Leadership candidates challenged to back electoral reform

The four remaining Labour leadership candidates have been challenged by the Electoral Reform Society and soft left group Open Labour to back a change to the UK’s voting system.

In a letter written jointly by the two organisations, which LabourList can exclusively reveal today, the contenders for Labour’s top job are asked to overhaul the “broken” and “bankrupt” electoral system in the UK.

They have been urged to “end zero-sum politics and build a fairer political system” by declaring their support for “proportional representation in the Commons and a fairly-elected second chamber”.

None of the candidates have so far endorsed a switch from first-past-the-post to proportional representation in the House of Commons, but Rebecca Long-Bailey has highlighted the current Labour policy of replacing the Lords with an elected body.

A poll of Labour members conducted for Make Votes Matter recently found that three-quarters of Labour members believe the party should back PR, while only 12% said it should not.

The demands for democratic reform have been issued ahead of a leadership hustings that is set to take place on Sunday in Nottingham. Frontrunner Keir Starmer will not be in attendance, but will supply a video and statement.

Below is the full text of the Electoral Reform Society/Open Labour letter.

December’s warped election saw a government once again handed a majority on a minority of the vote. Millions of votes went to waste, while the public were cheated out of choice by pacts and tactical voting on both the left and right. In short, it was another sign that Westminster’s electoral system isn’t just broken: it’s bankrupt.

The UK remains the only country in Europe to use first-past-the-post. A Labour leader serious about redistributing power must make tackling the democratic crisis a priority.

Candidates have a chance to garner support from the majority of Labour voters and members who want to end zero-sum politics and build a fairer political system – through proportional representation in the Commons and a fairly-elected second chamber. They must be bold in working towards a new settlement: one which recognises we have more in common than that which divides us.

Just 16% of the public believe politics is working well in the UK – and only 2% feel they have a significant influence over decision-making, according to BMG polling for the Electoral Reform Society. It’s no wonder why.

We challenge Labour leadership candidates to seize the chance for a new Chartism – a democratic movement for the 21st century. Overhauling our crumbling constitution must be at the core of any progressive platform.

This Sunday sees Open Labour and the Electoral Reform Society’s hustings in Nottingham. We call on all candidates to use the opportunity to set out their plans for real democracy. It’s time for political equality.

Signed:

Jess Garland, Electoral Reform Society
Tom Miller, Open Labour

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