Reform: Jonathan Bartley
Thomas Attwood was a leader of the Chartist movement, withdrawing only when violent tactics were being planned. At a meeting in New Street in 1829, he and fifteen other Birmingham men formed the Political Union for the Protection of Public Rights. It canvassed vigorously for parliamentary reform and Political Unions were formed in other cities.
A gathering of the unions in Birmingham
When the Reform Act was eventually passed in 1832, Attwood was installed as a freeman of the City of London in recognition of the important role he had played in the fight for the vote.
In our infant democracy, ministers and civil servants work too closely with corporate interests rather than prioritising the welfare of the electorate. Rotten boroughs are no longer a problem, but a need has been perceived to reform a regime where MPs are returned in some cases by a tiny minority of voters. Many believe that the Yes to AV campaign is a welcome first step towards a better system.
Like Thomas Attwood, Jonathan Bartley is working to improve the system. He graduated from the London School of Economics in 1994 and worked in the Westminster Parliament for a number of years on a cross-party basis, seeing it in action at first-hand.
He founded Ekklesia, a remarkably successful and respected think-tank which “works to promote radical theological ideas in public life” and has been working from late 2010 through to May 2011 as a vice-chair for the Yes to Fairer Votes campaign for the voting reform referendum.
He believes that:
A move to AV is a small change that will make a big difference. It will keep what is best about our current system – the link between an MP serving their local constituency – but strengthens it by making MPs work harder to get elected and giving voters more of a say.
“This is because, with AV, MPs would now have to aim to get more than 50% of the vote, and so will have to work harder and represent more of their constituents.
“You can be an MP today with less than 1 in 3 voters on your side.
“Under First Past The Post, MPs don’t need the support of most voters; they can get by with the support of less than a third of the vote. Two thirds of MPs have the support of less than 50% of their constituents.
“By contrast, AV rewards politicians who can reach out to the widest range of voters. It will strengthen the constituency link by giving voters more of a say, and will make MPs across the country work harder to get and keep their jobs.”