Three-quarters of Labour members want party to back proportional representation

Survey comes as Conservatives win majority with 43 per cent of the vote

Jon Stone
Tuesday 17 December 2019 07:23
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Who will replace Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader?

Three-quarters of Labour members want the party to support electoral reform and adopt proportional representation (PR) as a policy, new polling shows.

A survey by YouGov found that 76 per cent supported the change, with just 12 per cent opposed and a further 12 per cent who said they did not know.

The finding comes after the Conservatives won a large majority in last week’s general election with 43 per cent of the vote. Labour leadership hopefuls to replace Jeremy Corbyn will be laying out their policy stalls in the coming weeks and months.

“Most people voted for parties to the left of the Conservatives on Thursday – so with proportional representation we’d most likely have a coalition of progressive parties steering us away from austerity and a hard Brexit cliff edge,” said Clive Lewis, MP for Norwich South.

“Instead, we’ve ended up with probably the most right-wing government this country has ever seen, elected a minority of voters, with devastating consequences for the most vulnerable in our society.

“Most Labour members have understood this danger for some time, and it’s absurd that we as a party still haven’t backed a fair system. We need to commit 100 per cent to electoral reform at next year’s Labour conference, and we have to make sure this can never happen again.”

Labour has previously flirted with electoral reform. Going into the 2019 election the party said it would hold a constitutional convention in power that would look at the voting system – but it stopped short of explicitly mentioning proportional representation.

There has historically been some resistance in the Labour movement to moving to PR, because the party has sometimes benefited from the current first-past-the-post system, winning majorities on smaller shares of the vote.

In 2010 the party supported changing the voting system to the alternative vote, which is not a proportional system but allowed voters to rank candidates.

But when creating the Scottish Parliament, and the Welsh and London assemblies the last Labour government used a form of PR – called the additional member system (AMS). AMS allows voters to have a local consistency MP but also for the overall result to broadly reflect the votes cast. A similar system is also used in countries such as Germany and New Zealand.

Around 80 local constituency Labour parties have passed resolutions calling for electoral reform – 12 per cent of the total, with most since 2017.

Joe Sousek, from Make Votes Matter and the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform, said: “In 19 out of the last 20 general elections, most people have voted for parties to the left of the Conservatives.

“Yet the Tories have been in power for 63 per cent of this time – and this will climb to 66 per cent if they see out their new term in full. It’s time for Labour to recognise that First Past the Post has done nothing to create an equal society.”

It comes as research by the Electoral Reform Society finds that 45 per cent of voters – or 14.5 million – did not vote for their local MP. Darren Hughes, the society’s chief executive, said the “warped results” were “hard-wired into Westminster’s winner-takes-tall voting system”.

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