Big names heading to pro-proportional representation Manchester rally

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Make Votes Matter, a campaign group dedicated to changing the UK’s voting system, has secured some big names for its Manchester rally this Saturday.

The group is a cross-party campaign set up to change the UK’s voting system from First-Past-The-Post to one where seats match votes.

The campaign is holding a large rally in Manchester on Saturday 19th August, and has secured three big names to speak at its event: ex-Green Party of England and Wales leader Natalie Bennett, former Lib Dem MP and MEP Chris Davies, and newly appointed Chief Executive of pro-reform organisation, the Electoral Reform Society, Darren Hughes.

The list of speakers shows the cross-party nature of the movement. Hughes is particularly interesting as it shows cooperation between two groups fighting the same battle. He is also a former Labour MP from New Zealand, a country which voted for a change in voting system in the early nineties.

The other speakers are Klina Jordan, Co-founder and facilitator of Make Votes Matter, Wendy Stephen, the Co-founder and facilitator of Alliance4PR, as well as Mary Southcott of the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform.

The announcement of the speakers was made on the campaign’s active social media pages, which includes a public Facebook event for the rally.

How realistic is a change in voting system?

Opponents of reform will say that the issue was dealt with for a generation with the AV referendum. Back in 2011, the British public soundly voted against changing FPTP to the Alternative Vote. However, as Make Votes Matter would point out, the Alternative Vote is not a proportional voting system. In fact, the 1997 election, which produced Blair’s colossal landslide would likely have led to an even larger Labour majority had the Alternative Vote been in operation, according to analysis from Ipsos.

While changing the voting system is not the sexiest topic for the ordinary voter, and while it may appear to be a dead issue for now, the movement behind a change is certainly growing. Out of the UK’s seven main parties, just Labour and the Conservatives oppose a switch in voting system. That said, Labour’s shadow chancellor John McDonnell favours a switch, as reported by the Independent, as do many key players in the Labour party.

Success for the pro-PR movement likely depends on what Labour does at the next election and the strength of the leverage pro-PR parties such as the Liberal Democrats and Greens have over Corbyn’s party. With the Conservatives in power, a change in voting system is unlikely, but a Labour-led government, if the die fall correctly, could be lined up to make facilitate a change.