Campaigning for Labour to back proportional representation

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Benj Eckford, North West Durham

I never used to support proportional representation. I looked at previous elections like 1997, where Labour won a landslide majority of 179 on only 43 per cent of the vote, and dreamed that we could do so again. In particular, I dreamed of a Labour government elected on a radical socialist manifesto that would require a large majority to implement, and would only be watered down and discarded if we had to go into coalition with the Lib Dems or other parties.

Then the 2015 general election happened. I was expecting a hung parliament, so to see the Tories gain a surprise majority hurt badly. To see them win 51 per cent of the seats on a mere 36 per cent of the popular vote was absolutely galling. It felt so unjust. If you factored in non-voters, only 24 per cent of the voters backed them, fewer than one in four. On this meagre mandate, they could govern pretty much as they please. Opposition parties can say they oppose this measure or that measure, but in reality they’re pretty powerless in parliament because the arithmetic is against them.

This had led to attempts to cut tax credits, universal credit, privatisation meltdowns on our railways and in our prisons, and worst of all, Brexit. It felt so unjust to me that they could govern like this when they have so few of the electorate behind them.

What was to blame for this? Well, many things, but primarily our medieval voting system, First Past the Post. If only we could change the voting system, surely we could lock the Tories out of power, potentially forever but at the very least for a generation.

I also came round to the view that even if Labour has to share power with others, Labour would be the senior partner in a coalition. Just look at the way the Tories bullied the Lib Dems when they were in coalition together. The Tories got their way 99 per cent of the time. If Labour were in coalition with the Liberals, I expect we would do the same.

Cllr James Beckles, Newham

"Electoral reform should be a key committment for all political parties, especially the Labour Party. Political representation is a fundamental right and our current system of First Past the Post does not do justice to the votes people cast at the ballot box. A voting system which ignores the masses of votes cast for smaller parties and which often hands a parliamentary majority to a party which won a minority of seats, is not really a democratic system at all.

A reformed system of proportional representation or an alternative vote system would allow all votes cast to mean something. This would not only build confidence among voters that their votes count, but would reassure many that their ability to vote has resulted in political representation.

The process of voting reform would strengthen democracy at many levels. Once you open the door to reform, we can debate and put forward proposals to enhance not only the system we use to elect politicians to Westminster, but also to
local government. It would also open the door to reform of the upper chamber of the House of Lords, which remains an antiquated and outdated system of patronage in an age where political participation and political representation is at the forefront of political discourse. So I support Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform's mission for a fairer and more representative electoral system."

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Faiza Shaheen, Chingford & Woodford Green

"Brexit has really demonstrated the flaws of our political system.  What we need to be offering now is proportional representation.  What do we do to ensure we have more working class representation in parliament? What do we do to expand democracy into the workplace and into the media?  How do we make this process more transparent.  How do we move away from this Westminster bubble?"

Sean Smyth, Bristol West

"Labour’s manifesto promised a constitutional convention to address the democratic deficit in this country. Electoral reform must form a part of that convention.  Labour voters in Maidenhead and Tory voters in Islington North won’t agree on a lot, but both their votes effectively count for nothing in a General Election. Electoral reform is needed to reflect the real results of an election, especially when we’ve seen parties gain majorities with fewer than a third of the electorate, as low as 35 per cent of the vote."


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Campaigning for Labour to back
proportional representation

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