, EX12 9AP”

And yet another Tory councillor from far, far away (170 miles) it seems – this time Seaton?

NOTE: if this is NOT the same person, Owl is very happy to be contacted by either or both of the people with this name to clear up the matter (eastdevonwatch@gmail.com) as quickly as possible.

This time a sitting councillor in West Sussex – Mrs Jacquie Russell. On her nomination paper for Seaton she gives her address as “East Devon District”:


She appears to be an East Grinstead Town Councillor:


“Jacquie sits on the Public Services Committee at present and is also a West Sussex County Council for East Grinstead South and Ashurst Wood.”


though apparently not standing for re-election this year:

and she sits on her local district council too:

“Jacquie Russell is a former Co-Director of a Construction Project management company and is now a Property Developer. Previously she has been Leader of East Grinstead Town Council and Chairmen of its Planning Committee. She is a mother of five, grandmother of two, and enjoys walking and photography.”


though, again, not standing this year.

So, is this a coincidence? It seems unlikely as she DOES tweet about our area – although her tweets are private) you can see this Google listing:

Maybe she is/was a second home owner? If so, it would no doubt be useful for them to have a voice on the district council, there being so many of them!

Or maybe she has just moved or about to move into the district?

But not immersed in East Devin local politics with all that work in East Grinstead!

Seaton voters, if they see her about, might well have a few questions to ask her!

Can you be an effective councillor from 218 miles away?

Owl has received the email below from an anonymous source.  However, on checking, it does appear correct – the person in question who wants to represent Sidmouth Sidford [edited from Sidbury – ed mistake] ward as a Conservative will need to spend the majority of his time in Cambridge for the foreseeable future.

Gosh – that’s 50 miles further than our London-based MP – who we rarely see!

Information: The AA

“As an elector who takes an interest in who might be representing us on the incoming District Council, I was pleased to see that a young man was standing in the Sidmouth Sidford ward.

However, my pleasure then turned to uncertainty when I realised that this young man is student at Robinson College in Cambridge. It appears that he started his degree course in the autumn of 2018.

I then asked myself the question – how will someone who must surely have to spend much of his time studying in Cambridge over the next few years be able to full represent the electors in Sidford as well as playing a full part in District Council activities? AND University life?

I see that the distance between Sidford, which would be where his electors live, and Cambridge, where he will be studying for his degree is a good 218 miles which on a good day could take upwards of 4 hours to drive.

This has all left me a bit bemused as to how this young man, will be able to balance his studying, with effectively representing his electors, with having a reasonable social and family life.

Is this really fair on young Zachary Marsh – or is his political party so short of candidates that it thinks its right to have an elected Councillor who would live so far away from those he wants to represent?

A concerned elector”