Press Releases

How to do coalition and minority government: new report

24th March 2015
24 Mar 2015

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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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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/

TV debates: time for parties to commit once and for all

23rd February 2015
23 Feb 2015

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TV debates: time for parties to commit once and for all


·         

ERS calls on all party leaders to back agreed proposals: “Now is the time for commitment, not copping out.”

Following the announcement that the broadcasters have agreed dates for the three televised General Election debates [1], Electoral Reform Society Deputy Chief Executive Darren Hughes said:

“We welcome today’s agreement by the broadcasters as another important step forward in getting the TV debates which the British public deserve.

“But it’s now up to the parties to commit, once and for all, to taking part. The time for negotiation is over. The debates must go on as planned, with no excuses and no backing out. That would be an insult to democracy.

“We want to see all the invited party leaders do the right thing and confirm that they will take part in the debates. The British public deserve the opportunity to hold the main party leaders to account in the run-up to the election, especially the parties that could form a government after May. Now is the time for commitment, not copping out.”

ENDS

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

Notes

[1] http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-31588700

Donations figures show spending arms race is intensifying

19th February 2015
19 Feb 2015

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Donations figures show spending arms race is intensifying

ERS highlights 31% donations increase compared to last pre-election year

Responding to today’s Electoral Commission figures [1], Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, commented:

“These figures show just how urgently we need party funding reform. Millionaires and big organisations continue to dominate party finance, and people aren’t happy about it.

“The fact that parties received donations of nearly £66m in 2014, compared to just £50m in 2009 – both pre-election years – shows that the arms race in election spending is intensifying, with damaging implications for our democracy.

“This huge 31% increase suggests the upcoming election will be more a contest between chequebooks than ideas, particularly after the government recently lifted the cap on campaign spending by nearly a quarter.

“We urgently need a proper cap on campaign spending to stop this ‘race to spend the most’ among the parties, alongside a donations cap to take the big money out of our politics.

“It’s time to clean up party funding once and for all, and put an end to the seemingly endless procession of donor scandals.”

ENDS

Footnotes

 

1.      

See http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/i-am-a/journalist/electoral-commission-media-centre/news-releases-donations/political-parties-latest-donations-and-borrowing-figures-published18

 

Notes to Editors:

·        

The Electoral Reform Society today released a new report on party funding, Deal or No Deal: How to put an end to party funding scandals. We show that 75% believe big donors have too much influence on our political parties; 65% believe party donors can effectively buy knighthoods and other honours; and 61% believe the system of party funding is corrupt and should be changed The report advocates cap on the amount that anyone can donate to a party, to end the big-donor culture that has led to scandal after scandal; aincreased element of public funding for parties, to bring the UK into line with other advanced democracies; and a lower cap on the amount that parties are allowed to spend, to end the arms race between parties at election time. For more about the report, see blog/deal-or-no-deal.

·        

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

No more dodgy donors!

18th February 2015
18 Feb 2015

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The recent spate of party donor scandals has led to renewed calls for reform of the party funding system.

 

A new report from the Electoral Reform Society (Deal or No Deal: How to put an end to party funding scandals) warns that another scandal is just around the corner unless urgent action is taken.

 

The report highlights 2014 ERS polling [1] which shows that:

 

·        

75% believe big donors have too much influence on our political parties

·        

65% believe party donors can effectively buy knighthoods and other honours

·        

61% believe the system of party funding is corrupt and should be changed

 

It goes on to propose three solutions, all of which have been recommended by previous committees looking into party funding and have been shown by ERS polling and focus group research [2] to command support from the public. These are:

 

·        

A cap on the amount that anyone can donate to a party, to end the big-donor culture that has led to scandal after scandal

·        

An increased element of public funding for parties, to bring the UK into line with other advanced democracies

·        

A cap on the amount that parties are allowed to spend, to end the arms race between parties at election time

 

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

 

The public are sick to death of party funding scandals, and the latest revelations have simply added more fuel to the fire.

 

“Whatever the outcome in May, the next government has to get to grips with the way parties are funded. The litany of suspect deals and shady funding practices revealed over the past few years shows that unless serious action is taken, the next scandal will be just around the corner.

 

“There is huge public support for doing what it takes to get big money out of politics, so whichever party takes a lead on this could stand to benefit at the polls.”

 

“The UK is way behind the rest of Europe on this, spending just a tenth of the European average on supporting parties and doing far less than most countries when it comes to limiting the influence of wealthy donors.

 

“It’s time we caught up with the modern world and cleaned up party funding once and for all.”
 

1.      

Polling conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner. 1,402 respondents were surveyed between 24 and 27 February 2014. See full breakdown here: /sites/default/files/GQR public poll 6 March 2014(1).pdf

2.      

Focus group research conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner in January 2014

3.      

Read the full report at /sites/default/files/Deal or No Deal 17 Feb FINAL.pdf

Who wants to play the Lottery Election?

9th February 2015
9 Feb 2015

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Contact Tel: 
07979696265

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

 

Who wants to play the Lottery Election?

 

Six-party politics will cause our voting system to produce an unpredictable and contentious result, according to new ERS-commissioned report by Prof John Curtice

 

With six parties likely to command a decent chunk of the vote, the result of the 2015 general election is highly unpredictable, according to a new analysis of polling data by Professor John Curtice, published today by the Electoral Reform Society.

The new report, entitled The Lottery Election, shows that relatively small changes in the electoral map could have a significant impact on the outcome, thanks to the use of First Past the Post. By taking the current polling situation and constructing scenarios of how those polls might change between now and May, Prof Curtice finds that:

  • It will probably be easier for Labour to win a majority than it will be for the Conservatives. Even with its difficulties in Scotland, Labour is likely to need a 5 point lead to win a majority, whereas the Conservatives will require a 7 point one.
  • A 7 point improvement in the Lib Dem vote to 15% would have little effect on Labour’s chances of a majority, but means the Conservatives would need as much as a 10-point lead [1]
  • UKIP could come 6th in seats but 3rd in votes, and SNP could come 6th in votes but 3rd in seats
  • The SNP could get a game-changing 50-odd seats or a paltry few depending on relatively small shifts in the vote [2]
     

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

“In 2015, our voting system is going to be revealed for what it is – a relic from another age. It was always unfair, but with six parties commanding a decent share of the vote, it’s starting to look ridiculous.

“The final outcome of the election will bear little relation to voters’ actual choices, and people simply won’t put up with that. There’s going to be a huge discrepancy between votes cast and seats won. And in some places we’re going to see MPs elected with the support of just one in six people [3].

“The make-up of the government should be based on people’s wishes, not the random effects of a broken voting system. It’s starting to look less like an election, and more like a lottery.”

Professor John Curtice said:

“First Past the Post may not be meant to be proportional, but it is meant to give Labour and the Conservatives an equal chance of winning. However, it looks as though Labour could win on a lower share of the vote than the Conservatives would need  – though at the moment neither party looks likely to win the majority that it was once presumed First Past the Post would always deliver.

“Meanwhile, although the system looks set to be tough on some smaller parties, such as UKIP and the Greens, it could prove quite generous to others, most notably the SNP. As a result, we should not be surprised if there is a renewed debate about electoral reform after May. First Past the Post may be found to have produced an outcome at Westminster that even advocates of the system begin to question.”

ENDS

Notes:

  1. Takes January 2015 poll of polls as baseline, and assumes all other parties achieve a vote equivalent to their current polling
  2. Assumes Conservatives in Scotland poll at 14% and Lib Dems at 5%, as per current polling situation (January 2015)
  3. See http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/mps-could-be-elected-with-the-backing-of-just-one-in-six-voters-9971341.html
  4. Read the full report at /sites/default/files/Lottery_Election_ONLINE_Feb2015.pdf

Let's Get Lobbying Law Right in Scotland

6th February 2015
6 Feb 2015
Tags: 
scotland

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 LET’S GET LOBBYING LAW RIGHT IN SCOTLAND

 

ERS Scotland welcomes the Scottish Parliament Standards, Procedures and Public Appointments Committee report today recommending the introduction of a register of lobbying activity for the Scottish Parliament and Scottish Government. We would highlight the breadth of the Committee inquiry and its commitment to full consultation using a variety of channels including social media. This is in stark contrast to the rushed lobbying law introduced last year at Westminster which risks gagging campaigning groups in the run up to elections.

 Willie Sullivan, Director of the Society in Scotland said:

 “This welcome recommendation, alongside the devolution of election spending, means Scotland can avoid the dog’s breakfast that is the UK Lobbying Act and instead introduce a decent register of lobbying activity that allows the workings of our democracy to be as transparent as possible.

 “Scotland has witnessed a democratic awakening. Our citizens are talking politics and are keen to take part in our democracy. Additionally, the Scottish Parliament is set to be given more say in the decisions that affect the lives of Scots. Now is the time to ensure those decisions are made with the utmost transparency. This will help make sure our citizens will have faith in those decisions.”

 Mr Sullivan added:

 “Lobbying ‘scandals’ are by their nature hidden. The aim of a lobbying register is to prevent these scandals before they arise, rather than to expose them once they have happened. 

 “A register of lobbyists, detailing who is meeting with whom to discuss what, and how much they are spending, will make it clear where there may be influence on our politicians and decision makers.

 “Whether there is undue influence on debates, policy and legislation is not the question – there may well not be - but we should be sure that there isn’t.”

 ENDS

 Contact: Willie Sullivan. M: 0794 052 3842 E: willie.sullivan@electoral-reform.org.uk or

Juliet Swann. E: juliet.swann@electoral-reform.org.uk

 Notes

 The SPPA report can be found here http://www.scottish.parliament.uk/S4_StandardsProceduresandPublicAppointmentsCommittee/Reports/Final_report_from_APS.pdf

 The Electoral Reform Society is one of a number of civil society groups calling for the repeal of Part 2 of the Transparency of Lobbying, Non-Party Campaigning and Trade Union Administration Act 2014. The Act places disproportionate burdens on campaigning organisations and does not effectively regulate lobbying. With the devolution of Parts 5 and 6 of Political Parties Elections and Referendums Act 2000, as included in the draft clause 7 (Campaign and controlled expenditure) of the Smith Command Paper, the Scottish Parliament could throw out this law and instead introduce a proportionate, useful and fair register of lobbying activity.