Referendum on AV provokes lively debate
Recently, on 8th December, the Birmingham University Guild of Students hosted an important and topical debate ahead of the national referendum on Voting Reform. With less than 5 months until the referendum on the choice of electoral system on 5th May next year, the ‘Question Time-style’ debate featured representatives from all main political parties, as well as Professor Colin Thain, Head of Polsis at the University of Birmingham. The event was ably chaired by Cory Hazlehurst, a committee member of the University Take Back Parliament society.
The debate seems to have been a great success both in itself & also in terms of generating more interest & support for the Yes to Fairer Votes Campaign. As Charlotte Galpin, Chair of the University of Birmingham Yes to Fairer Votes society said, “I was delighted that so many students came in such numbers and contributed to a lively discussion on voting reform”. She added “..it’s absolutely crucial that people understand exactly what is involved next May as it will affect everyone. The changes are really as simple as 1,2,3 and they will mean that voters have a much greater choice when it comes to choosing their MP in future”.
Janet King, who also attended the debate said she was pleased that all bar one of the speakers were saying Yes to reforming our electoral system. She continued- “There was a good turnout, mainly students, and the message was that this is winnable but we`ll need to work hard to get the Yes campaign to the general public, who are not political animals and have not thought about it..”
“..the panel was first asked of their opinion for the change from first past the post to the alternative vote. Jonathan Pyke (Electoral Reform Society) spoke in favour of the AV system, which gets voters to rank candidates in order of preference, as he believed this would make politicians ‘go beyond their usual core support’.
James McKay (Labour) agreed that ‘anything that makes MPs work harder to connect with voters is a good thing’, with voter disengagement also being considered during the debate. Daniel Cowdrill (Conservative) on the other hand described the referendum as ‘an expensive waste of time’, arguing that the public did not want a new voting system.”
As well as the recent debate, local Fairer Votes members & supporters have been getting ready for the official start of the phonebank canvassing campaign both from our West Midlands offices in central Birmingham & remotely from home, as well as preparing for various stalls & leafleting days in Birmingham & a bigger debate evening in early February (more on that soon)! We also had a rather festive planning meeting back on the 1st December, followed by dinner at our usual meeting venue, Bennett’s Bar. A good time was had by all– some maybe had more of the “Christmas spirit” than others, judging by this photo!