Civil Disobedience for Voting Reform
Call for new Chartist movement and direct action.
Tatchell urges Green conference to challenge electoral corruption.
"A second Chartist movement is needed to remedy the democratic deficit at the heart of the British parliamentary system," said human rights campaigner Peter Tatchell in his keynote speech to the Green Party annual conference today, Friday 22 October 2004, in Weston Super Mare.
"It is time to end the corruption of the first-past-the-post voting system, whereby Labour won a majority of 167 MPs at the last general election, despite securing only 42% of the votes cast and winning the backing of only 24% of eligible electors," said Mr Tatchell.
"With the support of less than a quarter of the electorate, Labour bagged nearly two-thirds of the seats in the House of Commons.
"We need a new parliamentary reform movement to end the disgraceful discrepancy between votes cast and seats won, and to ensure democratic representation for the millions of people who support minority parties but are denied parliamentary representation.
"Reform is vital to make everyone's vote count, and to ensure a House of Commons that reflects the full spectrum of political opinion.
"If the major parties will not give us reform, then the people will have to take on the political establishment using the tactics of the Chartists and the Suffragettes. Non-violent direct action and civil disobedience may be the only way to secure a genuine representative democracy.
"The result of the next general election will lack moral authority and political legitimacy if it goes ahead on the basis of the current, unjust voting system.
"The rigging of the electoral system in favour of the three biggest parties disenfranchises millions of people who want to be represented by MPs from smaller parties like the Greens.
"This political corruption echoes the rotten boroughs of nineteenth-century England. It means the House of Commons is unrepresentative of the full range of political opinions in British society. The absence of genuine democracy is fuelling political apathy and alienation.
"In 2001, Labour won a mere 42% of the vote but 63% of the seats in the House of Commons.
"The Greens secured more than 6% of the national vote in June's European elections. But if this vote was replicated in next year's general election, the Green Party would end up with no MPs.
"The voting system does not produce results that reflect the complete spectrum of political views and aspirations.
"No wonder so many people are disillusioned with politics and politicians.
"The electoral system needs to be reformed to ensure that the number of seats won reflects the proportion of votes cast for each party. We need to give a parliamentary voice to the millions of people who support minority parties but who are denied representation in the House of Commons.
"The Scottish and London election systems provide practical models of a fairer, more representative electoral process. They combine constituency members and list members.
"This ensures that local communities elect representatives they can hold accountable. The additional 'top up' MPs ensure a closer correlation between votes cast and seats won.
"It means parliamentary representation for minority parties that currently remain excluded from the parliamentary system.
"Justice demands electoral reform. The status quo is not an option for democrats.
"The Chartists and Suffragettes fought for a democratic and representative parliament, and so must we," said Mr Tatchell.
Note: Peter Tatchell joined the Green Party earlier this year, after 22 years membership of Labour.
Click here to return to the Politics Index