The purple revolution

By Symon Hill
May 17, 2010

Saturday's rally for Fair Votes was the most inspiring demonstration I have attended for quite a while.

Firstly, there was the atmosphere. Hundreds of people were gathered immediately outside Parliament, wearing purple shirts, purple dresses, purple tights and even purple boots. I could feel the solidarity and unity of purpose shared by supporters of the Take Back Parliament campaign. They include people who differ over party allegiance and attitudes towards the coalition. Green Party banners mingled with Liberal Democrat badges and I met several people firmly supportive of the Labour Party. This was strikingly different from the sort of demo which groups use to try to push their own partisan agenda onto the other demonstrators.

The atmosphere was made stronger still by the regular references to the Chartists and the women’s suffrage movement. My thoughts went back even further, to the radicals of the seventeenth century who first called for universal suffrage. We stand in an ongoing tradition of struggles for true and meaningful democracy.

Then was the turnout. I admit that I had feared that there would be only a few dozen people. But the swathes of purple-clad campaigners could barely fit into the area designated by the police. There was a sizable number of teenagers and many in their early or mid twenties. I’m in my thirties, and was well above the average age. Don’t tell me young people don’t care about politics.

But the most inspiring thing of all was simply that this rally was happening – in this place, with these numbers, at this time. For so long, so many politicians have insisted that voters do not care about electoral systems. They are still trying to insist that this has not changed.

In reality, the MPs’ expenses scandal and the economic crisis have radically affected people’s attitudes towards power. The precise mathematics of this or that system of proportional representation may indeed be of interest to only a few. But the need to hold politicians to account, and give greater power to voters, is central to any serious attempt to address the social and economic problems that we face. Politicians who refuse to recognise this have condemned themselves to appearing as self-interested individuals concerned only with preserving their own position.

The cause of electoral reform has become mainstream. The purple revolution is under way.

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