Guest blog from Tom Pratt chair of Unlock Democracy Birmingham and Make Votes Matter activist
At King’s Cross station in London, there’s a whole tour dedicated to the Platform 9 and ¾ mentioned in the Harry Potter series as the beginning point for a train journey to wizarding school Hogwarts. Unfortunately, I couldn’t partake in the tour as I was off to a conference which aimed to bring about a future, which some detractors hope will stay fictional, of a country no longer using First-Past-The-Post.
The Cambridge Electoral Reform Group formed after the general election, and ‘Strategies for achieving electoral reform’ was their first big event, in collaboration with the Pro-PR campaign, Cliff Grout. Stimulating speakers discussed various initiatives, campaigns and organisations that are campaigning for electoral reform: Klina Jordan spoke about the successful Alliance Building Conference held at the beginning of the week by Make Votes Matter; Unlock Democracy's Pete Mills talked about their campaign for voting reform to beginning with local elections (watch this space in May), sharing the platform with Pete was John Cochrane, an Unlock Democracy member who wants to see citizen juries decide our future electoral system; Rupert Read from the Green Party talked about how the progressive parties in this country could unite to bring about PR. Audience members also contributed thought-provoking ideas, and a real debate was had at the conference about the ideas put forward.
What made this conference in this famous part of the UK stand out, though, was the inclusion of two prominent local politicians. Former Liberal Democrat MP Doctor Julian Huppert opened the conference; the Labour MP who deposed him in May, Daniel Zeichner, closed it. Both are in favour of a change to the electoral system- Zeichner is especially keen, like Chuuka Umuuna and Jonathan Reynolds, to get his own party wedded to the idea. The day showed that there are really enthusiastic people right across the country, ready for electoral reform, and that there are local groups out ready for them to join the campaign.