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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 http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/constitutional-convention/

27th February 2015
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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.

23rd February 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

19th February 2015
19
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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 http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/blog/deal-or-no-deal.

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

18th February 2015
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Feb 2015
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Press Release File: No more dodgy donors!
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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: http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/images/dynamicImages/file/GQR%20public%20poll%206%20March%202014(1).pdf

2.       Focus group research conducted by Greenberg Quinlan Rosner in January 2014

3.       Read the full report at http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/images/dynamicImages/file/Deal%20or%20No%20Deal%2017%20Feb%20FINAL.pdf

9th February 2015
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Feb 2015
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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 http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/images/dynamicImages/file/Lottery_Election_ONLINE_Feb2015.pdf

6th February 2015
6
Feb 2015
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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.

 

3rd February 2015
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Let the public decide who votes on English laws


Responding to William Hague’s announcement of the Conservative proposal for giving English MPs a say over England-only legislation, Darren Hughes, Deputy Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

 

“It may seem like the most natural thing in the world to give English MPs a veto over laws that affect only England. But the truth is this proposal would have huge implications for the way we are governed. It’s impossible to isolate this issue from wider constitutional questions about where power lies in the UK. We need to answer those questions in full, but that process cannot take place behind closed doors.”

 

“A citizen-led Convention would put people, not politicians, in the driving seat when it comes to settling our constitutional future. It’s the only way to answer these difficult questions and come to a settlement that commands legitimacy and respect. It’s time to put an end to these back-room deals and unilateral announcements, whether it’s the Conservatives in England or Labour in Scotland. Let’s give citizens a chance to decide where power should lie in the UK.”

 

ENDS

 

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

22nd January 2015
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Scottish devolution: what about the rest of the UK?


Today’s draft legislation opens door to UK-wide, citizen-led conversation to decide where power lies

 

Today’s publication of draft legislation to devolve powers to Scotland makes the case for a UK-wide, citizen-led Constitutional Convention ever more pressing, according to the Electoral Reform Society.

 

Commenting on today’s announcement, Darren Hughes, Deputy Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

 

“All the parties vowed to devolve more powers to Scotland, and no one is suggesting this should be delayed. But ultimately, today’s announcement raises more questions than it answers. These new powers will have huge implications for the rest of the UK, so this is only going to be the start of the debate about where power should lie.

 

“It is vital that this debate is not dominated by politicians striking up deals behind closed doors. We won’t get a settlement between the nations that commands legitimacy and respect unless it is reached with citizens in the driving seat. That’s why we need a UK-wide, citizen-led Constitutional Convention to give ordinary people the power to decide our country’s future.

 

“We saw in the Scottish independence referendum that when you give people a real say in where power should lie, they will turn out in droves. Let’s bring that energy to the rest of the UK and open up this important debate so citizens can have their say. It’s time for a Convention, and all the parties should commit to one.”

 

ENDS

22nd January 2015
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Jan 2015
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For immediate release, 22/01/2015

Statement from the Electoral Reform Society Scotland

Smith process has side-stepped citizens

As the Command Paper devolving the powers agreed by the Smith Commission to Scotland is published, ERS Scotland remains convinced that how these powers are implemented, and where power should lie in Scotland needs to be cross-examined by citizens.

 

Willie Sullivan, Director ERS Scotland said:

 

“The vibrant citizen led debate and surge in democratic participation that we saw during the referendum campaign demonstrated what our democracy could be given the right conditions. We all have a responsibility to sustain the levels of engagement seen over the past months. If we return to business as usual, we will have failed to grasp a once in a lifetime opportunity, we will be letting down the people and we may be missing a chance to revive democracy.

 

We are pleased that the command paper clearly recognises the need to continue to engage citizens in the process of discussing what happens next. [1] We hope today’s announcement does not end the debate about who has power but is the start of a truly participative process rather than an old-fashioned top down consultation exercise. We claim the people are sovereign in Scotland; we need a process that shows this is true.

 

We also welcome the recognition that more powers should not just stop at Holyrood, but that Scotland’s communities should be involved in decision making. It is an essential first step that the planned outreach is new and means something.

 

The inspirational energy that rose up across Scotland during the referendum deserves and expects to be fully involved in what happens next.”

 

ENDS

 

Contact: Willie Sullivan. M: 07940 523842

E: willie.sullivan@electoral-reform.org.uk

 

[1] From the Command Paper:

The UK Government will organise a series of events and activities across Scotland to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to have their say and to enhance their understanding of the enduring devolution settlement as we move forward to delivery of further devolution for Scotland. You can read more about this in the Next Steps section.

 

The Scottish Government will explore how they can transfer powers from the Scottish Parliament to empower local communities across Scotland, and the UK Government stands prepared to share their experiences to facilitate this process.

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