An ‘Elephant in the polling booth’: An absence of electoral reform in the Labour Manifesto despite support in ranks

Kevin Quinn (29 November, 2019) Politics General Election 2019

Dulwich and West Norwood MP Helen Hayes is among more than 9,000 to have signed an open letter calling for Corbyn to back proportional representation

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The Labour Party’s manifesto, announced last week, is conspicuously quiet on electoral reform despite growing support among its ranks.

Dulwich and West Norwood MP Helen Hayes is among more than 9,000 to have signed an open letter calling for Corbyn to back proportional representation over our current first-past-the-post system.

MP Helen Hayes.

Although Labour has pledged to work toward replacing the House of Lords with an elected second chamber, and develop a constitutional convention – the UK currently has no written constitution – it has made no commitment to making our voting system more representative.

Joe Sousek, co-chair of the Make Votes Matter campaign, said: “Labour’s failure to even mention electoral reform in its manifesto is a bitter disappointment to the many members and voters who understand First Past the Post is hopelessly unfit for the 21st century.

“The UK desperately needs Proportional Representation for the House of Commons – so all votes count equally and seats match votes.

“This election will be defined by electoral pacts and tactical voting as parties and voters struggle to overcome the inequities of First Past the Post.

“By refusing to acknowledge this elephant in the polling booth, Labour appears out of touch when it comes to democracy.

“The promise of a Constitutional Convention is a glimmer of hope, but a faint one given the party’s track record of obstructing and breaking clear promises to reform the voting system.”

The Electoral Reform Society’s senior director, Willie Sullivan, argued: “First past the post politics played a huge role getting us in the current political rut: encouraging tribalism and vilifying cooperation.

“It leads to woefully skewed results, with millions of voters disenfranchised by stale safe seats and disproportionate outcomes.

“It’s time all parties including Labour committed to making seats match votes – and bring Westminster into line with Scotland, Wales and the rest of the advanced world in giving voters a strong voice and real choice every election.”

A cross-party alliance pushing for reform includes The Liberal Democrats; Greens; Scottish National Party; The Brexit Party; Women’s Equality Party; Plaid Cymru in Wales and The Alliance Party in Northern Ireland.

A referendum on whether to introduce an “Alternative Vote” system in 2011 was rejected by the public with a decisive majority.

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