This week we supported a panel with Liberal Democrat Leader Ed Davey, as part of a rescheduled conference event. The ERS attends all the major party conferences, but this year’s Liberal Democrat conference was cancelled due to the Queen’s funeral. At the IPPR event, sponsored by ourselves and Unlock Democracy, Ed Davey set out his commitment to achieving electoral reform.
“I believe that reforming our voting system is the biggest and most important way to mend our broken politics, and I am determined to achieve it”
In his speech, Davey set out why democratic reform was a patriotic mission for him, one that would re-establish Britain’s democratic standing in the world after a period of democratic backsliding.
Electoral reform would create a democracy that works for everyone and end the “take them for granted” culture of our politics which leaves people feeling excluded, he said, noting that taking people for granted is born out of a system that gives MPs a job for life in safe seats.
Davey also outlined how electoral reform creates better policy outcomes, questioning whether our current system is fit for purpose to deliver on the economy, environment and social justice.
We also heard from Dr Hannah White of the Institute for Government who set out why electoral reform was important for good government.
Citing ERS research that shows that, before the last election, 192 seats hadn’t changed party hands since 1945, Dr White noted that safe seats can create complacency and reduce responsiveness amongst MPs.
She also pointed out how First Past the Post gives significant power to the executive over parliament, giving the government of the day majorities on standing and legislative committees, power over appointments to the Upper House and even power to decide how much time is given to backbench debates.
Dr White noted how our experience in recent years challenges some of the traditional arguments in favour of First Past the Post and pointed to the value of negotiation and debate when big policy decisions are being made.
Following the historic vote at Labour conference in support of PR, the memberships of every opposition party now support electoral reform. As Ed Davey said in his closing remarks “Let’s make the next general election the last fought under First Past the Post”.
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