Labour decision on proportional representation for executive elections due

Josiah Mortimer, former Head of Communications

Posted on the 21st May 2020

A decision to move to the proportional system of STV for Labour’s National Executive Committee (NEC) elections will now take place on Tuesday June 30th. 

“Labour shouldn’t model its elections on Westminster’s broken system, but on the values we want to see enacted,” said Labour MP Sam Tarry, ahead of the last National Executive Committee meeting, which was set to debate the move (the decision was delayed).

Constituency representatives on Labour’s NEC are currently elected using ‘one-slate-takes-all’ bloc voting system – mirroring Westminster’s First Past the Post elections.

Deputy leader Angela Rayner backed the idea of STV for the NEC during the recent leadership election, telling the ERS/Open Labour hustings:

“We have to blow open our democracy. People feel they have no control over their lives…We can’t have one part of the party dominating [and] have to find ways of unifying the party.”

Keir Starmer also backed the principle of proportional representation more widely, saying Labour must address the need for electoral reform ‘at every level’.

There is significant support for change across the party – with over 800 members signing an STV Open Letter backing the move ahead of the last meeting. Preferential voting is already used to select Labour candidates and to elect the party’s leader, so this is a simple adjustment to bring the party’s own elections into harmony with each other.

The run-up to Tuesday’s NEC meeting saw figures across the party back the move to preferential voting, from leading left-wing figures like Clive Lewis MP, to MPs on the party’s ‘soft left’ like Alex Sobel. The campaign is being led by Fair Internal Labour Elections (FILE) and Open Labour.

FILE note that in the recent NEC by-elections, over 45% of members voted for candidates from the various Labour left slates but, due to ‘vote splitting’ under the block voting system, the left won zero seats.

Labour’s NEC has often gone from near-100% domination by one faction to another, further dividing the party and disenfranchising members, MPs and campaigners say.

Polling has shown that an overwhelming majority of Labour members back the principle of proportional representation for General Elections.

From Scottish local elections, to all Ireland’s elections, to the executives of unions like the NEU, UCU and NUJ – STV is a tried-and-tested system that gives voters a strong voice and real choice.

This small but important step would be boost Labour’s authority on issues of democracy, and bring it closer to the ‘gold standard’ for accountability.

We hope when the decision returns in June Labour embraces the chance to put the principle of political equality into practice.

See also: Seven reasons why Labour should move to STV

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