ERS in the Press – March 2019

Electoral Reform Society,

Posted on the 29th March 2019

Brexit might be dominating the news, but the rolling constitutional crisis that we call Westminster is still up to its usual tricks. We’ve spent the last month getting press attention for some of our biggest campaigns.

House of Lords reform was a top story of Scottish Labour Conference this year, as Baroness Bryan launched official Labour calls for an overhaul of the House of Lords at our ERS Scotland fringe. It was picked up by the Herald too, while fresh polling by us showed the scale of support for a fairly-elected second chamber. We’ve also written up why we see Lords reform as the gateway to further constitutional reform in the UK.

ERS Scotland also wrote to the Herald on Sunday outlining why Westminster’s broken voting system has contributed to our current political crisis.

Money in Politics

The Times has been digging into the dangers of ‘dark money’ this month – unregulated cash flowing into our politics. Following our publication of Reining in the Political ‘Wild West’: Campaign Rules for the 21st Century in February, we were at the forefront of calls to bring our campaign rules and finance into the 21st century – with full transparency for voters.

Key among these calls was for changes to the currently dangerous Overseas Electors Bill, which would lift the limit on how long Brits are able to donate to parties while living abroad. The Scotsman, The Times and The Guardian all covered our warnings.

House of Lords

A letter from a key Commons committee this month was scathing about the government’s inaction when it comes to reforming the second chamber. We argued in The Times it’s time for ministers to listen and overhaul this taxpayer-funded private members’ club.

We also drew attention – with the help of The Mirror – to a new hereditary peer who has joined the Lords. It’s a scandal hereditary Lords are still guaranteed representation in our Parliament and make up roughly ten per cent of the House of Lords. A percentage set to increase if plans to reduce the overall numbers of peers don’t include the hereditaries.

We were featured in PoliticsHome for our efforts to back a democratic revising chamber.

Politics for the Many

Politics for the Many – the trade union campaign for political reform – continue to push the case for an overhaul of the second chamber, writing with passion in Red Pepper magazine; Corbyn’s former union adviser, Nancy Platts, says even peers are now rising up for reform.

However, a handful of hereditary peers are stymieing attempts to end the farce of hereditary peer by-elections, as we revealed in PoliticsHome. The Scotsman’s Lesley Riddoch was scathing at unelected aristocrats using their privileges to protect their position.

Improving local democracy

ERS Scotland continues their tour of councils to build support for genuinely ‘local’ government. With reforms coming up, the team in Scotland have been looking at how more deliberative structures can be put in place.

In England, Darren Hughes wrote in the Local Government Chronicle about ministers’ worrying move to cut back its citizens’ assembly programme for local councils – which would have been a real innovation in local problem-solving on a wide range of difficult issues.

Fighting the voter ban

Sadly efforts to legally challenge dangerous mandatory voter ID plans did not succeed. But, this month we highlighted new figures from the Electoral Commission in The Mirror, showing zero evidence of widespread fraud last year – further undermining the government’s attempts to impose mandatory voter ID.

Finally we’ve also had broadcast interviews, with our Chief Executive Darren Hughes on Sky News talking about campaign regulation and TalkRadio.

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