Labour under pressure to back electoral reform


The Labour Party is under increasing pressure to back a system of proportional representation (PR), according to electoral reform campaign group Make Votes Matter.

Figures released by the group this week reveal that 36 Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) have passed motions calling on the party to back PR.

Labour members are demanding that the party reject first-past-the-post (FPTP) and support the introduction of a form of PR in which “all votes count equally and seats match votes”. The motion calls on the party to consult the membership for their views on PR.

Joe Sousek, spokesperson for Make Votes Matter and executive member of the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform, commented: “These motions are just the tip of the iceberg. There’s a growing realisation among the membership that you can’t build a progressive, equal society using such an outdated and unrepresentative form of democracy.

“I don’t believe there’s a single country with first-past-the-post that Labour members would say is an example of a society ‘for the many’. It’s said that Labour is becoming a more democratic party. There could be no better way to show this than to listen to these CLPs and consult the whole membership about backing PR.”

PR refers to any system of voting whereby the share of seats a party wins matches the share of votes it receives. There are many different systems of Proportional Representation but all have that central aim. The CLP motions do not call for any specific form of PR.

There is a broad spectrum of views on PR within the Labour Party. According to Make Votes Matter’s map of MPs views, 82 Labour MPs are known supporters of PR.

Labour MP Ruth Cadbury, whose Brentford & Isleworth CLP is one of the 36 to pass a motion calling for reform, is a fervent supporter of PR. She told LabourList: “While no system is perfect, all systems have elements of complexity. All can bring instability, hung parliaments and coalitions.

“PR brings proportionality, as people know that their vote will help towards the weighting of the party they want to see sitting in that legislature, and reflects the complex diversity of the UK now.”

But Anneliese Dodds, Labour MP for Oxford East whose CLP has also called on the party to back PR, is less certain.

“I’ve had a number of meetings with different constituents concerning proportional representation,” explains Dodds. “Pure PR systems seem to be correlated with more extreme forms of political leadership and to have much less of a constituency link, although I realise that many of those advocating for PR are suggesting mixed systems. I will continue to listen carefully to the views of my constituents on this matter.”

The current wave of motions is the largest the party has seen since the 1990s, which led to Labour promising action on electoral reform. The independent Jenkins Commission was established by the Blair government and recommended a form of PR in 1998 – but no further action was taken.

Polling from 2017 showed that 76% of Labour voters would support a manifesto pledge to bringing in PR, with just 5% opposed. Support among members, according to Make Votes Matter and the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform, is similarly strong.

More than 80 Labour MPs have endorsed PR for the House of Commons:

Stephen Kinnock, Aberavon

Margaret Hodge, Barking

Tracy Brabin, Batley Spen

Marsha de Cordova, Battersea

Neil Coyle, Bermondsey and Old Southwark

Rushanara Ali, Bethnal Green and Bow

Richard Burden, Birmingham Northfield

Jess Phillips, Birmingham Yardley

Helen Goodman, Bishop Auckland

Peter Dowd, Bootle

Ruth Cadbury, Brentford and Isleworth

Lloyd Russell-Moyle, Brighton Kemptown

Kerry McCarthy, Bristol East

Darren Jones, Bristol North West

Wayne David, Caerphilly

Daniel Zeichner, Cambridge

Rosie Duffield, Canterbury

Anna McMorrin, Cardiff North

Stephen Doughty, Cardiff South and Penarth

Kevin Brennan, Cardiff West

Susan Elan Jones, Clwyd South

Thelma Walker, Colne Valley

Steve Reed, Croydon North

Jon Cruddas, Dagenham and Rainham

Chris Williamson, Derby North

Helen Hayes, Dulwich and West Norwood

Laura Pidcock, Durham North West

Rupa Huq, Ealing Central and Acton

Stephen Pound, Ealing North

Virendra Sharma, Ealing Southall

Grahame Morris, Easington

Martin Whitfield, East Lothian

Ian Murray, Edinburgh South

Justin Madders, Ellesmere Port and Neston

Bambos Charalambous, Enfield Southgate

Teresa Pearce, Erith and Thamesmead

Ben Bradshaw, Exeter

Seema Malhotra, Feltham and Heston

Paul Sweeney, Glasgow North East

Tonia Antoniazzi, Gower

Andy Slaughter, Hammersmith

Tulip Siddiq, Hampstead and Kilburn

John McDonnell, Hayes and Harlington

Barry Sheerman, Huddersfield

Wes Streeting, Ilford North

Sandy Martin, Ipswich

Stephen Hepburn, Jarrow

John Grogan, Keighley

Emma Dent Coad, Kensington

Cat Smith, Lancaster and Fleetwood

Alex Sobel, Leeds North West

Liz Kendall, Leicester West

Jo Platt, Leigh

Vicky Foxcroft, Lewisham Deptford

Stephen Twigg, Liverpool West Derby

Paul Farrelly, Newcastle-under-Lyme

Paul Flynn, Newport West

Clive Lewis, Norwich South

Debbie Abrahams, Oldham East and Saddleworth

Luke Pollard, Plymouth Sutton Devonport

Stephen Morgan, Portsmouth South

Chris Bryant, Rhondda

Tony Lloyd, Rochdale

Kevin Barron, Rother Valley

Gerard Killen, Rutherglen Hamilton West

Paul Blomfield, Sheffield Central

Tanmanjit Singh Dhesi, Slough

Alan Whitehead, Southampton Test

Jonathan Reynolds, Stalybridge and Hyde

Ann Coffey, Stockport

Paul Daniel Williams, Stockton South

Chuka Umunna, Streatham

David Drew, Stroud

Geraint Davies, Swansea West

David Lammy, Tottenham

Alan Campbell, Tynemouth

Stella Creasy, Walthamstow

Mike Amesbury, Weaver Vale

Karen Buck, Westminster North

Alison McGovern, Wirral South

Margaret Greenwood, Wirral West

Rachael Maskell, York Central

The following CLPs have passed motions to Labour’s National Policy Forum calling for PR since the start of the current campaign:

Bath; Bedford; Bognor Regis & Littlehampton; Brentford & Isleworth; Brighton Kemptown; Chichester; Colne Valley; Crewe & Nantwich; Daventry; Devizes; Glasgow Cathcart; Gosport; Guildford; Harwich and North Essex; Herefordshire North; Holborn & St Pancras; Lewes; Milton Keynes North; Milton Keynes South; Newark; North Cornwall; Oxford East; Oxford West Abingdon; Romsey Southampton North; Ruislip, Northwood & Pinner; Sheffield Central; Sittingbourne & Sheppey; Southampton Itchen; Southampton Test; Stroud; Suffolk South; Sutton Coldfield; Taunton Deane; Truro & Falmouth; Warrington South; Witney.

A draft CLP motion can be viewed here.

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