Labour supporters demand democratic overhaul of Westminster – new polling

Posted on the 23rd September 2018

Potential Labour voters overwhelmingly back an overhaul of Westminster, according to new polling for the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) ahead of Labour’s annual conference.

In a BMG Research poll of nearly 3,000 people, 75% of those who intend to vote Labour in the next election agree that democracy is in urgent need of reform, while there are huge majorities for change among Labour’s target groups.

At Momentum’s ‘The World Transformed’ on Sunday, Jeremy Corbyn’s former trade union adviser, Nancy Platts, will argue Labour must look beyond internal selections and to democracy as a whole.

She will be joined by Jon Trickett, Shadow Minister for the Cabinet Office, to discuss the centralisation of power in the UK and a radical agenda for democracy.

The new polling, by BMG Research, comes as pressure grows for Labour to back democratic reform. The ERS has found there are widespread calls for devolution of power away from Westminster and overwhelming opposition to new appointments being made to the unelected House of Lords. [1]

It also emerged this week that 45 CLPs have passed motions calling for proportional representation and a party-wide consultation on the issue, following campaigning by Make Votes Matter and the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform.[2]

Key Research Findings

  • 75% of those who intend to vote Labour in the next election agree with the statement that ‘democracy in Britain is in urgent need of reform.’ This is eight percentage points higher than among all respondents to the survey (67%.)
  • Among all respondents, older respondents are slightly more likely to agree with this statement – an average of 68% among those 35 and older, compared to an average of 65% among those aged 34 and younger.
  • Those who voted Leave and those who voted Remain are united in the view that democratic reform is needed – 71% for Leave voters and 66% of Remain voters agreed with the statement.
  • Poorer respondents (those in the C2DE social grade) are slightly more likely to agree with this statement (70%) than those in the ABC1 grade (66%). A similar difference is found between BME and white respondents, with the former more likely to agree that democracy is in urgent need of reform (70% compared to 67% among white respondents)

Willie Sullivan, Senior Director (Campaigns) at the Electoral Reform Society, said:

“While most of the discussion has been about Labour’s internal democracy, voters want the party to look outwards at how to revive our ailing democracy. Westminster is falling apart in more ways than one, and it’s vital that Labour has a vision for restoring it.

“For three quarters of potential Labour voters to say that democratic reform is urgent is a clear message to the party leadership that this needs addressing now.

“The centralisation of power in Westminster makes the UK the European leader on regional inequality while the unelected House of Lords is a drain on the public purse. And Westminster’s archaic voting system deprives millions of a voice.

“Meanwhile a proposed cut in MPs could badly hinder the scrutinising role of Parliament over the Executive and a future roll-out of Voter ID could deprive already marginalised groups of their democratic right to vote.

“Grassroots supporters want the party’s leadership to provide an inspiring vision for our democracy. This is about giving power to the many, and it’s high time for a new Charter for Democratic Reform. While Labour debates changes to how it selects MPs, the elephant in the room is how we elect them, too.”

Shavanah Taj, Welsh TUC President, said:

There is a growing realisation that politics cannot continue as it is if we want it to work for the many.

“From replacing the broken Westminster voting system, to finally reforming the archaic House of Lords, there are big changes which are long overdue.

“The discussions at Labour conference should form a valuable basis on which to build a democratic agenda, one where power is shared and the elitist Westminster model is reformed at last.”

Notes to Editors

[1] https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/latest-news-and-research/media-centre/press-releases/poll-shows-overwhelming-opposition-to-new-lords-appointments/

[2] See http://www.makevotesmatter.org.uk/ and http://www.lcer.org.uk/

Research methodology

Question: ‘To what extent do you agree or disagree with the following statements? – Democracy in Britain is in urgent need of reform.’

BMG interviewed a representative sample of 3,014 adults living in Great Britain online between 7th August and 7th September.

Data are weighted. BMG are members of the British polling council and abide by their rules.

Sample size Labour valid respondents – 797

Sample size all valid respondents – 2,823

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