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Time to Direct ERS Council to Campaign for STV

October 28, 2012

The principal object of the Electoral Reform Society as set out in its articles of association is to campaign for the Single Transferable Vote, but this is far from obvious from its website. Members have still not been made aware of any practical pans to campaign on the matter, at least none that members have been told about. Two members, David Smith and Simon Gazeley have therefore submitted a special resolution to the forthcoming AGM. Using a provision in the new Articles adopted in July, it DIRECTS Council to take action (provided that a 75% majority is achieved).

David Smith writes, “I am very pleased by the positive reaction of council to this resolution, which they appear to be accepting it as a needed mandate. Not surprisingly they are worried about its prescriptive nature; however if any motion is to be binding it has to be fairly prescriptive. Of course it would be open to us to relax, accept that council is won over, and withdraw the motion. I think that would be wrong. What the motion requires is not easy to deliver and it would be only too easy for council over time to decide it is too difficult and give up on their commitment, and it must be remembered that in a year’s time we elect a new council which might not be so resolute. If council fails to deliver on every point in our motion, but has nevertheless made a real attempt to abide by its spirit, I for one would not criticise, and in any case individual council members surely do not face any effective sanction. However the motion could be used against staff in the hopefully unlikely event of their reluctance to co-operate.

Let me explain why I think STV is so important:

Democracy in Britain is in a desperate state. All three major parliamentary parties (often denying the wishes of their grass roots members and voters) have pursued, or at least gone along with, policies that ensure rising inequality, and the steady destruction of the NHS. In reality there is little difference between the positions of the parliamentary parties. Parliament is increasingly populated by ex SPADs and Old Etonians, many of whom own shares in the private healthcare companies indulging in the current feeding frenzy.

If things continue as they are, it will not be long before society is composed of just two classes, the haves and the have nots. The haves will be devoting all their energy to keeping and adding to what they have; the have nots will lack the time, the money, the energy, and the will to engage in civil society. We in ERS may be the last of our kind.

All national democracies in this globalised world struggle to counter the power of the markets, which they themselves unleashed, but there are nations that have succeeded up to a point. Britain is not one of them. In Britain, rigid party discipline has played into the hands of corporate lobbyists and especially the bankers. Until this is weakened there is no hope. Only STV with its unique combination of PR and real voter choice can achieve that; PR in itself is irrelevant.

I want STV for the House of Commons but I accept that a frontal attack on parliament at present would not work and so STV for local elections must be the target.

Tim Knight has proposed two motions along the lines that ERS should be the umbrella group for all constitutional reform and that it should not push STV in particular. I agree that there should be such a group but that ERS should not be it. Charter 88 was that group but it lost momentum after the 1997 election. Unlock Democracy is supposed to be its successor. It needs more grass roots support. I invite Tim Knight to help make Unlock Democracy more successful. I personally choose to fight on a narrow front and wish ERS to focus on its core purpose.

I urge you to vote for this resolution.

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