By Josh Dell
Last week’s reshuffle saw a notable departure. Chris Skidmore MP, Minister for the Constitution since Theresa May became Prime Minister in July 2016, was elevated to Vice-Chair of the Conservative Party and therefore left the role he had been in a year and a half.
His successor, Chloe Smith MP, takes up the role in a year that marks arguably the most momentous centenary in British democratic history: the passing of the Representation of the People Act 1918, which granted some women the right to vote for the first time.
While Chris Skidmore was fond of pushing the government’s ‘A democracy that works for everyone’ agenda, in truth the UK is far away from achieving this. Election after election under our First Past the Post voting system has seen Parliaments fail to reflect the way we voted, millions denied representation, and majority governments most of us didn’t vote for. In 2017 alone, over 22 million votes (68% of all cast) were wasted as a result of our broken voting system. Rather than confront this, Skidmore remained steadfast in his support for a voting system that doesn’t work for most of us.
As the new Minister, Chloe Smith has an opportunity to remedy this. Having previously chaired the APPG on Democratic Participation and openly expressed her support for democratic innovations such as online voting, there’s no reason to believe she does not have a sincere interest in democratic issues. When so many people are excluded from our democracy by the voting system, when every poll finds overwhelming support for PR, and when hundreds of thousands of people take action for change, surely it's time to give fair consideration to the alternatives.
So we have written to Smith, pointing out some errors in her stated position on Proportional Representation and asking her to meet us to discuss the issue further. We hope she will, but she’s not the only person we’ve written to recently...
At Christmas, Make Votes Matter sent a giant Christmas card to Jeremy Corbyn asking him to make our Christmas wish come true and ensure that Proportional Representation becomes Labour Party policy in 2018. The card was signed by over 17,000 people, many of whom were residents within Corbyn’s own constituency of Islington North. This year, we’re calling on Jeremy to support something just as necessary as the cause that many fought and died for 100 years ago: a voting system in which votes matter.
We are calling on Labour and the Conservatives to do something truly radical. The biggest affront to British democracy is that the voting system that makes so many feel there is no way for their voices to be heard and therefore see little to no point in engaging with politics.
In the spirit of the Suffragists, 2018 presents the greatest opportunity to honour the legacy of those who struggled to turn Britain into a democracy representative of all its citizens. The time to act is now. The question is, which party will act first?