Trade unions have voted to consider changing the current system
Photo: Rob Williams
At the TUC Congress in Brighton, trade unions voted by a large margin to consider electoral reform – just two days after the election of Jeremy Corbyn as the new Labour leader.
It’s an important move because unions were some of the main opponents of change in the 2011 Alternative Vote referendum. Now they are to consider much more significant reform, i.e. full proportional representation.
Union delegates voted to commission independent research on reforming the voting system, backing the Public and Commercial Services (PCS) union and National Association of Probation Officers’ composite motion after some interesting debate.
We’re obviously delighted here at the ERS – the move adds to calls for Labour and other parties to support a more proportional voting system, in line with most modern democracies, after what was the most disproportionate election in British history back in May.
Trade unions – such as the PCS and NAPO – are increasingly recognising that First Past the Post is completely broken. Clearly it’s time for parties to follow the TUC’s lead and urgently think about the need for change.
But the move is significant for another reason – unions getting behind change was a key factor in New Zealand’s shift to Proportional Representation in the 1990s, so this could be the start of a major move away from our out-dated voting system for local and Westminster elections in the UK.
We hope that the Labour Party under new leadership will take note of yesterday’s vote and get behind real reform so that seats will truly match votes in future elections.
Mark Serwotka, General Secretary of the PCS union, put it right when he said:
“Far too many voices are shut out by our voting system. First Past the Post writes off those who aren’t in swing seats, leaving millions on the electoral scrapheap.
“We urgently need a fairer voting system where everyone’s vote counts and so that the political diversity which now exists in the UK can be reflected in Parliament and in council chambers across the country. [This] vote is a crucial and welcome step and we look forward to seeing the recommendations, and then campaigning to make progress on proportional representation a reality.”
Hopefully more unions will soon be echoing this sentiment and pushing for PR once the TUC research is out next year.
Josiah Mortimer is communications officer at the Electoral Reform Society. Follow him on TwitterLike this article? Sign up to Left Foot Forward's weekday email for the latest progressive news and comment - and support campaigning journalism by making a donation today.