Electoral Reform - a West Midlands Politics of Networks Special Event

Despite the AV referendum result, the clamour for electoral reform didn’t die- it merely suffered a flesh wound. This was clear from the numbers of people that signed the Change.org petition created before the general election by 16 year old Owen Winter, a Cornish MYP. Then, the general election occurred- we all now know that the 2015 general election was the most disproportionate ever. Since then, the calls for electoral reform have got ever louder, despite the natural reaction of the governing Conservative party to brickbat dissent against First-Past-the-Post- especially so in Birmingham.

The Second City is a bit of a strange case: if you remove the Conservative stronghold Sutton Coldfield (an understatement in itself), the remaining nine constituencies effectively represent a one party state for Labour, despite their share of the vote being less than half overall. The Conservatives gained nearly a fifth of the popular vote amongst Brummies, but got nowhere; UKIP and the Greens were never in contention for any of the seats; finally, John Hemming’s removal as MP for Yardley was the zenith of a rotten night for the Liberal Democrats. Meanwhile, the Labour Party further secured their Birmingham City Council majority- right now, their biggest enemies are their own side! 

Despite the dominance of a political party which could realistically represent their ambitions in their home city, Birmingham’s progressives have, however, actively called for serious consideration of electoral reform, especially for changing our electoral system to that of a proportional nature. Over the last year, I have been working with Compass West Midlands, a local group affiliated to the organisation working towards a ‘Good Society’, to develop the Politics of Networks.  This initiative brings like-minded people together, leaving tribal party loyalties at the door, focussing on agreement and consensus rather than picking away at the tiniest of arguments.

In seeking to develop a new way of politics, Politics of Networks members have devised a series of Core Beliefs, in order to build a new narrative to challenge prevailing orthodoxies- to show that there are alternative ways of thinking. The group summed up the core view on political and constitutional issues with the simple sentence: 

“Democracy gives us all a say and should be the basis for all public decision-making.” 

When the Core Beliefs were first unveiled last month, members of the public were asked to pick which of the Beliefs they most agreed with, and felt were important. If a First-Past-The-Post election had been run, then the above Belief would have been the most popular. It is time to focus on the issue which people are clearly fired up about.

The Electoral Reform Special will be held at the Impact Hub in central Birmingham on the evening of Tuesday 17th November. Speakers from Unlock Democracy, the Voting Reform Team, the Electoral Reform Society and the 50:50 Equal Representation campaign will discuss their campaigns on gender equality in the House of Commons, gaining voting reform in local and national elections and other vital constitutional issues which do need fixing. The speakers will help attendees consider how they can best campaign on any and all these issues after they’ve left the Hub. 

There is a huge appetite for change, especially for electoral reform in this country- it’s time to harness it and unlock the change we all need.

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Guest blogger; Tom Pratt, Unlock Democracy Birmingham