My 350 on BREXIT: Electoral reform

"Not everybody has a say in how Britain is run and devolution alone cannot remedy this."

Lee Kilcran
8 July 2016

Ever since Britain voted to leave the EU, commentators have been trying to fathom why North East England voted to leave despite seemingly having the most to lose in terms of EU funding and exports.

Speaking to leave voters in the region, two themes emerge:

- Wage suppression owing to mass migration;
- The feeling that the region has been ignored and marginalised for too long. The referendum provided people with an opportunity to show the Westminster establishment what they really think of them and their policies.

This seems counter intuitive. Why use a referendum on the EU to show discontent at domestic policy? The answer is simple: the UK electoral system is broken.

Under first past the post, if you live in a safe seat and don’t vote for the incumbent party, your vote counts for very little. 79.3% of constituencies in the North East were considered safe seats at the 2015 election and nearly all of these were safe Labour seats. Adding insult to injury, only 25% of the North East voted Conservative, yet we find ourselves under the rule of a Conservative majority and our Labour MP’s belong to a completely ineffective opposition. If people feel disenfranchised, it’s because they are.

In this context, it can surely be no surprise that when people were presented with a referendum where every vote carried equal weight, turnout was high and the outcome was radical. People took their chance to be heard.

Those of us committed to devolution have seen this discontent building. Indeed, the reason we’re so committed to devolution is that we feel it ourselves. The whole point of devolution is to bring the decision-making process closer to the people affected by those decisions.

It therefore follows that electoral reform should be a cornerstone of every regionalist party’s manifesto. Not everybody has a say in how Britain is run and devolution alone cannot remedy this. Britain needs electoral reform and smaller parties from across the political spectrum can work together to achieve this.

With their shared goals, the UK’s regionalist parties are best placed to spearhead such an alliance.

In the aftermath of the historic British vote to leave the EU, openDemocracy is asking for our readers' thoughts on Brexit and what needs to happen next in 350 words. We've had an extraordinary response and you can read them all here.

Stop the secrecy: Publish the NHS COVID data deals

To: Matt Hancock, Secretary of State for Health and Social Care

We’re calling on you to immediately release details of the secret NHS data deals struck with private companies, to deliver the NHS COVID-19 datastore.

We, the public, deserve to know exactly how our personal information has been traded in this ‘unprecedented’ deal with US tech giants like Google, and firms linked to Donald Trump (Palantir) and Vote Leave (Faculty AI).

The COVID-19 datastore will hold private, personal information about every single one of us who relies on the NHS. We don’t want our personal data falling into the wrong hands.

And we don’t want private companies – many with poor reputations for protecting privacy – using it for their own commercial purposes, or to undermine the NHS.

The datastore could be an important tool in tackling the pandemic. But for it to be a success, the public has to be able to trust it.

Today, we urgently call on you to publish all the data-sharing agreements, data-impact assessments, and details of how the private companies stand to profit from their involvement.

The NHS is a precious public institution. Any involvement from private companies should be open to public scrutiny and debate. We need more transparency during this pandemic – not less.

By adding my name to this campaign, I authorise openDemocracy and Foxglove to keep me updated about their important work.

Had enough of ‘alternative facts’? openDemocracy is different Join the conversation: get our weekly email


We encourage anyone to comment, please consult the oD commenting guidelines if you have any questions.
Audio available Bookmark Check Language Close Comments Download Facebook Link Email Newsletter Newsletter Play Print Share Twitter Youtube Search Instagram WhatsApp yourData