FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Contact: Stephen Gilmore: +32 498 07 78 19; media@makevotesmatter.org.uk
Aberdeen, 15th October 2023

Westminster is not working – not for Scotland or for the rest of the UK. This was the conclusion of a packed fringe event at SNP Conference bringing together senior SNP figures at Westminster and prominent democracy campaigners.

Kirsty Blackman MP (Aberdeen North) and Tommy Sheppard MP (Edinburgh East) were joined by Executive Director of Common Weal, Amanda Burgauer and former UK government minister and Director of cross-party pressure group Unlock Democracy, Tom Brake, at a fringe event chaired by Klina Jordan of Make Votes Matter, the single-issue grassroots campaign for Proportional Representation.

A packed meeting room on the fringe of SNP Conference in Aberdeen heard that millions of people in Scotland and across the UK are dissatisfied with Westminster and do not feel it is delivering for them. 

There was consensus on the panel that among the array of reforms needed to improve the accountability and functioning of the government and parliament in Westminster, replacing the distortive First Past the Post electoral system with Proportional Representation should take priority.

This is backed up by recent UK-wide polling conducted by Opinium for Make Votes Matter that revealed only 1 in 10 people think Parliament is in touch with ordinary people. An even smaller proportion – only 1 in 25 people (4%) – think the UK’s political system does not need reform.

According to this survey, voters in every region of Britain see Proportional Representation (PR) for the Commons as the constitutional change that would do most to address public distrust and alienation vis-à-vis politics. The findings demonstrate an overwhelming appetite for reform, with PR perceived as more likely to deliver effective government and three times more important than reform to the House of Lords.

Speaking at the event, Tommy Sheppard, SNP MP for Edinburgh East, said: 

“First Past the Post is a corrupt system. It allows a minority to govern against the majority and it fuels alienation within politics.

“Proportional Representation makes for better government, better representation and it’s not corrupt. It has enriched the SNP’s programme for government through collaboration with other parties. 

“We need to remind ourselves about the benefits to participation in elections under Proportional Representation and the feeling of connection to politics it brings.”

Klina Jordan, Chief Executive of Make Votes Matter, also commented:

“Proportional Representation is essential to repairing Britain’s broken politics. From issues such as housing, the cost of living crisis, to climate change and the environment, the First Past the Post electoral system is serving as a barrier to progress, ignoring the concerns of millions of voters up and down the country.

“The demand for change is deafening. Despite intense political polarisation, the country is united on the need for political reform – even Rishi Sunak has admitted that Westminster is not working.”1

Tom Brake, Director of Unlock Democracy, added:

“Only 1 in 5 people think the Westminster political system works for them. Given the succession of scandals we have seen, and the failure of the system to enforce proper standards of behaviour, this can be no surprise. 

“We need better political leadership, better ethics in public life, and better, more robust systems of accountability. Until and unless we see serious reform to the way we do politics, the way MPs behave and the way we elect them, we cannot hope to begin to restore public trust.”

-ENDS-

Sources:

1 “There is the undeniable sense that politics just doesn’t work the way it should … a feeling that Westminster is a broken system … It isn’t anger, it is an exhaustion with politics. In particular, politicians saying things, and then nothing ever changing.” Speech by Rishi Sunak to Conservative Party Conference, Wednesday 4th October: https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2023/oct/03/sunak-to-tell-tories-of-britains-broken-politics-amid-chaotic-conference

Notes to editors:

Make Votes Matter is a single-issue campaign for Proportional Representation in the House of Commons. Working with all parties to generate irresistible demand for PR, we aspire to a truly democratic UK in which everyone has an equal voice, power is shared fairly, and decisions are made for the common good. Our most recent report comprehensively dismantles the argument often made by opponents of electoral reform that PR inevitably leads to instability.

On behalf of the Make Votes Matter, Opinium polled a politically and nationally representative sample of 2050 UK adults between 20-22nd of September 2023 to understand their views on the UK political system. The full data tables can be found here. A range of visual charts prepared by Make Votes Matter are also available to download here.

The Alternative Vote – on which the UK had a referendum in 2011 – is not a form of Proportional Representation and can be even more disproportional than First Past the Post.

For more information, please contact Stephen Gilmore, Media Manager at Make Votes Matter on +32 498 07 78 19, or email media@makevotesmatter.org.uk.