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Tuesday, 9 August 2011

The politics of... being a representative (Five questions about me)

As some of you know, I have put myself up for election to the Council of the Electoral Reform Society, a political pressure group which promotes giving votes equal value, effective representation, an end to tactical votes and improved accountability of representatives to their electorates. Despite the disappointing loss in the recent referendum on the Alternative Vote the society has a great chance to build upon the work done by the volunteers and numerous passionate groups and voices which emerged during the campaign. I want to be part of a movement to ensure that the case for Electoral Reform continues to be pushed consistently and coherently at all levels of government.

I'm going to use this weeks blog to briefly talk about me, my experience and why I am standing, I also invite questions via the comments function on this form as well as to my email here. I am also on facebook and twitter if you want to continue the conversation there.

1. Why do you believe in Electoral Reform?

Well I grew up in the safe seat of Yeovil, as a Liberal Democrat this should be good news, as the infamous graphs will tell you 'only the Liberal Democrats can win here' and 'Labour cannot win here'. This annoyed me somewhat, even when I was young I questioned actually who listens to those who voted for the losing candidates. Thinking further, I questioned what happened if the election was a close call, or if turnout was small, were we really electing someone representative of the constituency or just a critically significant minority. Its a story that I am sure many people will understand, Now I live in Coventry and the boot is on the other foot and its just as hard walking to the ballot box to make your mark and exercise your right knowing that it will be counted but won't count.

2. Why are you standing?

Having seen the relative success of the #yestoav campaign in terms of mobilising support for reform and the emergence of a number of regional and local groups I want to help make sure the Society grasps this opportunity to build on these resources (the ideas, commitment and experience of its members). I don't want to witness a missed opportunity. The loss of the Alternative Vote referendum has to be the starting point, a well funded campaign of mis-information from the No campaign should not leave members down heartened but instead driven to push the fairness agenda further.

3. What experience do you have?

As a party political activist I have the experience of knocking on doors, and making the case for reform. In terms of work experience and education I recently completed a doctorate in Political Science exploring the concept of political representation. From both research and employment I have experience of lobbying, engaging and working with elected members. Ive organised campaigns and conferences and have experience of working with and training volunteers. I feel my knowledge and experience can  help the ERS harness and build upon what we already have.

4. What do you feel are the priorities for the Electoral Reform Society.

The three areas I feel the society should focus on...

a) Joining Up: I recently attended an ERS event at the LGA Conference and it made me acutely aware of the potential benefit that could be gained from improved engagement with academia, think tanks and elected members. Beyond this the society needs to maximise its potential by joining up and connecting its members in a more coherent way.

b) Equitable Representation: I feel the ERS needs to work with other groups to work towards an equitable representation of women and minority groups at all levels of government. There may be many methods to ensure this, the strongest of which has to be through support, scaffolding and encouragement. The crucial question to be addressed is why are individuals not standing.
 
c) Electoral Reform for English Local Government: The ERS must push the case for Electoral Reform within English local government. Whereas the Politics of Westminster tends to be focused on leaders, rosettes and the big three parties the representative relationship between councillor and locality is crucially different. The Town Hall is the arena through which there is an opportunity for extensive representative engagement and choice and plurality are the key to this representation. For communities to be heard political representation needs to be re founded in local politics. A broader more pluralistic representative basis is needed for communities to feel they have a voice, the case for electoral reform at the Local Government level needs to be made.

5.Whats your favourite electoral system?

I favour Single Transferable Vote, the best system for combining both a proportional and preferential element.

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You can find full list of candidates standing this year with links to their candidate statements here, the big question is why are only 6 of the 53 candidates women, that's an issue that needs to be addressed.

I always have a spotify song on my blog and today is no exception, You Can't Always Get What You Want.
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