CAER Blog – Conservative Action for Electoral Reform http://www.conservativeelectoralreform.org Founded in 1974 to campaign for a free market of ideas Wed, 21 Jun 2017 16:08:53 +0000 en-GB hourly 1 https://wordpress.org/?v=4.8.3 Canadian Conservative Guy Giorno on Proportional Representation http://www.conservativeelectoralreform.org/canadian-conservative-guy-giorno-proportional-representation/ Tue, 01 Nov 2016 17:51:00 +0000 http://www.conservativeelectoralreform.org/?p=605 The former chief of staff to Stephen Harper, and 2011 campaign chair of his successful re-election effort, Guy Giorno has been making the case for electoral reform in Canada.  

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The former chief of staff to Stephen Harper, and 2011 campaign chair of his successful re-election effort, Guy Giorno has been making the case for electoral reform in Canada.

 

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Conservative leadership election explained http://www.conservativeelectoralreform.org/conservative-leadership-election-explained/ http://www.conservativeelectoralreform.org/conservative-leadership-election-explained/#comments Tue, 05 Jul 2016 11:03:20 +0000 http://www.conservativeelectoralreform.org/?p=584 On Thursday at midday nominations closed for the Conservative Party leadership contest.  It’s been a week of high drama in politics – and many of you will have your views on the candidates (and those who aren’t candidates) – but how do Conservative Party leadership elections work? Unlike Labour leader contenders, who need 15% of the Parliamentary Labour Party, in …

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On Thursday at midday nominations closed for the Conservative Party leadership contest.  It’s been a week of high drama in politics – and many of you will have your views on the candidates (and those who aren’t candidates) – but how do Conservative Party leadership elections work?

Unlike Labour leader contenders, who need 15% of the Parliamentary Labour Party, in the Conservatives candidates need only be nominated by a proposer and a seconder. These nominations are public. (ConservativeHome and Guido Fawkes are publishing up-to-date online lists of who the candidates’ supporters are amongst other MPs.) This time ‘round, five candidates were duly nominated before the deadline, Stephen Crabb, Liam Fox, Michael Gove, Andrea Leadsome and Theresa May.

According to the timetable outlined by the 1922 Committee (the Conservative backbench committee), Tory MPs will vote this evening for which candidate they would most like to be leader.  The candidate with the fewest votes will be eliminated.  They are then free – if they so wish – to urge their supporters to back another candidate.  On Thursday, the process is repeated with the remaining four.

Penultimately, on Tuesday 12th July, Conservative MPs will vote amongst themselves for the last time.  The two candidates with the highest vote will then be featured on a ballot paper to be printed and posted to roughly 130,000 Conservative Party members.  The likely deadline for this is 8th September, with the results, and hence the new prime minister, announced the following day – leaving a little under two months for the top two to set out their case to party members and the public.

The system is ripe for intrigue and tactical voting. Given the two electorates, Conservative Party MPs may feel inclined to attempt to shape the members’ ballot on the basis of how they expect members to react to the two candidates on the ballot. For instance, in 2001, there is evidence that supporters of Iain Duncan Smith tactically voted for Ken Clarke in order to knock Michael Portillo off the ballot, feeling (rightly) that the members would reject Clarke’s Europhile views. MPs could also pretend to support a candidate to generate a false sense of security and encourage their supporters to misjudge their tactical votes. This is perhaps a disadvantage when compared to a system where rankings occur on a single ballot, as in the Alternative Vote system, where voters have less chance to mull on the results of each round and predict which way their colleagues votes will split.

Although it features different electorates, the electoral system is a little like France’s two-round system combined with the Alternative Vote.  (The Conservatives use a similar system when selecting candidates.)  Moderately humorous, considering most Conservatives were so vociferously opposed to AV (a system which would have seen our majority increase by eight in 2015!).

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Four Reasons Conservatives Should Support Electoral Reform http://www.conservativeelectoralreform.org/four-reasons-conservatives-should-support-electoral-reform/ Thu, 10 Mar 2016 11:21:24 +0000 http://www.conservativeelectoralreform.org/?p=558 The Scottish Conservative Party conference happened last weekend, and one of the highlights for us was the launch of a new pamphlet, “Light Blue Ideas”, edited by Professor Alan Convery. Alan is a lecturer in politics at Edinburgh University, and has brought together a stellar cast of policy experts and academics to propose ways in which the Scottish Conservatives might modernise themselves …

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The Scottish Conservative Party conference happened last weekend, and one of the highlights for us was the launch of a new pamphlet, “Light Blue Ideas”, edited by Professor Alan Convery. Alan is a lecturer in politics at Edinburgh University, and has brought together a stellar cast of policy experts and academics to propose ways in which the Scottish Conservatives might modernise themselves to contend for power in the changed world of post-referendum Scotland.

Councillor Dave Dempsey, an electoral reform supporter who leads the Conservative group on Fife Council contributed a chapter. His argument is simple: there has never been a better time for the Conservative Party to support electoral reform. Here are four reasons why:

1. National democracy is in crisis

Although we’ve got a majority at Westminster and were on the winning side in the Independence referendum, there’s plenty for Conservatives to worry about. The legitimacy of the British political system relies on it being able to gain the trust and support of people across the UK. As we saw in the referendum, one of the most powerful arguments for independence was that “Scotland doesn’t get the governments we vote for.” This isn’t just a problem in Scotland: across the UK, parties are increasingly territorialised, with the SNP predominant in Scotland, Labour in the urban north and London, and the Conservatives in rural areas and the south. Not only does this threaten the future of the union and the legitimacy of the political system, but it undermines our claim to govern on behalf of the whole country.

2. Electoral reform would boost the Conservatives across the UK

In much of the country, the Conservatives win barely any seats despite winning up to twenty percent of the vote. In the north of England, for example, we win a far lower share of council seats than votes. In Scotland, the Conservatives have just one MP despite winning fifteen percent of the vote.  The talents of potential Conservative leaders of the future go to waste if they grow up in the wrong area. Facing the choice of moving their families out of the communities they grew up in to be parachuted into a new constituency they have no connection to, many choose to leave politics to others. Proportional representation would give Conservatives considerable representation in all areas of the country, and would help to dispel myths about certain nations and regions of the UK being inherently “anti-Tory”.

3. The Conservatives need a membership boost

Conservative Party membership is in dire straits. While Labour, the Greens and the SNP have all gained enthusiastic members of all ages, the Conservatives have continued to lose members and have failed to attract young members in particular. Proportional representation would help to expand our membership base across the country, by bringing Conservative voices and ideas from all parts of the UK into the public eye and providing local Conservative role models for potential young members.

4. Scotland shows the benefits of proportional representation – and the dangers of First-Past-The-Post

The Conservatives had almost vanished from the political map in Scotland when the Scottish Parliament was established. But thanks to the proportional system at Holyrood, the party was able to regain a foothold in Scottish politics. Conservatives are in power, alongside other independents and parties, in nine Scottish councils. Between 2007 and 2011 the Conservatives were able to provide a particularly strong voice for their supporters in parliament, supporting the SNP’s minority administration where necessary in order to shape aspects of government policy.  The condition of the Labour Party today also offers a stark warning to those who believe that first-past-the-post is in their political interest: the party was encouraged to take Scottish ‘safe seats’ for granted, until the tipping point was reached in 2015 and Labour was nearly wiped off the map. The Conservatives may seem secure in parts of England for now – but with the approaching EU referendum, Labour’s fate should be seen as a warning.

‘Light Blue Ideas’ was launched at a fringe event at the Scottish Conservative Party conference, Murrayfield Stadium, on Friday 4th March, 12:30pm in the Davies and Ireland Room.

Read the Electoral Reform Society’s Northern Blues: The Conservative Case for Local Electoral Reform and Alan Convery’s Light Blue – Policy Adventures for Scottish Conservatives

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PR for local councils could save £2.6 billion a year http://www.conservativeelectoralreform.org/pr-local-councils-save-2-6-billion-year/ http://www.conservativeelectoralreform.org/pr-local-councils-save-2-6-billion-year/#comments Thu, 18 Feb 2016 16:21:45 +0000 http://www.conservativeelectoralreform.org/?p=512 I have two interests to declare: I have been a Conservative Party member for a little over a decade and I work for the Electoral Reform Society. This sometimes raises eyebrows. However – to coin a phrase – I don’t support electoral reform despite being a Conservative, I support it because I am a Conservative. A new report, showing how …

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I have two interests to declare: I have been a Conservative Party member for a little over a decade and I work for the Electoral Reform Society. This sometimes raises eyebrows. However – to coin a phrase – I don’t support electoral reform despite being a Conservative, I support it because I am a Conservative. A new report, showing how local council reform could save the taxpayer £2.6 billion per year, has added to my list of reasons.

I was born in Southwark and live in Lambeth. It is frustrating that after each election my only vote that helps secure a Conservative representative is that for the London-wide List of Assembly Members or for the Mayor. Indeed, these frustrations are felt even more acutely by Conservatives throughout much of the urban North. We live in Labour wards in Labour-run councils and after each general election we are surrounded by a sea of Red.

In Manchester and Newham in 2014, the Conservatives got 8% and 22% of the votes and 0 councillors. Labour did well by getting 57% and 60% of the votes – but that doesn’t really warrant taking 100% of the seats. If 20% of voters in a local area are Conservatives then about 20% of their councillors should be Conservative – certainly, they should have more than 0!

Further powers are soon to be devolved to combined authorities in the Labour-run North – to be wielded, in all likelihood, by Labour metro-mayors. With Labour priorities and policies. Scrutinised by Labour councillors. As Conservatives, surely we should want to see Tory voters represented by Tory councillors, fighting for decision-making and spending to be conducted with Tory responsibility.

On Sunday at Party Conference, the Society launched a new report written by Cambridge academic Dr Mihály Fazekas for the ERS. In it, he finds that undersized oppositions on councils are bad for fiscal restraint regardless of which party is being kept out of the town hall.

As I have written elsewhere, over 100 councils in England currently have two-thirds or more of their councillors from one party, who are able to rush through decisions and amend standing orders with little if any scrutiny or opposition. Between 2011 and 2014, there were 382 uncontested elections in wards. In contrast, since STV was introduced in 2007 for Scottish local elections, not a single council is now a ‘one-party state’, and not a single ward has gone uncontested (compared to dozens before).

In The Cost of One-Party Councils, Fazekas’ research suggests £2.6 billion could be saved each year if there were no uncontested wards and councils had decent-sized, democratically representative, oppositions. If greater spending power is to be devolved to combined authorities, it is difficult to see this figure improving without an improvement in the electoral system. As in Scotland, Wales and London – the precedent is that the devolution of powers from Westminster to elsewhere has always gone hand-in-hand with a move to a more proportional voting system.

At the Society, we favour the Single Transferable Vote. Invented by Victorian polymath and Conservative lawyer Thomas Hare, the system retains the constituency link and is based on candidates rather than party lists. Voters are represented by a team of councillors (as is presently the case in many councils’ multi-member wards). Conservatives would still control many of the councils we currently dominate, despite some loss of seats. In exchange, Conservative voters in Inner London, the urban North and other Labour hotbeds would be rewarded with the Conservative Councillors for whom they voted – benefitting both our activist base and the public purse.

Dan Hannan and Peter Oborne are amongst those reviving the right-of-centre movement for a more proportional voting system. This report further proves the case for being a Conservative and a supporter of electoral reform.

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