94% of people think the Electoral Reform Society should be a better campaigning force!

Posting an online poll, on Facebook, normally receives a maximum of 7 responses and usually it is on a subject of tangential interest – well to me anyway.

So, it was with some trepidation that I asked the question:

Do you think the Electoral
Reform Society is in need of reform to make it a more effective
campaigning force for
democratic change?

There has been almost 100 responses now and to be honest I was not entirely surprised that 94% of those responding supported reform in the ERS to make it more effective at campaigning for democratic change, but the level of support did. This, of course, has several possible answers, bearing in mind the respondents are self-selecting. Firstly, that people motivated by reform are much more likely to engage with modern media like Facebook, and conversely those opposing reform do not. Secondly, that I am friends with reformers, and, for that matter, their friends are more campaign focussed that the average person on Facebook. But finally, it occurs to me, it might actually be the level of support for change.

It has been interesting to see the debate on the internet about the future direction of the Society and the different perspectives being presented. The most concerning, for me, is that some of the present incumbents seem to feel the ERS was not ‘responsible’ for the AV referendum campaign. It is rather reminiscent of the Yes Minister discussion about if they were not responsible for spending £1 million of the Society’s money on a campaign that the membership was consulted on and supported, why were they not responsible?

The first UK-wide opportunity to change the voting system, by a referendum, should have had extensive oversight by the ERS Council and should have been led by those that wanted to see electoral reform, even if it wasn’t perfect, namely the ERS.

So, why weren’t they?

I don’t have the answer to that question – it is for them to answer. For my part I did run the campaign in the North West, appointed by Andy May, who is also trying to reform the ERS as part of the team I am a member of. And the result was a bitter disappointment for those that wanted electoral reform, whether members of the ERS or not. We must all take our part of the responsiblity for the failure, but to have had the chance to affect the campaign, and have apparently not taken up the gauntlet, would seem unforgivable!

Leave a comment


  1. Stuart Hill

     /  August 23, 2011

    As a Regional Organiser how did you voice your concerns at the way the campaign was going and when?

    • Hi Stuart,

      I think if you’d been at any of the regional campaigns meetings you wouldn’t ask that question! ;)) I was employed in November and within three weeks I wrote a 2000 word critique of the campaign which urged a much more effective ground campaign based on literature. This was discussed at a meeting of all the Northern organisers at a meeting in Manchester at which Jane Thomas (Yorks), Michael Payne (East Mids), Jamie Matthews (North East) and Andy May were all present and in agreement.

      The paper was strongly rebuffed by senior members of the national staff in London as they were driven by their desire to make the campaign based on Phonebanking, We successfully did phone banking when we could but despite all out attempts to prise leaflets from the natonal team they refused to allow use to campaign in this way until very late in the campaign.

      At all subsequent meetings of the regional organisers and and at any other opportunity I raisedmy concerns that the campaign was being undermined by the poor messaging and poorer delivery.

      I hope that goes some way to answering your question.

  2. Guest

     /  September 20, 2011

    Phone banking was a big mistake, but that doesn’t vindicate your own approach. Underspending on the all-important “air war” was a consequence of overspending on the “ground war”, including the employment of too many people like you (that’s not to say that you were personally incompetent).

    It suits a section of the Lib Dem party to believe that all elections can be won on the ground, but a national referendum – where every vote in every seat counts the same – can’t be fought in the same way as a by-election. Leaflet bombing won’t cut it.

    I hope you don’t bring the same reverse snobbery about the key political arts of lobbying and press communications to your new role at the ERS. The idea that activism alone can achieve the aims of the democratic reform movement is attractive but demonstrably wrong.


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