New all-party push for proportional representation

This week is the first National Democracy Week – a rare moment to put the ‘nuts and bolts’ of democracy on the agenda.

The elections of the past year have shown that Westminster’s First Past the Post system is failing at the lowest democratic hurdle – allowing everyone to participate equally in our politics.

One in five people felt forced to ‘hold their nose’ and opt for a lesser evil rather than their preferred candidate in 2017’s General Election.

68% of votes had no impact on the result – going to either unsuccessful candidates or being ‘surplus to requirements’. Under the Westminster’s system, all that is required for victory is a majority of one.

And the system is exaggerating divisions in the UK – Labour secured 29% of the vote in the South East but got just 10% of seats, while the Conservatives won 34% of the North East vote but got just 9% of seats.

This isn’t some anomaly – this is built into a stone-age system where having one more cross in the box than the rest is all that counts: every other vote goes to waste.

But Westminster’s system can’t even do what it says on the tin – produce ‘strong’ single-party government. The Conservatives were required to make an agreement with the Democratic Unionist Party (DUP) to ensure it could govern with any degree of reliability.

These serious flaws in the Westminster system are why today, during the first National Democracy Week, we are marking the relaunch of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Proportional Representation.

This will see MPs from across the political spectrum meet to support a change in the voting system – to one which better matches seats in the House of Commons to how people actually voted.

It will be chaired by Labour MP Daniel Zeichner, joined by Martyn Day MP (SNP), Wera Hobhouse MP (Liberal Democrat), Jeremy Lefroy MP (Conservative), Caroline Lucas MP (Green), Lord Warner (Crossbench) and Hywel Williams MP (Plaid Cymru) as Vice-Chairs. This is a powerful cross-party coalition for change.

We know that while the existing Westminster system may be all that many voters in England have ever known, it is far from the only way. There are much better options.

Every new democratic institution created in the past two decades has, in fact, rejected First Past The Post. Voters in Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland (and indeed, in most modern democracies) are all used to more proportional systems – seeing their voices properly and fairly reflected in the corridors of power, and with seats matching votes. (For more information on the alternatives see here)

Yet Westminster’s creaking voting system is stuck in the dark ages.

National Democracy Week has been launched with the noble intention that “regardless of who we are or where we are from, we must work together to ensure that every member of society has an equal chance to participate in our democracy and to have their say.”

Let us recognise that the ‘one-party-takes-all’ system does not achieve this. It was designed for another age – and doesn’t work today.

Let’s move towards a democratic system built for our time: where everyone’s voice is heard. That, surely, would be fitting progress to mark the first National Democracy Week.”

“Democracy Week” …. why it is undemocratic

Apparently, it’s “Democracy Week” …. Owl finds it hard to believe.

Here are 4 reasons from the Electoral Reform Society why it is anything but:

1. The first-past-the-post system of voting.

2. Inequality in the minimum voting age in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

3. “A House of Cronies” aka the gerrymandered House of Lords.

4. The political gender gap.

For more information, see:

“UK democracy under threat and reform is urgent, says electoral regulator”

“The Electoral Commission has called for urgent reforms to electoral law after a series of online political campaign scandals, acknowledging concerns that British democracy “may be under threat”.

Following a series of revelations involving the likes of Cambridge Analytica, the elections regulator has asked Westminster and the devolved governments to change the law in order to combat misinformation, misuse of personal data and overseas interference in elections.

Among other recommendations, the Electoral Commission has called for:

A change in the law to require all digital political campaign material to state who paid for it, bringing online adverts in line with physical leaflets and adverts.

New legislation to make it clear that spending in UK elections and referendums by foreign organisations and individuals is not allowed.
An increase in the maximum fine, currently £20,000 per offence, that the Electoral Commission can impose on organisations and individuals who break the rules.

Tougher requirements for political campaigns to declare their spending soon after or during a campaign, rather than months later.

A requirement for all campaigners to provide more detailed paperwork on how they spent money online.

The intervention follows years of debate about the largely unregulated world of online political campaigning in the aftermath of the 2016 EU referendum and Donald Trump’s election as US president.

“Urgent action must be taken by the UK’s governments to ensure that the tools used to regulate political campaigning online continue to be fit for purpose in a digital age,” said Sir John Holmes, chair of the Electoral Commission.

“Implementing our package of recommendations will significantly increase transparency about who is seeking to influence voters online, and the money spent on this at UK elections and referendums.”

His organisation also backed proposals to publish a database of political advertisements that will enable the public “to see what adverts a campaigner has taken out and how much they paid”. Facebook is already due to launch such a facility for UK political adverts within the coming months.

The regulator, alluding to foreign governments such as Russia, also raised concerns that there is currently no explicit ban on overseas organisations buying online political ads aimed at a British audience. …

… A Cabinet Office spokesperson said: “The government is committed to increasing transparency in digital campaigning in order to maintain a fair and proportionate democratic process, and we will be consulting on proposals for new imprint requirements on electronic campaigning in due course.”

The Electoral Commission has also asked for the power to investigate individual political candidates if they have broken constituency spending limits in general elections. At the moment only the police can investigate such allegations, resulting in the long-running investigation into Tory candidates’ spending on battle buses, which was dropped by the Crown Prosecution Service due to insufficient evidence.

Other proposals include pushing political parties to count online advertising targeted at local constituencies within individual candidate spending limits – which can be as low as £10,000 – rather than as part of national campaigns which are allowed to spend up to £19.5m. During the 2017 general election the Conservatives were able to target Facebook ads regarding local issues at individuals in specific constituencies and count it as national spending – just so long as they didn’t mention the name of the local Tory candidate.

Both Labour and the Conservatives spent substantial sums of money on online promotions during the last general election, with digital spending accounting for more than 40% of all advertising spending by political parties in 2017. …”

Buying votes – Tories in the lead

The Conservative Party accepted £4.7 million of donations in the first three months of 2018, new data shows.

Theresa May’s party received more than three times as much as Labour between January 1 and March 31.

Labour accepted £1.49 million in donations.

The Liberal Democrats received £564,135 and the Green Party just £1,800.

This is £2.4 million less than what was accepted during the same period last year (£9.3 million). …”

Still time to register for the free East Devon Alliance conference in Honiton next week

“All across East Devon people are worried about their HEALTH, their HOMES and their JOBS. Never has it been more important to involve yourself with local democracy in your district..


The EAST DEVON ALLIANCE is trying to help with all of this, an umbrella group of Independent people, who since 2015 have won 7 district council seats and 1 county seat. The EDA is free from the negative influence of national parties who – at East Devon District Council – have acquired the arrogant habits of a Conservative one-party state.

This conference is for YOU. Speakers will include County Councillors CLAIRE WRIGHT and MARTIN SHAW, and PAM BARRETT, Chair of the Independent Buckfastleigh Town Council and regional expert on transforming democracy from the bottom up.

In two sessions you will be able to hear our experience and then CONTRIBUTE your own personal views:

a) how did the democratic deficit in East Devon happen? Or – the problem.
b) what can we do about it through democracy in our parishes, towns and district. Or – the solution.

Please come. We are all volunteers but if we band together now to fight for hospitals, homes and jobs we have a chance to change how our local area is run.

Parking: nearest is Lace Walk. 2 minute walk. If full, New Street, 5 mins”