With Labour’s conference set to begin next week the debate on electoral reform looks set to be one of the big issues on conference floor this year.
At least 144 constituency parties have called on Keir Starmer’s Labour to back a switch to proportional representation this year – more than have made a single demand on any other issue in recent conference history.
Nearly half of all constituency Labour Parties – 314 out of 648 have backed motions in support of the change in recent years with at last 144 making the issue their key policy priority for this year’s conference.
At Labour conference 2019, 135 motions were submitted on the Green New Deal policy and 91 were sent on Brexit. In 2018 the Brexit debate attracted 151 motions calling the party to take different positions on the issue.
Campaigners from the ERS backed Labour for a New Democracy coalition welcomed the “unprecedented demand” for electoral reform and urged the party to back members calls for a fairer voting system.
We’ve long known that support across the Labour membership was growing. Recent polling from YouGov found that 83% of members believe the party should support the introduction of a proportional voting system – with just 10% opposed.
Keir Starmer pledged to address the failings of Westminster’s warped voting system during the leadership contest arguing: “We’ve got to address the fact that millions of people vote in safe seats and they feel their voice doesn’t count. That’s got to be addressed by electoral reform. We will never get full participation in our electoral system until we do that at every level.”
The PR debate at this year’s conference is just the chance to do that, backing the overwhelming calls for political reform.
Until we see the end of Westminster’s broken voting system millions of voters will continue to go ignored each election – a far cry from the far fairer results in Scotland, Wales, the London Assembly and modern democracies across the world.
We don’t have to look far to see how FPTP is failing voters. The current government is able to push through dangerous legislation like voter ID and the policing bill on a minority of the public vote, all because of a broken one-party-takes-all voting system.
Labour could learn a lot from New Zealand, Germany, and Norway, where its sister party looks set to lead a progressive coalition into government, where proportional results are the norm and cooperation is valued.
Voters want political equality, and Labour should seize the chance to build a much better democracy. In the face of attacks on democracy and free elections worldwide, this would send a powerful message of hope.
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