The Green Party in Cannock Chase called a motion which was supported by the UKIP counterpart as well as some Labour Party Councillors joining a national movement calling for politicians to back a fair voting system for Westminster and for local elections.
Greens from numerous councils around England, including Norwich, Oxford and Bristol, have submitted motions calling on their council to endorse a proportional representation system and to write to party leaders asking them to do the same. In several cases, including in Cannock Chase, councillors from other parties are seconding the proposal. The Cannock Chase motion was debated at the council meeting on Wednesday 4th July.
The motion argues that “a robust democracy must include a fair voting system” and points out that proportional electoral systems are already used to elect the devolved parliaments and assemblies in Scotland, Wales and London.
Councillor Paul Woodhead of Cannock Chase District Council, said: “There is a clear desire at the moment for a new way of doing politics, and that has to include a fair voting system. People are sick of feeling they have to vote tactically instead of voting for what they actually believe in. Proportional representation means there are no wasted votes, because every vote contributes to winning a seat for that party.
“The Green Party is committed to working with other parties to achieve our goal of a fairer voting system, and I am delighted that Councillor Alan Dean of UKIIP agreed to second this motion and that the move is backed by a number of Labour councillors showing Cannock Chase residents that they support the growing national movement for fair votes.”
The current ‘first past the post’ system works better for some parties than others, with 27,930 votes required to elect an MP from the Scottish National Party in last month’s general election, compared with 525,371 votes to elect one Green Party MP. The Democratic Unionist Party has 10 seats despite winning only 292,316 votes.
The Greens, the Liberal Democrats and the SNP all advocate the introduction of a proportional system, and a growing number of Labour MPs now back it too, including Clive Lewis, Chuka Umunna and shadow chancellor John McDonnell. A recent ICM poll for Make Votes Matter showed that 61% of people support proportional representation, including 54% of Conservative voters as well as 70% of Labour voters.
Caroline Lucas, Green Party co-leader, said:
“It’s great to see Green Party councillors leading the way when it comes to a fairer voting system as one of the building blocks of a new kind of politics. At every election millions of votes are wasted because of our archaic electoral system, and it’s no surprise that so many people are now backing a change in the rules. I hope that the Labour Party joins the Greens and Liberal Democrats in this initiative – and that cross-party work on this issue develops across the country.”
In Cannock Chase the named vote was called by the Conservative Group and resulted in all attending conservative members voting against the motion as well as an Independent Member and a number of Labour Councillors. The Green Party and UKIP councillors backed the motion along with a number of Labour Councillors and a couple of Labour Councillors abstained.
The Text of the Motion Debated
Council believes that a Parliament that more accurately reflects the views of the nation, enabling people to feel that their votes count, is more likely to develop an economic, social and environmental agenda that benefits the residents of Cannock Chase.
Following the recent general election, this Council agrees that the ‘First Past the Post’ voting system:
- has again failed to live up to its reputation to provide strong and stable government;
- has again yielded a wildly disproportionate allocation of seats with, for example, the Democratic Unionist Party gaining 10 seats from 292,316 votes compared with 12 seats from 2.4 million votes for the Liberal Democrats;
- has spectacularly failed to match votes to seats with 27,930 votes required to elect one MP from the Scottish National Party compared with 525,371 votes to elect one Green Party MP.
- a) recognises that a robust democracy must include a fair voting system and that nobody should be disenfranchised because of where they live;
- b) applauds the many groups and organisations campaigning for fair votes including the Electoral Reform Society, Make Votes Matter and the Labour Campaign for PR;
- c) notes that the Single Transferable Vote system is already used for local elections in Scotland and in both Northern Irish local elections and the Northern Ireland Assembly while proportional electoral systems are used to elect the devolved parliaments and assemblies in Scotland, Wales and London;
- d) therefore calls for the introduction of a proportional voting system
(i) for local elections in England and Wales;
(ii) for Westminster elections; and
- e) directs that a copy of this motion be forwarded to the Leaders of all political parties represented in the UK Parliament.
Audio recording of the debate at Council 5th July 2017
Agenda and Papers for the meeting
The outcome of the debate was
For 5 Against 30 Abstain 2