Ask Keir Starmer to Support Proportional Representation
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This petition calls on Keir Starmer to announce the Labour Party’s support for proportional representation in general elections. Proportional representation means that all votes are reflected equally in the distribution of seats in parliament.
During his leadership campaign, Starmer claimed to support a constitutional convention, arguing that ‘we’ve got to address the fact that millions of people vote in safe seats and they feel their vote doesn’t count. That's got to be addressed by electoral reform.’
However, since his election Starmer seems to have dropped the issue from his agenda. In fact, Labour’s recent consultation on constitutional change didn’t even address the relationship between votes and seats in general elections, focusing instead on devolution. As a resident of a rural safe seat where my vote makes no difference to the outcome, I feel frustrated by Labour’s continued failure to directly address our broken electoral system.
This decision to ignore the way that the UK’s voting system is rigged in favour of the Conservative Party, which won a crushing majority in the 2019 election on only 43.6% of the vote, is not only counterintuitive for the Labour Party but directly contradicts the views of its members. A poll immediately before the last election showed that an overwhelming 76% of Labour members want the party to support PR. Meanwhile, more than a third of Labour MPs, two affiliated unions and 85 Constituency Labour Parties have backed a voting system where votes translate directly into seats.
Widespread support for Proportional Representation reflects increasing frustration with the conservative bias built into our electoral system, which disempowers the progressive majority of voters fractured between different parties. The correlation between PR and higher levels of social and economic equality in countries such as Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Iceland, Finland, Sweden, Germany and the Netherlands is impossible to ignore. By failing to propose a system by which votes for each party matched their proportion of seats in parliament, the 2011 referendum on alternative vote did not represent an opportunity to meaningfully change our first-past-the-post system.
Meanwhile, the Brexit crisis and the government’s botched response to the COVID-19 pandemic have killed the argument that first-past-the-post can guarantee stable and effective government. The opposite increasingly appears to be the case - we urgently need a new way of doing politics which allows for negotiation and co-operation rather than bitter confrontation between two parties.
For all these reasons, it’s time for Keir Starmer to make good on the promises he made on the campaign trail.
It is crucial that Labour changes its stance on PR now, allowing enough time to build a coalition for electoral reform with other parties before the 2024 election. Beyond signing and sharing this petition, please sign up to www.makevotesmatter.org.uk to join the cross party campaign for electoral reform or learn more about the distortions of first-past-the-post on the the Electoral Reform Society's website https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk If you are a Labour Party member, help bring about change in Labour's policy by joining the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform at https://www.labourcampaignforelectoralreform.org.uk. Donations on this petition page will go directly to Change.org - if you wish to donate, please consider supporting any of the aforementioned organisations.
Photo by Rwendland / CC BY-SA https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0
Exact wording of the petition letter below:
Dear Keir Starmer,
During your leadership campaign, you spoke out in favour of a constitutional convention, arguing that ‘we’ve got to address the fact that millions of people vote in safe seats and they feel their vote does’t count. That's got to be addressed by electoral reform.’
Given the way in which the recent Labour Party consultation on constitutional change avoided this fundamental problem in our electoral system, we want to know exactly when you plan on addressing it. A poll immediately before the last election showed that an overwhelming 76% of Labour members want the party to get behind PR while more than a third of Labour MPs, two affiliated unions and 85 Constituency Labour Parties have openly backed a voting system where votes translate directly into seats.
Beyond this mandate from within the Labour Party, the realities of the electoral arithmetic in a political landscape where the broadly progressive vote is fractured between several parties mean that Labour can no longer afford to delude itself about the probability of winning a majority in parliament. Labour owes it to the progressive majority of voters in this country to change its stance on electoral reform and to help introduce a system in which the government accurately reflects the priorities of the British people.
We therefore ask you to urgently set in motion a review of Labour’s policy on electoral reform, which recognises the complete inadequacy of first-past-the-post. Moreover, Labour needs to co-operate with other parties in order to bring about change. Given the conservative bias of the current system, it is not enough to include proportional representation as a manifesto pledge at the next election. Under the current system, Labour’s chances of implementing any of its manifesto pledges are slim. The time to acknowledge and change this is now.
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