Electoral reform gains backing within Labour

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The Independent Online
The chances of Labour backing a change in the way MPs are elected rose sharply yesterday as the leader of the party's biggest affiliated union endorsed electoral reform for the first time and a majority for change emerged on Labour's Plant committee on electoral systems.

The working party is poised to recommend to the party's national executive in April that Labour drop its historic commitment to 'first past the post', although the committee has yet to settle on the system that should replace it.

Bill Morris, general secretary of the Transport and General Workers' Union, delighted Labour's campaigners for reform by declaring: 'We can't continue to maintain the status quo, which continues to return a government enjoying only a minority of the popular vote'.

Mr Morris, whose union sponsors Margaret Beckett, Labour's deputy leader and one of the Plant committee members most opposed to change, added that there was 'a fair weight of opinion in the T & G that the current system is not sustainable and minds should remain open'.

His support came as a two-day meeting of Labour's working party was said to have made 'substantial progress' on the options.

At the meeting, Lord Plant, Professor of Politics at Southampton University, declared his own support for an additional member system. Some of those present said 'a lot of people have moved' and there was now 'a majority for change' on the committee.

The final report is expected to be expressed in terms of majority and minority views, but to contain clear recommendations that will provoke a furious internal debate in Labour's ranks.

Whether the working party will produce a majority for proportional representation through the additional member system, or one for minimal change by switching to the supplementary vote, remains to be settled.

The latter system requires a second count if no candidate exceeds 50 per cent, but while it ensures that invidual MPs are elected with a majority in constituencies it does not ensure that the overall result is proportional.

Campaigners for change, however, believe that if Labour can

be persuaded to drop first past

the post, the weight of argument will lead it to back proportional

representation.

The final report will also propose a different electoral system for the second chamber that Labour plans to replace the House of Lords.

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