Looking back over the past few years, the campaign for PR has made huge strides.
- Last year’s Labour Party conference voted overwhelmingly to back electoral reform
- Repeated polls put support for PR among Labour members at around 85%
- 96% of local Labour parties that have debated PR voted to support it
- A majority of affiliated trade unions, including 3 of the “big four” affiliated unions, support PR
- Among the general public, 63% now support a change to proportional representation
- And Labour’s NPF report to the 2023 Labour Conference characterises the FPTP voting system as “flawed”, contributing to “distrust” of politicians and “alienation” from politics that have reached alarming levels.
But we’re not there yet. Keir Starmer, despite previously having expressed support for PR, has stated more recently that reform of the voting system is ‘not a priority’.
We beg to differ. It is a priority.
Labour cannot credibly recognise a source of distrust and alienation in politics and fail to address it – especially if we have promised to restore trust in politics after long years of Tory misrule.
You’ve probably heard the Tories argue “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it”. We believe the voting system is so badly broken that it’s unfit for purpose. If we want to reinvigorate our democracy we will have to fix the voting system first. Devolution and House of Lords reform won’t mean much if Westminster continues to be elected by a system that promotes huge and unrepresentative Tory majorities. And votes at 16 won’t do much to invigorate democracy if many of those votes are wasted.
Our voting system is a hangover from the days of the British Empire and now it causes huge distortions, such as wasted votes, ‘safe seats’ and tactical voting.
Even worse, our voting system allows an incoming Conservative government to reverse and repeal all the achievements of Labour governments without even having the support of a majority of voters. Huge Conservative majorities have led to the sale of public utilities, the loss of council houses, the scrapping of Sure Start and a no-deal Brexit. The Tories were able to do all these things, not because a majority of voters supported them, but because FPTP produced hugely inflated Conservative majorities in the Commons. We need a Labour government to rebuild our broken society. And we need a proportional voting system in order to safeguard those reforms for the future.
All European countries (except Belarus) have introduced fairer voting systems. Scotland and Wales have fairer voting systems. The London Assembly has a fairer voting system. It’s time for us to have one too.
The voting system is broken. Let’s fix it.