Darren Hughes, Chief Executive
This year has undoubtedly been one of the most turbulent years in modern political history, but one that has given democratic reformers both the justification for the need for a new kind of politics but also much cause for hope that change is indeed possible.
At the start of the year, we had one prime minister, nobody would have predicted by the end we’d have had two more. The chaos of First Past the Post is clear for all to see. We’re ending 2022 facing a range of crises – from the rising cost of living to energy prices and climate change – each in different ways a symptom of Westminster’s broken politics.
We’ve seen what happens where our winner-takes-all electoral system, unearned one-party majorities and command and control politics lead to a culture of sleaze, and cronyism – where internal party battles take precedence over the priorities of ordinary people.
But more and more people are seeing that reform of our political system is not just a nice-to-have, but the foundation for achieving the kind of change we need to tackle the problems we face as a country. An electoral system that represents the views of every voter is a vital part of a democracy that delivers for every voter too.
This year was the first full year of our new strategic plan – A Future Built on Democracy – and with it a renewed focus on both building a case for reform and setting out the policies our politics needs. In this time, we’ve seen real success and new opportunities to deliver on our issues. From Labour’s support for proportional representation at this year’s party conference to an agreement on Senedd reforms in Wales – the green shoots of a fairer democracy are there to see.
We’re proud to have helped nurture these changes through our work throughout 2022. By using our voice in the media, developing in-depth research and policy, campaigning and influencing and making the case online we’ve led the charge for reform.
But we know we cannot achieve the change we want to see alone. This year we’ve worked alongside many others to campaign for a better politics. We’ve worked with organisations such as the IPPR, Conservative Action for Electoral Reform and many others. As part of the Labour for a New Democracy coalition alongside groups such as the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform, Politics for the Many, Make Votes Matter we’ve driven PR up Labour’s agenda and secured a historic victory in support for PR within the party. As a founding member of the Democracy Defence Coalition, we’ve worked with Fair Vote, Open Britain and Unlock Democracy to campaign against the government’s dangerous plans for voter ID in the Elections Bill. As part of the new Democracy Network, chaired by our own Dr Jess Garland, we’ve come together with other organisations that share our values to put democracy at the centre of political debate.
And of course, nothing we do would be possible without the continued support of our members and supporters. Over 5,400 of you continue to support our work each month and act as cheerleaders for reform in your communities across the country. Your continued support in these difficult times is more appreciated than ever.
But we know the difficulties we face in delivering change. Honesty is one of the three values that underpin our work and it would be remiss of us not to be upfront about the challenges we face as the opportunity for reform continues to grow.
As the case for reform builds, so will its opposition as attacks from supporters of the status quo continue to build with it. That’s why we must continue to champion our cause and make the case for reform wherever and whenever we can.
The ERS’s fundamental belief that politics can be better than it is feels truer than it’s ever been.
As we look back on what we’ve achieved this year and our plans for the year ahead, we do so knowing that our vision for a democracy fit for the 21st Century is all the more important.