Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Alternative Vote’

Take Back Parliament

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 29th August, 2010

This lunchtime I spent a windy hour helping man a street stall outside Angel tube station put up by the Islington branch of Take Back Parliament, the coalition of NGOs and lobbying groups that is campaigning for a reform of Britain’s broken electoral and political system — and therefore for a ‘yes’ vote in next May’s referendum on the Alternative Vote (AV). The campaign’s colour is purple and its supporters are self-dubbed the Purple People. A big demonstration of them turned up in Smith Square in May, to lobby Nick Clegg and his LibDem colleagues to press ahead with electoral and parliamentary reforms. The Deputy Prime Minister Clegg is indeed in charge of the Coalition government’s programme of reform and will be playing a leading role in the ‘yes’ campaign in next year’s referendum. But the Take Back Parliament movement is strictly non-party political. The argument has to be won among supporters of all of Britain’s political parties, as well as the non-aligned. This lunchtime’s effort was a modest affair — a much bigger event is due to be held at the Bloomsbury Central Baptist Church on Tuesday evening — but every little helps. And it is imortant that the colour and the message start getting across to the British public — which is one reason why activists today and on other occasions festooned the surroundings with with purple ribbons.

Link: www.takebackparliament.com

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »

Voting for Change?

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 9th February, 2010

The British House of Commons will be voting later today on whether to hold a referendum on changing the country’s first-past-the-post system of electing Westminster MPs with the Alternative Vote (AV), which would give voters a slightly greater say in choosing their representative as they could order the preferences — 1, 2 etc. For most supporters of proportional representation — which includes a majority of Liberal Democrats — AV falls far short of the ideal. The Single Transferable Vote (used in Nothern Ireland, amongst other places) gives a much fairer outcome. Moreover, the AV system being suggested falls short even of AV-Plus (which involves a top-up list to ensure a more proportional outcome) which was recommended by the late Roy Jenkins and his Commission way back in 1998. That Commission was largely a result of Labour’s 1997 Manifesto commitment to consider introducing PR, but of course fairer vtoes then disappeared off the government’s agenda and have only been resuscitated by Gordon Brown in the twilight of the Labour administration in the hope that this might somehow assuage public anger at the MPs’ expenses scandal. Some bloggers argue that AV would be even worse than first-past-the-post, but I hope the vote in the House today does approve a referendum, as this will then open up the whole issue of electoral reform. Those of us who want STV will then have an opportunity to make our case on a matter previously dismissed by the mainstream British media as ‘marginal’. Indeed, I’ll be taking part in a workshop at the Friends Meeting House in London next week aimed at taking the debate further.

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »

Brown’s Electoral Reform Package Is Too Little, Too Late

Posted by jonathanfryer on Wednesday, 30th September, 2009

Gordon Brown 2In his speech to the Labour Party Conference in Brighton yesterday, Prime Minister Gordon Brown made a half-hearted attempt to seize the high ground on reforming Parliament by promising that if Labour is returned to power next year, it will organise a referendum to ask the public whether they want to stick with the present discredited first-past-the-post voting system for general elections, or switch to an Alternative Vote system (AV), such as that used in Australia.  But it would be wrong for electoral reformers to start popping the champagne corks. First, it is highly unlikely on present polling evidence that Labour will win the next election (at least with an outright majority), which makes the pledge worthless; if there is going to be a referendum held, it ought to be on the same day as the general election. Second, AV is not a huge advance on first-past-the-post. Yes, it gives voters a degree of preferential expression in constituencies in which no candidate gets over 50% of the vote. But it is still a majoritarian system, not a proportional one. And fair voting must be predominantly proportional.

So, what should we all do now? The first thing is to express disappointment at Mr Brown’s failure to tackle the problem of Britain’s political bankruptcy head-on. Then one can usefully sign up to the campaign being run by the NGO Unlock Democracy, which is calling for a citizens’ convention, which would give people the opportunity to help choose the electoral system they would like, rather than effectively imposing it from above (as New Labour loves to do). In the meantime, I shall be arguing for STV — the singe transferable vote, which gives electors a far greater chance of getting the elected representatives they want, as well as promoting greater diversity. If it’s good enough for the Irish — including the residents of Northern Ireland — why isn’t it good enough for mainland Britain’s general elections?

Link: www.unlockdemocracy.co.uk

Posted in Uncategorized | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a Comment »