Last month, we saw a symbolic step forward in the Parliamentary push for fair votes.
16 Parliamentarians gathered in Portcullis House on the 29th November for the launch of the All Party Parliamentary Group for Proportional Representation. And it was a truly cross-party affair.
From Labour’s Jon Cruddas to the Conservatives’ Ben Howlett, and from Green Party co-leader Caroline Lucas to the Liberal Democrats’ Constitutional Spokesperson Lord Tyler, MPs and Peers from across the spectrum and across the UK met to mark the start of a new campaign to secure proportional representation.
Attendees agreed the Group’s ‘statement of intent’ – its raison d’etre – would be:
“To build alliances for the adoption of a system of proportional representation, for elections to the House of Commons and to local authorities in England.”
It’s a goal we can and will get behind, with the ERS playing a key role in supporting this as the Secretariat for the group.
Labour’s Chuka Umunna will chair the APPG, as a staunch proponent of fair votes. Umunna recently launched a Parliamentary motion (EDM) on PR which was signed by over 50 MPs – again from a wide range of parties, with the SNP and Plaid Cymru joining UKIP and others to say it’s time that seats matched votes.
Ben Howlett (Conservative), Caroline Lucas (Green), Liz Saville Roberts (Plaid Cymru) and Tommy Sheppard (SNP) will be Vice-Chairs of the group – in a powerful coalition to get electoral reform on the Parliamentary agenda.
The involvement of Conservative voices is a real step forward in widening the push for PR and putting it in front of the government. There has been a shift in Conservative thinking about electoral reform since 2005, not least due to its success in Scotland. Equally, the regional devolution of powers to combined authorities provides another way of getting more Conservatives on board.
Make no mistake, this will be a very active coalition, with attendees raising the prospect of an inquiry into how effective PR has been in parts of the UK where it is already used, commissioning polling, and using the APPG as a hub for the electoral reform movement within and outside Parliament itself. Having an official group offers a greater chance for official Commons and Lords debates on the issue – and a stronger platform for supportive MPs and Peers to come forward and add their voices.
We’re looking forward to supporting this APPG, with Tuesday’s launch being a tangible, positive development for the electoral reform movement.
Inside and outside Parliament, we’re making ground. Watch this space!