Friday, 7 May 2010

People Power & voting for change

In 1884 a man called Sir John Lubbock, Liberal MP for Maidstone under Gladstone, "threw himself with tremendous enthusiasm" into a campaign for proportional representation and co-founded the Proportional Representation Society, (much) later to become the Electoral Reform Society.

Today, Friday 7th May 2010, we have a hung parliament for the first time since 1974 and the leader of the Liberal Democrats,  Nick Clegg occupies a position that enables him to bring about change to our voting system forever. He must not abandon or compromise his Liberal principles.

The City (and the Conservative Party) are running scared and their friends in the media mostly collude to deny the electorate the fundamental right to have each vote cast count. Cameron offers the prospect of talks about talks and committees while the non-elected Gordon Brown becomes a latter-day convert to electoral reform (in theory anyway)and a referendum on PR, promised by his party in 1997 has yet to materialise.

The Labour Party's commitment and record on reform is both fickle and feeble, but the electorate has spoken, and voted (where they have been able to ... in Hackney and numerous other polling stations up and down the country, voters have been disenfranchised through incompetence, but that's another story).

I have a book with the rather un-catchy title:  Science, Politics and Business in the Work of Sir John Lubbock - A Man of Universal Mind This illustrates how such a system might work and gets to the heart of how and why the first-past-the-post system (FPTP) cheats the voters. See also

For this cause, John Lubbock held extensive roadshows in 1884 and 1885 and as a "Twitterer" of his day, promoted the idea of PR at amazingly well-attendied public rallies - "Suffolk on 15th December, Machester 17th December, Leicester on 13th January, Nottingham 14th, Greenwich 20th, Lambeth 23rd, Islington 27th, St Pancras 29th, Liverpool 5th February ..." a brief respite for the birth of his new baby daughter, before resuming in Tower Hamlets, Norwich and Oxford.

Today, we have Flashmobs and the internet to perform that function; to rally and mobilise. The electorate is asking today what a select few with the vote then were asking for way back in 1884. Clegg has both opportunity and risk. He will be accused of trying to fiddle with the voting system for self-not-National-interest while Britain descends even further into a black financial abyss. But such change is desirable, inevitable and essential and Clegg must negotiate forcefully to get proportional representation in place before we have yet another farce of a General Election. And there may be one soon, so not a moment to waste.

It seems such opportunities only come round once every century. Funny how you wait for a bus then two come at once. So the Big Question is who will Nick get into bed with and who is most likely to deliver on a promise of electoral reform? It is in the National Interest to ensure that our chosen political representatives reflect the wishes of the electorate. Clearly, under our present system of First-Past-thePost (FPTP), the system has broken down and is in urgent need of repair and renewal, fit-for-purpose and the 21st century. The system we have now serves only to protect vested interests and is an affront to democracy.

If Nick Clegg achieves the legacy of PR he will be in a good company. As well as his campaigning for PR, John Lubbock's legacy includes the creation of Bank holidays (once known as St Lubbock's Day, public libraries, the ability to write a cheque and the protection of public monuments.


  1. This is very topical. Have a look at, and also see, by the organiser Pam Giddy of this afternoon's demonstration outside the LGA during the LibDem MPs' meeting.

  2. What a conundrum for Nick. I think Britain needs a shakeup, not more of the same.