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Momentum to push for Keir Starmer to support proportional representation

Left-wingers make electoral reform a priority to take on ‘rigged system’

Jon Stone
Policy Correspondent
Thursday 08 April 2021 09:59 BST
Labour Party leader Keir Starmer is yet to commit to PR
Labour Party leader Keir Starmer is yet to commit to PR (Getty)

Left-wing campaign group Momentum is to push the Labour party to support proportional representation, after a ballot of its members came out in strong support of the policy.

Electoral reform campaigners welcomed the group’s break from Labour’s historic opposition to PR as a “major milestone” and claimed a “consensus” was building in the opposition party.

Momentum balloted its members last month to determine which policies it would push the leadership to adopt, with PR the second most popular suggestion after a £15 minimum wage.

Other top priorities voted for by the group’s members include a green new deal, ending homelessness by building council housing, and a public social care system.

The socialists argue that first past the post distorts politics by handing disproportionate power to a small number of voters in marginal seats while disenfranchising others.

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And they say it has consistently handed majority to the Tories on a minority of the vote and is not in Labour’s interests.

Gaya Sriskanthan, Momentum’s co-chair, said: “The Westminster political system is fundamentally broken.

“A popular consensus is building across the labour movement for a change to our first past the post electoral system, which has consistently delivered Tory majorities on a minority of the vote and hands disproportionate power to swing voters in marginal constituencies.

“Momentum will join the charge for PR, as part of a broader commitment to deep democratic change and alongside our strategy of building popular support for socialism in our communities.”

She added: “From the climate crisis to Covid-19, the need for bold solutions has never been clearer. Momentum members have put together a policy platform based on democracy, dignity and justice and that poses a fundamental challenge to our rigged economic and political system.

A popular consensus is building across the labour movement for a change to our first past the post electoral system

Gaya Sriskanthan, Momentum co-chair

“The campaign now begins to get the Labour Party to take up these policies and advocate for them in the country. The public are crying out for change, and we must not fail them.”

The Liberal Democrats and Greens have historically been the loudest supporters of proportional representation, but the policy is gaining popularity in Labour’s rank and file. 221 constituency Labour parties have now passed motions in favour of changing the voting system.

Labour’s official policy is to hold a constitutional convention to consider such issues after a Labour government is formed. The party’s 1997 manifesto included a commitment to a referendum on PR, but it was never held.

Sandy Martin, chair of Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform, said: “We warmly welcome Momentum to the fight - to work alongside Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform, Open Labour, and all the other groups in the Labour for a New Democracy coalition.

“This is not a left-right issue, it is about whether we want democracy in the UK. We are winning decisive support for fair votes across the board, and look forward to formalising that commitment at Conference.”

Make Votes Matter, a campaign group coordinating support for PR, also welcomed the policy commitment.

Willie Sullivan, a senior director at the Electoral Reform Society said: “This is a major milestone, with backing for proportional representation becoming a consensus in the Labour Party. Members and senior figures from across the party are clear about the need for real political reform – as reflected in the fact that hundreds of CLPs have now rejected one-party-takes-all voting.

“In his campaign to be Labour leader Keir Starmer backed the principle of PR and the need to make every vote count, and the party is increasingly united behind a fair voting system.

“Across the country, voters feel ignored and excluded from Westminster. It’s time to change that with an inspiring vision of change, dragging Parliament into the modern age at last.”

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