Drakeford urges UK Labour conference to embrace PR and work with other parties – at odds with Keir Starmer
The First Minister has urged the UK Labour party conference to embrace proportional representation and work with other parties in a speech at the conference in Liverpool.
Mark Drakeford’s emphasis on working with other parties seemed to be contrary to Sir Keir Starmer’s insistence that he would never go into coalition with the SNP.
The UK Labour leader had also said over the weekend that proportional representation was not a priority and refused to make it one of the party’s election manifesto pledges.
In his speech at the Labour conference, Mark Drakeford said: “Now let me just set all this in the context of two discussions currently going on inside our own party.
“First of all the Senedd with its unbroken Labour governments have always been elected by proportional representation. And that system was put on the statute book twice by Labour governments at Westminster.
“In a conference earlier this summer in Wales, over three-quarters of the entire Welsh party voted to strengthen the proportionality of our voting system, making sure that every Labour vote in Wales will count towards creating that next Welsh Labour government.
“And secondary conference, why Labour has always formed the government in Wales. we’ve never governed alone.
“The fault line in Welsh politics runs right down the middle part of the Senedd. On one side are reactionary out of touch, deeply unloved, Conservative Party.
“On the other side, those parties committed to social and economic progress. Do the parties of the center left agree on everything? Of course not.
“But we focus on those areas where progressive parties can agree – a politics which recognizes the dominant position of Labour, but which also knows that no party has a monopoly on good or progressive ideas.
“And in the face of the dreadful decisions of last week, the obligation to do everything we can to take and exercise power on behalf of that great mass of decent people, the length and breadth of the United Kingdom, that obligation is more powerful than ever.”
‘Not a priority’
Sir Keir Starmer currently faces a split with members over changing the voting system as the Labour Party conference chose to consider electoral reform.
Calls to ditch the first past the post system (FPTP) and replace it with proportional representation (PR) at general elections were made by several constituency Labour parties (CLPs).
They warned the current system – in which the candidate with the most votes in a constituency becomes an MP – favours the Conservatives and encourages voter apathy.
Instead they are calling for Labour to pledge to introduce PR, which would see the distribution of seats more closely linked to the number of votes cast.
Labour leader Sir Keir has insisted the issue is not a priority for him.
But it emerged as one of the six topics chosen by CLPs for debate in Liverpool after it received 195,844 votes on Sunday.
Sir Keir told the Observer: “There are a lot of people in the Labour party who are pro-PR but it’s not a priority and we go into the next election under the same system that we’ve got, first past the post, and I’m not doing any deals going into the election or coming out of the election.”
Laura Parker, of Labour for a New Democracy, said of the decision by conference to debate the issue: “This is a huge step forward in the campaign within the Labour Party for fair votes.
“Today’s vote is confirmation of what we know – the Labour Party is united in its support for proportional representation.”
Mark Drakeford, First Minister of Wales, is among the senior Labour politicians to have expressed support for PR.
The wording of motion to be voted upon by members will be agreed ahead of the debate.
Other topics to be debated at Labour’s conference include Ukraine, health, social care, the climate crisis and workers’ pay.
The latter relates to a motion which urges a £15 an hour minimum wage.
Hilary Schan, co-chair of Momentum, said: “Following (Chancellor Kwasi Kwarteng’s) class war budget, now is the time for the whole labour movement to unite behind a bold alternative, based on fair pay, public ownership and democratic empowerment.
“These policies are overwhelmingly popular with the public and needed now more than ever during the cost-of-living crisis.
“Trade unions and Labour members will now be able to vote to stand up for workers pay, public ownership and democratic electoral reform.”
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