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lessons from America

Letter in support of campaigning resolution to ERS AGM

Below is the text of a letter sent on 29 May by Helen Cross to all Electoral Reform Society members. The letter was in support of the resolution she submitted to the ERS AGM ‘building blocks for a stronger campaign’ (full text here)(or pdf) The mailing also included this reponse form to send back to Andrew Burns, chair of ERS. Please print off this form, complete it and return to ERS, Thomas Hare House, 6 Chancel Street, London SE1 0UU. Many thanks.

Dear Electoral Reform Society member,

Building blocks for a stronger campaign: 2010 and beyond

I have taken the unusual step of writing to you, to ask you to support the resolution that I have put to the Society’s Annual Meeting, which calls for the Society to build a robust and high-profile campaign for electoral reform.

Now is a critical time for all supporters of electoral reform. The recent political upheaval in the wake of the MPs’ expenses scandal has presented us with a golden opportunity to press home the message that only a change in the voting system can truly increase accountability and put power back into the hands of the people. The Society has taken a lead role in building a coalition of political organisations and other groups to seize upon the public mood, by pressing for a referendum on a change to the voting system to be held on the same day as the next general election.

This is an exciting development, but if we are serious about securing and winning that referendum, then we desperately need a network of trained activists on the ground now, ready and able to make the case for electoral reform to the wider public. At the moment, it is all too easy for opponents to dismiss our calls for a change to the voting system as an irrelevance, claiming that this is not an issue that the public really care about. We need to prove these critics wrong by building the groundswell for change that they claimed was absent in 2005. Lobbying at Westminster will only be effective if MPs are hearing about electoral reform from
large numbers of their constituents.

We need activists not only to create widespread support for electoral reform, but also to take the fight to our opponents, tackling the myths and misconceptions about proportional representation wherever we find them. We also need to maintain a broader network of supporters, who may take a less active role in the day to day campaigning, but who can nevertheless be called upon to stand up and be counted at those crucial points in the campaign when we need them the most.

Amongst our membership, we have many passionate and experienced advocates of STV and reform in general. Whilst their individual efforts are commendable, how much more effective would all their work be if they had the benefit of support, co-ordination and above all strong leadership from the centre?

It is essential that the Society’s staff build upon the excellent outreach work that they already do and continue take our message to audiences that have not previously heard the case for electoral reform. If we do not do this, then we risk ending up with a stagnant Society that talks only to people who already support
its aims. It is precisely the type of people that we are targeting in our outreach programmes (youth and students, women’s groups and community activists) who are likely to be the next wave of electoral reform supporters and campaigners. Outreach work and activism are vital in achieving widespread public support for electoral reform, which we will need to win a referendum.

I am asking for your support to make this happen, and I urge you to vote for Resolution 1 (Building blocks for a stronger campaign: 2010 and beyond), both by post, and in person at the Annual Meeting. But on an issue as important as this, simply voting is not enough. I want to make sure this resolution is not just passed
by the Annual Meeting, but that the Council understands the strength of support for the principles behind the resolution. For this reason I am also asking you to write to Andrew Burns, Chair of the Electoral Reform Society Council, to let him know your views on this issue.

I firmly believe that the measures set out in the resolution will give the Society the best possible chance of achieving its primary objective of securing the use of STV for all public elections in the United Kingdom. It goes without saying, that all the steps proposed by the resolution should be taken with this object in mind.

Yours Faithfully,
Helen Cross
ERS Member

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May 31, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment

The Building Blocks for a Strong Campaign in 2010 and Beyond

This isn’t about the US mid-term elections, or a party’s campaign at the next UK General Election. This is about the other area of my life: electoral reform. Below is the resolution to the ERS Annual Meeting 2009 that I am keen to promote and get people supporting and voting through.

To vote yes to this, you need to be a member of the Society. Join by 26 May (if you aren’t already a member) in order to be able to vote.

Title: The Building Blocks for a Strong Campaign in 2010 and Beyond

Proposed: Helen Cross
Seconded: Chris Harris

This meeting welcomes the excellent outreach and campaigning work already being done by the Society’s staff to advance the campaign for electoral reform amongst new audiences. This meeting notes the innovative event in Birmingham in May, piloting new ways for the Society to engage with community groups and politically-active organisations and individuals.

This meeting commends the work being done in co-operation with Make Votes Count to recruit and train activists to campaign for a fairer voting system.

This meeting recognises the important role played by electoral reform supporters, in growing the campaign throughout the United Kingdom so effective pressure can be applied at Westminster. This meeting commends the experience, determination and enthusiasm that supporters have demonstrated in taking the case for electoral reform to many different audiences.

This meeting calls upon the Society to build on the strong foundations laid by these early successes by:

1) continuing to work closely with Make Votes Count on areas of common interest, in order to benefit from the strengths and resources of both organisations.

2) supporting and providing materials for a network of activists who will lead grassroots campaigning activity in every constituency in the United Kingdom.

3) developing the capacity (whether itself, or through organisations such as Make Votes Count) for greater public campaigning, focused on the case against first past the post and the positives of changing the system, and also to more forcefully take on our opponents and challenge the myths about proportional representation.

4) extending the Society’s work with new audiences, including increased production of appropriate resources and campaigning materials.

5) taking all necessary steps to ensure that the Society is well-placed to fight and win a national referendum should the opportunity arise.

May 19, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | Leave a comment