To deliver real change we need to sort the system – we need REAL democracy

Photo by Joseph Casey

We are delighted to publish this piece from the co-founder and CEO of Make Votes Matter. Klina is from Totnes.

Creativity and big ideas inspire us, enliven us. Conversations about process, on the other hand, tend to make some people switch off.

So you might doubt the mobilising power of electoral reform as an issue.

Yet, on Wednesday May 24, hundreds of people – from the South West and throughout the country – gathered in Westminster to meet their MPs to deliver a single, unified message: it’s time to sort the system.

There was a palpable feeling that politics has lost touch with ordinary people: life is getting harder, the country seems to be at breaking point, but the big problems are just not being dealt with.

As Zack Polanski AM, Deputy Leader of the Green Party and one of our guest speakers, observed: “Key conversations are often missing from the national stage because our politics exists in a vacuum.”

What sustains this vacuum is our rotten voting system. By distorting our votes at general elections to produce false majorities in Parliament, First Past the Post warps our politics and silences the voices of millions of people across the country. The consequences are hugely across a whole range of policy areas, from weaker environmental protections to greater economic inequality.

This is why I have spent the last eight years since I helped to found Make Votes Matter devoted to campaigning for Proportional Representation. And why constituents from South East Cornwall to Blyth Valley, Suffolk Coastal to Carmarthen West and South Pembrokeshire, felt motivated enough to travel to London to make their voices heard at our ‘Sort The System’ people’s lobby.

As a democracy campaigner, I do my best to help people see that winning real democracy is one of the biggest ideas out there. Because when it comes to politics, process and procedure matter. How we elect our representatives matters for our shared prosperity, our security and satisfaction, and for the future of the planet.

Clive Lewis, Labour MP for Norwich South, captured the mood perfectly:

“Everyone in the Labour Party knows our politics and our democracy is broken and at the root of that is the voting system.”

This sentiment, of course, also extends beyond the Labour Party. Recent polling commissioned by Make Votes Matter found that 48 per cent of the public think the political system is failing to deliver for the people, compared to only 20 per cent that believe it is working well.

The same survey also showed that the public supports a move to PR by a margin of more than two to one, with only 18% saying they oppose a proportional system, compared to 42% in favour – including 50 per cent of Labour and 45 per cent of Conservative voters in 2019.

In many ways, these results confirm what we already know – that people feel our politics, underpinned and undermined by First Past the Post, is not working for them. They are fed up with an out-of-touch Westminster system that fails to represent their interests or respond to their needs.

Local activist, Brian Bond, created a tapestry depicting the distortive impact of First Past the Post on the 2019 General Election results. Photo credit: Joseph Casey

Wednesday 24 May’s mass lobby of Parliament gave us all a way to channel that frustration peacefully and effectively – using facts, passion and creativity to convince MPs, and to inspire other people to take action to make seats match votes. Together we carried a positive message to politicians of all parties and from every region of Britain – that to deliver real and lasting change, first we need to sort the system and embrace proportional representation.

You can find out more about Make Votes Matter on their website.

You might also be interested in the South Devon Primary initiative. Its founders hope this is the very last election in which one will have to ‘game the system’ before we SORT the system with PR!