It’s a mess, isn’t it? The UK’s political system has never been fit for purpose, but the last few years have really shown it to be an undemocratic catastrophe. This year, in crisis after crisis, Westminster has failed us.
Every country in the world has faced a challenging 2020. But the UK has had a worse year than most. Now more than ever, we need a politics of compassion and co-operation, where every voice is heard. It’s not just about which party you vote for - it’s the fact that our political system promotes shouting matches instead of bringing us together to solve our shared problems. No wonder most of us feel we don’t have an equal say in how the country is run.
Thirty years ago, New Zealand’s democracy had the same issues that the UK faces today. Their Westminster-style system kept installing governments that didn’t represent the voters. So New Zealanders decided to build a new democracy, replacing their First Past the Post system with Proportional Representation (PR) - a powerful reform to build a more compassionate and co-operative politics.
This transformed their political culture from tit-for-tat point-scoring to one where people and parties work together to solve common problems. Now, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern leads one of the world’s most popular governments. It’s not just New Zealand; most democracies use PR. The only other country in Europe to use First Past the Post for its parliament is the brutal dictatorship in Belarus.
Right now, your postcode determines whether parties need to treat your vote like gold dust, or whether your opinion can safely be ignored. Voters in marginal constituencies get lavished with attention and funding, while citizens in safe seats get passed by.
Democracies work because governments know that if they don’t deliver, the people can replace them at the next election. But British governments - regardless of political stripe - know that the UK doesn’t work like that. At the last general election, for every 100 people who voted for our current Government, 129 people voted for something different. But because of First Past the Post the Government got an 80-seat majority in Parliament and complete control. It’s not just our current Government - no single party has won a majority of votes at a UK general election since 1931.
We can solve these problems with Proportional Representation, which simply means that all votes are equal - no matter where you live or who you vote for.
Political scientists have shown that PR leads to more compassionate, co-operative, and effective politics. Equal votes result in better outcomes for everyone: more equal societies, more diverse representation, stronger environmental protections and even a lower likelihood of going to war. Make Votes Matter is the national campaign to win an equal voice for every voter in the UK.
Whether we win Proportional Representation after the next general election doesn’t depend on what happens in the few weeks leading up to polling day. It depends on what happens now and in the coming months and years: whether we, as a movement, have put in place the conditions for electoral reform before that election comes. The voting system will change once the following three things happen:
- A broad, diverse, and unstoppable grassroots movement of people in every corner of the UK demands change.
- An Alliance of political parties, organisations and public figures act together to advocate for equal votes.
- And one of the largest two parties decisively backs PR; the more likely of these by far being the Labour Party.
We’ve made significant progress on all three, and there are major opportunities to rapidly advance the campaign in 2021 - if we have the resources to do it.
Emma Knaggs, Sarah Hudspith, and Surrinder Chera support the grassroots movement
This year we’ve tapped in to our volunteer base like never before. Our local groups have kept in touch online and continued campaigning locally. From Brighton to Belfast, over 1,000 people joined in our socially-distanced Action Day in August, taking photos of themselves with placards and signs demanding equal votes. We even dropped a banner off Westminster Bridge! Dozens of our cross-party speakers have joined local party meetings all across the country to make sure that PR is on the agenda. Next year, we’re planning to build on this momentum. We want to improve the diversity and the reach of the grassroots movement. We’re also launching a local councillors’ network to campaign at local government level. We want to make sure that PR is part of everyday conversation in 2021 so that we can all Make Votes Matter.
Klina Jordan and Owen Winter co-ordinate Allies in Parliament and all over the UK
Make Votes Matter is working to build alliances with organisations and individuals from across the political spectrum, as well as with people who wouldn’t normally be associated with political campaigning. One of the key focuses of the Alliance is to build on our Good Systems Agreement, the historic consensus setting out the principles of good voting systems, as well as the deliberative approach we can take to choose the right system for the UK. So many movements and communities in the UK are being held back by First Past the Post. In the coming year, we’ll bring more and more of these groups into the movement for PR - because equal votes give all parts of our society a fair voice.
Joe Sousek and Caroline Osborne - both Labour Party members - helped launch Labour for a New Democracy
Every opposition party in Great Britain already backs electoral reform - except the Labour Party. But 2021 is the year that might finally change. This September, we played a key role in launching Labour for a New Democracy - a project shared between 11 different organisations to get the party and its trade union backers to commit to PR by the time of its next annual conference.
Well over a hundred Constituency Labour Parties have already called for Proportional Representation - and through phone-banking and organising we’re working to make sure this number grows and grows. Come next September, we must make sure Proportional Representation is one of the top issues at Labour Party Conference - so it can finally be debated and become party policy. No matter who you vote for, you will be affected by the outcome of this campaign. So we need to pull out all the stops to make sure that we reach everyone in the Labour movement - from the grassroots to the leadership - to make the case that democracy is the key to making a better country for us all.
The electoral reform organisation Make Votes Count have offered to match donations to our Crowdfunder. From 17 December onwards, for every £1 donated to Make Votes Matter through this Crowdfunder, Make Votes Count donated £1 to the joint project to get Labour behind PR: Labour for a New Democracy. On 4 January, we fulfilled the full £23,596 match.
Every penny donated to the MVM Crowdfunder goes towards our cross-party campaign: building our UK-wide grassroots movement, developing our ever-growing army of volunteers, and co-ordinating the work of the broad cross-party PR Alliance.
The match funding will power critical work mobilising support for equal votes in the Labour and trade union movement through the Labour for a New Democracy project. Bringing together a coalition of 11 different campaigns, this project is driving towards the goal of a Labour commitment to PR by September 2021.
Why Labour for a New Democracy? At MVM, we don't endorse any party or candidate. But for all of us, whoever we vote for, it will be a huge step forward for the cause if Labour comes on board. That would mean that every opposition party in Great Britain would support equal votes, and it would make introducing PR after the next general election a very realistic prospect.
Who are Make Votes Count? Is it the same as Make Votes Matter? The similar names can be a bit confusing! Make Votes Count is a cross-party organisation that supports PR and is chaired by Jonathan Reynolds MP. Though Make Votes Count have stepped back from frontline campaigning, they have very generously offered this match to support the Labour for a New Democracy project.
How long is this match valid for? Make Votes Count committed to match up to £23,596. We believe that we have now raised enough funds to fulfil the full match. It is unlikely that any donations made from now on will be matched.
If you made a donation between 17 December and 4 January, and if for whatever reason you would prefer your donation not to be matched, just send us a message using the “Contact” tab and we'll remove it from the tally.
Yes! So far, we have had an outsized impact on a limited budget.
We put every penny to work as hard as we can. Our staff team, who all take a modest living wage, support dozens of brilliant volunteers who drive the campaign forward. Here are some examples of what your donation could help fund:
- Reaching 2,000 potential new supporters through social media advertising - £10
- Printing 20 copies of a detailed report packed with PR facts - £20
- Printing 300 promotional postcards - £32
- A Zoom account suitable for large-scale campaign events, per month - £48
- Phone bills for 500 calls by volunteers to Labour Party members - £56
- Hosting the MVM website for six months - £125
- A month’s use of our online mobilisation platform and high volume email service - £200
- Exhibition stand at a party conference - £720
- Commissioning an opinion poll to illustrate public support for PR - £1,500
- One highly-skilled full-time campaigner, for one month (including employers’ NI and pension contributions) - £2,075
Every pound will help us take another step closer to fixing our political system and giving us all an equal voice in shaping the country. Please chip in today!
History tells us that expanding democracy isn’t easy, but it can be done. Make Votes Matter campaigns in purple, white and green, the colours of the suffragettes. These dedicated campaigners were told that their dream could never happen - there was no way that the UK would ever give women votes equal to men. But their passion for real democracy built a movement so strong that the most powerful people in the country had to concede.
Real democratic reform has happened before and will happen again. Be a part of it!
Many of us have had a tough year. Whether you feel you can make a donation or not, you can still play a crucial role in the campaign by taking action right now:
Thank you for your support!