Greens scrutinise Labour Party failure to support PR voting system

The motion to support the more representative system was defeated at the annual Labour conference yesterday. Keir Starmer’s leadership is being criticised by the Greens due to his lack of support for the proposal, in spite of previous commitments to electoral reform and widespread backing of the amendment from within the party.

Polling station in Skipton
Green World

The Green Party has scrutinised the Labour leadership after a vote to support proportional representation (PR) was not backed by the administration at its annual conference yesterday (27 September).

The motion was defeated after being sent to a card vote, in which 79.51 per cent of Constituency Labour delegates backed the motion and 95.03 per cent of affiliates voted against it. The poll was presented after 150 Constituency Labour Parties submitted motions on the topic, with over 83 per cent of party members stating previously that they supported the movement.

PR ensures that divisions within an electorate are proportionately reflected in the elected body, unlike our current plurality voting system of first past the post (FPTP) which only allows voters to select a single candidate. The system aims to ensure that there is a direct correlation between the share of seats won by each party and the amount of support they receive from the electorate. 

Advocates of the system indicate that the UK is the only nation in Europe, excluding authoritarian state Belarus, that uses FPTP within general elections. In fact, 40 out of the 43 European nations use some form of PR in their selection processes, with France being the only other nation, beyond the UK and Belarus, to utilise a one-person-takes-all voting system.

The vote comes following Keir Starmer’s previous calls to deliver a ‘radical devolution of power’ at the end of last year, with the party leader announcing the launch of a UK-wide constitutional commission. These promises appear to have been neglected, however, with Starmer failing to ensure the party backed the vote, in spite of recent polling disclosing that 83 per cent of Labour Party members believe that calls for the electoral system to implement PR should be backed. 

The polling from YouGov also revealed that 62 per cent of Labour voters and 42 per cent of the general public support the switch.

Zack Polanski, Green Party spokesperson on Democracy and Citizen Engagement, commented: “This is a really disappointing decision by the Labour Party which shows a real lack of leadership and vision from the top of the party.

 “Labour members overwhelmingly support electoral reform, yet Keir Starmer has done next to nothing to ensure that his party’s delegates voted through a motion which could have revolutionised British politics and put an end to the Tory stranglehold on our failed democratic system.

"In the conference hall, speaker after speaker argued passionately for Labour to adopt proportional representation in its next manifesto, yet it still did not pass. Without proportional representation and electoral cooperation, Labour has an impossible mountain to climb and the country faces another five years of chaos with the Conservatives.

 “It is clear that British voters want to move on from the failure and division caused by the two-party system, and so it is extremely worrying to see Labour fail to grasp the need for a more cooperative and collaborative form of politics which will benefit everyone.

 “The Green Party has always supported a system that translates votes fairly into seats. This is the very minimum we can expect from a country that calls itself a democracy. If people want to back a party that will consistently fight for this, then they know where to come.”