Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2021

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Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2021

Post by Patricia Carmichael »

Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2021

Key provisions:

1. A referendum will be held on changing the voting system at elections from FPTP to STV.
2. The referendum will be held no later than 31st May 2021
3. The Electoral Commission is empowered to set the wording for a binding referendum on the question of STV vs FPTP
4. In the event STV wins a majority, the electoral system will be changed
(Ooc: introduction to follow on move to second reading)
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Re: Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2021

Post by Macmillan »

Second reading...
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Re: Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2021

Post by Patricia Carmichael »

Mr Speaker,

I rise to introduce the Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act to the house.

Mr Speaker, back when the coalition were in government we had a referendum on the Alternative Vote in 2011. The people on this occasion chose FPTP. Those who campaigned for FPTP implied that FPTP would be more stable and would produce more majority governments.

Since that referendum Mr Speaker, in 2017 we have seen a Conservative Government that has had to find the backing of the DUP in order for the Government to survive. As the house will know, the Liberal Democrats are also supporting this government in the national interest.

My point is Mr Speaker, that times have changed since the last referendum, we have seen the British people vote and as a result a government that has had to rely on the support of other parties in order to survive. This was exactly what those who campaigned for FPTP warned against and as we have seen FPTP has clearly failed.

So the Liberal Democrats have put forward this bill with government support, to hold a referendum on whether to retain FPTP, or to switch to a more proportional representative system, in this case, STV. STV gives us the chance to put power back in the hands of the british people. It offers fairness and diversity, meaning that every vote actually does count and areas selecting a team of representatives, giving voters diverse representation when it comes to opinions in that area. The best thing for the voter, is there is no such thing as tactical voting when it comes to STV, you just simply rank the candidates in the order, listing your favourite as number 1 to your second favourite as number 2 and so on.

Many countries, such as Northern Ireland, the Republic of Ireland, Malta, Scotland and Australia use this system for some or all of their elections, it is a proven concept and it works. STV also offers a local constituency link for voters, meaning consitituencies will become more natural, covering towns or even counties

The facts are clear, there is public support for a change to the voting system. In a YouGov poll in October 2020, 44% of people indicated they wanted to switch to a voting system that offered proportional representation, 28% preferred to stick with FPTP, and 28% also did not know what voting system they preferred. Never before have we seen such clear public support and open questions about changing the voting system before a referendum.

Mr Speaker i urge all sides to back this bill and make politics fairer. The people want change and it would be an injustice to deny them the chance to have their say.
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Re: Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2021

Post by Dr. James Webster »

Mr. Speaker,

I rise to offer an amendment to the bill that would push the date of the referendum back to 2023, we are only a year away from a scheduled election, one that has constantly been rumored to be called sooner. Given that, I think it would be completely reckless to rush into a constitutional change so close to an election. I do enjoy the member for Aylesbury using this last few years as evidence of why STV is necessary. I’d counter that the opposite is true. More elections resulting in unstable coalition governments where one if not both parties sell out the voters that elected them purely for power and fail to deliver real results for the British Public is clearly not in out nations but I digress.

With barely a decade since the last time the British public voted against any method of switching the voting system, I think it would be important that should any referendum take place, enough time is given to fully educate the public and to prepare for both a “No” and “Yes” result. Allowing a full four years, should the election happen on time, for the implementation of the result effectively. Avoiding the next year being a rush to actually implement the result of a rushed referendum. Mr. Speaker I move to introduce the following amendment:
Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2021

Key provisions:

1. A referendum will be held on changing the voting system at elections from FPTP to STV.
2. The referendum will be held on the 25th May 2023
3. The Electoral Commission is empowered to set the wording for a binding referendum on the question of STV vs FPTP
4. In the event STV wins a majority, the electoral system will be changed
(the Bolded text is the changed text)

This is the right move for the British public so that they can adequately prepare to be informed voters on the matter. The Liberal Democrats may be happy to rush this referendum to an uninformed populace in hopes they get the result they want, but Labour will stand against any rushed attempts to change our Constitution without the people having time to be adequately informed to make a real decision.
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Re: Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2021

Post by Patricia Carmichael »

Mr Speaker,

I am afraid the member for Aberavon is incorrect on several fronts and his hypothesis is flawed.

Let us break down his argument and explain why.

He claims that having a referendum on changing the voting system now is completely reckless because it is so close to an election. I can tell the member here and now today that the electoral commission have agreed and signed off to the original date, which was presented in the bill, the 31st of May 2021. If there were concerns about holding a referendum so close to a potential election, I passionately believe that the Electoral Commission would have refused to agree to the date of the 31st of May 2021.

The member has stated that he “enjoys” me using the last few years as evidence as to why STV is necessary. He cannot deny that in 2017 the Conservatives failed to retain a majority and had to rely on Confidence and Supply agreements to form a government. This is however just one piece of the puzzle as to why we need to have this vote in May, and I hope that he will listen carefully to my contribution in this debate.

He talks about parties selling out voters to elect purely for power. I know he is referring to the Liberal Democrats and the Conservatives and while I reject his accusation about the Liberal Democrats, let us face it, his party is not exactly squeaky clean either. You only must look at the day after the 2010 election, Labour was facing defeat and had come second in the election to the Conservatives. It was Gordon Brown and the then Labour Leadership who were running around trying to scrape a deal so they could cling onto power, when the British public made it clear that they did not want a Labour Government.

The member for Aberavon talks about granting enough time to fully educate the public about electoral reform. Mr Speaker after every election there has always been a debate in public and in parliament about changing the voting system because there are many people out there who see the current FPTP system as unfair, and people are not being fairly represented as a result. The British public already know that we use First Past the Post, and we have talked before here in parliament about proportional representation. In 2010, according to an ICM survey for The Sunday Telegraph revealed that 48 percent of those who voted in the poll backed Proportional Representation, compared to 39 percent who wanted to stick with first past the post. In 2001, his former leader Tony Blair provided a commitment at the time to hold a referendum on proportional representation, sadly this never materialised. However Mr Speaker let’s not make assumptions here around the British Public’s intelligence which the member for Aberavon is doing. Mr Speaker the British public are intelligent, the member for Aberavon’s response suggests that he thinks they lack intelligence by insinuating that the public need to be fully educated about changing the voting system. I really do hope that my assessment is wrong in this case and he is not questioning the intelligence of the British public. He seems to think that it will take several years to do this and his reasoning to delay is because the public need to be educated. If that is his argument as to why we should delay the referendum then it really is pathetic Mr Speaker. The people want a say and he wants to delay. I’ll also say to him that in a referendum as I am sure he knows, you have the campaign and then the vote. The campaign is the time for both sides to educate voters and make their case.

The member for Aberavon has also insinuated the “here we are again” argument, despite having a referendum in 2011. He is correct we had a referendum and people did decide FPTP, but honestly, people were not given correct information at the time by the FPTP camp. It was suggested by the FPTP camp that FPTP is fair and will lead to stability, both statements are categorically false. I have already spoken about the 2017 election, instead of providing a valid counter argument he chose to attack my character instead. If he wants to do that then that is absolutely fine, but it is absolutely vital that people take this bill seriously and they take this into serious consideration, unlike the member for Aberavon who spent most of the time on his feet criticising me rather than focusing on the actual bill itself.

So let’s be clear here. Since the 2011 referendum times have changed. Last year over 48% of people in a Yougov poll said it was time to change our current voting system to a system of proportional representation, where the number of MPs parties win will more closely match the share of the vote, compared to 28% who wanted to keep First Past the Post. 28% also did not know which option they wanted to choose. I would like to refer my honourable friend to a poll in December 2019 commissioned by the cross-party campaign group Make Votes Matter, that found over three quarters of Labour members, 76 percent, believe that the Labour Party should support a change of the voting system to a form of proportional representation.
Let me also take him back to 2015 where his party lost the general election. If you look at the data in the Southeast and the Southwest of England, his party won just eight seats out of a total of 139. This was despite nearly 1.3 million people casting a vote for his party in those regions. Had his party decided to adopt the position to change to a system of Proportional Representation years earlier and it had been implemented, his party may be in government today.

So Mr Speaker, the member has come to the house today to offer an amendment to delay the referendum to 2023 because he believes the British public have to be educated. We reject the amendment he has offered on several fronts.

First, our assessment is that the British Public can be “educated” during the referendum campaign before the vote. There will be ample opportunity for a campaign to take place before the vote and I am sure that both sides will be out there speaking to the great British public presenting the case to either change to STV or stick with FPTP. People will be given the opportunity to make an informed choice at the referendum.

Second, his concern around an uninformed populace. Again, not only do we have a referendum campaign to present both sides of the argument but as I have said before there is a long history of the public and parliament debating electoral reform. If he doesn’t believe me, I suggest he consults his party and makes use of google, because after every election there is a reference to electoral reform and proportional representation.

Mr Speaker, the case for electoral reform is clear and now is the opportunity for parliament to give the people what they want, to make an informed choice. Without sounding like a former Prime Minister, the member wants to delay. If he truly believes that we should have the referendum in 2023, then he should vote this bill down, but I think if he does his reasons are clear and I am sure that Labour members will never forgive him for doing so.
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Re: Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2021

Post by Patricia Carmichael »

Mr Speaker,

There is one additional point I would like to make in this debate.

It is worth noting Mr Speaker that there are a number of Labour MPs have come out against the referendum bill to allow the british public to decide if they want to stick with FPTP or switch to STV. I find this interesting Mr Speaker, considering the Labour Party themselves have scrapped the First Past the Post system and have adopted STV for it's National Executive Committee elections. Many trade unions and civil society groups also use PR to elect their executives.

So i say this to Labour MPs who are considering voting against the bill, let the British public have their say. Your own party has switched from FPTP to STV for your own NEC elections, a majority of your members clearly back STV. Let's finally put the question to the british people and let them have the opportunity to adopt STV or to reject it, don't make the decision for them.
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Re: Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2021

Post by Simon Godwin »

Mr Speaker,

So this is the legislation that the Liberal Democrats have been allowed to propose in return for their support of a regressive Conservative Government, and this time the Lib Dems didn’t even get a ministerial car out of their subservience. The fall from a so called principled third party in British politics to a branch of the Conservative party has taken less time than many would have thought. I am not surprised that the members for Bath and Oxford West and Abingdon have abandoned their former party for it barely represents the principles and ideals it was formed on. However, I doubt we have to worry about the Liberal Democrats for much longer, because no matter the outcome of this legislation there will be barely any Lib Dems left after the next election.

Now, moving onto the legislation it will not have my support. In 2011 the British people were offered the choice to change the voting system from First the past the post. And they spoke with a clear voice that they did not want to change. That, Mr Speaker, was only ten years ago. We had the vote and there was a clear answer. We should not be in the habit of re-running referendums just because we dislike the answer - something that the liberals seem to be constantly in favour of now.

However, I am not opposed to this legislation because of the referendum aspect but because I am opposed to a system that the British people have not asked for and have not demonstrated a desire to see a change from the existing system. In the last general election parties we saw that parties who put electoral reform high on their agenda were not sent back to Parliament in large numbers. Their vote shares were low. Mr Speaker, there is simply no appetite for changing the electoral system.

And if we look at the system proposed by the Liberal Democrats, one I am sure was chosen to maximise their own success over any claims of fairness, is that STV will destroy the constituency link between the constituent and the representative. With STV we would have massive mega-constituencies that elect multiple MPs. These mega-constituencies would destroy historical and local boundaries to our existing constituencies. They would provide no clarity as to a constituent’s representative.

The constituency link is an integral part of out democracy. The knowledge that constituents know who the person to contact is incredibly reassuring and important to how we represent the interests of our constituents in Parliament. I am not willing to jeopardise that link nor the trust placed in us as their representatives. Is First past the post perfect? No. But STV is a system that is far more confusing and far more flawed than the current system we have.

So, I will not be supporting this legislation. This legislation is a smokescreen by the Lib Dems to protect their careers for selling themselves out to the Conservatives. It is their attempt to cloud over the fact that they have just allowed the return of tripartite education that will see working class children sacrificed on the altar of selective education. That is the legacy of the Lib Dems and no matter how many bills to change the voting system or legalise drugs they will never be able to wash the stain of grammar schools out.

Mr Speaker, this bill is a smoke screen and should not be supported by this House.
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Re: Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2021

Post by Ege »

Mr Speaker,

I am supportive of the efforts to reform the electoral system, I can see why Labour and Tories would oppose this as this would break their duopoly and it makes perfect sense for them to oppose it. The British public deserves more than a choice between awful and slightly less awful. They deserve options that they can actually believe in instead of voting to oppose one party or the other. Now, I know many colleagues of mine will be opposing this by opportunism or by principled reasoning that I frankly believe makes not much sense but I still believe their genuine desire and beliefs, just like there will be those who will be supporting this by the fact of opportunism or by principles. This legislation was the price of Liberal Democrats to betray all of their principles so that they can prolong the life of this government lying on its deathbed. They used to be principled opponents of grammar schools, a belief that I disagree with but one that I can respect, they let it pass because of this bill. They will be rubber-stamping yet another Tory budget that focuses on wrong priorities. Mr Speaker, some of these capitulations to Conservatives are ones that I agree with or can live with but Mr Speaker but by principle, I am opposed to the nature of this poisonous deal because Mr Speaker, it relies on deceit, opportunism at its worst and a complete disregard for what they were elected upon. I resigned whip of my party Mr Speaker, because of these reasons, just as Members for Bath and Oxford West & Abingdon did, they were respected members of their parties and now they were forced to leave because of this treachery. I sympathise with them and millions who voted for Liberal Democrats who have been abandoned by their party. This, Liberal Democrat and Conservative alliance is a match made in hell because both of these parties have abandoned their manifestos, core beliefs, and ethos of their parties in pursuit of frankly nothing. Liberal Democrat vote has collapsed to 1 percent and Tories barely scraped the Liberal Democrat vote and is still behind this extremist Labour. We will be supporting this bill, Mr Speaker but do not be mistaken, this bill was not worth the deal Liberal Democrats made. This deal is frankly is not worth the paper it was written on and Mr Speaker, that should be a reflection on Liberal Democrats.
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Re: Parliamentary Voting System and Constituencies Act 2021

Post by Patricia Carmichael »

Mr Speaker,

I will take this opportunity to address the comments by both the member for Hove and the member for Boston and Skegness.

To the member for Hove, I say this. He makes the point that we had a vote ten years ago and there was a clear answer. What i would say to him is that people are entitled and they do change their minds, we see it in local elections, general elections, even referendums. We should not have this mindset of "just because we've done it ten years ago means we dont have to revisit the topic ever again".

Now if, there was a clear case that the people of this country did not want electoral reform now, where they were totally and entirely against it, then that is a separate issue in itself. Where we find ourselves Mr Speaker is there is clear and conclusive evidence that the British People want to have a say, the member should realise that and let people make up their own minds, rather than deciding for them. He says there is no appetite for changing the electoral system, I challenge him to make his case to the house to prove his statement, where's the evidence?

I am glad he has spoken about STV because his hypothesis is flawed. He talks about the constituency link which is an integral part of our democracy, he is right in this but let's be clear, STV does not destroy the constituency link, it strengthens it. Under STV voters are more likely to get the MP who they voted for as there are no wasted votes under STV. Now if you take FPTP which the member is neglected to mention, FPTP has a weaker constituency link than STV because here is the fundamental point; MPs can be elected with minority support, meaning that the majority of constituents in a small geographic area for example may not want the MP to represent them. The clear fact is FPTP gives us wasted votes, which makes voters alienated.

I reject his assertion that this bil is a smokescreen for the Liberal Democrats, we have always been honest about electoral reform. The member in his argument raises an interesting question; as he is such a prominent MP in his party, if he opposes STV will he be lobbying his own party leadership to change the system for Labour NEC elections back from STV to FPTP? Surely if he feels that STV is i quote "more confusing and far more flawed" he feels exactly the same way about his own party's internal elections, or is this just a front he has put on in the house to vote down this bill?

To the member for Boston and Skegness, I am pleased she has pledged her support for the bill but I totally reject her rhetoric about the Liberal Democrats and would encourage her to focus on the topic at hand in this debate. The argument that this was our "grand plan" to "sell out schools" is entirely false, the Liberal Democrats had no knowedge from the government about the Education Act prior to the signing of the C&S agreement, in which the government said they would support this referendum bill.

Mr Speaker, It is vital this house passes this bill, for democracy. Put party point scoring aside and focus on letting the british people decide what they want, let's make politics fairer.
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