Sunday, 5 July 2015

Voters in Stoke can play their part in making a historic change to proportional representation for local elections.

Ahead of this week's full council meeting Green Party members have sent an open letter to Stoke-on-Trent City Council calling for a change from the first past the post system to proportional representation for local elections.

The letter calls for the council 'to bring forward legislation allowing for PR to be used for the 2019 council elections in order to demonstrate the advantages of this system to the electorate,' and goes on to say 'we further request that a local referendum be held to allow voters to decide whether or not to adopt PR permanently.'

The letter states that the democratic system is ' broken and fails to accurately reflect the wishes of the electorate', drawing attention to the fact that , 'At the recent general election seven million people cast their votes for parties that only received ten seats in parliament.'

At the 2015 general election Labour retained all three parliamentary seats in Stoke-on-Trent with a reduced share of the vote, many voters feel this result does not reflect their true intentions since they gave their support to smaller parties. This is due to the failure of the first past the post system to recognise and respond effectively a slate involving candidates from more than two parties.

Relying on this system results in too many 'wasted votes', adversely impacts on smaller parties the support for which is often thinly spread although still numerous; causes large numbers of voters to be disenfranchised because their votes are not taken into account and helps to perpetuate a combative form of politics that is a demonstrable driver of voter disengagement.

The Green Party supports proportional representation with the 'Additional Member System' being used at parliamentary elections and campaigned on this issue at the general election saying in its manifesto 'Only the 200,000 votes in marginal seats really counted in the last election – that’s less than 0.5% of those eligible to vote. We would make everyone’s vote count.'

The party also advocates a number of other measures for modernising the political system to make it more open and responsive. These include, allowing 16 year olds to vote, reforming the House of Lords and aspiring to create a parliament with an equal membership of male and female MPs by 2025. The party would also introduce referendums on local government decisions if requested by 20% of the electorate and give voters the right to recall their MP.

These policies are, leader Natalie Bennett writes in the introduction to the manifesto part of 'a bold plan to create a more equal, more democratic society while doing our part to heal the planet, which has been severely damaged by the effects of an unstable, unsustainable economy.'

Adam Colclough, Campaigns Coordinator for North Staffs Green Party said ' voters in Stoke and other cities around the country deserve an electoral system that is modern and responsive to the intentions they express at the ballot box. PR has been used in elections in Scotland and have been a major driver of re-engaging the public with politics, it would be hugely beneficial for our democracy were that to happen here too.'

He added that 'Stoke is a city that has been at the cutting edge of change before, this is one of the places where the Industrial Revolution began, it is fitting that the process of change that gives politics back to the most important people; the voters, began here too.'

The letter will be distributed to the leaders of the coalition controlling Stoke-on-Trent City Council, the local Labour group, the local media and the Rt Hon Greg Clark MP, Secretary of State, Communities and Local Government.

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