Sarah Hudspith is Communications, Campaigns and Engagement Leader at Make Votes Matter. Here, she reflects on recent events designed to grow the movement for PR.
It’s clear from the current chaos in British politics, whatever your stance on Brexit might be, that the appetite for change is ravenous.
That’s the message I took away from people attending our first Movement Building Days on how to win PR in Harrogate and Bristol. People just like me who are hungry to bring about change through campaigning for a fairer electoral system.
With two such events under our belts, and more on the horizon thanks to suggestions of other towns and cities to visit, the whole team were extremely encouraged by the enthusiasm and commitment shown by everyone who entered into the spirit of both days with such aplomb.
On 9th March we welcomed people from as far afield as Belfast and Dumfries, Manchester and Sheffield, as well as locals from the spa town of Harrogate - the location for the first Movement Building Day. To kickstart the day with a round of introductions, passionate people from many political parties and none proclaimed a common aim to see Proportional Representation (PR) introduced as a matter of urgency. Attendees then heard from Issy Willis who set up the hugely successful local group in Chippenham.
At both events, Make Votes Matter’s Joe Sousek and Klina Jordan outlined the campaign’s strategy before running workshops on how to speak up for PR. After watching some video clips of prominent people doing just that, it was straight down to business with people having a go at writing and delivering their own speeches in small groups. Some brave volunteers even tested out their new speeches on the whole audience, helping to hone their oratory and presentation skills.
Lively workshop sessions were also held on topics including local action hubs and how to mobilise mass support for PR. In groups, people swapped ideas on what they would be good at contributing to the movement - from setting up street stalls to speaking at events or coming up with creative media-grabbing stunts.
There was a real buzz of excitement during these sessions, and at the end of it all we were overwhelmed with the generous pledges of support which we're still following up on.
From draping banners off bridges to horse races to show just how inept First Past the Post really is at representing voters, we certainly value all the ideas everyone contributed!
In Bristol - a week after Harrogate - we were joined by more than 70 supporters of PR along with Molly Scott Cato, Green Party MEP for the South West, and former Bristol Mayor George Ferguson. Molly and George gave impassioned speeches about what motivates them to support PR, which was followed by a lively Q&A.
How you can get involved in taking action for PR
One of the ways we can all work together to boost awareness about Make Votes Matter’s campaign aims is by taking part in regular action days every few months. The next one is our Demand Democracy Day which this year takes place on Saturday 6th July.
Plan now how you will take part in the Demand Democracy Day - Saturday 6th July
On the day, we’ll be inviting all MVM supporters to:
Run a street stall: talking to the community and signing people up to our petition. We’ll help link up volunteers - so no one will have to run a stall on their own.
Take a group photo with a “ballot box bin” placard (which we’ll provide) with as many people as possible, helping us get media coverage and social media reach.
Get creative to turbocharge your photocall. Work with other activists to maximise your impact: anything from making a handmade placard, to organising a banner drop from a bridge!
Sincere thanks to everyone who participated so collaboratively and enthusiastically in our first Movement Building Days. They certainly provided food for thought in the continuing fight to win PR.