Parties unite in call for fair votes

14 July 2017

Green Party councillors in Norwich and across the country, supported by their Liberal Democrat counterparts, are calling for politicians to back a fair voting system for Westminster and for local elections.

Greens from numerous councils around England, including Norwich, Oxford and Bristol, have submitted motions calling on their council to endorse a proportional representation system and to write to party leaders asking them to do the same. In several cases, including in Norwich, Liberal Democrat councillors are seconding the proposal. The Norwich motion will be debated at the council meeting on Tuesday 18th July.

The motion argues that "a robust democracy must include a fair voting system" and points out that proportional electoral systems are already used to elect the devolved parliaments and assemblies in Scotland, Wales and London. (1)

Councillor Martin Schmierer, leader of the Green Party group on Norwich City Council, said:

"There is a clear desire at the moment for a new way of doing politics, and that has to include a fair voting system. People are sick of feeling they have to vote tactically instead of voting for what they actually believe in. Proportional representation means there are no wasted votes, because every vote contributes to winning a seat for that party.

"The Green Party is committed to working with other parties to achieve our goal of a fairer voting system, and I am delighted that Councillor James Wright of the Liberal Democrats has agreed to second this motion. I hope Labour councillors will back it too, and show Norwich residents that they support the growing national movement for fair votes."

The current 'first past the post' system works better for some parties than others, with 27,930 votes required to elect an MP from the Scottish National Party in last month's general election, compared with 525,371 votes to elect one Green Party MP. The Democratic Unionist Party has 10 seats despite winning only 292,316 votes.

Caroline Lucas, Green Party co-leader, said:

"It's great to see Green Party councillors leading the way when it comes to a fairer voting system as one of the building blocks of a new kind of politics. At every election millions of votes are wasted because of our archaic electoral system, and it's no surprise that so many people are now backing a change in the rules. I hope that the Labour Party joins the Greens and Liberal Democrats in this initiative – and that cross-party work on this issue develops across the country."

The Greens, the Liberal Democrats and the SNP all advocate the introduction of a proportional system, and a growing number of Labour MPs now back it too, including Norwich South MP, Clive Lewis as well as Chuka Umunna and shadow chancellor John McDonnell. A recent ICM poll for Make Votes Matter showed that 61% of people support proportional representation, including 54% of Conservative voters as well as 70% of Labour voters.


1) Full text of motion:

"The general election showed once again that our 'first past the post' electoral system produces an extreme mismatch between votes and seats. The DUP gained 10 seats from fewer than 300,000 votes, compared with 12 seats from 2.4 million votes for the Liberal Democrats and one seat from 500,000 votes for the Green Party.
Proportional representation is supported by the Greens, Liberal Democrats and SNP, and a recent ICM poll found that 61% of people want to see it introduced for UK parliamentary elections. Proportional systems are already used for the devolved parliaments and assemblies in Scotland, Wales and London.

Council resolves to:

a) acknowledge that a robust democracy must include a fair voting system and that nobody should be disenfranchised because of where they live;

b) applaud the work of the many groups and organisations campaigning for fair votes, including the Electoral Reform Society, Make Votes Matter and the Labour Campaign for PR;

d) call for the introduction of a proportional voting system for local and Westminster elections, and

e) ask the leader of the council to forward a copy of this motion to the leaders of all political parties represented in the UK Parliament."

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