Talking electoral reform in Camden

Last night I was back in Kentish Town ward, this time talking to Camden Liberal Democrats about the fair votes referendum – why it is important and how to win it.

As with other similar talks I’ve given around London, I plugged two of the key pro-electoral reform groups. Yes To Fairer Votes is the umbrella campaign group, bringing together the many supporters of electoral reform from across the political spectrum. One of the members of the Yes coalition is Take Back Parliament which has many active groups around the country already. Do go visit their websites and sign up.

I also gave some of the historical background, mainly to show up just how daft arguments such as that from David Davis about protecting our 200-year-old constitution are. (Click on the link to see why.) That meant making use of Jenifer Hart’s excellent history of the early campaigners for Proportional Representation in Britain where I found this wise comment from her about John Stuart Mill: “Mill … became gradually aware of the danger of making people feel bored by the subject [of electoral reform] before they understood it”.

For next year’s referendum that is still a danger to be avoided, but the general public anger with how politics works in the UK makes it a danger that is not too hard to avoid – because changing the voting system is about making politicians work harder for our votes and making them have to appeal across traditional party lines. Simply saying, ‘I’m from Party X, therefore vote for me’ will work an awful lot less well than it does with our current system, where around half the seats have not changed hands even once in elections in the last 40 years.

And the arguments can be presented in a fun way, as John Cleese memorably demonstrated in his party political broadcast on electoral reform for the SDP.

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