Last Thursday evening I wandered over to Westminster Central Hall to the Vote for a Change rally to see what a public campaign for electoral reform might look like. Of all the big political battles being fought, electoral reform has always struggled to achieve the same public interest as other big hitters like climate change, poverty or AIDS. Maybe it’s because electoral reform, perhaps unfairly, has been saddled with a reputation as being the domain of political geeks that it has never been of much interest to those who exist outside SW1. In my mind electoral reform lives in the small musty backrooms of Westminster where men in ill-fitting suits discuss the technicalities and intricacies of different voting systems. Unfortunately, it’s not a subject that seems to capture the imagination of people outside the Westminster village.
The Vote for a Change campaign aims to change this. The Campaign was established in the wake of the expenses scandal and brings together a large and powerful coalition of think tanks and pressure groups to lobby for electoral reform (although a notable absence of representation from the political right). It was a big rally – around 800 people – which showcased many of recent innovations in campaigning techniques including some neat use of text messaging to spread the campaign’s message. The challenge of connecting the campaign with the public was recognised by all speakers at the rally but perhaps the crisis in parliament offers an opportunity to shift these niece discussions into the mainstream. It will be interesting to see if the combination of a powerful civil society coalition and innovative campaigning techniques can put electoral reform on the public agenda.
Find out more and sign up for the campaign here.
Image by hugovk