Back PR vote, Labour urged

Click to follow
The Independent Online
PRESSURE on the Labour leadership to move towards electoral reform before Britain next goes to the polls increased yesterday.

Raymond Plant, who chaired Labour's working party on the issue, joined with the shadow Trade Secretary, Robin Cook, and Ken Livingstone MP to urge the party to commit itself to proportional representation (PR) swiftly.

Speaking at the annual meeting of the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform in London, Professor Plant said that now the party conference had accepted PR for European and Scottish parliaments and for a democratically elected second UK chamber, and John Smith had opted for a referendum on how to elect the Commons, 'it is not necessary for Labour to go into the next election committed to the status quo.'

He added: 'Labour needs to re-examine its support for first-past-the-post in this new context when all its other commitments are designed to create a genuinely pluralist democracy.'

Mr Cook told the conference that pluralist voting systems had been advocated in South Africa, Japan, New Zealand and Mexico. 'With the Conservative Government more unpopular than any party in power since records began, this is the year in which the public must turn its back on the unfair, undemocratic electoral system that turns minority votes into majority governments.'

Mr Livingstone accused last autumn's party conference of 'going backwards' by adopting an open position on PR despite the Plant Commission and Labour constituency parties favouring rejection of first-past-the-post. 'Personally, I would prefer we just offered to change the voting system, but if we are to have a referendum, Labour support for the status quo is silly.'