Owen Winter (16), Member of Youth Parliament for Cornwall, supported by The British Youth Council, spearheaded one of the petitions which attracted the support of over 220,000 people. His supporters include leading figures from the Green Party, Plaid Cymru, SNP, UKIP and, Liberal Democrats, who signed the petition at Westminster’s Old Palace Yard this morning, before handing it in to 10 Downing Street.
The British Youth Council today (Monday 18th May 2015) on behalf of Owen (who prioritised studying for his exams) joined the Electoral Reform Society, Unlock Democracy and leaders from five of the major parties at Downing Street to deliver four petitions – amounting to almost half a million people calling for a fairer voting system.
The change.org petition, which calls for the voting system to be fairer and much more representative, managed to unify Plaid Cymru leader Leanne Wood, Green Party leader Natalie Bennett and Deputy Amelia Womack, the Liberal Democrats’ acting leader Sal Brinton and Tom Brake MP, UKIP’s Nigel Farage, Douglas Carswell MP and Suzanne Evans, new SNP MPs Philippa Whitford and Alison Thewliss who all joined us at the event.
The event follows an election result in which the Greens and UKIP received five million votes and just two seats; the Liberal Democrats got just 1% of seats on 8% of the vote; while Plaid Cymru won 12% of the Welsh vote but just three seats in Wales.
Owen Winter, Member of the Youth Parliament for Cornwall and Change.org petitioner said: “Like me thousands of young people are disillusioned with our current voting system and would like to see it change. When I can vote in 2020, (I’m 16 now) I would like my vote to count which is why I started one of the petitions (220,000 votes) we’re handing in today.” Owen (who is revising for his exams) was represented today byRhammel Afflick and the British Youth Council, which also backs voting reform. “We are working to keep young people engaged in politics. We do care but we want fair votes. Use us or lose us,” Rhammel said.
Statements from parties in attendance:
Natalie Bennett, Leader, Green Party: “The recent election has demonstrated that we need real change in our constitution. We haven’t seen significant reform at Westminster since women got the vote, and that was 1918 – we shouldn’t get to the centenary of that without getting a fair voting system. The Green Party would have got at least 24 seats under a fair voting system on May 7th – we only have one under our current unfair system. We need a total rethink of the way we vote.”
SNP Westminster Leader, Angus Robertson MP: “The Westminster system is badly in need of reform. The SNP has done well under First Past the Post this time but we have always supported proportional representation and will continue to do so. From an unrepresentative voting system to the unelected House of Lords, SNP MPs will be a strong voice in the coming years for the change we need to see.”
Baroness Sal Brinton, President, Liberal Democrats: “The Liberal Democrats have long said we need PR, because one of the things that’s becoming clear over the past two to three General Elections is that people feel their votes don’t count – it cannot be more stark than the election we’ve just had. Now I may disagree with what UKIP stand for, but for nearly four million people to vote for a party and have just one MP is just outrageous.”
Nigel Farage MEP, UKIP: “This campaign for electoral reform is vital, now. The results of the General election where 5 million votes, the views of 5 million people are now represented by only 2 MPs; 4 million people voted for UKIP, for only 1 seat. It cannot go on like this. It is important to be here, with the Electoral Reform Society supporting its campaign to make votes match seats. I’m also delighted to be joining with Douglas Carswell who has campaigned for political reform for years and is leading the UKIP charge for this in the House of Commons”.