With under three weeks to go until polling day, we want to update you about our work in the month since Theresa May called a General Election, and invite you to take part in our plans for the coming weeks.
There's a lot of news to share, so we've summarised it "at a glance" below. Scroll down further to read the full story in detail...
Since the election was called...
We held our national action day! Local groups and activists got out on the street and campaigned for fair votes on 22nd April - the weekend immediately after the election was called.
We wrote, published and launched a thirty-two page report on the Labour case for Proportional Representation, getting it in the media and in front of key manifesto decision-makers. Check out the highlights on page six!
We organised mass-lobbying of the Labour Party - with thousands of people demanding PR in their online manifesto consultation as a result.
We commissioned professional opinion polling as evidence of the huge public support for PR - and made sure the people writing party manifestos were aware of it.
We launched a new open letter to Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May, calling on them to back PR. This has been signed by every political party in the PR Alliance, numerous politicians and public figures, and thousands of supporters.
We’re about to launch our Parliamentary candidates’ map and #pledge4PR candidate pledge card. We need all the volunteers we can contacting a few candidates at a time when they have a moment. Join our Facebook group or drop us an email to get involved!
And we’re planning a major demonstration and action summit - #SaveOurDemocracy - for Sunday 25th June. Save the date.
More to be announced soon!
To carry out all this work we urgently need more funding. The vast majority of our funding to date has come from generous donations by people like you, for which we are very grateful. Please consider donating to support the campaign today.
A sudden change of plans
Since getting going properly last year, Make Votes Matter has been working flat out to secure Proportional Representation for the House of Commons. We’ve grown a grassroots movement of brilliant activists and volunteers, while at the same time building alliances between parties and leaders to form consensus on the issue.
However, like most people, we thought the next General Election would probably happen in 2020. And when Theresa May called a snap election last month, we found ourselves with some seriously compressed timescales.
But with this change comes a huge opportunity to get PR on the map like never before. So for the last month our team has been working round the clock (sometimes as much as 99 hours a week each!) to make the most of it.
We think it’s been well worth the effort and we hope you do too. Some of the highlights are below - and there’s much more coming!
Alliance for PR
It’s been brilliant to see so many political parties committed to real democracy.
The Green Party has pledged, “to make Britain truly democratic by introducing proportional representation for parliamentary elections”.
The Liberal Democrats promised to, “introduce the Single Transferable Vote [a form of PR] for local government elections in England and for electing MPs across the UK.”
Plaid Cymru promised to “reform the voting system so that it is more representative.”
The SNP’s very constitution contains a promise to “call for the FPTP voting system to be replaced with PR, so that every vote and every part of the country counts.”
UKIP is “campaigning for a fairer, more proportional voting system that will finally mean votes cast are reflected by the representation a party has in Westminster”
And the Women’s Equality Party unanimously voted to adopt PR at its first annual Conference last year.
But our focus has to be on the parties who don’t yet support fair votes - because convincing them will be crucial to winning real democracy.
Building a democracy for the many, not the few
It’s long been a key part of our strategy to help the Labour Party come round to PR. Except for Labour and the Conservatives, just about every party is already fully committed to a proportional voting system. With the Tories implacably opposed (with some very honourable exceptions), Labour is the missing piece of the electoral reform puzzle.
Before the election was called, we’d been working with the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform, Compass and others to help Labour make up its mind. We were speaking at a lot of local branch meetings (and had dozens more in the diary), and branches were already passing resolutions calling on the party to back PR.
We’ll pick up this work again after the election.
Feeding into manifesto talks
We knew Labour would be unlikely to explicitly back PR in its manifesto - but we were determined to publicly make the best possible case for PR before they set their policy. This would help pro-reform allies in the party make the case and, crucially, it would create the maximum amount of political space to push for Labour to back PR at their next Conference.
Our report - The Many Not The Few - was jointly published with the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform. It makes a compelling case that PR is not only better for democracy, but is a crucial ingredient for the kind of fair and equal society the Labour Party says it wants.
You can see the breathtaking highlights of the report on page six - PR is linked with everything from better income equality to more effective action on climate change and a far lower chance of going to war!
Cat Smith, the Shadow Minister for Voter Engagement, and others signed the foreword, which helped us get some great media coverage in the Independent. We launched the report at a Labour-affiliated event we’d previously agreed to host in Plymouth, and sent every member of the National Executive Committee and Shadow Cabinet a copy!
Demonstrating public demand
We also needed to show widespread demand for reform, so we invited all our supporters to respond to the Labour Party manifesto consultation and tell them to commit to PR. We’ll never know the exact number, but we do know that at least several thousand of you did.
We also launched our open letter to Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May, calling on them to back fair votes. This has been signed by all the political parties in our Alliance, a huge range of politicians and public figures, and thousands of members of the public. This will remain open for signatures until after the election.
We also wanted to show the level of public support among people who don’t necessarily follow politics closely. We therefore commissioned professional, standardised polling from ICM.
What we found surprised even us. Not only do a clear majority of the public want PR, a clear majority of Labour and Conservative voters do too! In fact, 76% of Labour voters wanted PR in their manifesto, with just 5% opposed. Of course, we made sure Labour decision-makers knew this.
Pledges and promises
In the end, Labour promised a Constitutional Convention looking at reforming the way Britain works on a fundamental level. Whilst they didn’t make an explicit commitment to PR this time, Jeremy Corbyn has said the Convention will consider the voting system - and the case for PR is so clear that all such processes end up recommending it (the Jenkins Report; Scotland, Wales and London’s devolution settlements; New Zealand’s Royal Commission; Canada’s cross-party committee).
Our goal with the Labour Party is now to secure stronger, personal commitments from as many candidates as possible, including the leader. Regardless of the election outcome, we’ll be continuing to push for Labour to listen to its members and voters by backing PR ahead of this year’s Conference.
Truly awful for democracy
On the other hand, the Conservative Manifesto has put forward perhaps the most undemocratic set of policies in living memory. Not only do they promise to keep First Past the Post for General Elections, they promise to extend it to mayoral elections (which use the Supplementary Vote). Tory sources have confirmed since then that they will even introduce FPTP to the London Assembly - which currently uses PR.
Make Votes Matter has been working with the London Assembly since December to fight identical proposals put forward by Ranil Jayawardena MP. We had a great success in March, when our motion defending the current proportional voting system was put forward by Sian Berry AM and was overwhelmingly passed by the Assembly, with those voting for including all the Labour AMs and one Conservative.
The Tories’ plan to impose a First Past the Post voting system would exclude the voices of hundreds of thousands of voters from the London Assembly. It is a cynical and genuinely frightening attempt to disenfranchise voters and consolidate power.
One of the first things we did after the election was called was hold our national action day. Local groups across the country got out on the street to talk to the public about our broken democracy - and how to fix it.
We were lucky it was a sunny day and our activists got a brilliant response from the public - signing hundreds of people up to our open letter.
This is really exciting. Joined-up, grassroots action for PR before an election on this scale is unprecedented - and it’s just the tip of the iceberg.
Many local groups are continuing to organise action during the election, and we expect a big uptick in activity after polling day once party activists are able to return to their normal lives!
Our candidates’ map and #pledge4PR
Early next week, we will launch our map of Parliamentary candidates' positions on PR - and will invite our supporters and the public to challenge their candidates to back fair votes.
The new map builds on our data of MPs’ positions on PR. The new map will list each candidate's party manifesto commitment on the issue - but what we really need are cast-iron, personal guarantees that each candidate will make introduction of Proportional Representation a top priority if they are elected.
To help with this, we’re also launching a #pledge4PR pledge card. Parliamentary candidates can share it on Twitter or Facebook to show their commitment to fair votes. If they do so - or if they make a no-quibbles public commitment to fair votes - we’ll put them in a special PR-certified category on the map.
This gathering will be a major demonstration to demand fair votes - with high profile speakers from across the political spectrum. It will also be an action summit - bringing together people from across the UK to form a concrete plan to make 2017 the last General Election held under a broken system.
Like all of our demonstrations, this will be a positive, family-friendly event. We want this to be the biggest rally for democracy the UK has seen since women won the vote - so please invite everyone you know!
To volunteer to help organise the demo, or to get in touch about organising a simultaneous demo elsewhere in the UK, drop us an email.
Help us win real democracy!
To carry out all this work we urgently need more funding. The vast majority of our funding to date has come from generous donations by people like you, for which we are very grateful - thanks again to everyone who has donated to Make Votes Matter in the past!
Now we need your support to make sure we have the biggest impact we possibly can during this crucial period, both during the election and after, when the failings of our primitive voting system are the most strongly felt.
Please think what democracy is worth to you and donate to help us convince as many candidates as possible that it is a priority, to hold the biggest rally for fair votes ever, and build an unstoppable campaign to Make Votes Matter and make the UK genuinely democratic!
You can choose to make a one-off donation, or help make sure our campaign can continue until we achieve our aim by setting up a monthly donation. Any amount you give will be much appreciated.