Call for citizens' assembly on electoral system
Campaigners have called for ordinary voters to be given the opportunity to reform the electoral system.

By Daniel Forman
Published August 4th 2005 in
The Charter 88 and Active Citizens Transform groups said on Thursday that the UK should follow Canada's example and establish a citizens' assembly to decide on an alternative system that could be put to a vote.

The groups highlighted the unfairness of the current first-past-the-post system, pointing to the anomalies thrown up by May's general election results.

Labour's 66-seat majority was achieved despite 65 per cent of the voting public not supporting the party, while it took just 26,858 votes to elect a Labour MP but 44,241 to elect a Conservative and 98,484 to elect a Liberal Democrat.

The campaigners want a system of proportional representation to replace first-past-the-post, to more accurately reflect the votes cast in the results.

And they said citizens, as opposed to politicians, should get the chance to draw up an alternative.

In Canada repeated unrepresentative election results led to a panel of 160 randomly selected people spending 10 months considering the problem before deciding on a move to the proportional single transferable vote system.

Their proposal was put directly to the country in a referendum, although it failed to achieve the 60 per cent approval required to the change the country's constitution.

However Debbie Chay of Charter 88 said a similar process should not be ruled out in Britain.

"The results of the last general election in the UK underline the widening gulf between those in government and us , the 'people'," she said.

"To reverse this worrying trend, we must ensure that those of us who are affected are given a real voice in any key changes to the way in which we are governed."

The government is currently reviewing the operation of the UK's multitude of electoral system, but has refused to commit to a referendum on proportional representation for the Commons, despite promising to do so in 1997.