Many of you interested in Electoral Reform in Northern Ireland may well also be members of the Electoral Reform Society (ERS). They are currently having elections to their council and ballots should be arriving with members from today.
Following on from the upset that many of us felt about the result and indeed the way that the Yes! to Fairer Votes campaign was run these elections have a greater importance. The need for electoral reform hasn’t suddenly disappeared, it just may be harder to get ourselves heard. What is needed for the case of electoral reform is people who truly are committed to the cause and who have a campaigning spirit.
The first group who have taken action to campaign for that change within the ERS council is a group of names that I do find very familiar. They were hard-working middle, lower management or even just volunteers in the Yes! campaign. Some ran phone banks (and I know they ran them well), others were effective in the tasks they had, all of them struggled with the people at the top of the campaign from actually listening to the concerns of the grass-roots, and indeed those who had been employed because of their campaigning expertise to run our various regional campaigns.
Steven McIntosh has written to all Northern Irish members of the ERS to set out their agenda for change, saying We Must Do Better! He says:
“I, and a team of like-minded individuals are campaigning to rebuild and improve the [ERS], because if one thing became clear from the referendum, it was that the organisations dedicated to the cause of electoral reform were simply not capable or well prepared enough to win the campaign. This has to change to make sure that we win, and continue to promote a better democracy whenever we get the chance.
“It is a team which is determined to improve the way the Electoral Reform Society is governed and to make sure that any future campaigning becomes more effective and delivers on the values of the society.”
There are a list of campiagning goals included that the ERS which they feel needs to get moving on.
- An elected House of Lordss
- Votes at 16
- Voter registration
- Youth engagement and particiapation
- Electoral reform at parish council and Local Authority elections (one that doesn’t apply to us here in Northern Ireland)
He then lists a number of people who I can personally vouch for as being people who did all they could in the campaign. But like myself came up against brick walls that stopped us being the effective campaigning machine that many of us wanted to be, many of us signed up to be part of, but found our hands tied (often by decisions made before we came on board). Looking down the list I see people from Labour, Liberal Democrats, UKIP, the Green Party and no party whatsoever.
I learnt the importance of working with people from all these parties and others (I was Northern Ireland Organiser after all) for the common cause of electoral reform, so have no problems voting for a cross party slate of candidates, this issue is bigger than any individual party, or party leaders ego. While I’ve been disagreeing with Nigel Farage over how to deal with rioters in recent days I agree with many that he was just the person we needed to get out the message that AV wasn’t a left leaning, Guardian readers system but fair across the political spectrum, he was alas underutilized in that cause until too late in the day.
The list of people on the team is George Gabriel, John Ault, Steffan John, Claire Coatman, Arnie Craven, Steven McIntosh, Danny Zinkus Sutton, James Grindrod, Andrew May, Amy Dodd, Chris Carrigan, Benjamin Lille, Jessica Assato, Arran Cottam and Jon Walsh.
This is writen as the personal opinion of myself having worked with the vast majority of these people on the Yes! campaign. I will also give information about any other group/individual that contacts me seeking their vote for the ERS council as well, for the sake of balance and transparent democracy in these elections.
Update I understand that a second letter has been sent to Northern Ireland members and have been assured this was an administrative error.