Labour figures join Tory MP (and Brian Eno) to demand Corbyn and May back PR

Senior Labour MPs and figures from across the spectrum – including Brian Eno and Billy Bragg – have signed an open letter calling on Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May to back a fairer voting system.

The statement, organised by campaign group Make Votes Matter, has been signed by parties from across the political spectrum – including UKIP and the Liberal Democrats – in a rare show of consensus as they call for 8th June to be the last General Election held using First Past the Post.

A number of senior Labour MPs have thrown their weight behind the statement ahead of Labour’s manifesto launch on Monday – including Ben Bradshaw, Clive Lewis, Stephen Kinnock, and Shadow Ministers Daniel Zeichner and Richard Burden, in addition to the Assistant General Secretary of Unite the Union, piling pressure on Corbyn to back PR.

Other signatories include Conservative MP Ben Howlett, Billy Bragg, Brian Eno, Catherine Mayer, George Monbiot, Zoe Williams and the Electoral Reform Society. Over 17,000 members of the public have also added their names to the letter.

The Greens, Plaid Cymru, Northern Ireland’s Social Democratic and Labour Party, the Scottish National Party, and the Women’s Equality Party have also signed.

The letter follows polling conducted by ICM on behalf of Make Votes Matter, which found an overwhelming majority of voters would support changing the voting system to a form of PR, including a large majority of both Labour and Conservative voters.

67% of those polled believe that “the share of seats a party wins should closely match the share of the vote it receives”, with Labour voters backing the principle by 73%.

61% of the respondents said they would support “changing the electoral system from First Past the Post to a system of Proportional Representation, with just 11% against. The figure rises to 70% among Labour voters, and has the backing of 54% of Conservatives.

The letter states:

“In the last election many millions voted for parties that now have little or no representation in Parliament, while other parties took a share of seats far greater than their share of the votes.

“It has been said that this General Election will bring about “unity” after the divisive EU referendum campaign, but it is hard to imagine how a winner-takes-all election will bring people together when so many voices will not be heard.”

The signatories added:

“With the country deeply divided and more politically diverse than ever, we need a Parliament that genuinely reflects the views of all voters. The way to achieve this is the way most countries achieve it: a form of Proportional Representation.

“By making this the last General Election held under our broken voting system, you will stand on the right side of history and create a democracy fit for the 21st Century.”

The letter follow’s Labour’s Shadow Minister for Voter Engagement and Youth Affairs, Cat Smith, putting her name to a report last week, calling on the Labour Party to include a commitment to PR in its manifesto, and drawing on Labour’s key message of the campaign:

“Proportional representation is a prerequisite of a properly-functioning democracy in which power, wealth and opportunity are in the hands of the many, not the few.”

Howard Beckett, Assistant General Secretary of the Labour-backing union Unite, also signed the letter, in what some will see as a further sign of Labour’s warming towards a proportional voting system.

Clive Lewis MP said:

“It’s time for Labour to embrace PR. There is a mountain of evidence that we need to fix our broken voting system. I hope [this] provides the impetus we need to include a commitment to PR in our manifesto.”

Klina Jordan, a co-founder and facilitator of Make Votes Matter said:

“When a third of voters are considering ‘tactical voting’, when local candidates are forced to stand down to avoid ‘splitting the vote’, when the Conservatives are saying in their own campaign literature that ‘only a handful of seats will determine the next Prime Minister’, it’s obvious that this election is not a full and fair democratic exercise.

“These problems are totally unnecessary. In the vast majority of developed countries you can support whoever you believe in without worrying about wasting your vote – and everyone has a vote that matters. That’s because over 80% of developed democracies use some form of PR.”

Make Votes Matter is the cross-party campaign to introduce Proportional Representation to the House of Commons.

The 2015 General Election was the most disproportionate in British history.

Read the full letter to Jeremy Corbyn and Theresa May here

Josiah Mortimer is a reporter and Contributing Editor for Left Foot Forward. He also works for the Electoral Reform Society, and tweets at @josiahmortimer.

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