ERS in the Press – April 2019

Josiah Mortimer, former Head of Communications

Posted on the 1st May 2019

As we geared up for a big round of local elections in England and Northern Ireland, we’ve been putting reform of Britain’s out-dated politics firmly on the agenda.

Fair votes now

As the Brexit process continued to stumble, we’ve been arguing that the deadlock shows it’s time for an overhaul of our broken politics.

We told the Times that: “A modern, proportional parliament could begin to bridge our toxic divides.”

And as we neared local elections, we spoke to the BBC about how local government’s one-person-takes-all system is damaging our democracy.

Growing calls for a shake-up of the voting system were covered by the Daily Express, with Darren Hughes saying: “Now is the time to move to a truly representative, participatory politics, where every vote counts and people know their voice will be heard.”

The Scottish press were particularly interested in our call for England to adopt Scotland’s STV model for local elections.

Voter ID

The government continues to push through it’s damaging voter ID plans – and we have been sounding the alarm. As Willie Sullivan said to the BBC: “Forcing all voters to show their papers at the polling station is a sledgehammer to crack a nut. This is a solution looking for a problem, and the government knows it.”

We fear that the policy will undermine the right to vote in the UK – a warning picked up by the Mirror and Guardian as well as the local government press.

Uncontested seats

Around 300 seats have been secured by parties and candidates ahead of May’s local elections – without any real contest, as we highlighted the scourge of uncontested seats under FPTP – see features in the i newspaper, ITV and Financial Times, where we hit out at ‘democracy deserts’.

The findings also led to a fantastic feature in the Economist and the Times.

It got plenty of local interest, including an editorial in the Yorkshire Post, while we did interviews on BBC West Midlands and BBC East Midlands.

Voters denied choice

More than 2.6m potential voters in 816 council seats across England will face a choice between just two candidates despite 40% of the public supporting parties that are not the “big two”, up from 20% in December, we revealed in a HuffPost exclusive.

It means more than 800,000 voters are being denied a real choice in the May local elections.

Registration revolution

The ERS’ Dr Jess Garland wrote in the Guardian that automatic voter registration could help the ‘missing millions’ be heard.

SNP conference

ERS Scotland colleagues held two fringes at the SNP’s conference in April, leading the agenda with a panel on citizens’ assemblies. The idea – and our event – was hailed in outlets from the Scotsman to the Daily Mail.

Faith in democracy

The Brexit shambles is just one of the many ways our democracy has broken down (though we have called for more clarity over the European elections).

This month we saw new Hansard research showing just how low faith in politics has fallen. Overall faith in British democracy has fallen to levels not seen in 16 years of the Hansard Society’s audits of political engagement – it’s now even lower than 2009 during the MPs expenses scandal.

Under a rotten voting system, a General Election won’t get politicians out of this mess, as we argued on HuffPost.

In a piece for the Scotsman, we argued the solution was bringing our democracy into the 21st century – including extending the franchise to 16 and 17 year olds. Darren Hughes spoke up for votes at 16 on across local BBC studios.

Finally, our friends at the union campaign for political reform, Politics for the Many, have also been speaking up about Westminster’s crumbling processes.

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