Electoral reform campaigners launch ‘roadshow’ urging Labour to back PR

Elliot Chappell
© Alexandru Nika/Shutterstock.com

Labour for a New Democracy will launch a ‘roadshow’ series of events to “put beyond doubt” the need for the party to back proportional representation after a third of local parties called on the leadership to back the change.

Joined by frontbenchers Stephen Kinnock and Rachael Maskell as well as Clive Lewis, the group will hold virtual meetings on topics including “Defeating right-wing populism” and “A new democracy for a green new deal?“.

11 events, starting today and taking place until July, will bring together Labour MPs, trade unionists, journalists, academics and activists to “set out why electoral reform is critical to Labour’s mission of an equal society”.

The first panel, “The road to conference: Why PR? Why now? How to make it happen“, will take place at 7pm today, with Clive Lewis joined by ex-MP Sandy Martin, journalist Polly Toynbee and activist Abbie Jones.

“Defeating right-wing populism”, scheduled for June 10th at 7.30pm, will see MPs Rachael Maskell and Stephen Kinnock, Billy Bragg and academic Maria Iacovou discuss how proportional representation can combat right-wing populism.

Levelling the playing field“, with professor Jonathan Rodden from Stanford University and Rob from the University of Manchester, will discuss the evidence from around the world that a first-past-the-post system benefits right-wing parties.

Caroline Osborne from Labour for a New Democracy said the organisation hopes that the events will “help give the membership the tools they need to win the argument on the conference floor come September”.

“The Tories are forcing through a wave of legislation to gerrymander the democratic system to their own partisan advantage: from voter suppression through mandatory ID, to rolling out FPTP for mayoral elections, to boundary changes that will hand them extra seats,” Joe Sousek said.

The co-founder of Make Votes Matter and organiser for Labour for a New Democracy argued that Labour must set out a vision for how the UK can be a “proper 21st century democracy” – and cannot do this “credibly” while supporting FPTP.

The Queen’s Speech, which outlines the government legislative agenda, included plans for an ‘elections integrity bill’ that could require members of the public to produce ID at polling stations in order to vote.

Keir Starmer criticised plans for the legislation in his response to the address on Tuesday. He warned that it would “suppress turnout in elections and weaken our democracy”, saying: “Labour will have no part in that.”

Labour for a New Democracy launched in September last year, bringing together Labour MPs and groups such as Open Labour and the Electoral Reform Society, to build support for and push the party to back electoral reform.

Over a quarter of Constituency Labour Parties had passed a motion calling on the leadership to support the introduction of proportional representation by February. 214 local parties, a third, have now done so.

Starmer vowed during his leadership campaign to consult party members on electoral reform and to include it in a constitutional convention, saying that the party must address the fact that many people “feel their voice doesn’t count”.

He went on to tell Labour members that, if elected as leader of the party, he would deliver a “radical devolution of power”. At the end of last year, Starmer announced the launch of a UK-wide constitutional commission.

A Labour source within the commission said that the body would likely consider calls for altering the voting system, commenting that it would be “weird” for the issue of electoral reform to be “off-limits” in its review.

The next Labour Party conference will take place between September 25th and 29th this year. Labour for a New Democracy’s stated aim is to secure a commitment to proportional representation at the annual gathering.

It is backed by Make Votes Matter, Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform, Compass, Electoral Reform Society, Unlock Democracy, Open Labour, Another Europe is Possible, Politics for the Many, Get PR Done and Labour for a European Future.

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