Mark Drakeford has thrown his support behind changes to how MPs are elected calling for ‘radical reform’ of Westminster’s electoral system.
The First Minister of Wales made the remarks at the 2021 Aneurin Bevan Memorial Lecture. In his speech, Drakeford advocated for the Labour party to step up and make the necessary political reforms in order to “repair” British democracy.
The Welsh Labour leader used his speech to call for ‘radical reform’ of the electoral system to be put at the forefront of the next Labour government’s agenda.
He highlighted how the First Past the Post system has disproportionately disadvantaged voters from Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales who, despite low or falling levels of support for the Conservatives, do not see their votes represented at a national level where Conservatives won an 80 seat majority in 2019. Until this is addressed Drakeford claimed “the system, therefore, cannot adequately represent the interests of millions of regional voters”.
This is particularly problematic for Welsh voters, with the Conservatives gaining little support in Wales, with the party never winning “an election in Wales in the nearly two hundred years since the first stirrings of universal suffrage”.
The call came just weeks after proposals for Labour to back electoral reform were debated at the party’s annual conference – the motion, despite receiving the support of over 80% of constituency party delegates ultimately fell due to the lack of support from trade union affiliates.
However, a decision by the Unite union – one of the Labour party’s largest union affiliates – to back a new voting system makes the chances of reform ‘significantly improved’, Drakeford said, following a decision of the union’s policy conference just last week.
He added: “How anyone clings to the notion that a system which delivers, so consistently, majority Conservative governments on a minority of the votes cast is best for working people simply baffles me.”
The First Minister also called for ‘urgent’ reform of the House of Lords, replacing it with a ‘Chamber of the Union’ guaranteeing representation from the nation and regions of the UK. – something that he persuasively argues is necessary in order to restore the UK to “a democracy in which every part of the UK feels it has a share”.
The Electoral Reform Society has long argued for such reform so that the House of Lords can finally provide adequate representation and scrutiny. Proportional representation in both the Commons and the Lords is a vital step towards a more representative politics where the voices of voters from all nations and regions of the UK are heard.
Drakeford’s call is just the latest from a senior Labour figure, demonstrating the growth of support within the party for reform. And as our broken Westminster system continues to distort and ignore the views of ordinary voters – the time for change is long overdue.
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