ERS in the Press – October 2020

Josiah Mortimer, former Head of Communications

Posted on the 29th October 2020

This month has seen a renewed interest in proportional representation internationally. Willie Sullivan backed up the case for a fairer voting system in Canada, drawing on his experience in Scotland. “If you want a system of government that is better able to deal with divisions, you need a system that is based on consensus and representation of different views. Not just a black or white, wrong or right, we’re up-you’re down type of politics,” he told Canadian news outlets.

In New Zealand, ERS election research was cited as highlighting the true dangers of winner-takes-all – in contrast to PR. The election showed the value and power of equal votes.

ERS’ blogs were also picked up by the Guernsey press as they held a FPTP-on-overdrive election.

In the UK, the ERS were the only ones to draw the link over unfair distribution of Towns Fund spending, where millions were recently handed largely to marginal seats.

And we explained Labour’s newly-adopted STV voting system, as members pick the new National Executive Committee.

Voter ID back on the agenda

As the government confirms it plans to push ahead with mandatory voter ID, we put the issue back in the spotlight, as featured in the I newspaper.

We also brought together a coalition of organisations to explain the issue in this in-depth Byline investigation.

We’ll be following the conversation around voter suppression in the US with interest, with a large number of states having strict and often partisan ID policies in place this election.

Private member’s club

Darren Hughes spoke to GQ (sadly not about fashion trends) on the need for an overhaul of the second chamber. “You can understand why so many people feel ignored,” he said. “This pressure is going to come to the surface. Why not tackle it proactively and positively rather than deal with disaster and acrimony when people are fed up?”

Support for Lords reform came from all places, with Lord Jack McConnell saying he was ashamed of being part of the chamber, amid growing calls for it to be reformed. Several pieces such as this quoted our Survation poll which found just 12 percent of those polled back the Lords in its current state. In contrast, 43 percent say it must be reformed, while 28 percent say it should be scrapped altogether.

National spotlight

ERS Cymru re-launched their manifesto for Wales’ Senedd elections next May, with a full page spread in the Western Mail backing STV, greater diversity, and more resources for the Welsh Parliament.

October also saw ERS Cymru back calls for a return to virtual proceedings in the Senedd – a call that was heeded as Wales headed in to its ‘fire break’ lockdown.

In Scotland, Willie Sulilvan shined a light on corporate lobbying amid fears over legal loopholes.

Campaign rules

We kept pushing the crucial policies from the Democracy in the Dark report throughout October, as the Electoral Commission published new figures on spending which we pre-empted in our findings.

The ERS also spearheaded a letter in the FT marking the launch of the Centenary Action Group’s new report. We want to see greater transparency over candidate diversity.

And we kept working behind the scenes on vital consultations such as the Committee on Standards in Public Life’s review of the role of the Electoral Commission. UCL’s Constitution Unit drew on our evidence in this piece – well worth a read.

The pandemic has continued to highlight the dangers of hyper-centralised Westminster politics. ERS policies would go a long way to handing power back to voters across the UK. Over the next couple of months we’ll be reflecting on the US’ winner-takes-all system, exploring the need for virtual Parliament proceedings, sounding the alarm on voter ID, and continuing to push for PR both in Westminster and at a local level. Make sure you’re signed up for ERS updates so you can hear it first.

You can help get the case for reform in front of millions by supporting the work of the ERS media team – with membership of the ERS.

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