Unite’s vote to oppose First Past the Post is an important shift in campaign for fair votes

Jon Narcross, former Communications Officer

Posted on the 22nd October 2021

Unite members have voted to oppose Westminster’s First Past the Post electoral system, pledging support for moves towards a new voting system in UK elections.

Today, Unite Policy Conference voted to support Proportional Representation in Westminster elections for the first time in our history. Our political class has failed working people and our system is broken. It is time to change our democracy.”

Unite’s general secretary Sharon Graham

The move comes just weeks after Labour Party members overwhelmingly supported a motion calling on the party to support proportional representation at the party’s Annual Conference, a motion that ultimately fell due to lack of support from the parties affiliated unions – Unite voted against the motion.

The vote, which sees Unite, Britain’s largest trade union, join three other Labour affiliated unions in supporting electoral reform, represents an important step forward in the campaign for fair votes.

Support for proportional representation is growing across the Labour movement – the vast majority of Labour members support change and across the country ordinary trade union members are joining them – tired of seeing our broken system centralising control in the hands of a small few as ordinary people pay the price.

Politics for the Many, the Trade Union Campaign for Democratic Reform and Labour for a New Democracy, have both been working with trade unionists to win votes like these.

Jane Spellar, a Unite Yorkshire and Humber member who sits on the Politics for the Many Steering Group said it is no surprise that support was growing amongst trade unionists: “When right-wing governments win large majorities due to the warping effects of our voting system it is the rights of workers that are often the first thing to go. For the interests of trade unionists and workers to be fairly represented in our politics we need a voting system that represents the views of all voters in our parliament.”

Paul Cooney from Huddersfield GEO branch of Unite, who also sits on the campaign’s steering group added: “Trade union’s play a huge role in the lives of workers across the country – standing with them in their workplaces and standing up for their interests to Westminster. It’s right that they should throw their voice behind calls for a fairer electoral system and an end to the winner takes all politics that has caused so many of the problems we see today.”

As campaigners for electoral reform we know that we will never address the issues that face us as a country if the system on which decisions are made is left unreformed. It’s clearer than ever that people feel Westminster is broken and urgently in need of change.

We need an end to our broken First Past the Post voting system that has for too long meant that a winner takes all mentality dominates our politics.

We need a fair and proportional voting system to elect the commons and the lords and ensure that all voices across the country are fairly represented in parliament.

The fact that the UK’s second largest trade union has joined the growing opposition to Westminster’s broken voting system shows that the need for reform is growing and can no longer be ignored.

This article was originally published by Politics for the Many, the Trade Union Campaign for Democratic Reform.

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The Electoral Reform Society is part of both Labour for a New Democracy and Politics for the Many, the trade union campaign for democratic reform. Our staff support both organisations, for instance handling Politics for the Many’s press operation.

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