Press Releases

Party leaders unite to call for electoral reform

18th May 2015
18 May 2015

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07979 696 265

Statement from the Electoral Reform Society and Unlock Democracy, Monday 18th May, 13:30

Contact: Will Brett (will.brett@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07979 696 265)

A photo for press use is available here.

Leaders from five of the major parties came together today (Monday) to add their names to almost half a million people calling for a fairer voting system.

In a rare show of unity from across the political spectrum, figures including Green Party leader Natalie Bennett appeared alongside UKIP’s Nigel Farage and Douglas Carswell MP to call for voting reform, following the most disproportionate electoral result in British history.

Leading figures from the Liberal Democrats, the SNP, the Green Party, UKIP and Plaid Cymru signed the 477,000-signature petition at Westminster’s Old Palace Yard, before handing it in to 10 Downing Street.

Attending the event were Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood, Green Party leader Natalie Bennett and Deputy Amelia Womack, the Liberal Democrats’ acting leader Sal Brinton and Tom Brake MP, UKIP’s Nigel Farage, Douglas Carswell MP and Suzanne Evans, new SNP MPs Philippa Whitford and Alison Thewliss, ERS Chief Executive Katie Ghose, and Unlock Democracy Director Alex Runswick (see photo attached - more on request).

The event follows an election result in which the Greens and UKIP received five million votes and just two seats; the Liberal Democrats got just 1% of seats on 8% of the vote; while Plaid Cymru won 12% of the Welsh vote but just three seats in Wales.

Nigel Farage MEP, UKIP: “This campaign for electoral reform is vital, now. The results of the General election where 5 million votes, the views of 5 million people are now represented by only 2 MPs; 4 million people voted for UKIP, for only 1 seat. It cannot go on like this. It is important to be here, with the Electoral Reform Society supporting its campaign to make votes match seats.  I’m also delighted to be joining with Douglas Carswell who has campaigned for political reform for years and is leading the UKIP charge for this in the House of Commons”.

Natalie Bennett, Leader, Green Party: “The recent election has demonstrated that we need real change in our constitution. We haven’t seen significant reform at Westminster since women got the vote, and that was 1918 – we shouldn’t get to the centenary of that without getting a fair voting system. The Green Party would have got at least 24 seats under a fair voting system on May 7th – we only have one under our current unfair system. We need a total rethink of the way we vote.”

SNP Westminster Leader Angus Robertson MP: "The Westminster system is badly in need of reform. The SNP has done well under First Past the Post this time but we have always supported proportional representation and will continue to do so. From an unrepresentative voting system to the unelected House of Lords, SNP MPs will be a strong voice in the coming years for the change we need to see.”

Baroness Sal Brinton, President, Liberal Democrats: “The Liberal Democrats have long said we need PR, because one of the things that’s becoming clear over the past two to three General Elections is that people feel their votes don’t count – it cannot be more stark than the election we’ve just had. Now I may disagree with what UKIP stand for, but for nearly four million people to vote for a party and have just one MP is just outrageous.”

Plaid Cymru Leader Leanne Wood: "Plaid Cymru supports the Electoral Reform Society's calls for proposals for a proportional electoral system for House of Commons elections. Every vote at every election in every community should have equal weight. Plaid Cymru supports the adoption of the Single Transferable Vote as the fairest electoral system."

Alex Runswick, Director of Unlock Democracy: “Parties from across the political spectrum are united in their recognition that our voting system is simply not fit for purpose. When half a million people and the leaders of five political parties are all simultaneously calling for a fairer voting system, it’s time to sit up and take notice.”

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society: “This election delivered the least proportional result in history. That’s because our two-party electoral system cannot cope with the fact that people want to vote for a variety of parties. It’s time we had a fairer voting system that accurately translated votes into seats in Parliament.”

Owen Winter, Member of the Youth Parliament for Cornwall and Change.org petitioner: “Like me thousands of young people are disillusioned with our current voting system and would like to see it change. When I can vote in 2020, (I’m 16 now) I would like my vote to count which is why I started one of the petitions (220,000 votes) we're handing in today.” Owen (who is revising for his exams) was represented today by Rhammel Afflick and the British Youth Council, which also backs voting reform. "We are working to keep young people engaged in politics. We do care but we want fair votes. Use us or lose us," Rhammel said.

ENDS

Photo caption (see attached). From left: Leanne Wood (PC), Liz Saville Roberts (PC), Amelia Womack (Green), Natalie Bennett (Green), Jonathan Edwards (PC), Alison Thewliss (SNP), Tom Brake (LD), Philippa Whitford (SNP), Nigel Farage (UKIP), Sal Brinton (LD), Hywel Williams (PC), Douglas Carswell (UKIP), Suzanne Evans (UKIP)

For more information, photos and interviews contact Will Brett on 07979 696 265 / will.brett@electoral-reform.org.uk

Notes

1.       The full text of the petition is available here: www.makeseatsmatchvotes.org. The total number of signatories is 477,727 – this includes signatories of petitions by Owen Winter, a Member of the Youth Parliament, on Change.org (225,481); Avaaz (91,793); the Green Party (23,179); 38 Degrees (5,082) and a joint Electoral Reform Society / Unlock Democracy petition (132,192).

2.       For the ERS’s analysis of the disproportionate election result see here - http://electoral-reform.org.uk/blog/nail-coffin

3.       More photos are available on request – contact Will Brett (will.brett@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07979 696 265)

Poll: public want parties to work together instead of second election

6th May 2015
6 May 2015

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Statement from the Electoral Reform Society, EMBARGOED for Thursday 7th May, 00:01

Contact: Josiah Mortimer (josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07454397816)

  • 54% of public back power-sharing over a second election in 2015
  • Support for parties working together is strong among all voters from all parties, backgrounds and regions
  • Electoral Reform Society says scramble to rule out deals is symptom of a voting system which ‘hasn’t caught up with modern politics’. “Parties should listen to the public and work together, instead of fighting to isolate each other. The public want and deserve better.”

The majority of the public would prefer parties to work together instead of seeing a second General Election in 2015, according to a new poll [1] for the Electoral Reform Society.

The poll, conducted by BMG Research [2], puts support for cooperation between parties at 54% compared to 33% of those who would prefer a second election before Christmas.

Backing for parties working together is consistent across all party supporters, with 57% of Conservatives, 59% of Labour voters, 83% of Lib Dems and 39% of UKIP supporters backing inter-party cooperation over a second election. Support is also strong among undecided voters, at 45%.

Those in London are most likely to back power-sharing, with 61% in favour, while voters in Scotland – who have seen several successful power-sharing agreements in the past – close behind, at 57%. Support for power-sharing is also strong across all social background, with 61% of AB voters and 49% of DE voters preferring cooperation over a second election.

It reflects the real choice that will be made after Thursday, with every single bookie, polling organisation and prediction website expecting a hung parliament, where no single party holds a majority.

This follows polling released last week which showed that 74% of the public support the principle of proportional voting [3], where votes are accurately translated into seats. The poll also showed that one in ten will be voting ‘tactically’ on Thursday to keep out another candidate – a feature of our ‘shockingly unfair and out-dated voting system’.

Darren Hughes, Deputy Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said: “This poll shows that the public are overwhelmingly in favour of parties working together. With every pollster predicting that no party will gain an overall majority, it’s clear that the parties should cooperate instead of scrambling to rule out deals with each other.

“What we’ve seen in this election period is the two main parties pursuing the fantasy of a majority, instead of dealing with the reality that they should work with other parties – as happens in countless nations around the world.

“Sadly this is a feature of our unfair and out-dated voting system, with parties still stuck in the majoritarian mind-set of the past. People’s voting habits have changed – they are shopping around and voting for different parties – but our voting system hasn’t caught up.

“It’s time to put voting reform on the agenda so that how people are actually voting is reflected in numbers of seats – and so that any power-sharing deals are based on a truly democratic result.”

The representative poll of 1,013 adults was conducted by BMG Research between the 25th and 27th of April.

For quotes and information contact Josiah Mortimer (josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07454397816)

Notes

[1] For full cross-tabs, contact josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk/07454397816

[2] www.bmgresearch.co.uk

[3] www.electoral-reform.org.uk/press-release/three-quarters-want-more-proportional-voting-system-new-poll-shows

Read our new report on power sharing – ‘Working Together: lessons in how to share power’, featuring key politicians from across the UK and the world.

Spokespeople from the ERS will be available to speak throughout election night, and the Society will be providing full commentary and analysis over the course of Thursday and the weekend – contact Josiah Mortimer for details. 

One in ten forced to vote for ‘lesser evil’ under current electoral system

4th May 2015
4 May 2015

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Contact Tel: 
07454397816
Statement from the Electoral Reform Society, FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Josiah Mortimer (josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk/07454397816)

• Over 9% of public plan to vote for second or third choice candidate
• Poll follows research which shows 74% of adults back proportional voting system
• Electoral Reform Society says tactical voting is ‘symptom of our out-dated electoral system’ and calls for politicians to put ‘real reform’ on the agenda after May 7th

Nearly one in ten people will be forced to vote ‘tactically’ on May 7th, according to a new poll for the Electoral Reform Society [1].

9% of the public are planning on voting for a party that isn’t their first choice but has a better chance of winning, the poll by BMG Research [2] showed.

The figure – which could represent over two million voters on election day – is far greater than the 1-2% margin between the two main parties, meaning it could completely change the election result.

Women are more likely to be voting tactically, at 11%, compared to 7% of men, while young people are the most likely age group to be voting to keep out another candidate, with 13% saying they will do so.

Those in the South are the most likely to be voting for a candidate not of their first choice, at 11% - perhaps explained by Labour supporters voting tactically for the Liberal Democrats to ‘keep out’ Conservatives, while those in Wales are the least likely, at just 6%, perhaps due to high overall Labour support there.
This follows polling released on Thursday [3] which shows that 74% of the public support the principle of proportional voting, where votes are accurately translated into seats.

The representative poll of 1,013 adults was conducted by BMG Research between the 25th and 27th of April.

Darren Hughes, Deputy Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“The fact that nearly one in ten people will be voting for their second or even third choice party on May 7th is a damning indictment of our out-dated First Past the Post voting system. People should be able to vote with their hearts and heads – instead of having to choose between the two.

“In a democracy, the public should be able to vote for who they really believe in - and not feel forced to back a ‘lesser evil’ in order to keep out another candidate.

“Tactical voting is a symptom of an archaic electoral system designed for an era of two-party politics – an era which no longer exists. ‘Vote Party X, get Party Y’ is a slogan which should be consigned to the dustbin of history.

“We need a voting system where every vote counts, and where so-called ‘tactical voting’ is a thing of the past. A proportional electoral system would mean that not only would votes be accurately translated into seats, but people could always vote for their first choice – knowing their second preference could be taken into account if that candidate didn’t have enough support.

“With three quarters of the public backing fair votes, it’s time for politicians to put real reform on the agenda after May 7th so that people get the democracy they deserve.”

For quotes and information contact Josiah Mortimer (josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk/07454397816)

Notes

Three-quarters want a more proportional voting system, new poll shows

30th April 2015
30 Apr 2015

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Statement from the Electoral Reform Society, for Thursday 30 April 2015, 2:30pm

Contact: Josiah Mortimer (josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07454397816)

  • Poll shows 74% of public back principle of votes proportionally translating into seats
  • Support is consistent across all parties, age groups, regions and social backgrounds
  • Electoral Reform Society says ‘politicians need to put real reform back on the agenda’ ahead of what will be a ‘shockingly unfair result’ next Thursday

One week from the general election, a new poll has found that 74% of the British public back a more proportional voting system.

The results come before an election which could see Labour and the Conservatives win two-thirds of votes but over 80% of the seats in Parliament, while the Greens and UKIP could get a fifth of the vote and less than 1% of seats [1]. In Scotland, recent polling suggests the SNP – who support a fairer voting system - could win up to 100% of the seats on just over 50% of the vote [2].

The ERS poll by BMG Research [3] showed 74% agreeing or strongly agreeing that ‘the number of seats a party gets should broadly reflect its proportion of the total votes cast’, compared to just 6% who disagree.

Support for proportional votes is strong among supporters of all parties, with 79% of Conservative voters, 81% of Labour voters, 83% of Liberal Democrats, and 70% of UKIP supporters believing votes should accurately translate into seats.

Perhaps surprisingly, support for proportionality is strongest among older voters, at 79% for over 55s, compared to 70% for 35-54 year olds and 73% for those who are 18-34. 

Londoners – who already use a proportional system for the London Assembly - were most likely to support the principle of proportional votes, with 80% doing so, with those in the Midlands just behind at 79%.

Support was also strong across all social backgrounds, with 79% AB voters and 68% of DE voters in favour.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“This poll shows the public want their votes to be fairly reflected in Parliament. Voters from every party, every background and every region of the UK want to see an electoral system where votes are accurately translated into seats. But under our current outdated system, that’s simply not the case.

“Under our current First Past the Post voting system, a party can win the most votes but get fewer seats than their nearest rival. At the same time, the two biggest parties will get far more seats than their overall proportion of the vote. For many, that doesn’t sound like democracy.

“Politics has fundamentally changed over the past few years. We are now a truly multi-party country, as the leaders’ debates have shown. But how we vote hasn’t caught up. We’re trying to squeeze seven or more parties into an old-fashioned two-party system, and unsurprisingly, it’s not working. Under a proportional voting system, the public could support a range of parties and vote for who they believe in, knowing their vote would genuinely count.

“With 74% of the public backing proportional elections, it’s time for politicians to put real reform back on the agenda after May 7th. That could help restore faith in politics and ensure the public have the democracy they deserve.”

The representative poll was conducted online by BMG Research between the 25th and 27th April 2015. 1,013 adults took part.

For interviews and information contact Josiah Mortimer on josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07454397816

Notes

[1] See our recent report by Professor John Curtice on the ‘Lottery Election’ - http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/blog/pick-your-numbers

[2] STV/Ipsos-MORI poll - http://news.stv.tv/scotland-decides/318815-stvipsos-mori-poll-snp-set-to-win-all-scots-seats-at-general-election/

[3] http://www.bmgresearch.co.uk/

The Electoral Reform Society will be available for comment throughout the election period, including all night on May 7th and over the weekend. We will have a team of researchers analysing the results as they come in. Contact Will Brett (will.brett@electoral-reform.org.uk) for more information

Read the ERS’ recent ‘Predicting the Winners’ research on safe seats in this election. The Society has predicted the result in 368 seats in advance of the election to highlight the unfairness of the voting system - http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/blog/reading-tea-leaves

 

ERS calls the winner in 368 constituencies – four weeks before the election

10th April 2015
10 Apr 2015

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Statement from the Electoral Reform Society, 10:00 10/04/2015
Contact: Will Brett (will.brett@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07979 696 265)

The general election may be four weeks away, but the winners in over half of all the constituencies in the UK can already be safely called, new analysis of ‘safe seats’ by the Electoral Reform Society has found [1].

The ERS has confidently predicted the winners in 368 seats – 57% of the total – based on how ‘safe’ they were in 2010 and in line with current national and local opinion polls [2]. Their analysis finds:

• 25.9 million UK voters live in safe seats
• Of the 303 Conservative seats, 190 are safe. Of the 257 Labour seats, 150 are safe. And of the 56 Liberal Democrat seats, just 7 are safe
• Some regions have more safe seats than others. The regions with the most safe seats are North East England (79.3%), Northern Ireland (77.8%), East of England (70%), South East England (70.2%) and London (68.5%).

The ERS’s work highlights the fact that despite the overall outcome of the election being unclear, the majority of seats can still be predicted because of Westminster’s archaic First Past the Post voting system.

Small, single-member constituencies mean that rival parties don’t stand a chance of winning in hundreds of seats across the UK – even if they have significant support. Moreover, as the loss of safe seats is rare, parties target resources on a small number of floating voters in marginal seats – meaning they give up on millions of voters across the country [3].

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“The fact that we can firmly predict the outcome of over half of the seats being contested this May is a sorry indictment of our outdated voting system.

“The average constituency hasn’t changed hands since the 1960s, and some have been under the same party’s control since the reign of Queen Victoria. This is a huge disincentive for people to get out there and vote, and for other parties to challenge incumbents. We have a system which actively discourages voters and parties from taking part.
“We urgently need a fairer electoral system to give voice to the many millions of people in safe seats who are not being heard.”

“Predicting the winners in a majority of seats shouldn’t be possible in a truly dynamic and modern democracy. But sadly that’s exactly what we’ve been able to do. The UK needs a fair voting system to bring our politics into the 21st century and give us a Parliament that actually reflects people’s wishes.”

The ERS has also developed an online tool allowing people to see whether they live in a safe seat or not, simply by entering their postcode. This can be found at http://action.electoral-reform.org.uk/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=1754...

ENDS
For interviews and information contact Will Brett on will.brett@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07979 696 265

Notes to Editors

[1] Please see the spreadsheet attached for full data. Tab 1, “Individual constituencies”, shows how the ERS has categorised each constituency in the country. Tab 2, “Regional breakdown”, shows the number of safe seats (and number of electors in those seats) by region. Tab 4, “Party breakdown”, shows the number of safe seats currently held by Labour, the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats. Sources for the number of electors in each constituency are the Office for National Statistics in England, Wales and Northern Ireland, and the National Records of Scotland. English, Welsh and Northern Irish statistics are up to date for 2014, while Scottish stats date from 2013.

[2] Methodology: The ERS’s method for determining whether a seat should be classified as so ‘safe’ that we can confidently predict the winner is based on a combination of 2010 results and current opinion polling. As a baseline, Labour seats are classed as safe if the party had a majority of over 10% over their nearest rival in 2010, given the likely swing in their favour on 7th May. For the Conservatives, a seat is classed as safe if they had more than a 5% majority in 2010 where the Lib Dems were in second place (given the likely deterioration in the Lib Dems’ vote this year), and a 20% majority where Labour was in second place. Lib Dem seats with over a 20% majority over their nearest rival in 2010 are classed as safe. Constituency polling from Lord Ashcroft and Survation was used to detect where UKIP breakthroughs could conceivably take place, and any such seats were classed as not-safe. In addition, Labour’s top 100 target seats and the Conservatives’ top 40 target seats were automatically classified as non-safe. Where by-elections have seen parties take seats or come within 10% of the winner’s vote since 2010, those seats have also been classified non-safe. In the case of Scotland, due to the unpredictability created by the large poll swing towards SNP since 2010, all non-SNP seats were classified as marginal.

[3] See the ERS’s ‘Penny for your vote’ report on election spending for the 2010 General Election for a detailed description of how resources are targeted at marginal seats.

Download the Scottish version of this press release

 

How to do coalition and minority government: new report

24th March 2015
24 Mar 2015

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Press Release File: 

STRICTLY EMBARGOED: 00.01 Tuesday 24th March
Statement from the Electoral Reform Society
Contact: Will Brett (
will.brett@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07979 696 265)

 How to do coalition and minority government: new report

  • Senior politicians with experience of power-sharing arrangements offer their advice in new Electoral Reform Society report
  • Report comes after ERS polling finds strong support for parties to work together

A group of senior politicians has been brought together by the Electoral Reform Society to share their experience of working in coalition and minority government, in a new report entitled Working Together: lessons in how to share power.

The report offers personal insights from British and overseas politicians on how to negotiate and manage power-sharing arrangements. It comes just six weeks before expected talks between the parties following what is likely to be an inconclusive General Election result.

Contributions include:

  • Former whip and junior minister Jenny Willott giving candid insights into her experience of the Conservative-Liberal Democrat Westminster coalition
  • Rhodri Morgan, former First Minister of Wales, sharing his recollections of negotiating with Plaid Cymru and how to deal with the internal party politics of coalition
  • Andrew Burns, leader of Edinburgh City Council, on his experiences leading Scotland’s only Labour/SNP coalition council
  • Former Treasury special adviser Julia Goldsworthy on the machinery of government and how to make coalition work in Whitehall
  • Former First Minister of Scotland Lord Jack McConnell discussing his time in coalition with the Liberal Democrats, demonstrating that coalition can be long-lasting and achieve real policy change
  • Former New Zealand Labour minister Darren Hughes [3] on the different ways in which minority government can be made to work

There are also important contributions from abroad, including former Irish minister Ruairi Quinn, former Prime Minister of Lower Saxony David McAllister, and Professor Dennis Pilon of Canada.

 Working Together offers five key lessons for party leaders in May:

 1. For coalition to work, there needs to be a common sense of purpose – clear aims and a united vision for what the parties want to achieve together

2. It takes time to negotiate. Deciding how to govern a country is not something that should be rushed. And sometimes, the longer it takes, the better the outcomes

3. Parties need to sign off on any power-sharing arrangement if it is going to achieve legitimacy. This can take the form of special conferences or other means of gaining party members’ assent

4. Power-sharing comes in numerous forms. Each nation can develop models of coalition or minority government which fit with their own political culture     

5. Coalitions aren’t easy. They need constant dialogue, good personal relationships between protagonists and mechanisms for resolving disputes if they are going to work
 

The report comes after a recent Electoral Reform Society survey suggested that people want to see parties working together. In a poll of the 40 most marginal Conservative-Labour constituencies [2] (ie. the areas where the traditional two-party battle ought to be fiercest), the ERS found that:

  • 78% believe the Opposition should work with the government on issues they agree on (against just 9% who support the opposite)
  • 54% believe Parliament works best when no party is too dominant so that cross-party agreement is needed to pass laws (against just 28% who support the opposite)

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“As we near a General Election which is almost certain to produce a hung parliament, now is the right time to draw on politicians’ rich experience of power-sharing, both in the UK and across the world.

“There’s a common misconception that coalition and minority government is new to the UK. In fact we have a wealth of knowledge on power-sharing, from the devolved administrations, from local government and now even from Westminster. Those preparing to enter into negotiations could do worse than heed the advice of politicians with real experience of sharing power.”

Commenting on the trend towards power-sharing, Katie added:

“People’s wishes have changed. They want to see multiple parties competing for their votes, and then working together when they get to Westminster. That means coalition and minority government are likely to become the norm in the fut­ure, and not the exception.

“But we have an archaic voting system that tries to cram people’s varied wishes into a two-party framework. We need a more proportional electoral system so that power-sharing negotiations can be conducted on a legitimate basis, after people’s wishes at the ballot box have been accurately taken into account.”
 

ENDS

Notes

1. A strictly embargoed copy of the report, Working Together, is available at /ers/sites/default/files/Working Together ONLINE(1).pdf

2. ComRes interviewed online a representative sample of 1,002 GB adults living in the 40 most marginal constituencies where the Conservatives and Labour shared first and second place between them at the last General Election in 2010. Of these 40 constituencies, 25 currently have a Conservative MP and 15 currently have a Labour MP. Each constituency is represented in the sample equally, with results weighted to be representative of all adults in all 40 constituencies as a whole. Data were also weighted by past vote recall. Fieldwork took place from 15th to 24th November 2014.

3.Darren Hughes is also Deputy Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society.

4. ‘Working Together’ will be launched on the 24th March at the Boothroyd Room, Portcullis House in Westminster, 11:00-12:30, with Rhodri Morgan, Jenny Willott MP, and Sir George Young MP speaking on a panel chaired by Katie Ghose. Please RSVP to Will Brett (will.brett@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07979 696 265) if you would like to attend

For interviews and information contact Will Brett on will.brett@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07979 696 265

ERS predicts 44 more female MPs in the next parliament

12th March 2015
12 Mar 2015

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Press Release File: 

Statement from the Electoral Reform Society
Contact: Will Brett (
will.brett@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07979 696 265)

 ERS predicts 44 more female MPs in the next parliament
New report shows some progress on female representation likely in 2015, but our broken voting system is a major barrier to change

 The number of women in the next House of Commons could rise from 148 to 192, according to a new report by the Electoral Reform Society.

 This increase would be the fastest rate of progress since 1997, when the number of female MPs doubled. But according to the new ERS analysis, that rate would be much faster if it weren’t for our broken voting system.

 In the new report, Women in Westminster, the ERS finds [1] that:

  • 192 female MPs are likely to be elected in May 2015 (up from 148 now), representing 29.5% of the Commons. This is 6.6% up from the status quo
  • The UK could move from 56th to 36th in the world rankings for female parliamentary representation
  • The Greens, SNP and Labour outperform other parties in terms of female candidates
  • Our First Past the Post voting system is a major barrier to growth in women’s representation in Parliament; ‘seat-blocking’ incumbent male MPs continue to act as a brake on increased female representation, due to the prevalence of unchallenged ‘safe seats’

The report reveals that the Conservatives could go from a 16% female parliamentary party to 20%; Labour from 34% to 41%; and the Lib Dems could be left with just one female MP.

Women in Westminster also finds that the longer an MP has been in Parliament, the more likely he is to be male. Of those incumbent MPs first elected in 2001 who are standing again in 2015, just 14.6% are women; this figure drops to 10.5% of those who were first elected in 1987.

Darren Hughes, Deputy Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society said:

“One of the chief reasons why people are increasingly alienated from our politics is the fact that Westminster looks so little like the people it is there to represent. At the moment, barely one in five MPs are women, which simply isn’t good enough.

“We desperately need to see more women in Parliament, and a general election gives parties a chance to correct the imbalance. Our analysis suggests that parties are starting to step up to the challenge.

“But progress is still incredibly slow. It’s made slower by our broken voting system which creates hundreds of artificially safe seats and works against parties trying to force change.

“After this election, we want to see parties redouble their efforts to select women in winnable seats. But above all, we want to see the UK introduce a voting system that would give us a Parliament that more closely represents the people.”

Additional findings in Women in Westminster include:

  • In Labour’s top 100 target seats, 54% have female candidates; the Conservative equivalent number is 29%
  • In Labour’s top 100 safe seats, 36% have female candidates; the Conservative equivalent number is 19%

The East of England is likely to come bottom of the women’s representation league, with less than 19% of its MPs projected to be women

ENDS

For interviews and information contact Will Brett on will.brett@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07979 696 265

Notes to editors

1.       Methodology: The projection uses a uniform swing model based upon the latest academic projection from Stephen Fisher of Oxford University (available at http://electionsetc.com/). In each seat the national change in the vote for each party, compared to 2010, is added or subtracted from each of its candidates’ scores for our 2015 projection. Based on the winning candidate’s gender, the model then projects a final percentage of women in Parliament. For Scotland and Wales separate swings were created to take into account the different party systems.

2.       The Electoral Reform Society is a member of the Counting Women In coalition, which campaigns for 50:50 gender representation at all levels of national, local and devolved government. CWI works to ensure women have an equal presence and voice in British politics. CWI founding partners are the Electoral Reform Society, the Centre for Women and Democracy, the Hansard Society, the Fawcett Society and Unlock Democracy. More information at More information at www.countingwomenin.org

3.       Read the full report here: /ers/sites/default/files/Women in Westminster FINAL.pdf

If TV debates don’t happen it will be a ‘national embarrassment’

5th March 2015
5 Mar 2015

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If TV debates don’t happen it will be a ‘national embarrassment’

Commenting on continuing discussions around the timing and format of party leaders’ TV debates, Electoral Reform Society Chief Executive Katie Ghose said:

“This unseemly squabble over TV debates has to end now. In the run-up to an election that’s too close to call, the British public expect to hear from all the party leaders. Everyone involved needs to recognise that fact and come to an agreement before it’s too late.

“Compared to other advanced democracies around the world, Britain has been extremely late to the party when it comes to TV debates. It would be a national embarrassment if we end up being the first to leave that party as well. No TV debates in 2015 would be a backward step in terms of our democratic development.”

Commenting on how many parties should take part in the debates, Katie added:

“In an era of multi-party politics, people want to hear from as many parties as possible. To deny them that opportunity would be not only a massive missed opportunity but a grave mistake at a time of huge mistrust of mainstream politics.”

ENDS

ERS Cymru reaction to St David's Day Declaration

27th February 2015
27 Feb 2015

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Date/Dyddiad: 27 Feb 2015
Release/Rhyddhau: for immediate use
Contact/Cyswllt: Steve Brooks / 07525 619 622 / stephen.brooks@electoral-reform.org.uk 

 

Warm welcome for new Welsh powers over elections

ERS: Welsh votes at 16 'historic'

Calls made by the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) Cymru that power over elections should be devolved to Wales have today (Feb 27, 2015) been formally backed by the UK Government.

ERS Cymru has warmly welcomed the proposals which could pave the way for votes at 16, more Assembly Members and a fairer voting system.  The UK Government is proposing to devolve control over elections to the National Assembly which would see AMs handed power to:

  • Change the voting system for Assembly and local elections;
  • Introduce votes at 16 for Assembly and local elections;
  • Increase the number of AMs to cope with extra powers devolved since 1999;
  • Rename the National Assembly 'Welsh Parliament'.

Commenting on plans to devolve power over votes at 16, Steve Brooks, director of the Electoral Reform Society Cymru said: 

"Today's announcement marks a massive step forward for Welsh democracy, with an historic pledge on votes at 16.  We know that when people are engaged in politics at a younger age, they tend to be more engaged for life.  However, whilst the UK Government's announcement is welcome, the ball is still in their court.  Time is rapidly running out for 16 and 17 year olds to vote in next year's Assembly elections, and unless UK ministers take action now - Welsh young people will miss out".

Responding to the UK Government's wider proposals over elections, Steve Brooks added:

"It's right that power over Welsh elections is devolved to the Assembly.  With these new powers, the Assembly will be able to drag our steam age democracy into the 21st century and introduce a fair voting system for Welsh elections.

"Wales could lead the way by introducing modern methods like electronic voting, do more to make Polling Stations truly accessible for disabled people, and extend voting hours across several days or a weekend"

END

Notes

1. The Electoral Reform Society (ERS) Cymru is a membership based campaign and research organisation that aims to build a better democracy.  For details of our work visit www.electoral-reform.org.uk
2. English and Welsh language interviews are available on request.

Welsh devolution opens up debate on future of UK

27th February 2015
27 Feb 2015

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Commenting on this morning’s announcement [1] by the Prime Minister and Deputy Prime Minister that further powers will be devolved to Wales, Electoral Reform Society Chief Executive Katie Ghose said:

 “This announcement is clearly good news for Wales. It brings power closer to Welsh citizens and could pave the way for votes at 16 and a fairer voting system for the Assembly.

 “But the move also raises again the need for a serious debate over the constitutional future of the UK – where power lies, how we democratise our nations and what shape Britain will take in the years ahead.

 “This debate needs to be led by citizens – not politicians making back-room deals and delivering powers in dribs and drabs. After the Scottish independence referendum and with more devolution on the cards for Wales, it’s particularly important for the English to have their say on where power lies.

 “We urgently need a UK-wide, citizen-led Constitutional Convention to give people the power to decide our country’s future, rather than Britain arbitrarily drifting from change to change without democratic discussion.”

 ENDS

 For more information and interview, contact Will Brett (will.brett@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07979 696 265)

 Notes

 1.       See http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-politics-31646407

2.       The ERS is co-ordinating a large number of NGOs, faith groups, think-tanks and academics in campaigning for a UK-wide, citizen-led Constitutional Convention. For more about the campaign, visit constitutional-convention/