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Strathclyde announcement: Time for government to look at real Lords reform, say ERS

17th November 2016
17 Nov 2016

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Statement from the Electoral Reform Society for immediate release, 12:00, 17th November 2016

For more information, quotes or comment, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630, josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk

Commenting on the government’s announcement that they are to drop plans to limit the powers of the House of Lords, Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“These proposals were never about real Lords reform in the first place – they were more a knee-jerk reaction to a government defeat. This kind of tit-for-tat, one-sided manoeuvre was never going to get off the ground. However, it’s absolutely vital that genuine Lords reform is kept on the table.

“The fact that David Cameron was able to appoint 190 new unelected peers in the space of just six years - a faster rate than any Prime Minister in Britain’s history – is a disgrace to our democracy. An unreformed and bloated Lords comes at a cost of millions more every year. But the democratic cost is greater still.

“That there are no limits to the number – or party balance – of peers a Prime Minister can appoint is a deep concern. But more than that, if the government is to live up to promise of a 'democracy that works for everyone’ then it’s time for a fairly-elected upper chamber, rather than one that can be repeatedly topped up with party donors and hangers-on.”  

ENDS

Notes to Editors

Read the Electoral Reform Society’s recent ‘Fact vs Fiction’ report published in August 2015 date on the House of Lords, which showed:

·       The cost of the Lords – In the 2010-2015 parliament, £360,000 was claimed by Peers in years they failed to vote once. In the last Parliamentary session alone, over £100,000 was claimed by Peers who did not vote at all.

·       Independence - In the 2014-15 session nearly half (45%) of all Crossbenchers participated in 10 or fewer votes - compared to an average of just 8% of party political Peers, while a quarter of appointments to the House of Lords between 1997 and 2015 were former MPs.

·       Professional politicians – Over a third of Lords (34%) previously worked in politics. Just 1% come from manual backgrounds.

·       A supersized House - to rebalance the upper chamber strictly in line with the 2015 General Election results would require the appointment of an additional 723 members.

·       Out of date - 44% of Lords list their main addresses in London and the South East, while 54% are 70 or older.

Boundary proposals would mean record-high proportion of MPs in government

16th November 2016
16 Nov 2016

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Boundary proposals would mean record-high proportion of MPs in government

Statement from Electoral Reform Society, for immediate release 16th November 

  • Electoral Reform Society research for Parliament Week raises alarm bells over scrutiny and ability of MPs to speak out
  • Proportion of government MPs is already at historical high
  • MPs’ ability to safeguard effective Commons and power of MPs to hold government to account under threat, say ERS

For more information, quotes or comment, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630, josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk

The planned cut to the number of MPs from 650 to 600 could have ‘deeply worrying’ effects for parliamentary scrutiny unless action is taken, according to research from the Electoral Reform Society.

The research [1] shows that in a 600-seat Commons, some 23% of MPs would be on the government payroll [2] if the parties’ proportion of MPs remained the same as today – an all-time high, and up from the current 21%. That would leave a record-low proportion of MPs free to scrutinise the government from the backbenches.

Moreover, the proportion of Conservative MPs on the government payroll could rise to 43% of the party’s total after the boundary review [3]. It would be the third highest ratio of government frontbench MPs to governing party backbenchers in recorded peacetime history, with the figure reaching 45% under Labour in 2005. The ERS fears this would shrink the talent pool to draw on for Select Committee positions and other vital scrutiny posts.

The analysis – which goes as far back as 1900 – also shows that the proportion of government MPs to MPs as a whole grew significantly in the 20th century – from around 10% in the 1920s to around 20% in 1990.

The ERS is calling for a cap on the proportion of payroll MPs to the Commons as a whole. A cap would prevent a ‘crisis of scrutiny’ emerging in Parliament, the ERS says.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“This research shows we risk a crisis of scrutiny if the cut in MPs goes ahead without a corresponding cap on the number of payroll MPs. Having nearly a quarter of all MPs in the pocket of the PM is not a healthy situation for our democracy.

“By cutting the size of the Commons without cutting the size of the payroll, Parliament’s ability to scrutinise the government will be weakened. Now is the time to take notice of this much-ignored but highly concerning trend.

“While having enough MPs on the payroll is essential for good government, the numbers have been inflating for decades. Being on the Prime Minister’s payroll ties MPs’ hands – they’re locked into collective responsibility, meaning they can’t speak publicly about policy failures or air important differences of opinion in parliamentary debates.

“This isn’t about party politics – it’s about the crucial role Parliament plays in holding the government of the day to account, whichever party or parties hold the keys to Number 10.

“While we celebrate the role of all MPs this Parliament Week, the role of backbench MPs of all parties – not least the governing party itself – in holding the government to account is crucial to our democracy, and needs recognising and protecting.

“With the boundary review going ahead in 2018, the government now needs to be taking steps to ensure that the power of MPs to effectively scrutinise the government won’t be put at risk. It’s time for a cap on the number of MPs on the payroll to stop this situation spiralling out of control after the cut in MPs goes ahead.  

“With nearly half of governing-party MPs on the PM’s payroll, the talent pool from Conservative backbenches for vital parliamentary roles will shrink. . That will affect everything from the calibre of Select Committees to the candour of debates in the Commons.

“It’s time for a real debate on the cut in MPs and what it will mean for representation and scrutiny in this country.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

For graphs, see here:

·       Proportion of Governing Party on Payroll http://electoral-reform.org.uk/sites/default/files/Governing%20Party%20Payroll.png

·       Proportion of House of Commons on Payroll http://electoral-reform.org.uk/sites/default/files/House%20of%20Commons%20Payroll.png

[1] For the full data and sources, see here: http://electoral-reform.org.uk/sites/default/files/ERS%20-%20MPs%20payroll%20vote%20FINAL.xlsx

[2] Defined as governing-party MPs in paid, official government posts – all cabinet members, junior ministers, Parliamentary Private Secretaries and whips.

[3] The redrawing of Parliamentary constituency boundaries is happening in tandem with the cut in number of MPs to 600. The final proposals are scheduled to be published by September 2018, allowing for implementation in time for the next fixed-term General Election in 2020. Full timetable here.

For more information, quotes or comment, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630, josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk

 

New boundaries will ‘skew our democracy’, say campaigners

13th September 2016
13 Sep 2016

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Statement from Electoral Reform Society for immediate release, 13th September 2015 

Electoral Reform Society call for boundaries to be based on population, not the electoral register; London and the South East both missing two seats owing to use of old register; five of top ten ‘under-represented’ areas are in London; cut in MPs alongside ‘packing the Lords’ is ‘wrong priority’

For more information, quotes or comment, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630, josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk


Constituency boundaries should be drawn on the basis of population rather than an incomplete electoral register, according to the Electoral Reform Society.

On the day that the Boundary Commission released its provisional proposals for redrawing constituencies, the ERS has found that both London and the South East are missing two constituencies each as a result of over 2 million registered voters not being counted.

 

Seats in Boundary Commission 2018 review (under December 2015 register)

Seats if review had used June 2016 register

Change

Total

600

600

0

England

501

502

1

Scotland

53

53

0

Wales

29

29

0

Northern Ireland

17

16

-1

Eastern

57

56

-1

East Midlands

44

43

-1

London

68

70

2

North East

25

25

0

North West

68

67

-1

South East 

83

85

2

South West

53

53

0

West Midlands

53

53

0

Yorkshire and the Humber

50

50

0

Source: Electoral Reform Society analysis of Electoral Commission data

Looking at the ten areas where there has been the biggest increase in the electoral register between December 2015 and June 2016, five are in London (with four of these in the top five). 

Local Counting Area

Provisional Referendum Electorate

1 December 2015 Parliamentary Electorate

% Change from December 2015

Absolute Change

Lewisham

197,514

166,489

18.6%

31025

Lambeth

210,766

187,581

12.4%

23185

Camden

145,328

129,475

12.2%

15853

Tower Hamlets

167,789

150,351

11.6%

17438

Cambridge

80,099

72,457

10.5%

7642

Hackney

163,284

147,877

10.4%

15407

Lincoln

63,336

57,397

10.3%

5939

Oxford

97,309

88,382

10.1%

8927

Slough

87,868

79,826

10.1%

8042

Canterbury

109,399

99,849

9.6%

9550

Source: Electoral Reform Society analysis of Electoral Commission data

Commenting on the Boundary Commission’s provisional proposals for redrawing constituencies, Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“The fact that this boundary review is being conducted on the basis of registered electors, rather than the actual population, risks skewing our democracy.

“Areas with the lowest levels of registration are often those that already have the least voice in politics. Young people, some ethnic minority groups and those in the private rented sector are all less likely to register to vote than others. That makes many of them effectively cut out of the new political map.

“What’s more, the review is being undertaken on the basis of a register that’s nearly a year out of date, excluding over two million people who signed up between December and June. That means some regions are two seats short of what they are owed. 

“It would be much fairer to draw boundaries based on eligible population rather than an incomplete electoral register.”

‘Equalising’ constituencies

“Fair political boundaries are crucial to ensuring people are properly represented in Parliament. But we shouldn’t tear apart close-knit areas in a rush to ‘equalise’ numbers.

“The rigid 5% threshold – the maximum difference in size between constituencies – poses the prospect of huge disruption every five years through sparking a boundary review for every election. And it’s far too inflexible to take into account natural borders between different communities.”

A smaller commons – but a larger Lords

"Cutting the number of MPs is the wrong priority. We have a growing unelected House and a shrinking elected one. The House of Lords is a super-sized second chamber – second only to China – and shockingly poor value for money. Surely it would be more democratic to address the crisis in the House of Lords than to cut the number of elected MPs.

Power imbalance

"If you reduce the number of MPs in Parliament without reducing the number of ministers, you increase the power of the executive and make it more difficult to challenge the government. That will reduce the ability for Parliament to do its job of holding the Government to account.”

Making votes count

"The government talks about the need to 'make every vote count' through these changes. Yet the best way to do that – the elephant in the room – is the need for a proportional and fair voting system.

“If the government really cares about making votes matter, they should concentrate on reforming the voting system.”

ENDS

Notes to editors

For more information, quotes or comment, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630, josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk

Report: Mistakes of EU referendum campaign should ‘never be repeated’

1st September 2016
1 Sep 2016
Tags: 
EU referendum
EU

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  • Electoral Reform Society launch report into conduct of EU referendum, featuring unreleased polling on ‘dire state of debate’
  • ‘It’s Good to Talk: Doing Referendums Differently After the EU Vote’ calls for ‘root and branch review’ of how referendums are conducted in future
  • Society publishes nine key recommendations for ‘referendum reform’
  • Report link available HERE

Electoral Reform Society press release, embargoed for 00:01, Thursday 1st September
Contact: Josiah Mortimer, Communications Officer - josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07717211630. www.electoral-reform.org.uk

The Electoral Reform Society say the ‘glaring democratic deficiencies’ of the EU referendum debate must never be allowed to happen again.

Launching their landmark EU referendum report into the conduct of the referendum, ‘It’s Good to Talk: Doing Referendums Differently After the EU Vote’, the Society have called for a ‘root and branch review’ of the role and conduct of referendums in our democracy.

As part of the report, the ERS has published polling showing that far too many people felt they were ill-informed about the vote; and that the ‘big beast’ personalities did not appear to engage or convince voters. The polling also shows that voters viewed both sides as increasingly negative as the campaign wore on.

The Society are arguing that the EU debate was in stark contrast to the Scottish independence referendum, which featured a ‘vibrant, well-informed, grassroots conversation that left a lasting legacy of on-going public participation in politics and public life’.

A review is now needed to ensure future referendums don’t repeat the errors of the EU vote in terms of failing to foster a genuine, informed discussion among the public, the ERS says.

The report makes nine key recommendations to improve the conduct of future referendums [see note 1]. These include:

  • Tasking an official public body to intervene when misleading claims are made by the campaigns
  • Ofcom to conduct a review into an appropriate role for broadcasters to play in referendums
  • Early publication of a definitive rule-book to govern campaign conduct, followed by a minimum six-month regulated campaign period
  • Extending votes at 16 UK-wide, following its ‘huge success’ in energising the Scottish referendum
  • A robust role for the public at every phase - from a citizens’ panel tasked with pre-legislative scrutiny of any referendum bill, through to publicly-funded resources to stimulate citizen-led debates and deliberation across the UK

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“This report shows without a shadow of a doubt just how dire the EU referendum debate really was. There were glaring democratic deficiencies in the run-up to the vote, with the public feeling totally ill-informed. Both sides were viewed as highly negative by voters, while the top-down, personality-based nature of the debate failed to address major policies and issues, leaving the public in the dark.

“It offered a stark contrast to the vibrant, well-informed, grassroots conversation of the Scottish independence vote ­– a referendum that left a lasting legacy of on-going public participation in politics and public life.

“From a campaign period that was too short to foster a decent debate, to the fact that misleading claims could be made with total impunity, there are so many lessons to be learned – and this report lays out both the facts and the way forward.

“Now that the dust is starting to settle after the EU referendum, we need a complete rethink about the role of referendums in the UK. They are becoming more common, but the piecemeal nature of the how, when and why they’re done means we could simply end up jumping from referendum to referendum at the whim of politicians.

“It’s time for a root and branch review of referendums, learning the lessons of the EU campaign to make sure the mistakes that were made in terms of regulation, tone and conduct are never repeated. Let’s make sure that future referendums guarantee the lively and well-informed discussion that voters deserve."

For more information or to arrange an interview, comment piece or coverage in advance, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer - josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07717211630

Notes

Graphs/images are available for free use for the polling on:

[1] The full recommendations are:

Laying the groundwork

  • Mandatory pre-legislative scrutiny for any Bill on a referendum, lasting at least three months, with citizens’ involvement
  • A minimum six-month regulated campaigning period to ensure time for a proper public discussion
  • A definitive ‘rulebook’ to be published, setting out technical aspects of the vote, as soon as possible after the passing of any referendum Bill

Better information

  • A ‘minimum data set’ or impartial information guide to be published at the start of the regulated campaigning period
  • An official body should be given the task of intervening when misleading claims are made by the campaigns
  • Citizenship education to be extended in schools alongside UK-wide extension of votes at 16

More deliberation

  • The government should fund a resource for stimulating deliberative discussion and debate about the referendum
  • An official body should be tasked with providing a toolkit for members of the public to host their own debates and deliberative events on the referendum
  • Ofcom should conduct a review into an appropriate role for broadcasters to play in referendums, with the aim of making coverage and formats more deliberative rather than combative

 

Forward Planning Note: Electoral Reform Society to launch report into conduct of EU referendum

25th August 2016
25 Aug 2016

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Society to publish analysis of EU referendum debate, calling for politicians to ‘learn the lessons’ from the vote and launch a ‘root and branch’ review of referendums in the UK.

‘It’s Good to Talk: Doing Referendums Differently After the EU Vote’ includes unreleased polling, in-depth expert analysis of debate and recommendations for referendum reform.

The Electoral Reform Society will launch a major report into the conduct of the referendum next Thursday (1st September).

The report, ‘It’s Good to Talk: Doing Referendums Differently After the EU Vote’, draws on unreleased BMG Research polling on public perceptions of the debate, as well as expert experience and comparisons from the Alternative Vote and Scottish referendums.

The ERS are calling for a systematic review into how we do referendums in the UK in the future, with the publication making nine key recommendations to improve how referendums are conducted in the future, after what was widely viewed as a poor quality debate characterised by ‘party spats’ rather than real deliberation.

The recommendations will include tasking an official public body to intervene when misleading claims are made by the campaigns, for Ofcom to conduct a review into an appropriate role for broadcasters to play in referendums, and for grassroots citizens’ involvement at every stage – including alongside extensive pre-legislative scrutiny.

‘It’s Good to Talk: Doing Referendums Differently After the EU Vote’ aims to be a definitive, long-term resource on the EU vote - and a call to action to ensure we learn the lessons of the EU referendum.

Distribution:

  • A full briefing/press release and embargoed digital version of the report will be sent out on the morning of Wednesday 31st August, embargoed for Thursday 1st September, 00:01. Print copies will be available on request. 

For more information or to arrange an interview, comment piece or coverage in advance, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer - josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07717211630

Electoral Reform Society: Cameron’s Lords appointments are a ‘sorry legacy’

4th August 2016
4 Aug 2016

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Statement from the Electoral Reform Society for immediate release, 4th August, 18:15

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Will Brett on 07979 696 265 / will.brett@electoral-reform.org.uk


The Electoral Reform Society has expressed disappointment at the news [1] that David Cameron has appointed 16 Peers in his resignation honours list, making the second chamber more bloated and costly than ever.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“For a Prime Minister who promised to cut the cost of politics, David Cameron is leaving a big bill for the taxpayer as he leaves office. His parting gift of 16 Lords is a sorry legacy, both in terms of cost to the taxpayer and the quality of our democracy.

 “Mr Cameron’s Lords legacy could have been about real, democratic reform. Instead, he has followed the well-trodden route of every other PM and packed the second chamber with former politicians, donors and party hacks. These unelected peers will cost the taxpayer millions over the long term – hardly a fitting goodbye.

“In Mr Cameron’s time in office he appointed Peers at a faster rate than any Prime Minister in Britain’s history – with 190 new unelected peers in the space of just six years. He says he regrets not achieving House of Lords reform [2], but actions speak louder than words. Calling time by waiving his right to introduce swathe of new peers could have set down a marker/helping hand to the new government to take the House of Lords in hand – and start to take it down to size.

“However, we now have a new government with a potentially new agenda – let’s get to work on fixing this unaccountable and expensive anomaly once and for all. The House of Lords is in urgent need of reform – it’s archaic, unrepresentative and oversized. It should be a priority for the new government to sort out this mess once and for all. The public want to ‘take back control’ – a good way to start would be to let them choose who votes on their laws.”

ENDS

Notes to Editors

Read the Electoral Reform Society’s recent ‘Fact vs Fiction’ report published in x date on the House of Lords, which showed:

·        The cost of the Lords – In the 2010-2015 parliament, £360,000 was claimed by Peers in years they failed to vote once. In the last Parliamentary session alone, over £100,000 was claimed by Peers who did not vote at all.

·        Independence - In the 2014-15 session nearly half (45%) of all Crossbenchers participated in 10 or fewer votes - compared to an average of just 8% of party political Peers, while a quarter of appointments to the House of Lords between 1997 and 2015 were former MPs.

·        Professional politicians – Over a third of Lords (34%) previously worked in politics. Just 1% come from manual backgrounds.

·        A supersized House - to rebalance the upper chamber strictly in line with the 2015 General Election results would require the appointment of an additional 723 members.

·        Out of date - 44% of Lords list their main addresses in London and the South East, while 54% are 70 or older.

http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/blog/its-official-house-lords-completely-bust

Footnotes

1.     https://www.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/543973/resignation_peerages_2016.pdf

2.     http://www.theguardian.com/politics/video/2015/jul/28/david-cameron-house-of-lords-video

ERS Cymru react to referendum result: ‘Wales must be involved in Brexit talks’

24th June 2016
24 Jun 2016

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Statement from ERS Cymru for immediate release, 8:45am, 24th June 2016

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Steve Brooks, Director of Electoral Reform Society Cymru, on 07525619622, Stephen.Brooks@electoral-reform.org.uk


Responding to the European Union referendum result and the announcement by David Cameron of his resignation as Prime Minister, Steve Brooks director of the Electoral Reform Society Cymru said:

“This is a political earthquake, the aftershocks of which will be felt by Wales for many months and possibly years to come.  The overall result across the UK, with London and the Southeast, Scotland and Northern Ireland voting Remain while Wales and the rest of England voting Leave shows a nation divided. 

“We welcome the outgoing Prime Minister’s commitment that the Welsh Government will be involved in Brexit arrangements.  That promise must be honoured by the next prime minister.  But more than that, this cannot and should not be a conversation between two governments at either end of the M4. The people of Wales, civil society and business must also be included in that conversation.”

ENDS

‘Divided nations’ show need for public involvement to build bridges after Leave win

24th June 2016
24 Jun 2016

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Statement from the Electoral Reform Society for immediate release, 09:00, 24th June 2016

 

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or Josiah.Mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk

 

Commenting on the result of the referendum, Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society [1], said:

“This is a monumental shift and arguably the biggest constitutional change Britain has seen for a generation. We are in uncharted waters and must think very carefully about what happens next.

“We need a national conversation about where Britain goes from here and how our democracy should take shape as the process of leaving the EU takes hold.

“In his resignation speech, David Cameron said that there should be ‘full engagement’ of the governments of Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland. We welcome this – but if the referendum has shown anything it is that the public must be involved as well.

“The high turnout of 72% has shown yet again that there’s a huge appetite for thinking about constitutional issues – something we saw with the Scottish referendum. This should be the beginning rather than the end of public involvement.

“But there are stark divisions in the UK that have been laid bare by this referendum – between nations and regions, and between different demographics. Scotland, Northern Ireland and London very strongly voted to stay in the EU, while England and Wales voted to leave. With two nations voting to Leave and two voting to Remain, we’re at risk of constitutional chaos and are witnessing a widening chasm between the countries of the UK. Every effort now needs to be made to build bridges given the closeness of the result – this 52-48 split reflects a divided and fragmented politics in Britain.

“Leave campaigners talked a lot about democracy during the campaign. Let’s put those words into action and reform our democracy at home. Now that the big question about membership of the EU has been answered, the next step should be democratic reform of the UK – including a proportional voting system and an elected House of Lords, which Nigel Farage says should be a top priority.

“What made this referendum different to a General Election is that every vote counted – wherever you were in the country. People felt like their vote had real power – with no safe seats, electoral wastelands or tactical voting - and that seems to have fed through to a high turnout.

“The government will now be negotiating the nuts and bolts - our terms of departure, a future trade deal and how to fill the legislative and constitutional gap that will appear once we’ve fully exited the EU. The public need to have a say in the negotiations that follow this vote. These talks and decisions mustn’t be taken behind closed doors - the devil is in the detail, so they must be open for scrutiny.

“The country is still divided over this – and will be for some time to come - so big efforts will have to be made to bring the country together, and to involve voters in what could be a long process.  

“Either way, we need a way to unite a fragmented country in the aftermath of this result and to involve everyone in the big constitutional changes to come.” 

ENDS

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or Josiah.Mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk

Notes

[1] http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/constitutional-convention and http://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/sites/default/files/How%20to%20do%20a%20Convention%20Mar%202016.pdf

[2] See the ERS’ and leading universities’ Citizens’ Assemblies on devolution - http://citizensassembly.co.uk/ and http://electoral-reform.org.uk/press-release/academics-and-campaigners-launch-%E2%80%98citizens%E2%80%99-assemblies%E2%80%99-debate-uk%E2%80%99s-constitutional

Electoral Reform Society Scotland Calls For Constitutional Convention As Referendum Shows 'Nations Divided'

24th June 2016
24 Jun 2016
Tags: 
ERS Scotland
EU referendum
Brexit
EU
referendum

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Electoral Reform Society Calls For Constitutional Convention As Referendum Shows 'Nations Divided'

  • ERS Scotland warns of “constitutional chaos” as Scotland, Northern Ireland and London vote remain despite overall ‘leave’ result
  • Scottish independence back on agenda as Salmond predicts second independence referendum and Greens launch petition to keep Scotland in EU
  • Campaigners criticise “piecemeal and ad hoc” approach to previous constitutional change, and calls for “joined-up deliberation” which “lets the public in”

Statement from Electoral Reform Society Scotland for immediate release, June 24th, 2016

For media enquiries, contact: Rory Scothorne, ERS Scotland Campaigns Organiser (Policy), on rory.scothorne@electoral-reform.org.uk or 07988157783, or Katie Gallogly-Swan, ERS Scotland Campaigns Organiser, on Katie.galloglyswan@electoral-reform.org.uk or 07930862497

The Electoral Reform Society Scotland has called for a constitutional convention to avoid “constitutional chaos” after the UK voted to leave the European Union - despite Scotland, London and Northern Ireland voting to remain.

ERS Scotland criticised the “piecemeal and ad hoc” approach to previous constitutional change and are calling for future change to involve "joined-up deliberation" to “let the public in” following the conflicted result.

Scotland voted to remain in the EU by 62% to 38%, with every local authority voting for remain, but 52% of the UK as a whole voted to leave. The result has led to renewed calls for Scotland to find a way of staying in the EU despite the UK-wide result, with the Scottish Green Party launching a petition called “keep Scotland in Europe” which asks Holyrood’s politicians to “examine and exhaust every option for continuing Scotland’s close ties with Europe.”

Scottish First Minister Nicola Sturgeon has previously said that if Scotland voted to remain while the UK as a whole voted to leave, it could constitute a sufficient “material change” to justify another referendum on Scottish independence from the UK. Former SNP leader Alex Salmond has predicted that Sturgeon would now “implement the SNP manifesto” which proposed a second referendum under such circumstances.

Spokesperson for ERS Scotland Rory Scothorne said:

“We are clearly in uncharted political waters here. The governments of the UK should very quickly issue a joint holding statement on how they might plot a course through this turbulent constitutional time. This vote poses big questions about the constitution of the UK as a political entity going forward, with the UK’s nations divided. Without action now we risk descending into constitutional chaos, and it’s vital that the public are involved in the discussions that lie ahead about the ramifications of this split vote.  

"Despite an unremittingly negative campaign, people took their democratic duty seriously and turned out in higher than expected numbers. The public's appetite to engage in constitutional issues, seen first in the independence referendum and reflected in yesterday’s turnout – higher than the recent Holyrood election – is clear. The referendum should mark the beginning not the end of involving the public in shaping future democracy in Scotland and the UK.

“It’s more clear than ever that we need a citizen-led constitutional convention to bring citizens and politicians together to seriously discuss the democratic future of the UK. The constitutional changes we’ve seen in recent years have been piecemeal and ad hoc – it’s time for some joined-up deliberation and to let the public in. All parties across the UK should now come together to discuss how best to start this essential process.”  

ENDS

Under a third of voters feel well-informed about EU referendum

23rd June 2016
23 Jun 2016

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Statement from the Electoral Reform Society for immediate release, 21st June 2016

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or Josiah.Mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk


A new BMG Research poll for the Electoral Reform Society [1] shows only 31% of people feel well or very well informed about their EU vote. 

While up from the February result of 16%, the poll is a stark indication of the state of the debate, say the ERS, with millions of voters ‘still left in the dark’.

Since last month’s data in the tracker series, the number of people who feel well-informed or very well-informed has increased slightly (from 24% in May to 33% in June [2]).

The Electoral Reform Society has argued that the debate has been a ‘top-down, Westminster-dominated affair’ that failed to reach voters or create a genuine dialogue, and launched an online tool, Better Referendum [3], to help inform voters – featuring both official campaigns.

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“Despite some progress since the start of the campaign, many people will be going into their polling stations feeling left in the dark by a campaign which has too often seemed like a Westminster parlour game, rather than the crucial constitutional decision that it is.

“That under a third of the public feel well informed about the referendum is a damning indictment on the fact that this debate has been largely confined to personality politics and party spats rather than a genuinely national conversation. The lack of a decent public information campaign also has had an impact as has the short amount of time available for people to get to grips with the issues for themselves.

“After this referendum, we need to learn every single lesson from not only this referendum but the vote on Scottish independence and the Alternative Vote referendum to make sure we don’t repeat the mistakes and to draw on what’s worked. We need a root and branch review of when, why and how we conduct referendums in the UK – and the public need to be involved in this conversation.

“Referendums are one-off events and with this one over, now we need to find sustainable ways to keep people connected with politics in their everyday lives.”

ENDS

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, ERS Communications Officer, on 07717211630 or Josiah.Mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk

Notes

 

Feb-24

Mar-31

Apr-26

May-25

Jun-16

 

Total

Total

Total

Total

Total

Very well informed

4%

7%

5%

6%

9%

Well informed

12%

16%

16%

16%

24%

About average

39%

39%

42%

42%

39%

Poorly informed

32%

26%

28%

24%

20%

Very poorly informed

14%

13%

10%

10%

8%

[1] http://www.bmgresearch.co.uk/

[2] Representative poll of 1638 UK adults, conducted online between 10th and 16th June. For full cross-tabs contact Josiah Mortimer (details above).

[3] BetterReferendum.org.uk (contact Josiah Mortimer for more information) was launched by Democracy Matters, a collaboration between the Electoral Reform Society, the Crick Centre for the Understanding of Politics (University of Sheffield), Centre of the Study of Democracy (University of Westminster), and the Centre for Citizenship, Globalisation and Governance (University of Southampton).