It seems a long time ago, but we’re still buzzing from all the excitement of conference season and the wonderful, inspiring people we met along the way.
One of the most encouraging things to come out this autumn’s round of conferences is that we are still busy following up with all these amazing new contacts. We have welcomed many new members to the movement who we met at our Make Votes Matter exhibition stands, events and while networking, so hello and a very warm welcome to all of our new supporters!
Whether it was at the TUC Congress in Manchester or the Liberal Democrat Conference in Brighton, it was great to meet and network with so many like-minded people who are as enthused about winning Proportional Representation as we are.
2018 may have been the year where Brexit dominated conference headlines. And so did Theresa May as she tried to liven up the Conservative Party Conference by sashaying her way across the stage to Abba! Our very own dancing queen Klina Jordan was also rumoured to throw some shapes at some of the other party conferences. Sadly, we don’t have the video evidence or blanket media coverage to prove it… Maybe next year!
Talking of the Conservative Party Conference, we are a cross-party campaign group working hard to win support for PR. In an ideal world we would exhibit and have fringe events, workshops and speakers at every single conference up and down the UK. However we simply don’t have the resources to do this at the moment and had to prioritise the conferences where we thought we would have the greatest impact.
And we did achieve a lot this year! Here’s our round-up of 2018’s conference season highlights...
Labour Democracy Drinks
Our season kicked off slightly earlier than most on 5th September with an event in Westminster for the Labour Party to discuss PR. Labour Democracy Drinks was a private discussion for members of the Parliamentary Labour Party, aimed at providing a “safe space” for MPs who haven’t necessarily given electoral reform much thought before. This means we can’t go into much detail about what happened, but these kind of relaxed, informal discussions about electoral reform play a really important role and we’ll definitely be continuing to hold more.
Women's Equality Party Conference
Held in Kettering, it began on the 7th September and was billed as “the biggest event on the feminist calendar”. Topics ranged from Will Technology Fix Inequality or Deepen It to a discussion on trust in the media entitled Vamps, Victims and Feminazis. Klina hosted a workshop with support from invaluable MVM campaigner Pamela Ritchie, which had a lot of interest and seeded an event on PR due to happen in Spring 2019.
We found the conference an invaluable way to link up with politicians, including WEP Leader Sophie Walker, Labour’s Rosie Duffield (who joined the MVM Alliance!), and the Green Party Deputy Leader Amelia Womack, and met loads of motivated campaigners willing to get involved with our grassroots movement. As the icing on the cake, Pam was then elected as the WEP Equal Representation Movement Builder, making her even better placed to lead WEP’s efforts to win PR in collaboration with MVM!
Trades Union Congress
In Manchester, MVM Alliance member Mark Serwotka - General Secretary of pro-PR trade union PCS - was elected TUC president at the annual Congress. Klina attended for Make Votes Matter and had fruitful discussions with MPs and officials from all the big trade unions (and some of the small ones) - whose support is crucial if we’re to win the Labour Party over to supporting PR. Other useful encounters were had with media contacts like Channel 4 news anchor Jon Snow, other campaign leaders and even Frances O’Grady, General Secretary of the TUC. PR was raised at every opportunity and it was great to go along to the Electoral Reform Society’s fringe event and join in the debate on building a new democracy.
Liberal Democrat Conference
The Liberal Democrats are the longest standing supporters of PR of all British political parties. Our work with the Lib Dems focuses on helping to forge this long-standing conviction into effective, cross-party activism for electoral reform. Klina spoke about PR at a busy speakers’ corner event hosted by Your Liberal Britain during the party’s conference in Brighton over the 16th and 17th September. This led to our first, early sign-ups to the People’s Lobby for PR.! Good conversations were had with various Lib Dem councillors, MPs, peers and key staff from Lib Dem HQ... and in the interest of ‘electoral refun’, Klina somehow managed to fit in some sea swimming and joined in with the Lib Dem song and dance - whoever said politics was boring?!
Labour Party Conference
In Liverpool we organised a fringe event, a workshop and an exhibition stall. With a great team of volunteers we spoke to dozens of Labour MPs, trades unionists and other party figures, signed up hundreds of Labour Party members interested in inviting speakers to their local branches, and made countless connections with members all over the country.
For the first time in years, PR was raised on the floor of conference and there was a strong show of support for electoral reform from delegates representing the party membership. Labour policy making is a complicated process - and there’s so much to tell that our own Joe Sousek has written a separate blog about what happened, what it means, and what comes next.
Green Party Conference
The Green Party, like the Co-operative Party, held their conference in Bristol which provided Klina with an opportunity to join as a guest panelist on the Saturday evening. She was joined by Natalie Bennett and key Green Party electoral reform activists. The conference was a great opportunity to touch base and talk PR with many of the other senior Green Party politicians, including Jonathan Bartley, Sian Berry, Caroline Lucas, Amelia Womack, Molly Scott Cato and Caroline Russell.
This was again an opportunity to sign up keen activists for the People’s Lobby for PR, which Caroline Lucas MP will host herself, reinforcing the fact that the party continues to be one of the most dedicated to changing our antiquated voting system.
NAPO AGM and Conference
Make Votes Matter was back in the north of the country for the National Association of Probation Officers (Napo) AGM in Southport. Napo is a pro-PR trade union and our visit comes on the back of presences at Unite and TSSA conferences earlier in the year. The Napo AGM saw MVM exhibit and talk to dozens of passionate supporters of PR. Unions will be a key part of an Alliance to bring about PR, and Napo members we spoke to certainly sound up for the challenge to bring about this change!
Co-operative Party Conference
We joined the Co-operative Party Conference in Bristol over the weekend of 14th October and welcomed visitors to the MVM exhibition stand to talk PR and have a go on our “Democrometer”. The democrometer proved a hit with its simple yet effective visual prompt to ask people their opinions. As you can see, almost everyone agreed with us!Not everyone was in agreement however, and we had some lively debates. Most people thought the Co-operative Party should support PR and one person even went as far to suggest this idea should be discussed within the party as a matter of urgency. A key figure to confirm his support for PR during the conference was Lord Adonis who also joined the MVM Alliance.
It’s been a great conference season, but there’s a huge amount we still need to do to make sure we win PR in years, not decades. We hope you can join us for the People’s Lobby for Proportional Representation on 11th December - when we’ll be taking the fight back to Westminster.