Too many people feel that our political system does not work for them.
Our outdated electoral system means many citizens are left feeling that their votes simply won't make a difference. Labour and the Conservatives simply aren’t interested in making our politics more responsive.
Unfair votes, over-centralisation of decision-making, the power of patronage and the influence of powerful corporate lobbies mean ordinary citizens and local communities are too often excluded and left alienated by politics today. We need to reform British politics to make it more representative and more empowering of our citizens so it earns greater public confidence.
The Liberal Democrats want to fix the system. That means changing the way our politics works, ending the antiquated first past the post system and extending the vote to 16 year olds and EU citizens.
The Liberal Democrats will:
- Introduce votes at 16 for all elections and referendums across the UK
- Ensure that every reasonable effort is made to ensure that those people legally entitled to vote are included on the electoral registers, with far greater efforts in particular to register under-represented groups such as young people qualifying for the first time and students moving to Universities
- Introduce the Single Transferable Vote for local government elections in England and for electing MPs across the UK
- Enable all UK citizens living abroad to vote for MPs in separate overseas constituencies, and to participate in UK referendums
- Reform the House of Lords with a proper democratic mandate
- Take big money out of politics by capping donations to political parties at £10,000 per person each year, and introducing wider reforms to party funding along the lines of the 2011 report of the Committee on Standards in Public Life
- Strengthen Trade Union members’ political freedoms by letting them choose which political party they wish to support through the political levy
- Cancel the boundary review due to report in 2018. While new constituencies would need to be established for a new voting system, we believe constituency boundary reviews should respect natural geographical communities, with greater flexibility for the Boundary Commission to deviate from exact equality to take account of community ties and continuity of representation, and should take place every ten years
- Mandate the provision of televised Leaders’ Debates in General Elections based on rules produced by Ofcom relating to structure and balance, and allowing for the empty-chairing of party leaders who refuse to attend
- Strengthen and expand the lobbying register and prohibit MPs from accepting paid lobbying work
- Introduce trials of weekend voting to help raise turnouts in elections
- Introduce legislation to allow for all-BAME and all-LGBT+ parliamentary shortlists
- Make Parliament more family-friendly, and establish a review to pave the way for MP job-sharing arrangements
The recent media, police and Electoral Commission investigations into possible breaches of spending limits by candidates in the 2015 General Election show that the current system is not fit for purpose. The clear objective must be to ensure that all expenditure on campaign material targeted at an identifiable constituency, and in particular at voters within that constituency, is included in its expense return, rather than it being possible to count against a national party limit.
We do not believe that political parties themselves have an incentive to change the existing system. We will therefore task the Electoral Commission with producing a framework for an up to date expenses system that adequately governs the running of a modern campaign, and put these proposals to a vote in Parliament.