Jonathan Fryer

Katie Ghose to Spearhead Electoral Reform

Posted by jonathanfryer on Monday, 30th August, 2010

As both sides on the British electoral reform debate gear up for eight months of intense campaigning for and against adopting the Australian-style Alternative Vote (AV) system for British general elections, one of the key figures on the Yes side is now in place: the new Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, Katie Ghose. Katie is a barrister and an experenced NGO campaigner, having for the past five years been Director of the British Institute for Human Rights. She also worked previously for Age Concern and Citizens Advice as well as helping carry out the biggest ever independent review of Britain’s asylum system. Katie got the Electoral Reform Society job despite fierce competition, including from at least one former MP.

‘I’m joining the Society at an exciting time,’ Katie says. ‘The coming referendum will be the first time the British public have had the opportunity to decide how they elect the politicians who speak in their name. The year ahead will see a real national debate on the system that defines our politics. I look forward to working with the Society’s members, supporters, staff, trustees and all members of the Yes campaign to deliver an historic victory for political reform and for British voters.’

Britain currently uses a ‘first past the post’ system to elect Members of the House of Commons, which has tended to favour the larger parties unduly and occasionally to give outright victory to a party that received fewer votes than its main rival. At the May 2010 general election, no party secured a majority, which resulted in the UK’s first peacetime coalition, between the Conservatives and the smaller Liberal Democrats. The Liberal Democrats are firm supporters of electoral reform, ideally favouring the proportional system of the Single Transferable Vote (STV), as indeed does the Electoral Reform Society. Moreover, it is proposed that the House of Lords (the upper chamber, currently filled by appointed and some hereditary peers) might in future be elected by STV. Nonetheless, the LibDems and the ERS and other interested groups such as Unlock Democracy have all agreed to back the preferential AV system in the referendum. which is currently scheduled for next May. The (LibDem) Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg is expected to play a prominent role in promoting it, though the Yes campaign will be both all-party and non-party.

Link: www.electoral-reform.org.uk www.unlockdemocracy.org.uk

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