Campaigning for Labour to back proportional representation

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  • 24 Feb 2020 00:27 | LCER

    Theo Morgan, 24 Feb 2020

    As the dust settles on December’s general election result, we look back at what went wrong and what we do going forward.

    The election yet again showed how our voting system benefits the Conservatives, who now have a majority of 80 with a minority of public support: they won 56% of seats in Parliament on 43% of the vote. For the first time since 1959, First Past The Post (FPTP) has given Labour a lower share of seats in Westminster than its overall vote share: 32% of votes cast for the party translated into 31% of MPs. For the 60 years prior to 2019, the opposite was true, as FPTP overrepresented Labour in Parliament, with a disproportionately higher share of MPs than votes. In this context, the party’s reluctance to ditch the status quo can be understood, as it has benefited them, even if it has helped the Conservatives considerably more.

    Labour’s “shopping list” manifesto of offers has been criticised by many, but the one thing we most wanted on our wish list wasn’t there. It’s Time For Change was the title of The Labour Party Manifesto 2019, but the section headlined Constitutional Issues on page 81 provided little evidence of this. Anyone interested in wider electoral reform would have welcomed pledges to end the hereditary principle in the House of Lords, and work towards abolishing the Lords altogether. There were promises to strengthen local democracy, and, it continued tantalisingly, “Our democratic revolution will also extend to elections.”

    Read on, though, and your enthusiasm will quickly be dampened by the paragraph which follows. Firstly, a Labour government would repeal the Fixed-term Parliaments Act 2011. This will actually go ahead anyway, because it is a pledge shared by the Conservative manifesto. Whether it is a good thing for a Prime Minister to be able to call an election at his or her will has not been considered. The manifesto continued by stating, “we will maintain 650 constituencies”, which reads like an endorsement of the status quo. A Parliament with 650 constituencies would not be proportional, but this promise is really a rebuke to the Conservative plan to cut the number of seats to 600. Since the election, it has been rumoured that the government will not be proceeding with this, so there is more common ground with the Conservatives.

    There were some key differences, however: reducing the voting age to 16 would be a welcome change, especially as this will soon be the case for devolved elections in Scotland and Wales. The pledge to give full voting rights for all UK citizens did not receive much attention, but would be a big change, potentially adding millions to the electoral register. EU citizens, who were only able to vote in local elections before Brexit, would have been entitled to vote at general elections under these plans. Of course, many currently eligible adults are not registered to vote, so introducing automatic voter registration would be an improvement on the current system, implemented under the Coalition. The Conservative proposals to introduce voter ID, which have been criticised by the Electoral Reform Society, would have been abandoned under Labour.

    There was only a small glimmer of hope for those wanting a fairer voting system:

    The renewal of our Parliament will be subject to recommendations made by a UK-wide Constitutional Convention, led by a citizens’ assembly. This Convention will answer crucial questions on how power is distributed in the UK today, how nations and regions can best relate to each other and how a Labour government can best put power in the hands of the people.

    This is not a new pledge, and merely repeats the offer from the 2017 and 2015 manifestos, the latter under Ed Miliband’s leadership. The question of how a Labour government can best put power in the hands of the people has an obvious answer: ensuring everyone’s vote counts under a system of proportional representation.

    Unfortunately, under FPTP, some of our key supporters in Parliament lost their marginal seats in December: Richard Burden in Birmingham Northfield; Emma Dent Coad, who lost Kensington by just 150 votes, and spoke at our conference fringe meeting; Helen Goodman in Bishop Auckland; one of our Vice-Chairs, Susan Elan Jones, in Clwyd South; Sandy Martin in Ipswich; and Dr Paul Williams in Stockton South. Sandy has just been elected to our new Executive Committee, so we hope that Parliament’s loss will be our gain. On the positive side, the new intake of Labour MPs includes electoral reformers such as Nadia Whittome (Nottingham East), Sam Tarry (Ilford South) and Fleur Anderson, who was responsible for the only Labour gain – appropriately enough, in Putney, a historic centre for democratic reform. We look forward to working with them.

    In the midst of this gloom, some good news emerged after the election, when it emerged that 76% of Labour members support the party introducing PR. We have long suspected that the membership was in favour of PR, so this shows we have a solid foundation on which to make sure the next manifesto commits to real change. Keep a look out for news on how you can get involved. In the meantime, please join us. We welcome all Labour members and supporters, who are so vital to our work. You can also submit a motion from your CLP to Labour’s National Policy Forum. So far, 78 CLPs have passed motions calling on Labour to back PR. It’s very easy, and we will gladly provide a speaker to make the case for you.

    Theo Morgan is a member of the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform Executive Committee.

  • 6 Dec 2019 08:36 | LCER

    This article, by Theo Morgan, was originally published in the Morning Star.

    IN stark contrast to Labour’s slogan, “for the many not the few,” the voters deciding whether it will win power are in fact the few, and not the many.

    Most votes will not make any difference: like NHS treatment times, our elections are a postcode lottery. Up to two-thirds of seats will not change hands, and a similar proportion of the electorate will see their vote wasted.

    Campaigning efforts will be heavily focused on “marginal” or “swing seats” Labour’s top target will be Southampton Itchen, where the Conservatives have a majority of just 31 votes. Labour lost the seat in 2015, but had held it since 1992.

    At the two elections prior to 1992, hard line right-winger Christopher Chope had won it for the Conservatives. Following his defeat, he re-entered Parliament as MP for Christchurch, which had been represented by the Liberal Democrats since a 1993 by-election. Since then, Labour have replaced the Lib Dems in second place. However, party supporters there have no chance of being represented by a Labour MP: Chope’s 49 per cent lead is the largest Tory majority in the country.

    Just over the border from Itchen, Southampton Test is more than likely to re-elect its Labour MP Alan Whitehead, who has a majority of over 11,000. Voters there will consequently receive little attention, but their vote will still matter more than the other seat in that city, Romsey and Southampton North, where the Tory majority is over 18,000. Labour are a distant third behind the Lib Dems in second place.

    Here, people who would like to vote Labour may feel that their best hope of defeating a Tory is to tactically vote Lib Dem, who may stand a slightly better chance of winning. Either way, the seat is likely to stay Tory.

    Of the three Southampton seats, only voters in the one Labour target seat have any realistic prospect of influencing the outcome of the election. The majority of voters (53.5 per cent) in Southampton Itchen voted for parties other than the winning Conservative candidate in 2017, yet it is the minority of voters there who re-elected them.

    The same is true across the country as a whole. The Tories could easily win a comfortable parliamentary majority in the House of Commons on a minority of the votes cast. Despite no mandate from the majority of the country, they will be able to set the agenda for another five years. Conversely, Labour could win a lower proportion of seats than their vote share, leaving them under-represented, and the Tories vastly over-represented.

    Labour gets several million votes from its own safe seats, largely concentrated in urban centres like Liverpool, Birmingham and London. Huge Labour majorities are stacked up in the inner cities, but voters in these areas are ignored at elections.

    If Labour supporters are neglected, they may feel taken for granted. Previously “safe” Labour seats in the industrial heartlands of Scotland and the Midlands have fallen to the SNP and the Tories after decades of Labour representation.

    If people don’t feel their vote matters, they won’t bother voting at all, and the last election saw a decline in voter turnout amongst the working class. Overall, over 14 million electors did not vote in 2017, and the seats with the lowest turnout are mostly Labour-held.

    The Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform wants the party to replace the ‘first-past-the-post’ voting system, which benefits the Conservatives, and formally adopt a policy of proportional representation for UK elections.

    There are a number of voting systems which would keep a geographical link between constituents and their MP, whilst ensuring votes everywhere count equally. Southampton’s only Labour MP, Alan Whitehead, supports LCER’s aim of introducing PR; so does John McDonnell, Momentum national co-ordinator Laura Parker and trade unionist Sam Tarry, the Labour PPC for Ilford South.

    In 1951, after six transformative years in power, Labour lost the general election to the Conservatives, despite winning the most votes overall, and were out of power for a generation.

    A fairer system could have changed the course of history: societies with proportional voting systems have lower income inequality, enhanced action on climate change and fairer distribution of public goods, and are less likely to be involved in armed conflict, outcomes which all align with Labour’s values. Its 2019 manifesto pledges to hold a Constitutional Convention: led by a citizens’ assembly, this would answer “how a Labour government can best put power in the hands of the people.”

    For any democratic socialist party, the place to start is by rejecting a rigged electoral system, and replacing it with one in which its voters would be fairly represented.

  • 16 Nov 2019 11:17 | LCER

    This article by LCER's Theo Morgan was first published by LabourList.

    The odds are stacked against Labour at this election. That isn’t just because of Brexit, or a well-funded Conservative campaign. It’s because the rules of the game favour the Tories. Boris Johnson could win a triple-figure majority on just 37% of the vote. It is no surprise his party supports retaining first-past-the-post: it is a voting system that advantages them. 

    The other 63% represents a clear anti-Tory majority, however. And that means Labour must change the rules of the game. To end the Tory monopoly on power, one of the most radical, long-term changes Labour could include in its manifesto would be electoral reform.

    If Labour stands for equality, it should be applied to our democracy. Resources in this election will not be going into Islington North, where Jeremy Corbyn has a majority of 33,000. The heavy campaigning will be in marginals such as Telford and Pudsey, where Tory MPs are defending majorities of just a few hundred. Under FPTP, the majority of votes will be wasted in seats where the outcome is a foregone conclusion. In order to form a government, Labour therefore has to ignore its most loyal voters, who are heavily concentrated in safe seats in cities like Liverpool, Birmingham, Manchester and London. 

    FPTP also creates unequal Labour MPs. Those with safe seats have a level of job security that allows them to become frontbenchers or party leader. Conversely, MPs in marginals are less likely to progress. Losing our most marginal seats at this election will mean losing talented campaigning MPs like Emma Dent Coad, who won Kensington by just 20 votes.

    77 CLPs have so far passed motions backing proportional representation, including many submitted to Labour’s national policy forum. National executive committee rep Alice Perry has noted that the NPF receives “a huge number of submissions calling for electoral reform”. In this year’s conference priorities ballot, PR received over 30,000 votes from CLPs. With Brexit and the Green New Deal on the agenda, however, electoral reform would always struggle to get attention. Yet the UK languishing in 14th place on the Democracy Index shows the need for improvement.

    A number of prominent Labour MPs have supported the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform, which is chaired by Paul Blomfield. The trade unions have been one of the stumbling blocks to the party backing reform, but former CWU general secretary Billy Hayes is a key ally in the movement, and two Labour affiliates – the Bakers, Food and Allied Workers Union (BFAWU) and Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) – have led the way in supporting PR.

    Labour describes itself as a “democratic socialist party”. It is clearly no longer embarrassed about the second part of that description, but still hesitant on the first. Why? Winning under FPTP and setting the agenda is perhaps too appealing. But Brexit has shown the necessity of cross-party co-operation. Labour often forms coalitions at local and regional level; if it is the largest party in December, without a majority, it will need support from smaller parties, who are largely committed to PR. We are now in a multi-party era, and if Labour were to start out today, FPTP would kill it off. A new voting system is needed to serve the diverse society Labour wishes to govern.

    At this election, tactical voting is being promoted, especially in Tory-Lib Dem marginals such as Richmond Park (where many Labour members live), and Labour supporters will have to decide whether to vote for the Lib Dems to stop the Tories. This false choice artificially suppresses Labour’s vote, and enhances that of the Lib Dems. Labour voters in the Tory shires, meanwhile, have no real voice: Theresa May is gone from Downing Street, but she is secure in Maidenhead. Under a new system, the area could have a Labour MP.

    With many Labour candidates in favour of electoral reform, the parliamentary party experiencing a generational shift away from FPTP, and the membership growing more enthusiastic, it is clear that the party has changed. Amongst the general public, polls have also shown consistent support for PR. For Labour to represent every part of our country, it must build a representative democracy.

    Theo Morgan

  • 13 Oct 2019 18:33 | LCER

    Theo Morgan, 13 Oct 2019

    This meeting took place on the Tuesday afternoon of Conference; the panel consisted of Labour peer Lord Andrew Adonis, Jonathan Freedland (The Guardian), Stephen Bush (New Statesman) - all electoral reformers - Paula Surridge (University of Bristol, whose position on reform is unclear), and John Healey MP (opposed to reform).

    Pollster Kieron Pedley from IPSOS Mori presented data from recent opinion polls. At first sight, the picture is not encouraging for Labour: Jeremy Corbyn has the lowest approval ratings of any opposition leader since records began. Can Labour turn it round at the next election?

    John Healey noted that the national picture doesn't apply to every constituency - there are always localised effects, which can be important in aggregate terms. An emerging problem for Labour is the increasing number of postal ballots (in 1997, 1 in 50 votes were postal ballots; that figure has now risen to 1 in 5). The earlier deadline for postal ballots effectively means that there are two General Election dates; even if Labour support increases over the campaigning period, as it did in 2007, this may be too late to influence many postal voters. 

    Paula Surridge observed that Labour had also been performing poorly in the polls in 2017, but that many Labour voters "came home" at the election. This could also happen at the forthcoming election, but for a number of reasons (Brexit, and the Lib Dems being seen as a more viable alternative), it is unlikely to happen to the same extent.  

    Jonathan Freedland predicted Labour could run the election campaign as a referendum on Boris Johnson. Referring to the recent Peterborough by-election, which Labour won because the right-wing vote was split, he suggested that the party would be hoping for 300 "Peterboroughs" at a General Election. Freedland has been sceptical of Jeremy Corbyn's leadership, but suggested that Corbyn could demonstrate statesmanlike qualities by supporting another candidate as a caretaker Prime Minister to avert a no-deal Brexit.

    The debate was opened up to the audience for questions: Mary Southcott (LCER) asked whether Labour's prospects could be enhanced if the leadership embraced voting reform. Freedland, a keen electoral reformer, reiterated his own support for PR and for constitutional change more widely, but suggested that in terms of the outcome of the forthcoming election, this issue wouldn't be a game changer: if the Labour leadership started supporting PR, it might be seen as Labour knowing they can’t win under the current system, and wanting to go for a system in which they can. 

    Stephen Bush injected a note of optimism with a footballing analogy: teams down at half-time play harder in the second half. But Labour's conference policy announcements aren't cohesive, he suggested. The golden thread running through Labour’s 2017 policies was that they work for the 'little guy' - what’s the common thread now? Bush was more upbeat about Labour's chances in the forthcoming election: Corbyn could become PM in a hung parliament, and he said that this is Labour’s election to lose. 

    I asked the panel whether they thought we'd see tactical voting to the extent we did in 2017, with southern Remainers voting Labour (helping to gain Tory-held targets like Chingford and Woodford Green) and northern Leavers voting Tory (potentially turning Labour strongholds like Bolsover blue)? Freedland felt that tactical voting might not happen on such a scale this time. However, Labour supporters could be more likely to turn out. Surridge echoed the view that turnout could be higher among progressive voters. In 2015 and 2017, social values were a good predictor of turnout, with socially conservative people less likely to vote than progressives. She pointed to the example of Donald Trump: one result of his presidency in the US has been to mobilise voters with liberal values. IPSOS Mori's polling data shows that Boris Johnson is not particularly popular with voters, so perhaps she was suggesting he could be as divisive a figure here as Trump is in the US.

    Bush shared his own recollection of the last US election: he knew Hillary Clinton was not popular with white-working class voters, but believed her position could not get any worse with those voters - and was proved wrong. (Of course, Trump won on a FPTP system despite losing the popular vote by a substantial margin.) Turning to Brexit, he noted that although a big middle ground exists in terms of popular opinion, our voting system does not reward compromise on big issues; a soft Brexit should have been Corbyn’s position in 2017, and the result of a general election could make resolving Brexit no easier due to the parliamentary arithmetic.

    Adonis suggested that Labour's biggest problem would be Remain voters. While canvassing as a candidate in the EU elections, he had made the depressing observation that Labour Party membership was a reliable predictor that a person would be voting Lib Dem or Green. Labour Remainers seem to be Remainers first and Labour second, while Labour Leavers are Labour first and Leavers second. Adonis argued that we urgently need to be ask ourselves how Britain has got it wrong, and whether democracy functions better in other countries. We are experiencing a crisis of leadership - Boris Johnson is the worst Prime Minister we have ever had (and far worse at handling his own Party than Jeremy Corbyn). Could the German model (a secret ballot among parliamentarians to elect the Chancellor) be an improvement for the UK? 

    Bush observed that the Tories are a toxic brand, and have been since the 1980s (the last time they won a large majority). In response to a question from the floor, he cautioned against attacking Jo Swinson on austerity, her role in the coalition and her rightwing voting record. Vince Cable had a similar record, and still managed to draw votes from Labour. The problem for Labour is that it is worrying about how to upset the smallest group of voters: you can discuss Brexit with a Labour MP, and they will just reply, “what about small towns?” We shouldn't worry about Labour MPs turning independent - former Labour MP Frank Field will probably only get 4,000 votes as an independent. Winchester is full of wealthy Remainers, but they won't vote in large numbers for Steve Brine (who had the Conservative whip withdrawn for voting against No Deal).

    Bush told the story of a Conservative MP thanking Margaret Thatcher in 1979 for his winning by 76 votes. Those 76 votes were thanks to you, he said. "No", she replied, "the 18,000 votes were thanks to me, and the 76 votes were down to you". We speculated as to the identity of this MP. Our best guess is Robert Atkins, who won Preston North by 29 votes at that election. If you know better, please get in touch!

    The panellists' views differed on the likely outcome of a second referendum. Adonis expressed the view that Remain would triumph: it would win over younger voters. This led to another audience question about any future referendum on Scottish independence. He believed that if Brexit happens, the Scots would probably vote Yes to independence; if Brexit doesn't happen, the Scots would probably vote No. As I write this, Sturgeon has today insisted that the price of SNP support for Labour in a hung parliament will be another independence vote.

    Bush was more cautious about the prospects of Remain: voters don’t want to be asked the same question twice, he said, and he sees no prospect of a better result at the moment.

    Surridge echoed that Remain are not bound to win a second referendum: most Leavers have not changed their minds, and it is a mistake to think that after three years, they will want to think again. She concluded by saying, “Be careful what you wish for”. 

    In summary: Labour's electoral prospects do not appear especially rosy right now. But neither of the main party leaders are very popular, and it is difficult to predict what the effects of Brexit will be on the outcome of the election. In the words of Stephen Bush: "This is Labour's election to lose".

    Theo Morgan is a London Regional Representative at the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform.

  • 11 Oct 2019 21:03 | LCER

    Post Conference Briefing
    Mary Southcott
    Parliamentary and Political Officer, LCER

    LCER's 2019 Fringe

    Working with Make Votes Matter, our fringe meeting attracted 135 people, despite the main Conference overrunning, and Compositing Meetings at the same time involving delegates and shadow ministers. Stephen Kinnock MP chaired the meeting, held in St Nicholas Church – cue lots of jokes about our platform being, like the Labour Party, “a broad church”. Joe Sousek began by launching the Report by Owen Winter: Peterloo 200: the path to proportional representation, which can be read here. We then heard from Faiza Shaheen, the CEO of CLASS (the Centre for Labour and Social Studies) and PPC for Chingford & Woodford Green (standing against Iain Duncan Smith), Emma Dent Coad MP (Kensington), comedian Eddie Izzard (stand up comic, actor, writer, and political activist), Mark Serwotka (General Secretary of the PCS Union), who emphasised participation and engagement, and Laura Parker of Momentum. Sarah Church, PPC for Swindon South (a target seat) spoke from the audience.  We had apologies from Julie Ward MEP, who had attended our Delegates Briefing on Saturday morning and previously spoken at regional fringe meetings in Blackpool and Newcastle. Billy Hayes also sent his apologies with work necessitated by his newly reelected role on the Conference Arrangements Committee, dealing with Compositing meetings. 

    It is all about Democracy

    Although not able to make our Fringe, our Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell majored on “Democracy” in his major Conference speech the following morning: He quoted one of his professors, the late Sir Bernard Crick, as saying, “Socialism is the achievement of equality by democracy”. Sir Bernard was a LCER member and sponsor, influencing many students at Birkbeck and Sheffield Universities, and readers of his books, In Defence of Politics, Democracy: A Very Short Introduction and Essays on Citizenship.  His students, David Blunkett introduced citizenship education, and now John McDonnell has promoted democracy and voting reform.  


    The publication of Peterloo 200 in many ways illustrated the progress made this year. Make Votes Matter now has a Labour Mobiliser, Caroline Osborne of Gosport CLP. Caroline organised our joint stall at Conference as she had at the Tolpuddle Festival in July.  We had our Speaker’s Cards - Myths & Rebuttals – on our stall, and they are still available from us, as well as LCER pens, badges, and stickers asking to “Make My Vote Count”. Just write and ask for the number of copies you require:

    Report back from the Justice and Home Affairs Commission policy session Caroline Osborne reports:

    "The seminar was reasonably well attended for an 8:30 am slot, with around 50 people, many more than 2018. Alice Perry chaired the seminar, with Richard Burgon and Diane Abbott (who arrived late) responding to subjects raised.

    I was able to ask the question: "Why does Labour support FPTP [First Past The Post] when it enables a right wing bias, increases inequality, and allows a policy shift to the right?" I added that people had voted for parties to the left of the Conservatives in 15 out of 16 of the last general elections yet we have had a Conservative majority government for 63 per cent of that time. Research shows that countries that use PR have greater environmental controls, better trade union bargaining power and greater equality. Richard Burgon responded with a suggestion that FPTP had worked against Labour in the past, but he was worried about giving representation to the far right. Alice Perry responded to another attendees’ suggestion about decriminalisation of certain drugs by suggesting that they receive lots of submissions to the NPF about the subject, and that they also receive a huge number of submissions calling for electoral reform."

    A big Thank You…

    …goes to all those who spoke on our platform, to those who staffed our stall, all the hundreds of signups we got (welcome to our mailing list if you are receiving this for the first time), those who requested a speaker for their constituency or trade union meeting, those who volunteered to help us by becoming speakers, and those who raised voting reform on our behalf at other fringe meetings.

    Other conference events

    The Politics for the Many (Trade Unionists for Political Reform) “Transforming Power for a Real Democracy” also attracted an audience (as expected) in favour of changing our voting system. The panel included the Shadow Minister Jon Trickett, who has the constitutional portfolio as Shadow Lord President of the Council.  He did not answer the question posed by our East Midlands Executive representative Ken Ritchie’s questions: why is this campaign focusing on House of Lords reform, when the most important issue of the day should surely be House of Commons electoral reform? But at the end in response to whether the voting system will be considered in Labour’s constitutional convention posed by Joe Sousek, Make Votes Matter, he replied “Yes.  How can it not be?”.  The Electoral Reform Society had their own fringe where Jess Garland spoke.  You can read her article based on her speech at the fringe here At another fringe meeting, Anand Menon spoke of his support for voting reform.  When asked for his reasons, he referred us to a speech you can watch online here. Kim Leadbeater, sister of the late Jo Cox, spoke on the Mirror/UNITE fringe platform about having “More In Common”, at a fringe which showed videos of Britain Talks, the Mirror’s campaign for bringing people together.  Beyond the Bubble, Ipsos MORI’s fringe event featured Lord Andrew Adonis, Jonathan Freedland (The Guardian) and Stephen Bush (New Statesman), all in favour of voting reform alongside University of Bristol academic, Paula Surridge, who we believe also supports reform. Housing minister John Healey MP (alas still a FPTP supporter) represented Labour on the panel. Read Theo Morgan's report.

  • 26 Sep 2019 10:06 | LCER

    The LCER flag was flying at the 2019 Labour Party conference.

    Our fringe meeting was well attended and extremely lively, with speakers from right across Labour's political spectrum. From left to right: Mark Serwotka (PCSU); Laura Parker (Momentum); Stephen Kinnock MP; Emma Dent Coad MP; Joe Sousek (MVM); Faiza Shaheen (PPC); Eddie Izzard. 

    See our Twitter feed for lots more pictures of the event. 

    Many MPs, delegates and visitors came to the LCER/Make Votes Matter stand, to tell us about their support and their local activities, and to sign up as members.

    Perhaps most interestingly, we're meeting a steady stream of people who have been Labour voters all their lives and who have never had much time for proportional representation, but who have now changed their minds. As one person put it: "All my life, I've believed that First Past the Post was the best system - even if it wasn't exactly fair, I believed it would give us strong governments that can carry out a manifesto, and some of them would be Labour governments. What we have now is a succession of weak, dastardly, corrupt and undemocratic governments that most people didn't really vote for. I've run out of bad words for them. I'm totally on board for PR."

  • 20 Sep 2019 15:14 | LCER

    Even the Sun thinks proportional representation is inevitable!

    The Sun doesn't often feature in our briefings!

    But in the Radio 4 programme, The Week in Westminster, Anushka Asthana (The Guardian - always very pro-PR!) said “after Brexit is settled, people will be pushing hard for electoral reform to make a better sense of that”.  The Sun’s Thomas Zoltan Newton Dunn (Tom) commented that we have giant Balkanisation of the electorate, four or five different tribes, North Leave, West LibDem, Remain vote in the south.  He projected: Almost certainly a hung parliament, the smaller parties get a say, what do the LibDems want? proportional representation - so no surprise if we get a second referendum (on the European Union) and PR.
    Let’s prove the Sun correct! Together!

  • 13 Sep 2019 16:04 | LCER

    proportional representation: what's on at labour party conference (brighton, 21-25 september)

    Visit our stall

    We're looking forward to seeing Conference delegates at our stall (joint with Make Votes Matter). Come and say hello, pick up campaigning literature and LCER freebies, and discuss conference motions. If you won't be at Conference yourself, remind your delegate to drop by. With an election looming, we are particularly keen to get updates about the views of your Labour MP or PPC on voting reform.

    Come to our fringe meeting and reception

    Our fringe meeting will be at St Nicholas' Church, Church Street, BN1 3LJ at 7pm on Sunday 22 September. The following people are set to speak at the fringe or at the reception that follows:

    • John McDonnell MP (Shadow Chancellor)
    • Faiza Shaheen (PPC, Chingford and Woodford Green)
    • Emma Dent Coad MP (Kensington)
    • Laura Parker (Momentum)
    • In the chair: Stephen Kinnock MP (Aberavon)
    • Mark Serwotka (PCS General Secretary)
    • Paul Blomfield MP (Chair of LCER)
    • Julie Ward MEP

    Other fringe events

    There are scores of fringe events at Conference. Here are just a couple that might be of interest to electoral reformers.

    • Transforming Power for a Real Democracy Politics for the Many, Monday 23 Sep, 1pm.
    • Democracy Broken: Can Labour Save Politics From Itself? Fabians and Electoral Reform Society, Mon 23 Sep, 5.30pm.
    • What would it take for Labour to win a general election? IPPR, Tuesday 24th September, 5.30pm.

  • 2 Sep 2019 22:24 | LCER

    On 16 August 1819, armed cavalry charged into a peaceful gathering of men, women and children who had assembled in St Peter’s Fields, Manchester, to demand political representation.18 people were killed and several hundred were injured. The event is widely seen as pivotal in the struggle for democratic representation.

    A new report, Peterloo 200, by Owen Winter, LCER's youth officer, commemorates the 200th anniversary of Peterloo. The report sets out the history of the Peterloo massacre and links the struggles for representation 200 years ago with present-day campaigns for proportional representation.

    From the Preface of Peterloo 200, by Jonathan Reynolds MP and Rupa Huq MP:

    Labour remains the only socialist party in the developed world to support the use of FPTP for general elections. It is time for us to learn from our sister parties and embrace PR. Indeed, this is already happening. One third of Labour MPs have come out in favour of PR. At the time of writing, 69 Constituency Labour Parties have passed pro-PR motions since 2017, with dozens more debates scheduled. Two affiliated unions now support PR as policy, and one of the two unions with policy against PR is reviewing its position following calls from its membership.
    200 years on from the Peterloo Massacre, we should remember and celebrate those who fought for democracy before us. We should take inspiration from their understanding that only through greater democracy can we transform society. We hope you will consider the arguments and evidence in this report and join us in calling for a democracy fit for the 21st century.

    Jonathan Reynolds is Labour and Co-operative MP for Stalybridge and Hyde, and Shadow Economic Secretary to the Treasury; Rupa Huq is Labour MP for Ealing Central and Acton

  • 28 Jul 2019 21:44 | Anonymous

    Our New Website

    We are proud to launch our new website and membership system and we are launching a new membership drive at the same time.  We really need The Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform to be a mass-membership Labour movement with members in every constituency.  We know we have thousands of supporters across the country but the more members we have, the more influence we will have.  For as little as £1 per month (and less for concessions) you can help us campaign to change Labour Party policy so visit today to join.

     LCER has not been able to follow up all members since our final postal mailing in 2012.  However, Mike Huggett has chased telephone numbers and emails so we could contact you.  We now have a user friendly website, created by our membership officer, Maria Iacovou, for which much thanks.  We have kept the annual subscription low so as not to dissuade people, retaining a concessionary rate of £5.  However, this is the best possible time to push for change and we welcome both active members, speakers, invitations to speak and donations to enable us to continue the work.  We are all volunteers.  You can join, and much more, on line at

    We have a new logo

    At our Annual Conference stall, you will see our new banner, quoting Robin Cook, our boards, badges and pens, leaflets, the many not the few, Speaker Cards Myths & Rebuttals and exchange information.  We need to gather as much information as possible about MPs and candidates not only to be in contact with them but to demonstrate how the Labour Party has changed in the direction of voting reform.   

    Our constitution is called a democracy because power is in the hands not of a minority but of the whole people.

    This is taken from Pericles, the hero of Boris Johnson, who used this phrase equivalent to the one Labour uses – the many not the few – in his funeral oration.  We have just witnessed the Conservative members (159,320 in total) elect our UK Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, 92,153, beating the Foreign Secretary, Jeremy Hunt, 46,656, with 66 per cent of the votes albeit on a turnout of 87.4 per cent. 

    The new Prime Minister then chose the Cabinet members and other ministers, snuffing out most of Hunt’s supporters.  The appointees were mostly actively Leave in the Referendum of 2016 and in addition they are Johnson loyalists, with the party within the party, the ERG, European Reform Group Leader, Jacob Rees-Mogg is now the Leader of the House.

    So the few not the many it is with 64 per cent of the Cabinet from Public (Private) Schools.  The Conservatives really believe in winner takes all.  It is their system.  Labour cannot use it to accrue all power to itself because of the power of the media, the establishment, financial institutions.  There is no short cut to democratic socialism. So why? we ask, are some in the party so determined to stick with this first past the post system in the face of evidence that Labour’s membership has changed their minds, it produces more Conservative than Labour governments and it has failed in the last ten years to produce more than two years of majority government, and that Conservative.  Ask them perhaps?


    With Johnson’s appointments clearly indicating that a general election is on the cards long before 2022, Labour needs to get registering its voters, young people, the inner city, those living in multioccupation.  Dominic Cummins was able to find a million extra voters mainly in Labour heartlands, at least according to the James Graham play,Brexit: The Uncivil War.  Councils are updating their registers and Labour could do better than that. 

    The Other Leadership Election  

    Many Labour voters will have been pleased to see a woman elected to the leadership of the Liberal Democrats.  That is before Jo Swinton dismissed working with Jeremy Corbyn as if there weren’t more Labour Remainers and probably now more Labour electoral reformers than their LibDem equivalents.  To maintain the victories in the local elections, especially where there used to be LibDem MPs, Jo Swinton needs the tactical vote of Labour supporters, particularly in the South West of England.  If the UK is ever to change its voting system so seats match votes, it needs Labour to exercise leadership and put voting reform into the constitutional convention it offers.  Falsely positioning the LibDems equidistant between the Tories and Labour betrays the clear need for the left and centre left, non Tory, non Brexit Party, to first defeat a No Deal Brexit and then to work together against a hostile Government by supporting a non aggression pact where we show what we agree rather than concentrate on what we disagree.  But see how she got off on the wrong foot:  

    The new divide in politics

    First past the post creates the culture of winner takes all that Boris’ cabinet exemplifies.  It also exaggerates difference, north – south, rural – urban.   The Left/Right spectrum does not coincide with the pro and anti EU one but most of electoral reformers are instinctively in favour of the UK membership of the European Union.  However, there are differences in tactics with Mike Amesbury, Jon Cruddas, Stephen Kinnock, Justin Madders, Grahame Morris, Lisa Nandy, all electoral reformers, among the 26 Labour MPs who signed the letter urging Jeremy not to go along the track of coming out completely for Remain in a General Election as opposed to a Referendum.  One mistake the People’s Vote made was to argue for a People’s Vote rather than Remain and to use that as a proxy.  We need more respect for difference and willingness to work with others for what we believe in and share in common.

    Thank you to electoral reformers

    On 8 July we learned which Labour MPs were standing down rather than standing in their constituency at the next General Election.  Among them were two electoral reformers, Stephen Twigg and Steve Pound.  Most of those set to leave are either status quo or have never said, Kevin Barron (AV supporter), Ronnie Campbell (status quo), Jim Fitzpatrick (status quo), Kate Hoey (who knows?) and Geoffrey Robinson (status quo).  LCER research shows the longer one has been a Labour MP the more likely they are to support first past the post and the corollary, the newer MPs are more likely to support electoral reform.  We should thank Stephen Twigg for all his contribution to electoral reform.  He was in favour of reform as NUS President, later as Fabian General Secretary, as the unexpected MP for Enfield Southgate (Were you up for Portillo?), Minister and Deputy Leader of the House to Robin Cook, out of office in 2010 and MP for Liverpool West Derby since 2015.  He wrote, with Andrew Adonis,The cross we bear: electoral reform for local government, for the Fabian Society and chaired two recent LCER/Make Votes Matter Conference fringes in 2016 and 2018.  Thank you, Stephen. 

    Opportunities to discuss our voting system – Peterloo and Trade Unions

    LCER, working with Make Votes Matter, has had successful meetings at West London Momentum, in Folkestone, and a brilliant presence at UNISON’s Conference and at the recent Tolpuddle Festival, where leading trade union supporter of electoral reform, PCS’ Mark Serwotka led the march with Jeremy Corbyn.   We are encouraging people to attend the Politics of the Many Conference, This is what Democracy looks like, in Manchester on 31 August.  You can book to go here:

    This will celebrate the anniversary of the Peterloo Massacre in St Peter’s Field, Manchester on 16 August 1819, when a peaceful crowd (between 60 and 80 thousand) demanding the reform of parliamentary representation were charged by cavalry.   LCER’s Youth Officer is producing research showing how this led to the later attempts supporting widening the franchise by the Chartists and Suffragettes, and indeed to the establishment of trade unions after the deportation of the Tolpuddle Martyrs.


    The coordination of LCER and Make Votes Matter speakers event is now being undertaken by Caroline Osborne, a Labour and Cooperative Party Member in Gosport, taking over from Joe Sousek.  She writes: “I am a Labour and Cooperative party member.  I have held the role of campaign coordination and equalities officer in my Gosport CLP and also stood as council candidate. I have been involved in several campaigns including Hampshire Save our Children's Centres and Changing places Gosport. I joined Make Votes Matter in May 2019 in the capacity of Labour Mobiliser and is an LCER member.”

    We have now got nearly 70 constituencies committed to changing to a more proportional voting system.  We need more meetings in our heartlands and in Labour’s target seats.  We are compiling a comprehensive list of the positions of Labour candidates, including MPs, who will stand in the next General Election.  We look forward to hearing from LCER contacts and members who can provide us with more intelligence, contact details of Prospective Party Candidates (PPCs) so we can support their campaigns. 

    We can supply speakers to Labour and trade union meetings.  We now have a speaker’s kit containing the booklet, the many not the few, Speaker Cards containing 12 Myths & Rebuttals, we have an extra rebuttal 13 based on misinformation about the European elections, an Idiot’s Guide to speaking at these events, and leaflets on systems, women, trade union, young people and various regions and nations with quote from local elected and aspiring politicians.

    Looking forward to Conference

    We have booked the same venue as Brighton 2017, outside but close to the Brighton Conference Centre on Sunday evening.  We have already had agreement to speak from Chingford & Woodford Green PPC, Faiza Shaheen, the Director of CLASS, the Centre for Labour and Social Studies; Clive Lewis MP for Norwich South, Emma Dent Coad MP for Kensington and others to be confirmed.

    We hope this year there will be resolutions on voting reform and would like to meet delegates and visitors from constituencies who have sent them on the Saturday.  There will also be an opportunity to discuss electoral reform at other fringe meetings and at our Make Votes Matter and LCER stall where we hope to meet you and other delegates and visitors.  Let us know if you will be there, in what capacity, and/or if you can put us in contact with your delegate urging them to come to our stall. 

    Representing rather than Polarising Views in Labour

    At this year’s Annual Conference, Daventry Labour Party has put forward a rule change to try and heal the divisions inside Labour. Their amendment reads: “In all elections in which more than one candidate is to be elected, the Single Transferable Vote system with constraints to ensure gender balance shall be used”.  Ken Ritchie writes: This is important for electoral reformers. We want electoral reform because the country needs a better sort of politics, but in the Labour Party we still elect the National Executive Committee using a system that allows the slate with most votes to win all the seats, leaving others without a voice on the committee.  STV would change that. By using a proportional system (and one widely used in the Labour Movement) we would not just be practising what we preach but we would be taking a big step towards healing some of the Party's divisions: if Labour is to remain a broad church, it needs a voting system that ensures the church has seats for all parts of it.”

    Country Standard

    Circulated with the Morning Star, this Summer edition of the paper founded in 1935, covers the unsung success of Witney Labour Party who took control of their town council electing 11 of the 17 councillors on a local manifesto of “community empowerment and equality in our wonderful town”, the town which used to be David Cameron’s fiefdom. One of LCER’s leading supporters over the years, Duncan Enright, was elected.  The paper also mentions that High Peak Labour took back control of Derbyshire Council.  Nick Palmer, once a LCER sponsor MP, won a seat this May in Waverley Borough Council in the Godalming Binscombe Ward.  LCER researcher, Theo Morgan, delved into the situation where Labour did not field a candidate and there was no Labour Group.  There are 70 councils where there are absolutely no Labour councillors.  This leaves no one for local trade unionists to negotiate with.  The situation is that too often we abandon rural areas and their issues through hypertargeting and relying on over tactilisation.  Bury St Edmunds is feeling this and putting a resolution to Annual Conference.   Honing in on our target seats under first past the post could be reversed by a change of voting system where all votes count and which we drew attention to in Reversing Labour’s Retreat.  We have a few copies of Martin Linton and Mary Southcott’s Making Votes Count: Labour’s Road to Electoral Reform with tables from Sir John Curtice.  Former Chair, William Bain, and Mary are thinking of updating the book but it takes you up to 1998 and most of the arguments still work.

    Stoke in the West Midlands

    If you are in or around Stoke on 31 July, let us know and perhaps we can arrange to get people together? During the day or at a branch meeting event in the evening. 

    Mary Southcott

    Parliamentary & Political Officer

    0117 924 5139 / 077 125 11931

    John Doolan

    Adminstrative Coordinator

    07584 934 552

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Bringing together a divided nation

Letters, The Guardian, 3 Mar 2020

A Labour-Lib Dem pact and the need for reform

Letters, The Guardian, 2 Mar 2020

Millions being ignored by ‘morally and politically bankrupt’ UK voting system, new report claims

Ashley Cowburn, Independent, 2 Mar 2020

Former top judge calls for fundamental review of politics post-Brexit

Owen Bowcott, The Guardian, 4 Feb 2020

Labour leadership candidates urged to back electoral reform

Peter Walker, The Guardian, 3 Feb 2020

Any Questions? Bell Ribeiro-Addy MP, Ken Clarke, Richard Holden MP, Lord Mann

BBC Radio 4, 31 Jan 2020 (22 minutes in)

The first task of Labour’s new leader will be to overhaul democracy in the UK

Adam Ramsay, The Guardian, 29 Jan 2020

Leadership candidates challenged to back electoral reform

Sienna Rodgers, LabourList, 24 Jan 2020

MPs call for unlimited fines for those who breach electoral law

Mark Townsend, The Observer, 18 Jan 2020

History is clear: Labour must lead an alliance for democratic reform

Jeremy Gilbert, openDemocracy, 18 Jan 2020

Electoral reform and making every vote count

Letters, The Guardian, 15 Jan 2020

Jess Phillips calls for citizens’ assembly to tackle climate crisis

Heather Stewart, The Guardian, 14 Jan 2020

My six-point plan to restore trust in politics

Jess Phillips, The Guardian, 14 Jan 2020

Labour's leadership contest will be a chance to seal electoral reform in Britain

Polly Toynbee, The Guardian, 13 Jan 2020

The Guardian view on electoral reform: an argument Labour needs to have

Editorial, The Guardian, 12 Jan 2020

Will Labour's leader finally break with first-past-the-post?

Anthony Barnett, LabourList, 10 Jan 2020

Clive Lewis says Labour should consider referendum on the royal family

Peter Walker, The Guardian, 10 Jan 2020

Labour and Proportional Representation

Anthony Barnett, Compass, 9 Jan 2020

First-past-the-post system breeds cynical and disaffected voters

Letters, The Guardian, 8 Jan 2020

Clive Lewis: to beat Tories, Labour has to work with other progressives

Heather Stewart, The Guardian, 7 Jan 2020

Labour has gambled on first-past-the-post for too long

Joe Sousek, LabourList, 20 Dec 2019

Hung parliament and 70 Lib Dem MPs: what the election result would have been under PR

Adam Forrest, The Independent, 14 Dec 2019

Here's what the UK parliament would look like under proportional representation

Natasha Frost, Quartz, 13 Dec 2019

Small parties urged to make proportional representation a red line for any coalition

Jon Stone, The Independent, 10 Dec 2019

It’s time for real change – and that means real change to our democracy

Clive Lewis, LabourList, 8 Dec 2019

Our voting system needs a shake-up: give us PR

Theo Morgan, Westminster Extra, 8 Dec 2019

We need to talk about electoral reform

Theo Morgan, Morning Star, 6 Dec 2019

Labour must change the rules of the game – and back electoral reform

Theo Morgan, LabourList, 15 Nov 2019

Labour must embrace radical electoral reform

Letters, The Guardian, 14 Nov 2019

Labour should fight for electoral reform

Letters, The Guardian,  7 Nov 2019

Britain is divided. That’s why we need a hung parliament again

Polly Toynbee, The Guardian  4 Nov 2019

What Canada can learn from New Zealand on electoral reform

Dominic O'Sullivan, The Conversation, 29 Oct 2019

David Miliband: Brexit is wrecking British democracy

Patrick Wintour, The Guardian, 24 Oct 2019

Our voting system needs reform - not photo ID

Letters, The Guardian, 16 Oct 2019

Amber Rudd calls for proportional voting system to be discussed

Peter Walker, The Guardian, 11 Sep 2019

Today Programme: Puzzle #559

Puzzle set by YouGov's Peter Kellner on the Today Programme, 3 Sep 2019

Changing voting to vote for change

Daniel Goldstraw, The Overtake, 5 Aug 2019

For fairness vote against first past the post elections

Stephen Kinnock, The Times, 2 Jul 2019

Our archaic First-Past-The-Post system is alarmingly unfit for a multi-party age

Andrew Rawnsley, The Guardian, 9 Jun 2019

The European elections proved the need to reform Britain's voting system

Willie Sullivan,, 29 May 2019

We're led by a party not fit for power in a system not fit for purpose

Gary Younge, The Guardian, 29 Mar 2019

The "Winner Takes it All" mentality of First Past the Post has supercharged Brexit's toxicity
Mark Thompson, New Statesman America, 21 Feb 2019

Once Brexit is over, what’s left? A two-party system that kills optimism
Polly Toynbee, The Guardian, 21 Feb 2019

The Independent Group won’t succeed unless it supports electoral reform – here’s why

Joe Sousek, The Independent, 21 Feb 2019

The Independent Group will only succeed if PR is their central policy

Catherine Mayer, The Guardian, 20 Feb 2019

Why is the Labour Party machine ignoring members on voting reform?

Owen Winter, LabourList, 20 Sep 2018

Labour under pressure to back electoral reform

Tom Guha, LabourList, 23 Aug 2018

The most stable, successful nations in the world have PR, so why can’t we?

Letters, The Guardian, 28 Jun 2018

First Past the Post leaves UK elections uniquely vulnerable to data hijack
Brian Eno, The Guardian, 6 Apr 2018

Why Labour Should Support PR

Editorial, The Clarion, 7 Mar 2018

Britain's ‘absurd’ voting system could see the Tories win an election without a popular mandate

Lamiat Sabin, Morning Star, 6 Mar 2018

7 reasons why proportional representation is a feminist issue
Amelia Womack, New Statesman, 6 Feb 2018

Ditching First Past the Post really would be "taking back control"
Phil McDuff, The Guardian, 1 Aug 2017

Here's what the UK electoral map would look like with proportional representation

Louis Dore, Indy 100, 11 Jun 2017

Labour supporters queue around the block to hear about proportional representation
Jon Stone, The Independent, 28 Sep 2016

Proportional representation: the pledge that would guarantee a Labour landslide in May

Alan Martin, New Statesman, 28 Jan 2015


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