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 https://www.labourcampaignforelectoralreform.org.uk/join-or-donate 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 www.labourcampaignforelectoralreform.org.uk.
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: https://www.thecanary.co/trending/2019/07/24/john-mcdonnell-drops-a-truth-bomb-about-jo-swinsons-refusal-to-work-with-jeremy-corbyn/.
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: https://politicsforthemany.co.uk/event/this-is-what-democracy-looks-like/.
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.”
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.
Parliamentary & Political Officer
0117 924 5139 / 077 125 11931
07584 934 552