Proportional Representation: House of Commons — [Mr Nigel Evans in the Chair]

Part of the debate – in Westminster Hall at 5:26 pm on 23rd April 2019.

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Photo of Layla Moran Layla Moran Liberal Democrat Spokesperson (Education) 5:26 pm, 23rd April 2019

It is a pleasure to serve under your chairmanship, Mr Evans.

I am a Lib Dem partly because I believe that we need extraordinary change in our political system. I am delighted by the damascene conversion that has happened, but as hon. Members have eloquently said, when someone is under the umbrella of a party that helps to deliver the safe seats, it is all too easy for them to forget that they are not necessarily representing everyone in the constituency. While I appreciate what some have said about ensuring that they as MPs are there for everyone, I think we all know of Members of this House who do not always behave that way, and who, because they are in a safe seat, choose instead to campaign to and speak to only the part of their electorate that they feel will deliver them the next election. Whatever proportional system we end up delivering, it must fundamentally challenge that situation.

I say that having won a marginal constituency at the last snap general election. We were nearly 10,000 votes behind the Conservatives in Oxford West and Abingdon. I will be perfectly honest: I did not think I would win. When I found out the election was happening, I called up a future employer, with whom I had taken a job as a deputy head—it was my first deputy headship, and I was really excited—and said, “If you want to make some money, put a bet against me. There’s no way I can make that up in one election.” I am sorry to say that they lost money, but I will go to their prize-giving in a few weeks’ time, so that is the quid pro quo.

The question is how we did it in Oxford West and Abingdon. Anyone who has ever campaigned will have seen Lib Dem election leaflets saying, “X can’t win here,” and that is what we did in my constituency. The Labour party vote came over. I was in a pub the other day, having a pint with some of the chaps who are often there, and one said, “I’m a member of the Labour party, and I can’t tell you I voted for you, because I’d get thrown out of the party.” He should not have had to make that confession. He should not have to hide that from people. The fact is that we won because of a broad church of voters. I appreciate and understand that I was not his top choice, but he was happy to say, “I’m proud to have voted for you anyway.” We had to get to the point where the Green party stood down in Oxford West and Abingdon to send that message, so that we could win. Yes, we made up that difference. I live in a marginal constituency, and am I happy about that.

What kind of system would I want? I advocate something like alternative vote plus. A lot of work was done on this a long time ago. We need a root-and-branch reform of the whole way that we do politics. That should cover not just proportional systems, but overseas electors and votes at 16. We need a proper look at the entire convention on how we do politics in this country—not just the x in the box, but everything, including how we campaign and how we represent people. That is why we need a more proportional system.