Your editorial (9 December) advocating proportional representation for the Commons notes that alternatives to first past the post (FPTP) are already in use in the UK. The more proportional additional member system, which has produced stable government in Scotland and Wales, was introduced in 1999 as a result of the Scottish constitutional convention, which preceded devolution.
Gordon Brown’s commission (Think our plan to fix British politics is a pipe dream? Think again, 6 December) rejected the case for a UK constitutional convention to codify its recommendations and omitted consideration of electoral reform for the Commons.
Labour intends to consult on the proposals, though the mechanism is yet to be decided. Given the overwhelming support for voting reform among the membership, Labour’s leadership should ensure a collaborative process that enables consideration of the structure and voting system for both chambers.
The difficulties faced by an incoming Labour government could result in a dissipation of their poll lead, risking a return to Tory rule under FPTP. The party must be in a position to hit the ground running in 2024, with an electoral reform plan ready to implement prior to the subsequent general election if it wishes to ensure a continuation of its programme.
Dr Anthony Isaacs
• Your editorial is right to say Labour sees electoral reform as at best a distraction. However, Labour has sometimes gained from FPTP in the past – particularly when the Tories are unpopular. I suspect that this is why Sir Keir Starmer is opposing change. For example, in Tony Blair’s victory in 1997, he had a lower vote share than Boris Johnson had in 2019 but was rewarded with a landslide majority of 179 seats – more than twice that of Johnson.
The vagaries of FPTP delivered another reward for New Labour in the 2005 general election. Blair had just 36% of the vote share but won a 66-seat majority. This was a lower vote share than David Cameron’s Tories had in 2010. Unfortunately for Cameron, the distribution of votes did not translate into a majority, so he had to form a coalition with the Liberal Democrats.
Yet Labour could benefit from electoral reform if it were prepared to share power with other parties on the liberal left. The combined vote share of the progressive left parties, such as Labour, the Greens, Plaid Cymru, SNP and Lib Dems, usually exceed those of parties on the right in general elections.
If Labour worked with other parties on the left, as it has in Wales, it would be more likely to make this century a non-Tory one. In the last century, FPTP mostly rewarded the Tories with long periods of power. Labour would also fulfil the wishes of the 83% of its members who want a change from FPTP, according to a YouGov poll in 2021.
Dr Keith Darlington
• I was overjoyed to read your editorial supporting proportional representation. However, I remain perplexed by Sir Keir Starmer’s attitude to PR. He is a former public prosecutor. He must be more aware of the difference between what is just and what isn’t, than most of us. Surely he understands that no electoral system is justifiable if it isn’t fair – party advantage or otherwise. So, Sir Keir, how do you defend an unfair system like first past the post and, at the same time, expect to be respected?
Dr Robert Hercliffe
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