Local people attempting to shake up local politics
Ely Progressives have a broad set of common beliefs but our recent focus has been on electoral reform to bring in proportional representation and a realistic path to make that happen via a progressive alliance. The group originally formed to try to tackle the disparity between votes cast and seats won locally and it continues to be our priority.
The realisation that we need proportional representation is rapidly growing. More people are seeing that our current electoral system is a core contributor to our dysfunctional political system.
In our current system, using first past the post, most people’s votes don’t matter. Our elections are won and lost in a few marginal seats, so politicians tend to focus on voters in just those crucial seats. Most people live in safe seats unlikely to change hands and are represented by politicians with jobs for life who have little incentive to act in their constituents’ interests. It creates governments and councils supported by only a minority of those who voted, which tend towards corruption and mismanagement – as demonstrated by our current government. It also leads to disengagement by the public who rightly assume that there’s little chance their voice will be heard.
Proportional representation, where the number of seats won is proportional to the number of votes cast, makes all votes matter. It would give us governments and councils supported by the majority of those who voted. No more elections decided in a handful of seats. No more safe seats. It leads to cooperation, collaboration and transparency.
People have been campaigning for proportional representation for many years but it finally appears to be an idea whose time has come. New grassroots groups championing it are sprouting up all the time. Crucially the Labour party are finally on the brink of supporting it. Bringing them inline with the Liberal Democrats and the Greens who already do so.
To get proportional representation we need to elect a government that will enact it.
The Conservatives do not support a change to proportional representation. In fact they are currently making our electoral system less proportional by replacing the supplementary vote used for Mayoral elections with first past the post. This is because they do very well under the current system, repeatedly winning power without winning a majority of the votes.
So, realistically, we need to elect a government led by Labour and we need Labour to officially support proportional representation.
There are several routes to get a government “led by Labour”. It doesn’t require Labour to win a majority of the seats or even that they win more seats than the Conservatives. It’s possible as long as the Conservatives don’t win a majority of the seats.
The primary objective therefore is to stop the Conservatives from winning seats wherever possible. This is where a progressive alliance comes in.
The Conservatives are keen to keep first past the post because it benefits them. There are several parties representing progressive voters and this splits the progressive vote. The Conservatives on the other hand are the only party representing non-progressive voters. Although the progressive voters are in the majority their split vote allows the Conservatives to win.
The progressive alliance is the idea that the progressive voters in each seat work together to try to ensure a progressive candidate is elected instead of a Conservative.
Recent elections and by-elections, including the Mayoral election here, have shown that progressive voters are willing to use their vote intelligently in order to unseat the incumbent Conservative. They just need a single obvious candidate to back. The actions of the current Conservative government isn’t dissuading them.
There are still hurdles to clear.
Labour needs to support proportional representation.
We need to elect a government that will enact proportional representation.
You ‘re probably think there are more pressing issues than proportional representation. You’re right.
We live in a country with a generally progressive leaning population but our current electoral system returns non-progressive governments far more often than progressive ones.
Without a change to our electoral system the chances are slim that issues like climate change and inequality will be tackled. If they are tackled the policies used to do so are likely to be overturned. You only have to see what’s happened to Sure Start centres to see how easy it is for progressive advances to be undone.
We need proportional representation to ensure the government represents our progressive leaning population so that progressive policies are enacted and stick.