mary's blog

Mary Southcott joined LCER in 1988 and served as its Parliamentary and Political Officer from 1990 until 2020. The Plant Commission had recently been set up by Labour leader Neil Kinnock to report on democratic reforms; one of Mary's first achievements was a successful campaign to extend the Commission's remit to include elections to the House of Commons. Following the publication of the Plant Report, Labour leader John Smith offered a referendum on voting reform; in the years after his death, Mary campaigned to retain the referendum in Labour's 1997 election manifesto.

Mary has briefed numerous politicians and activists, notably the late Robin Cook and Mo Mowlam; she continues to promote voting reform among politicians, academics and Labour party members.

Mary stood for Parliament in 1987 and sat on the National Policy Forum for eleven years. She has authored numerous articles and books on voting reform, including Making Votes Count with Martin Linton.  

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  • 26 Jan 2021 18:40 | Mary Southcott

    Did you notice that Joe Biden in his inaugural speech on 20 January said “This is Democracy's Day.  A day of history and hope. Of renewal and resolve.”

    When Robin Cook wrote his preface to the book I wrote with Martin Linton, Making Votes Count, he asked that every day be a Democracy Day not just one day in every four or five years. Isn't that what changing the voting system is about. Enfranchising every voter and making it more likely Governments will listen to the people. Democracy is not called the rule of the people for nothing and there is a difference between democracy and popularism. 

    We need to show this year to people in Labour Red Wall and what used to be called "Labour safe” seats, the trade unions and socialist societies why voting reform would lead to a Labour led government after the next General Election. And then we change the voting system.  

    No more fixed term parliaments?

    Five years was always too long.  And we have had two and a half year terms since 2015 and only one five year term after the Tory led coalition ushered in a Cameron government which kept an unregulated pledge for the EU Referendum.   

    Thursday 6 May was going to be an early mini general election where all the people in England, Scotland and Wales would have an opportunity to vote. Uncertainty hangs over the date this year but we need to be ready earlier than the anticipated December 2024 date after the fixed term parliament legislation of 2011, FTPA, is changed to:

    • repeal the FTPA (clause 1);
    • reinstate the prerogative power to dissolve Parliament, thereby triggering a general election (clause 2);
    • provide that courts could not, among other things, question the exercise of that power (clause 3);
    • automatically dissolve Parliament on fifth anniversary of its first meeting if the dissolution power has not been exercised by then, thus preventing non-use of the power to prolong any given Parliament beyond five years (clause 4).

    Constituency Boundaries

    We have boundary changes consideration going on which will reward the regions which have increased registered voters on a low register and punish Scotland and Wales by reductions of three and seven, alongside the regions where Labour used to do best, the North East and West, and the West Midlands, where they lose two or three. It will report in the summer. 

    By their very nature, boundaries defeat the idea or permanence of that magic MP-Constituency Link by breaking it each time boundaries change. And we may find some Labour seats and targets are vulnerable. One of the advantages of moving to a voting system that makes votes count is that by counting all the votes the result of the boundary commission is not decisive in the subsequent general election. 

    All the emphasis of Labour voting reformers needs to focus after the national and local elections, on Labour's Annual Conference, the trade union conferences before that which had resolutions to update their position; constituencies which had yet to send submissions and resolutions, we rejoice in the quarter or more, about 140 who have already done this; the socialist societies who can take up positions; individual Labour representatives who need persuading. 

    Labour in Scotland – a Commission not a Convention

    Scottish Labour is holding another Leadership election. We believe that Anas Sarwar MSP was in favour of voting reform when an MP and his opponent is Monica Lennon MSP whose position we need to know. Richard Leonard will stand to be elected in May but was pretty fixedly against change. Nominations are flooding in for Anas Sarwar from GMB, Community, the Jewish Labour Movement and the Scottish Co-operative Party and Monica Lennon from Unite, UNISON and CWU.  

    The interesting thing about these Scottish Parliamentary elections is that Labour will find it easier to win the regional list seats. It could be saved this year by a proportional Additional Member System as last year the same system, under another name, Mixed Member Proportional, Labour won a majority Labour government and its second Labour woman Prime Minister, Jacinda Ardern.

    Gordon Brown's Constitution work will be a Commission not a Convention but could still be good to engage with for those who want devolution and voting reform which in the past have always gone hand in hand. The SNP knew how to fight PR elections while Labour was still focused on switch voters in marginal constituencies. 

    Making Labour Rural Voters Count 

    Speaking to a well attended zoom organised by LCER - South West, Luke Pollard spoke with Liz Pole, PPC 2019 in Honiton and Tavistock, and David Drew former MP for Stroud where the Green Party split the anti Tory vote, but still doing his magic.  The Shadow Cabinet member, Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs, spoke about the promised land, what PR is for. He knows his colleagues David Lammy and Jonny Reynolds support our work. One interesting thought is that the Tories are taking their rural voters for granted perhaps mirror imaging labour "safe" Labour seats. The poor, unemployed and low paid, in areas where the industrial revolution took place, are everywhere post Covid-19. We need to look at coastal towns and towns generally. We need to get registration done and connect with the issues of young and new voters and win anyone who voted for the Tories to get Brexit done, back.  


    We need to encourage political education in constituencies and trade unions. We need to remember how we fought for the vote and not let it be devalued by first past the post. We are letting down those who fought for the vote and a voice in generations past, at Peterloo, the Tolpuddle Martyrs, the Chartists, the trade unions, the Suffragettes and Suffragists. That vote is a symbol of our Democracy, as it was in Apartheid White South Africa and in Selma, Alabama. We need everyone to make a difference when they vote, we need citizenship education in schools, we need to see the end of fake news and unsubstantiated stories. 

    Chartist Magazine 

    Has three articles, four pages, on voting reform, from Ann Black, Don Flynn and LCER Chair, Sandy Martin.  It is worth subscribing to this coming year when Chartist is having a New Democracy section.  Let me know and I will get a sample edition to you free or go on their website and subscribe or read or both.   

    What can we do? Marge Piercy had it at the end of her poem, the Low Road.

    It goes on one at a time,
    it starts when you care
    to act, it starts when you do
    it again and they said no,
    it starts when you sayWe
    and know you who you mean, and each
    day you mean one more.

    do keep in contact via

    077 125 11931 0117 924 5139

  • 1 Jan 2021 05:40 | Mary Southcott

    2021 should be the year for electoral reform if everyone does something in their Constituency or especially their Trade Union.  

    My last report as LCER's Parliamentary and Political Office which went to the November 2020 Annual General Meeting is posted below.  John Doolan has taken over this role.  

    We now have the possibility of the appointment of Gordon Brown to head a UK constitutional convention, see:  

    We also have the interim report of the Justice and Home Affairs Commission of Labour's National Policy Forum, see here:

    What is more the Commission is now consulting on electoral reform.  This means it is make up your mind time for trade unions, socialist societies and of course Constituency Labour Parties.  

    Labour for a New Democracy (L4ND) is coordinating work towards Annual Conference 2021 which we hope will be post Covid and no longer virtual.  

    Here is my thinking as of November 2020 which you may have missed: 

    LCER Parliamentary and Political Officer Report 2020

    First, thank you for electing me for the first time since 1990 on to the LCER Executive.  This year has been different but amazingly busy, creative and successful, particularly pre Covid regional Conferences, developments from Clive Lewis’ speech at our AGM, work with Labour for a New Democracy, our partner organisations, GE2019 MPs, former MPs and other candidates and the most successful virtual Labour Connected for PR, ever.  Let me flag up opportunities to rehearse arguments for PR: 

    Federation, Devolution, Regions and Nations: Regional Conferences may be done virtually or kicked back till November 2021.  North West and South West in 2020 were successful: NW fringe with Julie Ward and Mike Amesbury and a resolution which would have passed but for the trade unions but no card vote.  SW: resolution fell (a hurricane prevented the delegate being there) but Sarah Church and Luke Pollard spoke from the platform about the need to change the voting system. PPCs were contacted. LCER Members in the South West got together to work for discussions, champions, resolutions in constituencies and trade unions.  This could be seen as a successful pilot and rolled out.   Sandy Martin and I had zooms with Scotland (William Bain) and Wales (LCER speakers) and he joined the zoom of LCER members in the South West. 

    Labour NEC, National Policy Forum, Commission on Justice and Home Affairs:  We contacted every nominee for the NEC and added those in favour to the data base.  Some great quotes and some new friends. Four members of the Constituency section NEC support reform, two are members of LCER. This is up from one who covered Wales and the South West, Darren Willisms.  Opponents can be contacted and enlightened and reformers encouraged and thanked.   

    Boundary changes:  The Conservatives seem to be postponing some elections in May 2021 to change some shire councils to unitaries and abolish some districts, an opportunity to argue for STV in the larger councils.  Setting up a pro reform Labour councillors network is realistic after our fringe chaired by Duncan Enright. The boundary commissioners not reducing to 600 from 650 but legislation is coming through:

    Working with Labour members of other pro reform groups: Sandy Martin and I had meetings with Make Votes Count, Electoral Reform Society, Unlock Democracy and negotiations with Chartist and UD which used our Zoom Room at Labour Connected.  And our work in Labour for a New Democracy. 

    Work with MPs and other candidates: Contacted the new MPs, LCER MPs we lost and many PPCs, adding people to the database. Analysed the PLP, available to others who would like to see it.   Work in progress on councillors, Mayors, Police and Crime Commissioners, Members of the Scottish Parliament and Welsh Senedd, Peers including former Workington MP, Baroness (Ann) Hayman of Ullock.  Some of those in favour are standing down and we need their personal emails. (Jenny Chapman, former MP for Darlington, was elevated to the House of Lords:

    Work with Trade Unions: our working group needs to be set up, invite new members from our database, and draw on the exemplary work of a retired trade union official, Paul Dunn, who brought together key trade union leaders in the region and did a zoom with LCER members in the South West, with Billy Hayes representing LCER. 

    Work on other countries’ elections: notably New Zealand and USA illustrating the upside of PR and the down side of not considering the popular vote only swing states, like our constituencies.  

    Executive Working Groups: Recommend ones on messaging and trade unions having worked on systems, LCER constitution. The LCER SW work done by Paul Dunn, former NUPE full timer, was exemplary, with leading trade unionists joining a zoom with Billy Hayes.  

    Speakers and Speakers Meetings:  LCER Speakers were the basis of the work done with Make Votes Matter. Speakers going out to Labour meetings are encouraged to join LCER and get constituencies to affiliate.  Work was done in the summer updating contact details and availability.  Nearly one hundred were handed over to become Constituency Champions. 

    Website Development: Read LCER – Mary’s Blog for updates and ideas.

    Contact Mary by email

  • 12 Dec 2020 05:36 | Mary Southcott

    This article appeared in Chartist in January 2020: 

    No more Labour Red Walls?

    If you had one wish for a replay general election, what to choose?  Different Leader, EU policy, anti-Semitism or islamophobia, time of year, no rain. What about another voting system, a political culture from doing things for people to empowering people to do things together?  What did Labour say about democracy?  Most people thought democracy was fulfilling the referendum. After finding a way to win the next General Election, let’s move from relying on Red Walls to finding Labour voters everywhere with a PR system.  

    Paul Mason, from defeated Leigh, wrote: “Once Farage stood down in 317 seats, the only thing that could have stopped the Tories was (a) an electoral pact between progressive parties, (b) an unprecedented turnout by progressive young voters, or (c) massive tactical voting”. None of these happened. Jo Swinson spent as much time vilifying Jeremy as Johnson.  We never mentioned votes@16.  And although the Mirror’s guide to tactical voting would have defeated the Tories, Labour opposition let the voting system triumph.  Now some say: "No More Labour Prime Ministers without Progressive Pacts and Electoral Reform".  

    Let’s look back to UKIP winning the 2014 European elections. Instead of discovering why some red wall ‘working class’ voters were supporting this social conservative, English nationalist party, we told ourselves that they were taking votes from the Tories, while Lynton Crosby ensured they kept their voters by offering that EU referendum. When the 2015 exit poll gave the Tories a slender majority with the loss of all Labour seats in Scotland, except one, Labour’s first red wall had collapsed. We blamed the Scottish Independence Referendum but it was just as much about our safe seat mentality. 

    Straight into the Euro Referendum without the aid of a Written Constitution which might helpfully have said, what a Labour or LibDem opposition might have raised, a threshold of fifty per cent of the electorate or two thirds of votes cast, advisory not mandatory. The 2016 WARP, ‘without all those Reading pads’, assumed traditional Labour voters would either vote Brexit or stay at home.  We didn’t knock them up. Had we talked with them we might have changed their minds or alerted ourselves to the future.  in seats where Labour was, they thought, always going to win, our Red Wall, voters could make a difference, protest at being taken for granted, or blame something and the EU was as good as anything. At last they had an effective vote, to say here I am, have you noticed?  Where the industrial revolution begun, Labour voters voted Leave. Did we approach them?  Or join their condemnation? 

    Regional offices based tactical decisions on polls at the start of the 2017 General Election.  This massively warped the work that was being done with people misdirected from seats that were won. Labour’s Leadership was fighting for the popular vote as in a PR system.   We only have to mention Al Gore or Hilary Clinton to know that wasn’t going to work. In the age of twitter, you don’t need to be in a marginal to communicate to those who are digitally enabled.  Our manifesto was a PR one whereas in a general election the effective voter is an uncertain switcher in a targeted seat who needs constant reassurance while the media play on fears of immigration, crime and national security.  

    The Labour membership is skewed to the south and policy moved from “Labour heartlands” to university metropolitan cities. Labour’s members in Red Wall constituencies, often untypical Remain voters, didn’t raise Brexit. it would lose votes. The voting system played a canny role masking the results of Theresa May’s 2017 incursions into Labour territory. Many seats were vulnerable to the 2019 Tory onslaught. 

    Without a decision on our relationship with the EU, Labour was totally vulnerable.  MPs who said what they were hearing from constituents about ironically ‘getting Brexit done’ were ignored. To be successful Labour needs to nurture its link between those who need a Labour government in the way the 2019 Manifesto elaborated and those who see the benefit of a more equal society, what we have in common rather than what divides us.  Polarised into Leave and People’s Vote broke this coalition.  

    In 2007, the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform, wrote a pamphlet entitled Reversing Labour Retreat.  We warned about under registration, overtargeting, boundary changes which the Tories can legitimately implement, the need to endorse voting reform while in government.  It is high time Labour acknowledged that its membership is already pro PR.  Of 632 Labour candidates over a quarter, 163, were open in their support and 60 went on to be MPs. Make Votes Matter commissioned YouGov research showing that seventy five per cent of Labour’s membership supports PR.  

    We will be working with extra parliamentary forces while still being a Westminster response to a rabidly right, one national Tory government.  Is there anything, but money, to stop us holding a citizens’ assembly on our democracy or a Constitutional Convention trailed in our Manifesto? Couldn’t we join up the dots on English devolution, financing local government, citizenship education, votes at 16, registration, Lords replacement.  We need to find space to find anti Tory consensus which means working in a non tribal but assertive way with supporters of other parties also opposed to the Johnson agenda.  That is the challenge and to find a leader that understands why our policy going into the next general election has to be PR.  

    Do contact me at or 0117 924 5139.  

  • 7 Nov 2020 21:54 | Mary Southcott

    We have in the rest of 2020 opportunities to work with other reform groupings.   

    Besides the South West trade union meeting on 19 November, on 17 November we have the annual meeting of the Make Votes Count which still functions as a cross party electoral reform intelligence meeting chaired by Jonathan Reynolds MP.   

    Chartist Magazine has just joined Labour for a New Democracy.  In their new magazine,  you can read their article, Voting change at heart of new democracy, by Tessa Milligan, co chair of Open Labour which itself has pro reform position and in the LfaND coalition.  And Chartist is looking to publishing a series of New Democracy articles in the New Year on voting reform and allied issues on the Constitutional Reform agenda, including devolution and federation, a written constitution and voting reform and issues like Votes@16 and Lords Reform which Labour is already committed to.    

    We have the Annual General Meetings of Unlock Democracy with speakers including Clive Lewis MP and Neal Lawson, Compass, on Saturday 17 November with their new Director, Tom Blake former LibDem MP who only won when his Labour opponent was given the role of throwing the General Election to the LibDems.   

    Then the AGM of LCER on 26 November, and of Electoral Reform Society on 5 December.  On 12 December Make Votes Matter has one of its action days.   

    Lockdown apart, and do stay well and safe, some of us have done more reading than in recent years: I aim to catch up with autobiographies, Rodney Morgan and Paul Flynn, Caitlin Moran’s More than a Woman and Helen Lewis’ Difficult Women,, Yanis Varoufakis’s Another Now, Paul Foot’s The Vote and perhaps Notes from the Graveyard of Diplomats by the Swedish Ambassador Ingemar Lindahl.  I ought to read the former UK Ambassador to Washington’s autobiography, Nigel Kim Darroch, Baron Darroch of Kew’s Colateral Damage: Britain, America and Europe in the Age of Trump.   

    This has ironically been a busy and productive year.  We need the next, 2021’s New Year’s Resolutions to be resolutions, from trade union branches, Labour branches and all member meetings or constituency Labour Parties.  Let ‘s focus in on the trade unions and the Red Wall Labour seats, lost or won where discussions on our voting system could turn around the default support of first past the post.  

    We need to thank all those who made our collective fringe meetings the success they were: Apsana Begum MP, Ruth Cadbury MP, Cllr Doina Cornell, Mike Davis, Billy Hayes, Clive Lewis MP, John McDonnell MP, Sandy Martin, Jonathan Reynolds MP, Alex Sobel MP, Paul Sweeney, Nadia Whittome MP, Daniel Zeichner MP, Cllr Mark Child; and outgoing members of the LCER Executive, Andy Burkitt, Theo Morgan and Jane Speller and outgoing Vice Chairs, Paul Blomfield, who served as the Chair after William Bain from 2016 until this year now working with the Shadow Chancellor of the Duchy of Lancaster, Rachel Reeves, as Brexit and EU Negotiations Shadow, alongside Cat Smith and Helen Hayes, and in the Shadow International Trade with Emily Thornberry  Also our other Vice Chairs: the Peer Ruth Lister, and Sam Tarry MP and our two Honorary Members, whom we decided to create this year, Ron Medlow who took over LCER in 1983 and stayed on until he retired and Lord Jeff Rooker who was LCER Chair for the vital years from 1989 to 1994 when voting reform was as now in the air.   

    We need to convene our LCER trade union working party and have a look at new cultural messaging and narratives.  We can draw on the arguments we used in the last thirty years.  Making votes matter prevents taking people for granted and does not allow the rich and powerful to bribe or send different messages to the only sections of the electorate that matter.  We the people can change that.   You cannot fool all the people all the time but you can win elections with first past the post by fooling or communicating with some of the people, some of the time.  

    Let’s change that by telling people our roadmap to a better voting system.  It is about listening, learning and working cooperatively even with people who don’t agree with us about everything. 

  • 7 Nov 2020 21:42 | Mary Southcott

    Hallelujah, well done Pennsylvania and Philadelphia (the love of brothers and sisters).  Joe Biden and Kamala Harris have won!! 

    Elections: Vote Early, Vote Often  

    We are having elections this year which will change things globally, definitely the USA elections but also in New Zealand where Jacinda Arhern, who having won a majority under their Mixed Member Proportional voting system, has invited the Green Party into government, see:   

    Joe Biden is going to be US President and the whole culture at the centre of US politics, from the White House, will change after 20 January 2021.  For me this is more than damage limitation.  Politics always should be decided from a negotiated centre through debate to consensus.  Biden wants to bring people together. Countries are not football matches where there are winners and losers and where the winner takes all.  Power needs to be shared with the people.   

    My friend, the leader of the Primary Teachers Trade Union, KTOS, is being attacked by Turkey’s President Erdogan, another big man politician, like Trump, who interfered in the Turkish Cypriot elections in northern Cyprus, for telling it how it is, reminding us that voters can be bribed, threatened and were in the lead up to 18 October.  We need to get rid of the polarised political culture and people like Erdogan, Farage and Trump that benefit from a politics which doesn’t allow for diversity.   Unfortunately, there are places without the checks and balances there are in the USA.  

    Popular Vote versus Electoral College

    Elections matter, but the voting system used is also important.  First past the post polarises, takes large stretches of countries for granted and narrows down the votes that count to a small number of switch states or constituencies.  We see this starkly in the rust states, Michigan, Wisconsin, especially Pennsylvania but in the UK compare this with the Red Walls.  The popular vote already won by Joe Biden, as Hillary Clinton, in 2016, as Al Gore in 2000, does not count.  2004 saw the only Republican victory in the popular vote since 1988.  But that does not matter, the electoral college is all important.  Here in the UK we have the same.  Our electoral college is the House of Commons.  Each constituency, rather than state, has one electoral college vote, the MPs who have one vote each for the Prime Minister, no matter whether they won by one vote or thousands.   

    Some call the occasions where the popular vote is not the same as the result of the electoral college or the MPs in the Commons, “the wrong winner”.  But it is the right winner under first past the post because the popular vote does not matter only the addition of all the individual constituency votes.  Mobilising a plurality in the right place is everything. It is the wrong system.  It needs to change.  You can see some of my better arguments on Mary’s Blog on the LCER website, Mary’s Blog – LCER.  Or see:

    Labour NEC 2020 – 2022 

    As we know, elections we can influence the future as they have influenced the past. We have two elections which may change Labour’s chance of winning the next UK General Election by promising to introduce voting reform, the Labour NEC and the LCER Executive elections if we are members of the Labour Party and the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform.  Polls close on Thursday 12 November for the Labour NEC which will help decide who influences decisions at Labour Conferences 2021 and 2022 and policy via the National Policy Forum during that time.  If on the margins whether a candidate supports electoral reform matters check that out on the LCER website at NEC ELECTIONS 2020.  You have until Thursday 12 November.   There are some great quotes from people who may not all win this time but we can work with them now we know their views.   

    LCER’s internal elections  

    And you can choose who will work together on the LCER Executive also at LCER EXECUTIVE ELECTIONS.  You have until Wednesday 18 November.  The new Executive then meets and choses from those elected, their Chair, Secretary, Parliamentary and Political Officer, Membership, Trade Union, Youth, Women’s and other officers.   

    LCER will continue to work with Labour for a New Democracy to change our voting system.    There are Constituency Champions in increasing numbers of constituencies.  Perhaps you are one already, tasked with holding a speaker meeting, submit a resolution for Conference 2021.  

    In the South West region, the CLP Champions have been holding zoom meetings each month, supporting each other, finding more people where there are gaps, and setting up meetings with their regional representatives, former Parliamentary Candidates, Sarah Church and Fran Boait, and David Drew, with their four out of six supporting current MPs, a December meeting with Ben Bradshaw, former LCER Vice Chair, and on 19 November with regional trade union leaders with LCER’s very own Trade Union Officer, Billy Hayes.   

    A virtual general election – Thursday 6 May  

    Elections are also being held to choose the Mayoral Candidates in West Yorkshire and West of England Combined authorities and other directly elected mayors.  We can ask candidates their positions on voting reform.  When the elections are held using Supplementary Vote in May 2021, their positions or understanding of voting reform could help us win over Second Round voters who are asked to choose between Labour and Conservative candidates.   

    And then we have elections to the Welsh Senedd, the Scottish Parliament, the Greater London Assembly and unitary authorities and some councils which only put up a third.  In addition to these we have in England new and old unitary elections, along with all the shire country elections which are still going ahead.  The Conservatives are planning to convert some county seats to unitaries and have postponed elections until they are agreed.  All this gives us a 2021 general election in all but words with everyone having a vote wherever they live.  Of course, they would be more meaningful under a voting system that makes votes count but a surprising number will be fought by other voting systems than first past the post.   

    Anniversaries 2020 

    Anniversaries remind us how far we have come.  First in September some of us remembered the 30 years since LCER helped win the Conference 1990 to set up the Plant Commission.  Just recently the Constitution Unit has celebrated its own 25 years since it was set up by inviting Jack Straw, Francesca Klug and David Gauke.  Of the three speakers, it was surprisingly former Conservative MP, David Gauke, who said, at the end of the meeting, that Brexit had had consequences on our constitution. “Brexit has created new fault lines in our politics.  And maybe there is a more fundamental change in our politics going on.  …. We are defined more on culture rather than economics.    if that happens our party political system is really uncomfortable.  (Both main parties) are coalitions based more on economics rather than on culture.  … The first past the post system becomes a little more arbitrary and a little more random.  I have never been particularly a supporter of proportional representation but you can start to see that if people are voting less easily on a left/right basis and it becomes more complex, then to fully represent the views that are around you need a different party structure and therefore you need a different political basis of selecting your members of Parliament.  What Brexit reveals is that first past the post is not fit for purpose for that much longer.”   

    You can watch the meeting here:  There are also the Putney Debates here:                    

  • 18 Oct 2020 13:47 | Mary Southcott

    Jacinda Ardern, Labour, has won the postponed New Zealand general electoral, on 17 October, with an overall majority.  She is serving a second term without a coalition with the voting system many Labour electoral reformers are suggesting for the UK.  Their system, Mixed Member Proportional, is the one we call a top up or additional member system, given to Germany by the allies along with a devolved federal system after World War II.  A similar system brought in by the Labour government after 1997, will be used in Scotland, Wales and Greater London in the elections on 6 May next year. 

    Scotland now elects their local government by Single Transferable Vote as does Northern Ireland.  The elected mayoral and the police and crime commissions use the supplementary vote which forces candidate to reach out to voters of other parties.  So next year it will only be English local government that will use the system, first past the post, that Labour electoral reformers think should be ditched for elected MPs, either at the 2021 Annual Conference or failing that the following year.  The constituency parties we feel sure will support change.  

    So what about the trade unions.  Do they not see the connection between the voting system we use and the outcome in policy on bread ‘n’ butters issues?  

    The whole culture of politics is warped by the voting system.  It polarises, disenfranchises, divides where we need to work together.  It is unnecessarily adversarial, binary, distorting politics and almost totally responsible for the north – south divide, until the Red Walls started to crumble.  

    This New Zealand result should boost the chances of winning conference over next year.  We already know that the nearly two thirds of the submissions to the Justice and Home Affairs Commission proposed changing the voting system.  

    We need to use these arguments not just the arithmetic of voting systems.  We need to decide now if we go back to thinking with one big heave, prefer to govern solo, even were we to win, alienating vital voters in Tory/Labour seats.  We need to change politics.  The climate, social care and the economy cannot wait beyond 2024.  

    The comedian, Mitch Benn, has written a very interesting article suggesting new approach.  

    Enfranchisement, making all votes count – why didn’t we think of this before?  

    Do read the whole article and let me know what you think.  Here it is:  

    On 3 November we will get to see how the same system as some of us cling on to will translate into the electoral college in the swing states and how much the popular vote counts.  In the Westminster system the electoral college is based on a constituency where the MP casts one vote for everyone in their patch no matter how many votes went to the opposition parties.  There is no bonus for “vote mountains” in our remaining safe seats.  

    It is just not much of a democracy if only some people count.  The ballot is the only place where we are all judged equal, one person, one vote.  But before a single ballot hits the box, we know the result in over 500 seats.  It is like watching a football match when you have ignored the “look away” notice.

    Democracies change and evolve.  They make a difference.  We will let people into the secret at schools and give every 16 year old a vote.  We need to make decisions locally or regionally at the nearest point to the people affected.  Subsidiarity is  a ugly word but now we are going to be sovereign let’s ensure we have a British version – no excuses.  All the evidence is that consensus seeking based on devolved authorities is more likely to come up with the answers.  Between now and 2024, we should aim to change the overcentralised British state and its nineteenth century voting system.  Surely it’s worth a discussion in your constituency, branch or trade union.  The only cure for our broken politics is more democracy.  Labour can be on the side of the future.  

  • 20 Sep 2020 08:35 | Mary Southcott

    Thirty Years On – the Plant Report  

    Once upon a time, thirty years ago to be precise, also at Annual Conference, the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform won a victory which should be remembered and celebrated. We were 11 years into our wilderness.  We had just lost three general elections, unlike the present four.  Margaret Thatcher was still prime minister.  We were writing our next manifesto, like now, choosing devolution of our highly centralised state and Lords Reform to demonstrate the lack of democracy.  We had to find voting systems for putative devolved assemblies, Senate and to ditch first past the post for elections to the European Parliament.  

    Labour decided to set up a committee to decide what systems Labour would back but excluded in its remit the way we elect MPs.  Much has changed but the need to adopt a new voting system to elect MPs is still with us and the reasons stronger than ever but that was not on the agenda.  Roy Hattersley was our Deputy Leader, an opponent of electoral reform, had sought the assistance of the academic, Professor Raymond Plant.  Apparently he asked him whether he knew anything about voting systems.  The tried and test British way to such appointments is to say “No”.  Thus it was when Cyril Radcliffe was asked if he knew anything about India before being drafted in to design the partition line between India and Pakistan.  

    LCER went into the 1990 conference with considerable experience of sending out model resolutions, getting them adopted by constituencies, even unions, meeting with delegates before compositing meetings, and working out model composites.  That year, the minimum ask was to include elections to the House of Commons in with the Lords and Assemblies in the remit of the working party. Local government was left out deliberately as there were more Labour councillors than Labour MPs.  This might have been a mistake in retrospect. 

    We briefed the journalists that this was the beginning of the breakdown of Labour’s joint support with the Conservatives of the current voting system.  Everything went to plan except the vital words in the model composite had been left out.  However, because we went on emphasising the intent rather than the actuality of the composite when we won massively no one noticed.  The Commons was in! 

    The debate itself was a master class in arguments for electoral reform.  Only one delegate against was chosen by the Chair, Tom Sawyer, then of NUPE, now House of Lords.  First past the post was up as it were in a court with witnesses against: Trade union leaders, from right and left, constituencies from around the country and Labour students.  

    Then there was the choice of people to join what became known, because LCER briefed it as this rather than a working party, the Plant Commission.   We had our Chair, Jeff Rooker MP; the MSF union rep on the NEC, Judith Church.  (The union was in favour of PR but then disappeared into Amicus which then merged with the Transport and General Workers Union to be UNITE).  We also had another Union NEC rep, of TSSA, which is still in favour of PR.  Richard Rosser is now active in the Shadow Labour administration, speaking in the Lords on Home Affairs and Transport.  We also had John Evans MP, put on committees to reliably represent the views of Leader Neil Kinnock and there was former National Agent of the Party, Reg Underhill, who ask it turned out had made a speech for his trades council at a wartime Labour Conference.  

    They were balanced by Margaret Beckett who in Lincoln remembered fighting Dick Taverne who had left the Labour party after deselection for being pro Europe but stood and won in the subsequent byelection.   Margaret Jackson, one and the same, was to fight him and lose in February 1974 and then beat him the following October.   She was reinforced by the former leader of Norwich Council, the late Baroness Patricia Hollis of Heigham. Unlike Margaret Beckett she attended meetings and was a formidable opponent whereas the only time the Commission saw Margaret Beckett was when she came to the last meeting to vote down a minimalist form of PR.  

    A quick gallop through the next 30 years brought us a referendum promise in 1997 which had to be defended by LCER, and by that stage Tony Blair for whom this was a matter of trust not systems, at all the subsequent conferences since John Smith had said “let the people decide” when Plant reported.  The promise was broken, long grass followed the Labour Majority in 1997, but not until another Commission had been set up, this time not internal Labour and led by Roy Jenkins which gave us wonderful phrases like “vote mountains” and “electoral deserts”. 

    The wilderness years for voting reform followed, when LCER was subsumed into Make Votes Count, and when Robin Cook’s warning that the job of government was to prepare for opposition was ignored until 2010 when a coalition was formed between the LibDems and the Conservatives resulting in a referendum against Nick Clegg, which was the 2011 AV Referendum.  

    We had to wait another second defeat in 2015 to see the rise of voting reform, LCER’s tweeter account, Labour4PR and working with Make Votes Matter.   After two more defeats and a totally unrepresentative Tory government, even of previous Tory governments, with a massive 80 seat majority, the UK is less democratic than in the 1990s.  But the family of electoral reformers inside and outside the Labour Party is stronger than ever working together as Labour for a New Democracy.  Join us. It is only a matter of time but the sooner the better.

    077 125 11931 

    0117 924 5139 


  • 21 Aug 2020 23:26 | Mary Southcott

    Labour NEC Elections - Division 3 - Constituency Section 

    Constituency Labour Parties are already calling their nomination meetings.  This year there is every good reason to maximise the number of electoral reformers on the NEC.  But first they need to receive nominations from constituencies.  This is the timetable: you need your CLP to nominate candidates before the deadline for nominations, 27 September, and the all-member ballot will open on 19 October and close on 12 November 2020. Make nominations which need seconding or watch out for and attend your nominating meeting.  

    You can afford to choose members of an opposing slate that you have reason to believe may make better members of the NEC than the rest of their slate.  Voting using Single Transferable Vote is different. This is already acknowledged by one slate which is recommending you to vote for all members of their own slate of six, followed by Ann Black, who mentions her LCER membership in her statement,   Luke Akehurst is also an LCER member but doesn’t mention it, and one more candidate, Matthew Blakemore, who lists his top ambition “to advance Labour policy for electoral reform”.   Another member of LCER is standing to be the Youth Representative.  He is Tommy Kirkwood.   

    Other candidates may be reformers if they reflect the opinion of Labour members. Do ask candidates their view on electoral reform and let us know.  You can find the statements here:

    Labour Consultation 

    Just before the postponed end of the Labour consultation on 20 July, the Guardian gave us their view:  We now have to wait for the Justice and Home Affairs Commission members to read the many submissions it received saying we needed to change the voting system: some say 60 per cent favoured change. LCER needs to thank all the people who put in a submission however long, however short.  It was a magnificent effort.  The Commission is led by three shadow Secretaries of State: David Lammy, an LCER Sponsor, at Justice, Nick Edward-Symonds at Home Affairs and the most relevant, at the Shadow Cabinet Office, Rachel Reeves.  If you go on the Commission site, people are still posting their support.  The document which results will be voted on at the 2021 General Election but we hope to see their conclusions before that.  

    Trade Unionists need to have this conversation 

    Billy Hayes, our Trade Union Officer reports three unions are about to elect new General Secretaries, GMB (the name derived from the amalgamation of the General, Municipal, Boilermakers' and Allied Trade Unions), UNISON and UNITE the Union.  Whoever wins out, these unions and others, and their members will need to decide how they vote when Labour Conference is asked for their opinion on electoral reform in 2021 and, we are not going away, 2022.  

    We know that some resolutions (see Trade Union section on the LCER webside) were ready for the 2020 Conferences which were cancelled.  Unite the Union was formed on 1 May 2007 by the merger of Amicus, itself formed by amalgamation of other unions with the AEEU, and the Transport and General Workers’ Union. There were two joint General Secretaries, Derek Simpson was in favour of electoral reform and Tony Woodley who has just been ennobled and will take his place in the House of Lords.  Lord Richard Rosser who was the pro reform TSSA union General Secretary is the shadow spokesperson in the Lords on transport and home affairs. He was a member of the Plant Commission with Lord Jeff Rooker, LCER Chair from 1989 to 2004. 

    In the early 1990s Bill Morris then Deputy General Secretary led the TGWU debate to change the union’s position on electoral reform under the guidance of Ron Todd. Len McCluskey, the outgoing General Secretary of Unite scuppered that attempt which was lost by 19 votes, 10 members.  He has since mellowed his stance and recommended pro reform Howard Beckett, one of his deputies who is in favour, to appear on the LCER fringe meeting organised at the TUC Congress in 2017.    If you are an electoral reformer and active in the union, or any other affiliated union, we need you to get in contact.  

    Anniversary of the Plant Commission 

    The biggest move towards electoral reform was at the 1990 Annual Conference.  LCER played a major role in ensuring the new Committee being set up included elections to the House of Commons.  What became, in 1990, the Plant Commission, after Professor Raymond Plant, now Lord Plant of Highgrove, supported electoral reform.  John Smith was the Leader of the Party said on receiving the Report “let the people decide”.  LCER defended the referendum which appeared in the 1997 General Election Manifesto.  LCER no longer supports a referendum to decide.  We would like in the next Labour Manifesto to support electoral reform either by choosing a system or allowing one to be chosen by a citizens’ assembly with legislation early in the first term of a Labour led government.  If you would like to put this all into context send an email to to receive a guide to the background when Labour collided with the voting system.  And how shall we celebrate the beginning of Labour’s Road to Electoral Reform?  Ideas to

    House of Lords Reform  

    Nothing shows the need for reforming the House of Lords more that the recent appointment of Peers by Boris Johnson.  We now have over 200 more Peers than MPs.  If you don’t believe this just read Lords President, Lord Fowler here:   Willie Sullivan has put a petition on the issue: Or read this blog:

    One new member of the House of Lords who IS worth having is former MP for Workington, Susan Hayman, who was open to electoral reform and a great advocate for the environment. She once worked for Tess Kingham who was an LCER Sponsor.  

    Electoral Reformers’ ABC  

    My favourites follow but what are yours ?   

    A for Alternative Vote or Additional Member System 

    B for Brexit, take Back control, Broadly reflects the votes  

    C is for Cooperation, Collaboration, Consensus seeking, Citizenship and Citizenship Education  

    D is for Diversity – Democracy  

    E for Equality, Education   

    And so on: 

    J for Jenkins

    L for Legitimacy, Local  

    P Pluralism, Plant, Proportional Representation   

    R Regions 

    Please add yours and let us know.   

    Voter Suppression  

    Cat Smith MP, Shadow Minister for Voter Engagement and Youth Affairs, and electoral reformers, writes about the disenfranchisement of millions, here: This will be an important consideration in discussions about boundaries which change first past the post constituencies - so much for the MP-Constituency Link.  It is also important given the recent discussion of Windrush and #blacklivesmatter:  Lord (Simon) Woolley, Operation Black Vote, also writes:

    Small is Beautiful  

    Linda Colley gave the BBC Radio 4’s A Point of View, which you can hear here:, a lesson on The Big Benefits of Smallness.  The Pitcairn Island was the first place where all adult women got the vote on the same basis as men.  The Isle of Man, Hawaii and of course New Zealand were all ahead of the UK in terms of democracy and enfranchisement.   She speaks about federalism, regions and local government autonomy.  She advocated changing the voting system to reflect the many shades of opinion. First past the post is supposed to be a model of stability but UK politics at the moment is not.  She says that the two main parties prevent the change we in LCER want to see.  Let us prove her wrong.   

    For Example, New Zealand

    For many reasons electoral reformers like to cite the PR Mixed Member Proportional elections in New Zealand which have produced not one but two Labour women Prime Ministers.  The New Zealand general elections have been postponed but will take place on Saturday 17 October.  Polling is showing that Jacinda Ardern could win an outright victory under a proportional voting system, putting the lie to the proponents of first past the post, that this is the only way of winning majority victories.  But waiting for our first General Election after four election defeats is not good enough.  Labour needs to bite the ballot and change its policy on electoral reform.  

    Elections Elections Election May 2021 

    55 per cent of LabourList readers believe the Tories will win the next General Election.  So 7 May 2021 elections will be really important in changing what could be a self fulfilling prophecy.  Elections, which were to take place this year in May 2020, are now going to happen in May 2021 together with some originally scheduled for that date.  Everyone in Britain will have a vote so it is almost like a General Election.   

    Now is the time to find out the positions of Labour candidates we hope will be elected on 7 May 2021, for the Welsh Senedd or Cymru Senedd; the Scottish Parliament; the Greater London Assembly and the Greater London Mayor, Police and Crime Commissioners, other Elected Mayors for West Midlands, Combined Authorities and Councillors all over England.  Do you know or can you ask any of their positions on Electoral Reform?  And let us know?  It is really important that Labour makes a comeback from December 2019 in these elections.  Demonstrating support for voting reform throughout the Labour Party will help the Party to change its policy. 

    0117 924 5139 077 125 11931   

    LCER Parliamentary and Political Officer  

  • 1 Jul 2020 10:28 | Mary Southcott

    I write in a personal capacity having attended every Labour Annual Conference since 1983.  I stood as a Labour Parliamentary Candidate in what had always been a Conservative seat when I supported first past the post in 1987, witnessing Labour members voting tactically against the Tories and being thanked by the Tory MP for saving his seat.  I put up the vote in the inner city where the Liberal Alliance had a single message, “Labour can’t win here”.  I wrote about it in the New Statesman.

    My experience changed my mind.  What I cannot understand over thirty years later is why Labour hasn’t changed its policy. it made me angry in 1992 when eleven seats determined the result.  We lost four elections.  And it makes me angrier when in 2019 we have multiparty politics; where the Brexit (UKIP) Party can stand against Labour but not against the Tories to unite the Right; and Centre and Left voters were divided by the voting system. Try a Venn Diagram. 

    I am somewhat consoled by Machiavelli’s warning that when you argue for change, watch out, because the people who benefit from the status quo will fight all the way, whereas the people who would benefit from the change will not even make the connection.  Voting reformers have moved from being ignored, to being called mad, then bad, then it seems everyone agreed with us.  So Labour, and the trade unions, have a choice and it needs to decide at its 2021 annual conference to ditch first past the post. 

    The vote is a symbol of our democracy.  It was won by people who laid down their lives, by Chartists, by Suffragettes, in Selma, Alabama and Apartheid White South Africa.  The current system has rendered our vote worthless in many constituencies outside marginals.  First past the post should have been left behind in the 20th century before we entered the 21st.  This was the expectation of Labour as we moved from one to the other. 

    First past the post predates the Labour Party.   It has been the way we vote from Keir Hardie to Keir Starmer.  Labour has now lost our fourth general election as we did in 1992.   People, during our time in Opposition, are born, attend primary school, leave school, seek jobs or degrees, get ill, commit crimes, affect the environment.  If we believe that Labour governments make a difference, why don’t we want them to happen more often.  It is surely time we took a reality check. 

    This is not about mathematics but making votes count and people matter.  It is Labour’s historic role to bring about a consensus decision to change the way we count our votes.  Tom Stoppard’s character once said: “it’s not the voting that’s democracy it’s the counting”.   Labour’s retreat from rural areas and inability to see our role in coastal constituencies needs now to be reversed.   The next Boundary Changes. with a flawed logic of equal numbers of registered voters, with “missing millions”, will dilute potential Labour seats with people we have not canvassed and do not know.  We need to reverse Labour’s retreat which is responsible for our Red Walls falling. 

    The Economist wrote in June 2020 we have the wrong government for Coronavirus.  We have the wrong government for most of the things our society needs, pandemic or no: smaller class sizes, decent support for disabled people, homeless people, older people, unemployed people, those on minimal wages, key workers, those whose lives have been touched by coronavirus. The current government has an unassailable majority by accident and that accident is the voting system which transforms a minority into a majority.   

    We have dumbed down elections so we do not discuss the real issues for many people’s lives because we need to win over the switch voter in marginal constituencies who is not affected.   We have shifted activists from their seats which either we thought were unwinnable or couldn’t be lost and they have in consequence lost their connections with their local community or opportunities to be effective at local council level. 

    If support for the current voting system was working for the country, the voters, our party or democracy, we might have an excuse for waiting for the next opportunity to exercise unfettered power.  But Labour does not win the right to exercise power for others until it has their consent and that means not only winning their votes but their minds and hearts. 

    Our values are not about winners taking all but about equality, legitimacy and democracy.  We need to ditch a system which means we win votes and not arguments to one where we do both. 

    Our targeting strategy has often been misplaced.  We send people from where they live and work to places where they do not know the nuances of local language.  We talk about persuasive conversations but we only leave behind people as soon as we know whether they are “ours” or not.  No one owns people certainly no longer parties.  We allow vote mountains to build up where we do not need them and electoral deserts where people live 100 miles from their nearest Labour MP. 

    We often hate the Liberal Democrats, Green Party or Plaid, even the Scottish Nationalist, where we are competing for the same voters.  We have more in common than our differences and yet we say things like “at least we know where the Tories stand”.   So we would rather give power to the largest majority then work with other parties where they agree with us, and argue with them where we do not.  Many people have lost patience with politicians who score points and take decisions which they have not consulted on.  We should never forget that Margaret Thatcher’s Tories never won the support of more than a third of the electorate

    Voters often want to know how politicians will work together to solve problems and to get things done. This is how the select committees work except they are often ignored. Voters are prepared often to resort to tactical voting under our current system.  This is not an exact science.  And it introduces dishonesty into the heart of our politics.  People try to beat the system by voting for a party they do not support to defeat the party they do not want.  So effectively when general elections are over, we are not sure what that was. 

    Politics needs to change.  The culture is oppositional, adversarial and anti consensus.   It more often is about blaming the other side rather than problem solving.  We need when we agree to work together to find solutions, on issues as wide apart as the climate emergency, social care and we could have found a way through the Brexit negotiations.  Never again should we let the people decide without a codified constitution with rules. 

    People say that our politics is broken because we haven't developed the idea that people should be involved in decisions that affect their lives.  This means politicians listening not just to the people who voted for them but others who did not, especially minorities who have no political voice once elections are over.  We need a politics where people count all the time and not just once every five years. 

    We need to educate young people through citizenship education and give the vote to 16 and 17 year olds.  Young people often think long term, having a vested interest in their futures  and have suggestions about doing things differently.  Minority issues are important but take too long to get an airing where much of the political spectrum is silenced by the need of parties to seem united.  Minorities can be about deciding our future.  Majorities too often relate to past assumptions.   

    The winning party in Westminster is never more than the largest majority in a system which only works, if at all, with two parties.  First past the post polarises our country, it exaggerates difference, it allows elective dictatorship and the winners take all.  

    It does not reflect Labour values of equality, legitimacy or democracy.  It disempowers where we should be encouraging people and communities to work together.  We need to decentralise and devolve power and decision making.   We need to hear and win the arguments before making decisions based on exaggerated majorities.  We need to exercise accountability where some politicians are running away from it.

    We have been discussing voting reform in the Labour Party for at least the last half century.  Surely the time now is to act. When Labour forms or leads the next government, the decisions about our democracy should be handed to a UK Constitutional Convention charged with writing a written constitution, sorting out devolution and subsidiarity, and Labour should argue immediately for change to a voting system to elect MPs which broadly reflects, as the current one fails, the votes cast, retains the MP-constituency link and empowers the electorate wherever they live.  

    After coronavirus, we need to cement a paradigm shift to recognise how politics is going to work differently.  We need honest and open politics with a voting system not based on guesswork encouraging one party states.  We need to trust the voters so they in their turn trust us. 

    If you sent a submission to the Justice and Home Affairs Commission, thank you.   Please let us see a copy.  It might be possible to put them on our website or use them in our leaflets.   

    You will have heard that the Labour NEC will use Single Transferable Vote to elect its Constituency Division.  This means that no one faction can monopolise decisions.  Those who oppose it at the moment will see it benefits them in the future.  It is the only way to get Labour to work together and teach us that we have more in common than that which divides us.  

  • 7 Apr 2020 20:26 | Anonymous

    Mary Southcott, LCER's Parliamentary and Political Officer, writes: 

    Good News from new Shadow Cabinet Lineup

    First congratulations to both Keir Starmer and Angela Rayner for becoming the Labour Leader and Deputy Leader.  As you know LCER received this response from our new Labour Leader to our questions to all the candidates.  He said: 

    "We’ve got to address the fact that millions of people vote in safe seats and they feel their voice doesn’t count. That’s got to be addressed by electoral reform. We will never get full participation in our electoral system until we do that at every level. I would consult the Party membership on electoral reform and include it within the constitutional convention that looks at wider democratic renewal--including abolishing the Lords and furthering devolution on the principles of federalism."

    Congratulations to other electoral reformers who have joined the Shadow Cabinet: 

    Marsha de Cordova is new Shadow Women and Equalities Secretary  

    David Lammy is new Shadow Justice Secretary.   

    Steve Reed is new Shadow Communities and Local Government Secretary 

    Jonathan Reynolds, the new Shadow Work and Pension Secretary has been an PR advocate since his student days and Chair of Make Votes Count.  He is also one of three PLP representative on the NEC.  


    Louise Haigh who has taken up an interim role as Shadow Northern Ireland Secretary

    Congratulations for those electoral reformers who keep their roles, particularly 

    Luke Pollard remains Shadow Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary  

    Cat Smith stays on as Shadow Minister for Young People and Voter Engagement 

    Ian Murray who returns as Shadow Scotland Secretary after quitting in 2016  

    and recent declared voting reformer 

    Rebecca Long-Bailey as Education Shadow Secretary. 

    We hope to work with particularly and persuade the following: 

    Ed Miliband as Shadow Business, Energy and Industrial Secretary.  He was pro Alternative Vote in the 2011 AV Referendum and some say now pro PR.  He was last in the Shadow Cabinet in 2015   

    Jim McMahon who is Shadow Transport Secretary and has always emphasised devolution particularly supporting local government  

    Lisa Nandy as Shadow Foreign Secretary who remains worried about the link between PR and extremism 

    Bridget Phillipson is Shadow Chief Secretary to the Treasury 

    Nick Thomas-Symonds as Shadow Home Secretary

    This compares with the former Shadow Cabinet where we lost Jeremy Corbyn who was open but not proactive on voting reform; John McDonnell who was an active supporter who has joined us at various events since 2016 and Baroness Shami Chakrabarti who was thought to be in favour. 

    The best people to persuade anyone are people they know so at this dangerous time for British politics the silver lining may be that we work together to move the Labour policy from the current first past the post to an open position leading to having something positive to say in the next General Election.  

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