The Greens are calling on Labour to back electoral reform. There’s never been a better time to do so

If the party are really "for the many not the few" they need to get serious on reforming our broken voting system.

Is it time for the Labour Party to embrace electoral reform? The Green Party thinks so, along with a growing number of Labour MPs and up to three quarters of party members.

Caroline Lucas, the Green Party co-leader will use a speech this afternoon to urge Labour to ‘ditch support for Britain’s grossly unfair electoral system’ and ‘embrace the future’ by supporting proportional elections to the House of Commons.

Lucas will challenge the party on the issue at a debate in Westminster Hall later today which was scheduled after a petition on the Parliament website gained more than 100,000 signatures. The Green Party co-leader said ahead of the debate:

“I urge the Labour frontbench to swing behind electoral reform and join a movement that would truly transform the politics of this country forever.”

Many key voices in the Labour Party back electoral reform and the leadership has appeared close to endorsing it in the recent past.

It was rumoured back in May that Labour might be about to declare support for proportional representation (PR) days before their manifesto launch, but the announcement never came.

In May, shadow cabinet MP Cat Smith led calls for the party to adopt PR, calling it “a prerequisite of a properly-functioning democracy”.

A poll conducted at the time revealed that more than three quarters of Labour Party members backed PR and Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell, and other leading figures close to Corbyn, have also endorsed electoral reform in the past.

But how well would Labour do under a proportional representation voting system?

Here’s what the General Election result would have looked like this year if we’d voted under the D’Hondt PR system:

Labour would generally do better under most PR systems compared to our current First Past the Post system.

The Electoral Reform Society showed they’d have gained more seats in 2017 under all 4 PR voting systems they modelled. Under one of the voting systems, Labour would even have won more seats than the Tories.

Corbyn’s Labour, as a party that champions grass-roots democracy, must pursue a reformed voting system in which tens of millions of votes are not wasted at each general election. As democrats, Labour can’t allow First Past the Post continue.

As Caroline Lucas rightly said ahead of this afternoon’s debate: “no party can honestly claim to be for the many, when they deny the many a meaningful vote.”

“The Labour leadership should ditch their support for Britain’s grossly unfair electoral system and embrace the future by backing proportional representation.”

“A truly progressive politics is one which hands power to people, and the best way to do that right now would be to end the tyranny of an electoral system that locks people out and denies them a real say in who runs this country.”

With an estimated 22 million wasted votes at the last poll, and with Labour set to benefit from a reformed voting system, it seems there’s never been a better time for the party to formally endorse PR.

Oscar Webb is a staff writer for Left Foot Forward. He tweets here.

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12 Responses to “The Greens are calling on Labour to back electoral reform. There’s never been a better time to do so”

  1. Chester Draws

    So PR is a good idea because it advantages Labour? You’ll not be surprised when people think the change is for naked political advantage.

    If the Left really believe in PR, which I do, they need to advance it when it isn’t in their obvious best interest. Then people might believe it is being done for the right reasons, not just to get more seats.

    Your analysis is wrong anyway.

    1) Once PR comes in people vote very differently. They don’t need to vote Labour to vote anti-Tory in tight constituencies, so the big winners will almost certainly be the Lib-Dems, not Labour. You cannot just take votes under FPP and assume they will translate.

    2) most PR systems have minimum % votes to prevent the system being clogged with tons of minor parties. The Greens risk being under that minimum which, since they would be natural support for Labour, would be votes lost for the Left.

    PR in NZ has led to pretty much exactly the same sorts of governments as in the UK under FPP for the last 20 years. Mostly Tory (National) except when Labour tacks right and has a personable leader, so the equivalent of Blair not Corbyn. If Kiwis don’t like the National Party they don’t start voting for a left-leaning Labour team, because under PR there are third parties that fill that hole better (NZ First etc).

  2. patrick newman

    PR for Labour – needs more work!

  3. patrick newman

    The immediate problem is defeating the Tory gerrymandering of the current FPP constituencies. Reducing MP numbers from 650 to 600 (how can that be with a larger population!) and the one size suits all which makes it more difficult for Labour to get a majority.

  4. Steven

    I hope Labour does back REAL electoral reform ie a system of Proportional Representation (my own prefered system would be the German one of Mixed- Member Proportional (MMP) with a 3.5 to 5% threashold to avoid an excessive fragmentation of parliament and making effective governments hard to form. Our version could also have ‘open’ regional lists instead of the ‘closed’ ones Germany has). I live in the ultra-Tory stronghold of Brentwood and Ongar in Essex which now has a Conservative Party majority of 45% percentage wise and a numerical one of 24,002 and this wasn’t even the case in Thatcher’s time! Basically, my vote has an effective worth of ZILCH here and unless I were to move away from my home town I have no prospect whatsoever of influencing the composition of the House of Commons. Please do give the calls for PR a serious hearing, Labour!

  5. Steven

    I agree with Chester Draws above. If PR is a good idea (I believe it is) then the Left need to advance the case for it without any reference to self-interest. After all, the Tories have barely credible reasons to be against it other than their own perceived naked self-serving reasons.

  6. Polly Potter

    I voted for PR in the referendum, and nothing that has happened since has made me think differently. It should result in a much less adversarial situation with more consensus and negotiation.

  7. Rachel Dean

    Fair voting reform, a definite YES

  8. John Matthissen

    Labour really do need to get their act together on this. Which are two of the worst-run “democracies” in world? USA and UK. Both have crap Govts with minority support, poor turnout and alienation of the young. Best countries? Scandinavia. PR.

  9. Geoff Butler

    Yes to PR!

  10. Graham Wanless

    Democracy needs to evolve currently every election means half the country are losers we need to be more democratic and more representative in parliament.

  11. Stephen Westmoreland

    Proportional representation would mean there would never be a tory majority government ever again. This makes P.R. a must.

  12. Catherine

    Labour needs to support PR because it allows everyone in the country to vote honestly for the party they really support, and stops any party gaining a parliamentary majority with under 25% of the national vote (as happens under FPTP). Everyone knows their vote makes a difference to the final outcome, whereas currently many people do not bother to vote as the result in their constituency is a foregone conclusion.

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