July was a busy month in Westminster before MPs headed off for the summer recess. Brexit and the Conservative leadership election dominated the headlines – and we found plenty of opportunities to keep reform of Britain’s out-dated politics firmly on the agenda.
July saw not one but two leadership elections taking place in Parliament which saw Boris Johnson and Jo Swinson elected. Earlier in the month we spoke to both Liberal Democrat leadership candidates about their plans for democratic reform. (In case you missed it, Darren Hughes also wrote in June about the constitutional questions thrown up by the Conservative leadership election for Times Red Box.)
Fair Votes Now
We spent June highlighting the fragmenting nature of our politics as support for the two main parties continued to slide. This trend has continued into July with polls showing support for the two main parties remaining low and with voters are flocking to other parties the case for PR in Westminster is stronger than ever.
Jess Blair wrote a letter to the Times calling for a proportional system in Westminster making the argument that “Far from being a “strong and stable” system, first past the post is now an engine of uncertainty.”
Voter ID Trials
The Electoral Commission released its report on their Voter ID trials that took place during May’s local elections – and it was once again clear that voters had lost out. We criticised the government’s unjustifiable push for this ‘show your papers’ ID policy – not least given the fact the trials saw over 700 people turned away and prevented from voting. Our commentary appeared in the Mirror, PoliticsHome and LocalGov as well as locally in the Mid Sussex Times and elsewhere.
Local Election Analysis
To mark the 15 year anniversary of the introduction of proportional representation for Scottish local elections, we’ve released new analysis (covered by local government press) revealing the stark gap between the fairness of representation in Scotland and England.
The research was picked up by the Swindon Advertiser and the Blackpool Gazette who looked at the disproportionate results in their local areas.
In July we held an event looking at the proposed Citizens’ Assembly on Scotland’s future – an opportunity to debate and discuss the how the process will work and how best to encourage citizen engagement on issues facing Scotland.
Our event was a top story in Scotland, covered by The Times, The National, The Herald, and The Scotsman. The ERS’ Josiah Mortimer also wrote about it for CommonSpace.
Labour Party Policy
We made a submission to the Labour Party’s National Policy Forum consultation calling for Labour to back proportional representation – the Single Transferable Vote – and House of Lords reform. Jess Blair wrote about the submission for LabourList.
House of Lords
The scandals in the Lords showed no signs of abating. A new investigation by the Daily Mail uncovered the use of a leave of absence by peers which allows them to take indefinite time away from the chamber whilst keeping their titles.
The report named 17 absent peers using the loophole. ERS Chief Executive Darren Hughes commented: “These findings make the House of Lords look more like a private members’ club than ever – with members keeping their titles while never having to turn up.”
As part of the Politics for the Many campaign, spokesperson Lynn Henderson wrote a piece for Open Democracy, discussing new figures which showed how unrepresentative the House of Lords is. She points out the case for a total overhaul of the chamber to create an elected and accountable upper house. The calls followed new research highlighted last month, which showed the extent that the House of Lords fails to reflect the British public.