Labour conference: Party set to vote on supporting vital shift to proportional representation

Josiah Mortimer, former Head of Communications

Posted on the 27th September 2021

Labour conference delegates will vote today on whether to back proportional representation, and ditch Westminster’s broken voting system.

Attendees will debate the policy shift at the conference in Brighton, which would push the party to commit the party to scrapping First Past the Post in the next manifesto.

The motion, backed by the Labour for a New Democracy campaign, was the second most popular issue in the Constituency Labour Party section in the conference priority ballot, ensuring that Labour support for proportional representation will be debated on conference floor.

The motion, which was submitted by over 150 constituency Labour Parties – the most on any single issue in recent years – follows a grassroots campaign from party activists in support of electoral reform, and growing levels of support across the party.

Recent polling found that 83% of Labour members support a move to a more proportional voting system.

Members are likely to debate a shift to PR around 3:45pm on Monday, with a vote around 5:50pm.

It’s clear from what we’ve seen at this conference that support for PR is growing. With conference delegates voting overwhelmingly to take the debate forward, it’s clear there’s support across the Labour movement for change.

Caroline Osborne, delegate for Gosport CLP and Labour for a New Democracy activist, said: “We are delighted at Saturday’s overwhelming vote for the motion, which most CLPs support and thousands upon thousands of members back. We hope the leadership will support this clear priority of the membership – if it does, we can together bring the whole of the party behind PR on Monday.”

This debate is a chance for Labour to back an end to Westminster’s broken First Past the Post system and ensure we have an electoral system that puts voters first, and guarantees equality at the ballot box.

Here is the final motion being debated:

Composite 6 – Electoral Reform

With First Past the Post votes do not have equal value. General elections are decided by swing voters in fewer than 100 marginal constituencies. FPTP has created ‘electoral deserts’.

FPTP privileges ‘swing voters’ over neglected voters – including younger, black and minority ethnic communities. It creates widespread disenfranchisement, disillusion, and disengagement in politics, throwing our democracy into crisis. It exacerbates regional, class, gender, wealth and racial inequalities in the House of Commons, in our political culture, and in national conversation. FPTP is unfit for purpose, stacked against the interests of less affluent people and communities, and urgently in need of reform.

A voting system in which every vote counts equally is needed to address the worrying levels of alienation, division and mistrust in British politics. Labour in government played a leading role in introducing forms of PR to the UK’s devolved Government.

There are systems of PR that retain a strong constituency link between MPs and their electorates, while ensuring that all votes count equally and seats match votes.

Those societies with the lowest levels of inequality and social exclusion all have proportional voting systems. We need a Labour government to transform society. But to give everyone a real voice in a 21st century democracy, we must change the voting system.

Conference resolves that:

  • The next Labour government must change the voting system for general elections to a form of Proportional Representation
  • Labour should convene an open and inclusive process, to decide the specific voting system which the Labour Party will commit to introducing in the next manifesto.

Follow Labour for a New Democracy on Twitter for live updates. You can watch the debate live here.

What the ERS is doing

We’re part of the coalition of organisations that make up Labour for a New Democracy, which is organising CLPs, and supporting Politics for the Many, the organisation organising trade unionists. We had a big ERS presence at Labour conference, with team members speaking on panels across the weekend and lobbying key figures directly.

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