Alternative Vote Debate: Kings Heath, Birmingham

Love Kings Heath

On Saturday 2nd April some of the region’s top authorities on voting reform will gather in Kings Heath, Birmingham, to present their perspectives to the community, and join in the conversation about the upcoming alternative vote referendum.

This important event will take place at 12 noon at All Saints Church in the heart of Kings Heath village, and will see MP for Edgbaston Gisela Stuart (Lab) and 2010 parliamentary candidate for Solihull Maggie Throup (Con) argue the ‘No to AV’ case from different points of view, whilst MP for Northfield and chair of the All Party Group on Electoral Reform Richard Burden (Lab) will argue the ‘Yes to AV’ case, with Professor Simon Green of Aston University offering a wider perspective on the debate.

The event, organised by Peace Church and All Saints Church in Kings Heath, provides a unique opportunity for the Birmingham community to explore the issues raised by the AV referendum in a creative, conversational manner. Invited panelists will have a limited amount of time in which to present their arguments to the floor, after which they will engage with smaller groups to discuss the issues raised by the presentations.

This‘community conversation’ is not an opportunity for politicians to preach at the public, but a real chance for the public to engage with their politicians and each other, to grapple with the proposals for important changes to democracy in the United Kingdom.

Richard Burden MP, who is chair of the All Party Group on Electoral Reform and will be presenting the ‘Yes to AV’ argument, said ‘Introducing AV is a small change – but it could have a big impact in helping to create a more open and participatory politics. A lot of people in this country find politics a really big turn-off – and I can understand why. They want to see a change in the way politics is done. I do too.’

Simon Green, Professor of Politics at Aston University, said ‘The freedom to choose our elected representatives underpins the legitimacy of our democracy, so the question of how we make this choice affects everyone.’

Vicar of All Saints Church, David Warbrick, who will be chairing the discussions, said ‘I believe it is important to host a conversation about electoral reform because, however disappointed we may be about the way this referendum has been timed and planned, it is going to take place, and any chance to facilitate conversation, to re-engage politically and to heal complacency should be grasped.’

The referendum on the alternative vote system, which will take place on the 5th May 2011, is an important milestone in the history of democracy in the United Kingdom. Any reform of the voting system, which has not been seriously considered in Parliament since the 1930s, would be a fundamental change to the way democracy is practiced in Britain. It is vital therefore that, as citizens, we are informed by thorough discussion and public examination of the issues, not just by advertising, campaigning and political rhetoric.

The community conversation on the 2nd April is an amazing opportunity to start this exploration and discuss the consequences of our democratic practices for our country and our communities.

For further details or to indicate attendance at the event please email:

Or register for tickets here:

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Liberal Democrat President Tim Farron visits Solihull

Tim Farron, MP and President of the Liberal Democrats visited Mell Square in Solihull today (Monday) to promote a Yes vote in May’s Alternative Vote Referendum.  Tim joined Lorely Burt MP and local activists, leafleting and discussing issues surrounding the referendum with local residents.

The visit was organised by Yes! To Fairer Votes – West Midlands, and covered by the Solihull News, Solihull Observer and ITV news today.  Tim’s visit sets the stage for a busy week of campaigning, culminating in Yes!tival, a free music Festival at the Prince of Wales, Moseley on the 31st March.

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Big local YES Events Coming Soon! (Part 2)

Hot on the heels of yesterday’s  announcement for YEStival, here’s another big event from the West Midlands grass-roots campaign coming your way this very week:

-Yes To Fairer Votes

Coventry Launch (Speaker Event)

Thursday 24th March @ 7:30pm

St Peter’s Centre, Charles Street, Hillfield, Coventry CV1 5NP

The event will be chaired by Katie Ghose, CEO of the Electoral Reform Society who also heads up the national Yes To Fairer Votes campaign. Speakers include Councillor Kevin Maton (Labour, Coventry City Council), Seema Malhotra (Fabians Society) & also James Plaskitt (former Labour MP for Warwick & Leamington).

If you want to attend & have a question you’d like to be put to the panel of speakers then please email the Regional Coordinator for Coventry & Warwickshire, Colin Quinney at
For more details & to reserve a place at this event please go to the event page on the Yes To Fairer Votes website

Of course, this is far from the first local Yes campaign activity in Coventry- there have regular & successful street stalls & leafleting days in the city centre & surrounding districts & suburbs since early February, with 3 stalls operating across the city just this last saturday. There’s also another street stall happening in the Earlsdon area of Coventry this coming Saturday (26th March), more details of which can be found on the Yes To Fairer Votes website too!

(other leafleting events are being planned for the 26th in Birmingham city centre, Stratford-upon-Avon & Nuneaton town centres, as well as Stourport too. Once more details are known they’ll be posted on here!)

As with all of our events, big & small, we always welcome & are grateful for any help & support any of you can give! Now is the time to get involved & help us make that much needed change to our democracy!

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Big local YES Events Coming Soon! (Part 1)

A lot is going on all the time throughout the West Midlands Yes To Fairer Votes campaign, but there are a few big events happening soon which we’re making special mention of. Here’s the first!



Thursday 31st March – 6:30pm onwards

Prince of Wales, Moseley, Birmingham B13 8EE

Please come along for a great time! Let’s help push our campaign on to win the vote on changing the way we elect our MPs!

If you want to find out more about extra acts when confirmed, other fun stuff & news about YEStival then please head on over to the YEStival blog!

And remember- it’s FREE ENTRY!


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More Leafleting this weekend plus a recap on previous stalls!

Continuing our successful street stalls & leafleting campaign across the West Midlands

–Please come along & get involved!–

Coventry stalls & leafleting (3 venues so take your pick!) –

Time for all 3 stalls: 11am – 1pm on Saturday 19th

Stall 1 location: Cheylesmore – crossroads of Daventry Road and Quinton Road CV3 5HE.  This will be a mainly ‘Labour Yes’ stall.

More details for this event can be found here on the Facebook event for this stall & also on the Yes to Fairer Votes website

Stall 2 location: Jubilee Crescent (near Tesco store)- Jubilee Crescent, Coventry, West Mids CV6 3EX

More details for this event can be found here on the Facebook event for this stall & also on the Yes to Fairer Votes website

Stall 3 location: Cannon Park shopping centre- Canley, Coventry CV4 7EH. This stall is organised by the team at the University of Warwick Yes to Fairer Votes society

More details for this event can be found here on the Facebook event for this stall

These events are followed by a Campaign Social from 1pm in the Old Shepherd on the Keresley Road CV6 3EX, not far from Jubilee Crescent, to meet up & talk about the next round of events & activities.

For further details & information contact Colin Quinney (Coventry & Warwickshire’s Coordinator) on 07770982870

Kidderminster town centre stall & leafleting  –

Time: 10:30am – 12:30pm on Saturday 19th

Location: outside Kidderminster Town Hall (Coventry Street, Town centre, Kidderminster, DY10 2BL). This stall is organised by the Wyre Forest local Yes To Fairer Votes group.

More details for this event can be found here on the Facebook event for this stall & also on the Yes to Fairer Votes website

Also, just outside of our area on Saturday is “Stoking Up Support in The Potteries”, a large leafleting event in Stoke involving various grass-roots “Yes” groups from the Midlands & North West, to which our Birmingham group are sending a group of extra-keen volunteers!

For more details on “Stoking Up Support” please go to the pages for it on the Yes To Fairer Votes Website & on Facebook

Door knocking & canvassing in Birmingham

Time/Date: 1pm-3pm Sunday 20th March

Led by the team from the University of Birmingham Fairer Votes society,  we will be doing our first session of door-knocking in Selly Oak. We will meet at 1pm at The Goose Pub (561 Bristol Road, Selly Oak, Birmingham, B29 6AF) and then split up into small groups to cover the general Bournebrook area.

More details for this event can be found here on it’s Facebook event

And if that lot wasn’t enough local events for you, we’ll be posting even more on here very shortly, including some pretty big events in both Birmingham & Coventry!


Here’s a selection of photos from our many leafleting events during February & early March, where we’ve covered Birmingham, Coventry, Warwick, Stratford-upon-Avon, Tamworth, Kenilworth, Nuneaton & Leamington:

Getting the Yes campaign message out at ground level across the West Midlands!

Also the local campaigns in Warwickshire & Wyre Forest have been getting the attention of the local press (as well as the Birmingham Uni group’s “Youth Says YES” event getting featured on BBC Midlands Today, of course), with the street stalls in Kenilworth & Warwick being featured in an article in the Leamington Observer , as well as the well-supported student “Yes” campaign events at Warwick Uni. This all contrasts with the “top-down” approach displayed by the “No to AV” campaign in the article with their national campaign orchestrated rally, with 4 of the 6 Warwickshire Tory MPs booked to appear having won their seats with less than 50% of the vote too!

While the many benefits of AV may be lost some MPs for various reasons (old sayings about Turkeys voting for Christmas spring to mind!), Kidderminster author & Yes To Fairer Votes supporter John Combe sums up one of the key benefits with this quote he gave the Kidderminster Shuttle newspaper:

“It will make the MP’s work harder because they will have to appeal to the general public more.

“It means an MP will have the support of more than 50 per cent of their constituents so the majority of people would be behind them.”

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More ‘Yes- Birmingham’ Press Coverage

We are very pleased by the Edgbaston and Harborne Observer’s coverage of Colin Green, a member of the Birmingham ‘Yes to Fairer Votes’ team and one of the 100 leading ‘faces of change’.

Here is the article for those who didn’t see it:

Edgbaston and Harborne Observer, 15th March 2011

Edgbaston and Harborne Observer, 15th March 2011


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AV is STV for Single Member Constituencies

The latest campaign from ‘No to AV’, after the failed attempts to try and persuade people that the referendum is going to cost lots of money and kill babies, is to try and persuade people that a vote for First Past The Post is the best way to get Proportional Representation. Some of you will remember the post I wrote about how Douglas Carswell’s proposal to add the Single Transferable Vote to the options on the bill would only have hampered it’s progress, as few other Conservatives and only a handful of Labour MPs would let the bill pass in this guise. Well, this is now the main line of attack of the ‘No to AV’ campaign.

However, this argument falls at the first hurdle. It is true that the ‘Alternative Vote’ isn’t proportional – it is only preferential. No voting system which maintains single-member constituencies can be proportional by definition. But the structure of the ‘Alternative Vote’ allows it to be full proportional – indeed if you expand the constituencies into multi-member constituencies (3, 5 or 600) then it becomes fully proportional within the bounds of the constituency, as the Alternative Vote is just ‘Single Transferable Vote’ for one-member constituencies.

To make the Alternative Vote proportional certainly would not require another referendum on the Voting System. It would only require a consensus in parliament to change the constituency boundaries. Many people claim to like the constituency-link of their MP and it may take some work to persuade people that they should move away from this. Adopting similar systems in other areas of Government (like multi-member wards for local Government or the forthcoming House of Lords reform) may assist in preparing people for this change. Equally, small changes in constituencies sizes may be easier to accept. However, most people I speak to today want to keep the constituency link and like the ‘Alternative Vote’ for this reason; so those of us in favour of proportional representation still have a fair amount of work to do.

One thing is certain, a vote for the status quo, a vote for First Past the Post, won’t bring proportional representation any quicker. It will most certainly put further electoral reform off the table for generations to come. How many times have we heard during this campaign that there is no drive to change the voting system? The current polling shows that there is a desire in the population for change, in favour of the Alternative Vote – yet we still hear from MPs, with vested interests, that they don’t feel there is a desire for change. This shows how out of touch some politicians are. A ‘No’ vote will only be used to substantiate their original premise – there is no desire for change.

Thinking strategically

Thinking strategically

British politics has never been revolutionary. It has evolved – with its unwritten constitution, out-dated figures of state and outmoded processes. Let’s remember 60 years ago, some people in the UK still had 2 votes. Anyone familiar with the elections in the late seventies will remember there was much speculation about electoral reform then, and it has taken 40 years to put any change in front of the voters. Those who understand voting systems and how they work, will see that proportional representation is a far easier move from the ‘Alternative Vote’ than from the current system. They will see this desperate attempt by those who wish to defend ‘First-Past-The-Post’, because they have no arguments in favour of the current system, is as transparent and vacuous as all the others. I would hope true believers in proportional representation will be voting ‘Yes’ whatever those who want to keep the current system say.

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