As a new year begins, but the effects of the national lockdown continue, democratic issues continue to make the headlines – as we’ve kicked off the new year continuing our calls for fairer votes and a better democracy.
Time for a fairly elected second chamber
The fallout continued following the government’s Christmas surprise of a raft of new appointments to the bloated House of Lords, with the Mirror and the Express using our response in their piece on the new peers. We also provided comment on the Mirror’s investigation into non-voting peers. The research team’s analysis of the regional under-representation in the Lords also gained coverage in the Herald and the Birmingham Mail.
Meanwhile, we spoke out against the government’s plans to turn the clock back on our elections with Willie Sullivan using a letter in the Times to call on the government to reconsider imposing First Past the Post on Police and Crime Commissioner elections – a step backwards and a move away from the current supplementary vote.
We continued to work to increase pressure on the Labour Party to back fair votes and an elected second chamber. In LabourList we called on Keir Starmer to back ‘radical constitutional reforms’ following the publication of a new report on Britain’s constitutional settlement.
Citizens’ Assembly of Scotland
In Scotland we welcomed the release of the Scottish Citizen’s Assembly’s final report, heralding the nationwide deliberative exercise a ‘blueprint for democratic participation’ in the Scottish Herald and Sunday Sun and the National. The ERS led the call for a permanent ‘House of Citizens’ as a second chamber in Scotland, a key Assembly proposal. Polling found it was backed by nearly half of Scots, a call covered by Holyrood magazine and the Evening Express.
While England lags behind on online campaign regulation in Scotland we welcomed the introduction of digital imprints for election materials, with Darren Hughes calling it ‘much-needed progress’ in coverage in the Times.
Stronger democracy in Wales
As the government presses ahead with its boundary review we used the reduction of MPs in Wales to renew our calls for a larger Senedd – resulting in coverage in the Nation and the Caerphilly Observer.
Elsewhere in Wales there was good news as the joint ERS Cymru led Citizens Assembly project in Blaenau Gwent held its’ first meeting – attracting local coverage for the first deliberative democracy project of its kind in the borough.
With May’s elections just months away and ongoing rumours the polls might be postponed we issued a call for clarity on the government’s plans to ensure democracy is not an afterthought during the pandemic.
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