Letter: PR and the unions

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The Independent Culture
LETTER:

PR and the unions

Sir: Ken Jackson apparently feels that electoral reform is part of a plot to break Labour's links with the unions (Parliament & Politics, 15 June).

This is one of the stranger conspiracy theories currently available and demeans an important debate that is central to the interests of trade unionists.

When the Labour Party was established almost a century ago, electoral reform was a fundamental objective. The Labour Party and the TUC supported the electoral reforms that were twice carried in the Commons, but stymied in the Lords (in1918 and 1930).

Recently trade unionists were active participants in the Plant Commission, which informed and influenced our debate in the labour movement. Ken Jackson's members supported the proportional system for electing the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Assembly.

They recognise that trade unions, above all other bodies in our society, have more to gain and less to lose from electoral reform. Elective dictatorships have twice tried to destroy them in the past 60 years. Proportional representation throughout the rest of Europe has been a factor in the advancement of free trade unionism, protecting an institution that is supported by the majority of the population from the attacks of an unrepresentative minority.

Of course those seeking to defend the status quo will vigorously engage in the historic debate that will follow publication of the Jenkins Commission report. The debate should, however, be about our constitution for the next hundred years, not the triviality of contemporary political gossip.

ALAN JOHNSON MP

(Hull W and Hessle, Lab)

House of Commons

London SW1

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