Thousands protest for fair votes as politicians ponder a deal

By staff writers
8 May 2010

Thousands of people have taken to the streets this afternoon, to demand 'fair votes now' after the General Election. In London, they were addressed by the Liberal Democrat leader, Nick Clegg.

Events have also been planned across the country - including Glasgow, Manchester and Sheffield. But the emphasis today has been on the UK capital, where the Westminster parliament is based.

Mr Clegg this afternoon broke off from talks with the Conservatives in the wake of the no-overall control result of 6 May, and told a demonstration outside his party's headquarters, estimated by police at 2,000-strong, that "reforming politics is one of the reasons I went into politics."

He said he believed it was in the national interest "for us to use this opportunity to usher in a new politics".

One protester told Ekklesia, the beliefs and values thinktank, which is among the reform organisations backing the Take Back Parliament initiative (http://www.takebackparliament.com/hope): "I voted Lib Dem for the first time because I wanted a hung parliament to give us the Proportional Representation that Mr Clegg has said is central to achieving a new politics. My message to him is, 'It's now or never, Nick. Don't do a dirty deal with dodgy Dave'."

In the capital, the lively but peaceful protests began in Trafalgar Square at 2pm. On Friday, police had refused permission for a rally in Parliament Square, opposite the Palace of Westminster, using restrictive legislation much criticised by civil rights groups.

Some people moved towards the Houses of Parliament in small groups, and many hundreds of others joined a march towards where the Liberal Democrats have been holding talks.

A petition with tens of thousands of signatures demanding 'Fair Votes Now' was handed in. The number of signatories is still growing at a vast rate on http://www.takebackparliament.com/hope

The petitioners are declaring: "This Parliament does not represent us. We demand fair votes now. There must never again be an election under this broken system."

Inspired by the singer and social activist, Billy Bragg, who spoke at the rally in London today, the movement for change is encouraging people to wear purple, the colour of the suffragettes, who won women the vote after many years of struggle.

The London demonstrations, which were called immediately after the polls closed on 6 May, and follow the announcement of talks between the Conservatives and the Liberal Democrats over a possible deal to govern, have been covered by the BBC, BusinessWeek, a live Reuters feed (http://live.reuters.com/Event/Politics_today) and what organisers have termed "a vast army of tweeters and social networkers."

Take Back Parliament brings together a coalition of different groups and organisations in the call for fair votes. They include Power2010, Unlock Democracy, the Electoral Reform Society, Vote for a Change, Ekklesia, Friends of the Earth, Greenpeace, the New Economics Foundation, the Fawcett Society (which campaigns for women's equality), Operation Black Vote, Hang 'Em (http://hang-em.com/) and others.

The organisers of Take Back Parliament say it is not aligned to any political party. Instead, it seeks a fair voting system so that all parties have representation in Parliament according to the number of votes they receive.

The campaign is calling for a Citizens' Convention to decide on a new voting system to be put to the British people in a referendum.

[Ekk/3]

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