Hundreds of activists are expected to descend on Birmingham’s Victoria Square this Saturday (21 July) for "Fair Votes Festival" - described as a major demonstration for electoral reform.
The Fair Votes Festival is a national event organised by local activists and co-hosted by Make Votes Matter and Unlock Democracy to bring people, politicians and campaigners together to highlight that real democracy means everyone's vote should count equally. These pro-democracy groups say this can only be achieved by introducing a form of Proportional Representation, to ensure that seats in the House of Commons match how the people vote.
The First Past the Post voting system used for UK General Elections often means that the number of seats a party wins has little relation to the share of the vote they receive. The Conservatives and DUP currently have a majority of seats in the House of Commons, despite sharing just 43% of the votes in 2017. In 2015, one quarter of all votes went to either the Green Party, the Liberal Democrats or UKIP - yet these parties shared just 1.5% of seats in Parliament between them.
Billed as a fun, family-friendly event, Fair Votes Fest will feature a 1920s twist to coincide with the centenary of the Representation of the People Act 1918 and the 90 year anniversary of the Equal Suffrage Act 1928. Expect Charleston dancing and live music, as well as a line-up of cross-party speakers who will be advocating the need for Proportional Representation.
Confirmed speakers include former Green Party Leader Natalie Bennett, Beverley Nielsen, West Midlands Liberal Democrats, James Carver MEP, an Independent for the West Midlands region, Richard Burden MP for Birmingham Northfield, and Keith Best, the former MP for Ynys Môn who now chairs the Conservative Action for Electoral Reform group.
They will be joined by Make Votes Matter Co-founder and Facilitator Klina Jordan, Tom Pratt from Unlock Democracy, Birmingham, Willie Sullivan, Senior Director at the Electoral Reform Society and Mojo Abidi representing 50:50. As well as protesting the UK's broken voting system the event will bring together activists from across the UK to plan how to win fair votes.
Watch this video of activist Katy Wing who explains why she is attending the Fair Votes Festival in Birmingham https://youtu.be/wbUcJDABCcw.
Klina Jordan, Co-founder of Make Votes Matter, said: “Our archaic First Past The Post system of electing MPs is not fit for purpose. We need to ensure that people are not only entitled to vote, but also have a vote that counts - and counts equally. We are calling on all political parties and political organisations to support the call for Proportional Representation for UK General Elections now, so that we have a properly representative House of Commons, where seats match votes.”
Alexandra Runswick, Director of Unlock Democracy, said: “As we celebrate the centenary of some women winning the right to vote, we need to remember why that fight mattered. It was about making sure that no group could be ignored, everyone could have their say and use the power of their vote to shape their country. Yet today, despite having won the vote, we are still fighting to be heard in Westminster.
“Instead of seats matching votes, our broken electoral system leaves some voters abandoned in safe seats where representation hasn’t changed in generations and millions of others left to vote for who they want or to vote tactically to keep out who they don’t want. We have been let down by our politics for too long and must demand radical change including fair votes.”