MVM Oxon equal votes debate panel, 13th April 2023

By Sue Ledwith, MVM Oxon

On 13th April, around 80 people came together to discuss PR with speakers, including Oxford West & Abingdon MP, Layla Moran, and MVM’s CEO, Klina Jordan.

At the outset, Klina reminded us that the current electoral system (First Past the Post) became entrenched – at the expense of existing alternatives – as a result of a deal between the then Liberal Party and the Conservatives back in 1884. This showed that FPTP was not inevitable and can be replaced. Change was long due, she said.

Any new voting system should be based on the 10 principles of the Good Systems Agreement, signed by political parties, MPs and campaign organisations across the political spectrum. This also advocates a citizen-led, deliberative process to choose a new system.

Layla Moran reported that the narrative on the doorstep in the run up to the local elections, was “People don’t have a voice”. That “politics itself was broken.”

Under First Past the Post, millions of voters are forced to “play the game”: denied a real choice, they must choose between seeing their vote count for nothing, or voting tactically to block the candidate with whom they least agree.

Professor Helen Margetts observed that 30% of voters in 2019 voted tactically. This level of ‘game playing’ means that FPTP becomes opaque and the system unstable – the opposite of what its supporters claim.

Local GP, Dr Helen Salisbury, stood down as a parliamentary candidate in 2017 to help Layla Moran get elected. She said PR was needed to get a stable government for the NHS and health policy over the long term.

And local Oxford City Councillor Emily Kerr, with a Swedish background, supported PR for many reasons, including higher voter turnout.

There was agreement that the pressure was now on the Labour Party to commit to PR. It was the only main opposition party whose leadership does not back electoral reform, despite 80% of members and a majority of trade unions supporting PR.

On the doorstep, the message should be that if you want a revitalised NHS, a government to deal with the cost of living crisis, and an end to our broken politics, support PR.

A recent survey of Oxfordshire councillors carried out jointly by MVM Oxon and Councils for PR also found a majority in favour of PR.

A recording of the event is available here.