EU

Lords reform shouldn’t be threat but 'real plan to take back control’, say campaigners

20th February 2017
20 Feb 2017
Tags: 
house of lords
Brexit
Article 50
EU
EU referendum
Article 50 Bill
Brexit Bill

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Electoral Reform Society statement for immediate release, 20th February 2017

Contact: Josiah Mortimer, Communications Officer - josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07717211630. www.electoral-reform.org.uk


Commenting on the fact that Peers begin debating the Article 50 Bill today, Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“It’s understandable that peers on both sides want to have their say on legislation – after all that is what they are meant to be there for. But it would be wrong for Peers to try and disrupt the Brexit process. The upper chamber simply doesn’t have any legitimacy to scrutinise let alone block legislation given that it is totally unelected.

“Whatever Peers do when it comes to Article 50, serious reform of the Lords has to be on the table – not as a threat in the event that Peers try and amend the Brexit bill, but as a vital step in genuinely ‘taking back control’ for British voters. Lords reform shouldn’t be something that’s just wheeled out to intimidate Peers any time they go against the wishes of government – it should be part of a real plan for democratic reform after Brexit.  

“We do need a revising chamber to scrutinise vital bills like this. But given that the Article 50 bill is of such huge constitutional importance, those voting on it should be chosen by voters themselves.

“It would be a sorry irony indeed if ‘take back control’ meant simply handing power to unelected Lords. A big theme of the EU referendum was democracy, so we need to put those words into practice and bring power back to voters here.  

“Whatever the case, we’d be more than happy to work with the government on reforming the Lords. Just one in ten voters support the current chamber as it is [1] – it’s time for real reform and a fairly-elected upper house.”

For more information, quotes or to arrange an interview, contact Josiah Mortimer, Communications Officer - josiah.mortimer@electoral-reform.org.uk / 07717211630. www.electoral-reform.org.uk

ENDS

[1] http://electoral-reform.org.uk/press-release/poll-just-one-ten-think-lords-should-remain-unelected

The public need a say on where power will lie after Brexit

So Theresa May has fleshed out her plans for Britain leaving the EU and becoming an independent self-governing nation.  With more detail emerging about the economic plan, it’s time to look at the democratic implications.

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

 

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

Poll: BBC has been most important source of info on EU referendum

22nd June 2016
22 Jun 2016
Tags: 
EU referendum
EU
BBC
Better Referendum

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Poll finds newspapers are second most important info source, at 20%

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


34% of the public say the BBC is their most important source of information about the EU referendum, with a fifth saying newspapers are most important in helping them make their decision, according to new BMG Research polling for the Electoral Reform Society released today.

Almost the same proportion of people who view newspapers as most important to their decision rank family as the top factor, at 18%.

The poll also shows that social media is playing a significant role in this campaign, with 16% of people viewing it as their most important referendum information source, the same as the proportion who view friends as the most important when it comes to Thursday’s vote.

However, there are stark demographic divides within Britain when it comes to who voters count on for their EU knowledge.

When asked to pick three, only 24% of 18-24 year olds view the BBC as one of their most important sources of information about the referendum – compared to 41% of over 65s. Almost double the proportion of over 65s say newspapers are their most important source of information – 29% to 18-24 year olds’ 16%. Meanwhile, 25% of over 65s view the Leave campaign as their most important source of information – to only 13% of 18-24 year olds.

33% of 18-24 year olds view social media as one of their most important source of EU info – yet the figure falls to just 8% for over 65s.

There’s also a clear gender gap, with women being far more likely to trust family on the EU - 23% of women view family as a crucial port of call about the referendum, compared to just 13% of men. The proportion rises to 27% among 18-24 year olds, but is just 15% for over 65s. Over 65s count on friends much less regarding the EU, with just 12% viewing them as a ‘most trusted’ decision-making helper, compared to 23% of 18-24s. 

On party backgrounds, Conservatives are more likely to rely on newspapers – 25% of Conservative supporters to 20% of Labour backers, while Labour supporters rely much more on social media – 23% to the Tories’ 13%. Just 25% of UKIP supporters trust the BBC most for their EU information, and only 4% see the government as most important for their decision-making. A startling half – 48% - of UKIP backers say the Leave campaign itself is their most important source of information on the EU referendum.

The Electoral Reform Society argue it’s more essential than ever, given the huge demographic divides and the differing trustworthiness of different information sources, for all voters to access comprehensive, independent resources on the referendum. The ERS are calling for the public to use Better Referendum - an impartial online toolkit on the vote,, featuring both official campaigns and independent experts discussing a variety of central issues.

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

“While it’s great that people are getting their information about the EU from a variety of sources, in these last couple of days it’s crucial that voters get the facts and opinions from both sides to help them reach an informed decision. The debate has been incredibly negative and left many still searching for answers to fundamental questions about the UK’s relationship with the EU.

“The big demographic divides in how people are getting their information shows that we need to do all we can to create a level playing field in this last couple of days, in order to ensure we’ve had a genuinely balanced debate with equal access to the views and facts. There’s a real concern that some voters will just be getting their views from whichever ‘echo chambers’ they are part of – and that we could have a decision based on one-sided information sources.

“Our Better Referendum tool aims to bring all the arguments and the facts on the big issues together and in one place. In this last couple of days, it’s vital that the public have all the resources they can to make a truly informed decision this Thursday.”

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.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) has being 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).

Electoral Reform Society welcomes ‘red card’ proposal in EU deal

2nd February 2016
2 Feb 2016
Tags: 
EU
Donald Tusk
EU deal
David Cameron
European Union
EU renegotiation

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  • Statement from the Electoral Reform Society
  • For immediate release, 11:30, 2nd February 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

The Electoral Reform Society has welcomed the proposal for national parliaments to have greater veto power over EU laws, under the proposals announced by EU Council President Donald Tusk on Tuesday.

A ‘red card’ system – where laws which do not have the support of a majority of national parliaments can be vetoed – was one of the Electoral Reform Society’s key recommendations in its recent report ‘Close the Gap: Tackling Europe’s Democratic Deficit’ [1].

Katie Ghose, Chief Executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said [2]:

"Those in favour of democratic reform of the EU have long called for this change. Elected parliaments need a much stronger role in EU law-making, and a 'red card' system is a positive step towards that goal. 

“However, the ‘red card’ system shouldn’t just be a tool for Ministers – it should be MPs’ voices that are strengthened too, through real parliamentary debate of EU proposals.

"There are clearly major democratic issues with the EU which both sides of the referendum debate have to confront. Whether we vote to stay or go, today's announcement should be the start of a real debate about Britain's democratic relationship with the EU.

The 'remain' campaign needs to answer serious questions about whether UK citizens are adequately represented at the European level. The 'red card' reform is a good start, but much more needs to be done if we are going to close the gap between British people and the institutions of the European Union [3].

“And there are democratic questions for the 'leave' campaign too. If Britain does vote to leave the EU, how will we ensure that British citizens and their elected government have influence over European issues, especially during what could be a two year transition before a full exit.  After what would be a seismic political change, we would also need a citizen-led constitutional convention of citizens to look at how we move forward as a democracy.

"Today's announcement opens up the debate on Britain's democratic relationship with the EU. We want to see these issues remain at the centre of the referendum campaign. The British people deserve nothing less."

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] In 2014 the ERS published ‘Close the Gap: Tackling Europe’s Democratic Deficit’ which laid out 12 major recommendations on EU democratic reform.

[2] A photo of Katie Ghose is available for free use here: https://www.dropbox.com/s/yrtpmyci4vmggcf/Katie%20Ghose%20-%20Credit%20Gus%20Palmer.jpg?dl=0

[3] Read the full ‘Close the Gap’ report and recommendations here.