Keir Starmer has a ‘long-standing view against proportional representation’

The Labour leader 'isn't looking to change the electoral system'

Labour Party leader Keir Starmer speaking at the dispatch box in the House of Commons

Keir Starmer has a “long standing view against proportional representation”, according to an exclusive report in Byline Times. According to the report, Starmer’s official spokesperson said that Starmer “isn’t looking to change the electoral system” and that “it’s not something that’s a priority for him”.

The quotes from Starmer’s spokesperson will be a blow to campaigners for electoral reform and many Labour Party members. In September 2022, delegates at the Labour Party conference voted overwhelmingly to replace the first past the post electoral system with a proportional one. At the time, Starmer was quoted as saying that it would not be included in Labour’s next manifesto saying: “No, it’s not a priority for me”.

Electoral reform campaigners have expressed disappointment at the news. Neal Lawson, director of cross party campaign group Compass, said: “Keir Starmer’s comments are in clear opposition to the wishes of his party membership, the unions and the wider public. Starmer must not ignore these vital calls to renew our politics and replace our voting system. These concerns are not peripheral; democracy is a first-order issue.

“It’s deeply disappointing that Starmer is unwilling to move beyond ‘sticking plaster politics’ and commit to urgent reform of our democratic system. We need a politics that delivers for the many, not just the few, and that means a fair voting system that ensures every vote counts and everyone’s voice is heard.”

Starmer’s position has also attracted criticism from other opposition parties in Westminster.

The SNP accused Labour of being “indistinguishable from the Tories”. SNP deputy leader in Westminster Mhairi Black said: “On the big issues, from Brexit to denying Scotland’s democracy, and now on reforming the archaic Westminster voting system, Labour are indistinguishable from the Tories. The self-branded party of change offers precisely the opposite – mimicking Tory policy every chance it gets to ensure the status quo of the Westminster establishment is preserved.”

Nate Higgins, the Green Party of England and Wales’ democracy and citizen engagement spokesperson, said: “It’s clear that there will be no real or lasting change in this country until we change the voting system. The Green Party knows this, unions know this and so do Labour Party members. The only person who doesn’t get it is Keir Starmer, who has turned his back on the thousands of Labour members who want to see reform.”

Chris Jarvis is head of strategy and development at Left Foot Forward

Image credit: UK Parliament/Jessica Taylor – Creative Commons

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