The vast majority of CLPs support it, as do two-thirds of affiliated trade unions. So, will the NPF accept the case for PR? Maximilian Czekalski explains why it should
This weekend, the National Policy Forum (NPF) will convene in Nottingham to decide on policy for the next Labour government. There have been hundreds of submissions by constituency Labour parties and amendments from their elected representatives across the UK. Electoral reform is among the most popular issues at the NPF, and with good reason.
In 2019, Boris Johnson’s Conservatives received a minority of the popular vote yet received a landslide majority in the House of Commons. If that wasn’t undemocratic enough, they have used this majority to crack down on our freedom to protest and strike, to undermine the rights of working people, to crash the economy and to decimate British industry. Even more shockingly, all of this was the result of a just 1.2% swing in vote share that delivered the Tories nearly 50 more MPs. The Westminster system is blatantly broken and undemocratic.
Meanwhile, the democratic will of the Labour movement is clear. Last year in Liverpool, Labour annual conference delegates from across the country and the Labour movement voted overwhelmingly to pass a motion calling for the next Labour government to introduce proportional representation (PR) system for general elections. 60% of CLPs, two-thirds of affiliated unions and Labour Conference all now back PR. At the NPF final weekend, as elected CLP representatives we have a clear democratic mandate from members and CLPs to reflect this consensus and support PR.
We are the only country in Europe besides Belarus to use a voting system that so clearly and consistently gives an unfair advantage to the centre-right. As Labour members for whom fairness and equality are at the core of our politics, we must ask ourselves: is this fair? Is it fair that our voting system consistently hands the Conservatives all the power they need to undo the progress of Labour governments and wreck the lives of working people? Is it fair that your vote should count more or less depending on who you are and where you live? No, it is not. First-past-the-post is patently unfair and undemocratic. It does not deliver for Labour or for Britain – and the Labour movement knows it.
That is why nearly half of all the submissions sent to this year’s NPF call for a Labour to back PR as policy. PR would see fewer Tory governments and more Labour-led ones. It would enable all four nations in the United Kingdom to feel more valued and heard, rather than under the thumb of an unrepresentative primary chamber in Westminster. And PR would complement Labour’s existing policy plans for democratic reform through a shift of power out of Westminster and towards local communities.
So, why would anybody continue to support FPTP? One frequent fear spread by proponents of FPTP is that MPs would lose their special connection with constituents – but this is false. In fact, we already use forms of PR in the London Assembly and Scottish Parliament that retain a connection between voters and their elected representatives. On average, PR bodies better represent voters, display healthier debates, and they deliver more progressive policies.
If we want to see modern Labour for modern Britain, then we are responsible for making sure that our party delivers electoral reform that our nation so desperately needs. Despite the disillusion and distrust now endemic in how the public see politicians, a growing majority of people now support PR.
Imagine what we could achieve under a voting system that makes votes count, where we were just as likely to be in power as the Tories, rather than half as likely. Imagine what the country would look like in 20 years if we moved to a system that increased trust and voter turnout. First-past-the-post belongs in the past. This weekend in Nottingham, the NPF must reflect the consensus across Labour members, CLPs and unions in favour of proportional representation and electoral reform.