As the government continues to implement new restrictions to fight the second wave of coronavirus, the cracks in Britain’s political system continue to grow behind the curtain.
In September we released new research on party spending at the last general election, and we saw an increased interest in Lords reform as Boris Johnson’s latest set of appointments took their seats in the unelected house.
Democracy in the Dark
Our new report, commissioned by the ERS and written by leading election finance experts, looks at the state of online campaigning in the 2019 general election – showing a surge in secretive digital ads and ‘outrider’ non-party groups online.
The report hit the headlines on the BBC news homepage, the Mirror and in the Independent as well as getting a mention in the House of Commons. Darren Hughes wrote about the report’s findings and the need to clean up the Wild West of online campaigning for politics.co.uk whilst the report’s authors Dr Katharine Dommett and Dr Sam Power shared their findings with a piece for ConservativeHome. Dr Sam Power also talked about the research on BBC Radio Scotland.
Labour for a New Democracy
Party conferences might not be taking place in physical form but we still took part (remotely) in the launch of Labour for a New Democracy as part of Labour’s Connected Event.
The launch of the new group, which brings together a range of campaigners including the ERS, Make Votes Matter, Politics for the Many and Compass with the aim of getting the party to back electoral reform, was covered in LabourList and the Independent.
House of Lords
We started the month by publishing new polling that found 71% of people now support an overhaul of Britain’s bloated upper house with just 12% supporting the Lords in its current form. The same poll found that more than four in 10 respondents were opposed to Boris Johnson’s 36 new appointments to the second chamber with just 19% of people supporting the new additions.
The show of public support for reform was covered across the national press including the Mirror and the Express. Our comment and research was also used in a number of pieces exploring the cost of unelected peers in the Express, the Herald. Darren Hughes also sat down with the Express for an interview making the case for why Lords reform must be a priority for the government to fix our broken Westminster politics.
ERS Cymru backed calls from the Senedd’s Committee on Senedd Electoral Reform to increase the size of the Welsh Parliament with Director Jess Blair making the case that “stronger scrutiny pays for itself.” She added: “Let’s boost Welsh democracy and build a Senedd fit for the challenges of the future.” ERS support for the proposals, which also includes introducing a Single Transferable Vote (STV) electoral system at elections were also covered the South Wales Argus.
Elsewhere the ERS published new research looking at the shift in support for Labour in the so-called Red Wall seats it lost in 2019. Research Officer, Ian Simpson wrote a piece on his findings for the LSE which was later covered by the New Statesman.
We also spoke out in the Municipal Journal about the political use of the New Towns Fund, calling for proportional representation to avoid the power and sway of swing seats being prioritised for government funds for political gain.