477,000 people…and five parties

Josiah Mortimer, former Head of Communications

Posted on the 18th May 2015

There aren’t many issues which bring together UKIP and the Green Party, or the Liberal Democrats and the SNP. But there is one which does – the need for a fair voting system.

That’s why figures from all these parties and Plaid Cymru came together today outside Parliament to highlight the need for electoral reform – before handing in to 10 Downing Street a petition totalling nearly half a million signatures (courtesy of multiple petitions from the ERS/Unlock DemocracyAvaaz, the Green Party38 Degrees and 16 year-old British Youth Council campaigner Owen Winter). Here’s what we handed in:

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

So, this was a truly cross-party affair, uniting all the major pro-reform parties. Attending the event were Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood, Green Party leader Natalie Bennett and Deputy Amelia Womack, the Liberal Democrats’ acting leader Baroness 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. Phew.

Why did we organise this? We’ve just seen 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. That’s not democracy.

It’s vital to bring together all these forces in favour of change and say: ‘Look – we might disagree on lots of things, but it’s clear that we can’t go on like this. In a modern democracy, seats should match the number of votes a party gets.’

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive here at the ERS, put it like this – “our two-party electoral system cannot cope with the fact that people want to vote for a variety of parties.” We have become a multi-party electorate – but one lumbered with an archaic way of electing MPs.

Today was pretty ground-breaking in terms of the campaign for fair votes. As Unlock Democracy’s Alex Runswick noted: “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.”

Let’s hope, as Parliament re-opens officially, that the new government does just that. Because the calls for fair votes aren’t going to die down anytime soon – and certainly not after today’s potentially game-changing show of unity.

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