This is a transcript of a speech given by Stuart Rodger of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Fairer Votes Groups. The speech was delivered on the steps of Bute House, official residence of the First Minister of Scotland, during the Yes Campaign official launch on the 6th of November. If you look closely you can see where the ink had run from the driving rain.
Scene – the steps of Bute House. The First Minister resides therein, warming himself before the fire. Outside, in the cold Edinburgh rain of 6th November his fellow citizens gather to call for Fairer Votes.
A young man mounts the steps. The crowd stills expectantly. He speaks…
I suppose I should begin my making a concession. Let’s face it, ladies and gentleman, the issue of electoral reform is hardly the sexiest of political issues. Our opponents like to call us anoraks, and I think we should be fair, put up our hands and say, well yes, perhaps we are.
So, in the spirit of a true anorak, let me just spit a couple of statistics at you: at present, a gigantic 2/3rd of all MPs do not have over 50% support, and not a single government since the 1950s – except, ironically our current one – has had more than 50% support from electorate. Correct me if I’m wrong, but isn’t democracy supposed to be about majorities?
So make no mistake, this issue matters – and it matters a lot. Every issue you care about – from the environment to education, from health to foreign policy – starts here, with this. The next time someone tells you they think they’re being screwed over by politicians, explain to them that it is because the political system itself which is screwing them over.
The corruption and the lack of accountability at the heart of our political system was crystallised perfectly with the expenses crisis. But in a system where 2/3rd of all MPs do not have majority support, what else do you expect? And shocking and disgusting though the expenses crisis was, the truth is that the undemocratic nature of FPTP absolutely dwarfs it in comparison, and expenses is only the beginning of the scandals arising from this stitch-up of a system.
Over the next few months we all have a responsibility to knock on doors, pound the streets, hand out leaflets, write to our local papers, and dream up and perform the most original, eye-catching stunts we can. Remember: our opponents will have a lot of money and press fire-power behind them. The only way we have to counter that is by building up an active, formidable, grassroots movement for change.
I’m sure we’ll all be able to anticipate the counter-arguments we’re going to hear. I, for one, am sick to death of those who say preferential voting is just too complicated for the Average Joe to understand. Vernon Bogdanor, Professor of Government at Oxford University, has a good one liner in response to anyone who says that: the accusation must be that British people are the most stupid in Europe. And naturally, we hear cries from all sides that electoral reform just isn’t the sort of thing you hear on the doorstep. Let’s face it, this is true. But something that you do hear about on the doorstep – time and time again – is that a) politicians do not listen and b) they are all the same. AV will do a lot to change that. And let’s not forget that both Labour and the Lib Dem use AV to elect their own leaders. If it’s good enough for them, why is it not good enough for us?
Just to finish on a note of optimism. In a Power 2010 poll before the General Election on what five constitutional reforms would best change British politics for the better, electoral reform came out top. We know we have the arguments on our side – no more representation without majority support, no more tactical voting, and no more MPs taking their voters for granted. Once the public hear what we have to say – we can be sure we’re going to win this referendum!
I’d like to thank Stuart for making available the text of his speech.
If after reading Stuart’s speech you would like to help with the Yes Campaign in either Glasgow or Edinburgh please email
or find us on Facebook