Darren Hughes, Chief Executive
Last year was one of unprecedented turbulence in British politics. Although 2023 has been relatively calmer than 2022, it is clear that our politics has been left in a weakened state. The story of this parliament is one where the chaos caused by First Past the Post has been exposed and is now writ large.
The Lords has become mired in yet more scandals and the succession of short-term prime ministers – and their resignation honours lists – has caused the second largest legislative chamber in the world to become even more bloated.
The introduction of voter ID in May saw thousands of people barred from exercising their fundamental democratic right at the local elections. There is a danger many more could be caught out at the General Election when many parts of the country will be facing the new requirements for the first time. Our democracy should be making voting more accessible and increasing turn-out, not putting up new barriers between people and the ballot box.
The last years have shown the size of the task of reforming democracy in front of us, and it is not one we can succeed in alone. Which is why our work with our many partners is vital to achieving the meaningful change we all want. For instance, our work with Labour for a New Democracy, the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform and Politics for the Many has seen the cause of electoral reform become increasingly salient in the Labour Party and Trade Union movement. Work with Conservative Action for Electoral Reform has built the case on the centre right of politics, whereas our work with Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform has kept the standard flying in the centre ground of politics.
Meanwhile, we have worked with think tanks such as IPPR, Demos and the Institute for Government, to inform the political discourse around electoral reform. We have also worked closely with partners in the democracy sector such as Unlock Democracy, Make Votes Matter and Compass to press the case for electoral reform nationally and also highlight the damage voter ID is doing.
None of this would be possible without the help of members and supporters and their contributions each month enables the work we do. They are the passionate individual advocates who make the case for electoral and democratic reform every day in their communities.
If the last few years have shown up the structural problems with our politics, then 2024 presents a serious chance to start to fix them. The job for us now is to show that a better future is possible. We know that the task ahead is not an easy one and that change rarely happens in the way we envisage.
Finally, some thanks. Firstly, to the staff team at ERS who work with so much energy and commitment to our cause. They care about the state of politics right across the United Kingdom and bring creative ideas to achieve our strategic plan.
Secondly, to the board of ERS – the elected members of the Society who volunteer to take on a valuable governance role for our organisation. A special thanks to Ruth Kelly, Jon Walsh, Andrew Copson, Michael Meadowcroft and Richard Wood who are leaving.
Ruth took over as chair during Covid and was critical in guiding us through our strategic plan for this parliament and in the setting up of the ERS Fund. Jon is a previous chair who oversaw the sale of our shares in ERSL that enabled us to have a new investment fund. He dedicated a huge amount of personal time on this for the benefit of the Society. Andrew has led significant changes to the financial governance and scrutiny of the finances, including setting up our new Finance, Audit, Investment and Risk (FAIR) committee. Michael has been a leader in the electoral reform movement for decades – as a former chair of ERS, in Parliament, internationally, and as a writer and speaker. Richard stepped up with a few days notice to join the board and has made a thoughtful and diligent contribution. I know all of them will remain active members of the Society.