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UK Labour members back proportional representation in General Elections after Drakeford backing

26 Sep 2022 5 minute read
Mark Drakeford speaking at the UK Labour conference

Labour members have voted in favour of making a manifesto commitment to proportional representation at the next election even if Sir Keir Starmer has ruled out the idea.

Mark Drakeford, First Minister of Wales, and Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham were among those who have expressed support for PR at the conference.

The Labour conference passed a series of motions on electoral reform on Monday afternoon, which included demanding the party scraps first-past-the-post (FPTP) and introduces proportional representation (PR), abolishes the House of Lords and strengthens the standards for MPs.

The vote to put PR in the next manifesto will undoubtedly add more pressure on the Labour leader, who recently insisted the issue is not a priority for him.

The motion, which passed on a show of hands and to cheers in the conference hall in Liverpool, says: “Labour must make a commitment to introduce proportional representation for general elections in the next manifesto.

“During his first term in office the next Labour government must change the voting system for general elections to a form of PR.

“Labour should convene an open and inclusive process to decide the specific proportional voting system it will introduce.”

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.”

No guarantee

Andy Burnham meanwhile praised members’ “historic decision” to back proportional representation, when speaking at a New Statesman event on the fringes of the party conference.

Labour shadow business secretary Jonathan Reynolds, who argued for proportional representation when a backbencher, told an Open Labour fringe event afterwards that issues relating to how people are represented in a democracy can “not and never can be an ancillary issue”.

Mr Reynolds, addressing the motions on proportional representation but acknowledging his Cabinet responsibility, said: “You cannot separate out how a country functions, how power is represented, how the democracy of that country works, from those questions about inequality and prosperity and the funding of things that are dear… of course the two things are linked.”

Under the current “first-past-the-post” system, voters choose from a list of candidates in their local constituency, and whoever gets the most votes is elected as their representative.

Under a PR system, the distribution of seats corresponds more closely with the proportion of total votes cast nationally for each party.

Despite the motions being carried over, there is no guarantee they will be included in the next manifesto as the party is not bound by policy passed at its annual conference.

Sir Keir told the Observer this weekend: “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.”


Green Party deputy leader Zack Polanski welcomed the news that Labour members voted in favour of ditching FPTP, saying: “It’s promising to see Labour members vote overwhelmingly to join with the rest of Europe and embrace modern, fair and proportional elections in the UK.

“However, it’s disappointing that Keir Starmer appears to remain unmoved by the democratic rights of his own members.”

Mr Polanski insisted that “if Keir Starmer does not listen to his members and back PR, it will leave him ensuring future Tory victories”.

Delegates at the Labour conference also backed a motion urging Labour to commit to the abolition of the House of Lords and its replacement with an elected second chamber or senate.

The motion reads: “Conference believes that Labour should now commit itself to the abolition of the current House of Lords and its replacement with an elected second chamber or senate and should legislate to that end in the first term of the next Labour government.”

Several Labour members spoke in favour of electoral reform during the debate on Monday afternoon.

Maureen McDaid, of Garston and Halewood Constituency Labour Party (CLP), said: “For many years I actually opposed proportional representation and electoral reform because I believed it would let in extreme right-wing parties.

“Well conference what do we have?

“Under first past the post we have the most right-wing Conservative government ever.”

Moving the motion on the abolishment of the House of Lords, Paul Cruikshank, a delegate from Glasgow Anniesland CLP, told the exhibition centre: “A senate of the nations and regions, a senate as a revising chamber, not just for English regions, but for the Scottish and Welsh regions as well, having distinct regional national voices involved in a national forum will strengthen our democracy, genuinely.”

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1 year ago

Will not happen without an outright Labour majority and I don’t think that’s a given either.

1 year ago
Reply to  SundanceKid

Actually a Labour majority makes PR less likelier to happen. Labour say that they are in favour but its not in their interests to actually implement it. The only way its going to happen is if they struck a deal with the Liberal Democrats. Which is why I believe that the Tories would rather Labour win a majority outright, then for it to go to a hung parliament.

1 year ago
Reply to  Rob

Indeed. A hung parliament is the most likely way this idea will ever be implemented which is why the Tories are deliberately messing things up and acting like your typical economic libertarian extremist moronic idiots. They are PETRIFIED of PR and are therefore aiming to lose properly to Labour and make sure Labour win with an overall majority so they conveniently drop it once safely in power with an overall majority.

That is how cynical the Tories are!

Richard 1
Richard 1
1 year ago

so fight next election on a pact to ensure no tory majority; enact PR in next Parliament as Item 1. Item 2: Get new mandate from newly empowered electorate. Get it done. Probably last chance.

George Thomas
George Thomas
1 year ago

At the moment the choice in Westminster is Liz Truss (told Tory party members what she would do if elected leader, is doing those things, those things are awful for majority of us) or Kier Starmer (told Labour party members what would do if elected leader, is completely ignoring those things, will ignore this call for PR too because his office doesn’t want it). I would describe myself as indy-curious and think those who bang the drum without recognising the serious challenges ahead for independence are wrong, but Westminster should be in trouble if choice is between an honest but… Read more »

1 year ago

If it is done then it is goodbye to the Tory sh** show.

Peter Cuthbert
Peter Cuthbert
1 year ago
Reply to  Dafydd

I think it still comes back to local Labour Party Branches doing what Compass has been arguing since the last election. It needs agreements between local Labour Parties and the other Opposition parties to only field one candidate against the Tories. That way we can get rid of loads of them, but it needs some courageous party members to come out of their bunkers and ask themselves what is more important; being able to vote for a candidate wearing my party colours or routing the Tories.

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