Layla Moran MP: It’s time to build a cross-party consensus for electoral reform

Guest Author, the views expressed are those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of the Electoral Reform Society.

Posted on the 4th August 2020

The Electoral Reform Society offers a space to party leadership candidates to put forward their visions for democracy during internal elections.

This is a piece from Layla Moran MP, who is running to be leader of the Liberal Democrats. Ed Davey MP has also written a piece here.

Our electoral system is in dire need of reform. At the moment, millions of voters are being left effectively voiceless as they live in safe seats where their vote is unlikely to have any influence on the outcome. We desperately need to build a democracy that is fit for the 21st century and in which every vote really counts.

As leader of the Liberal Democrats, I will make it a priority to work with other parties to establish a fair voting system, replace the House of Lords with an elected second chamber and give young people a voice and the right to vote at 16 years old.

The results of last year’s general election speak for themselves. On average it took 38,300 votes to elect each Conservative MP, 50,817 to elect each Labour MP, and just 25,882 for each SNP MP. This compares to 334,122 votes to elect each Liberal Democrat MP, and 864,743 to elect the one Green MP.

The Liberal Democrats actually saw their vote share increase by 4.2% to 11.5% across the UK, but won just 1.7% of seats in the Commons. This is clearly a sign of a system that isn’t working properly. Since then, the coronavirus crisis has exposed the flaws in a system in which power is too centralised in Westminster, with a top-down approach in which local authorities and local government are too often left out of important decision-making.

Proportional Representation (PR), by the single transferable vote, for all elections in the UK has been a core proposal of the Liberal Democrat manifesto at every election the party has ever fought.

The gross mismanagement of the UK’s political and economic systems by single-party governments since the end of the coalition in 2015 has demonstrated the need for PR even more strongly. Under my leadership the Liberal Democrats would continue to argue for PR, as we have always done.

But it’s also crucial that we will build a cross-party consensus to help deliver much-needed electoral reform. In advance of the 1997 election the Liberal Democrats successfully reached an agreement with the Labour Party over a package of constitutional reforms.

Most of these were then implemented by the Labour government after the election, including devolution for Scotland and Wales, reforms to the House of Lords and proportional representation for European elections. This was an important success and one that we should seek to build upon, ideally with the involvement of more opposition parties.

Under my leadership, the Liberal Democrats would therefore look to establish a common cross-party statement of support for legislation for PR ahead of the next elections.

The aim would be to establish a firm pre-election commitment to PR with support from across different parties. Keir Starmer has voiced his support for a fairer, proportional voting system, and it’s becoming clear that Labour is being increasingly disadvantaged by First Past the Post. This means there is an important opportunity for all those who believe in electoral reform to deliver on it.

I believe that under my leadership, the Liberal Democrats would be better placed to have these discussions with Labour and other political parties, and to help build a cross-party consensus for electoral reform.

Electing me as leader would send a strong signal that the Liberal Democrats are refreshed as a party and have put coalition behind us. That is why I am urging all those who believe strongly in electoral reform to support me at this election, so we can move forward together as a country and build a voting system in which everyone has a voice.

Layla Moran MP is running to be leader of the Liberal Democrats.

The views presented do not necessarily represent the view of the ERS, but are put forward as part of the political debate. 

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