Labour must embrace radical electoral reform | Letters

A group of activists and trade unionists urge the party to abolish the House of Lords, while Theo Morgan writes that replacing FPTP with proportional representation is essential. Plus, John Forsyth suggests relocating parliament away from London

Polly Toynbee is spot-on in her analysis of the democratic deficit Britain is faced with (Journal, 5 November). Leading Brexiters are very keen to talk about democracy, and the will of the people, but are strangely silent on the large proportion of the electorate whose votes are wasted under the current system. First past the post has benefited successive rightwing governments, allowing them to rule the majority on a minority of votes.

In the year of the 200th anniversary of the Peterloo massacre, it is Labour who must take the lead on democracy. Millions of potential Labour supporters are stuck in safe Tory seats, or know they must tactically vote Lib Dem rather than for Labour’s radical proposals.

This is why I joined the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform, who want the party to adopt proportional representation in its manifesto. Remember the words of the late Robin Cook: “Democracy is not just a means to an end. Democracy is a value in itself. And if we treasure that value, we need to provide a more democratic system for the centrepiece of our own political structure.”
Theo Morgan

• As trade unionists and progressives, we urge Labour to give a clear manifesto commitment to building a politics for the many, including overhauling the undemocratic House of Lords.

Two hundred years since people died for the right to vote at Peterloo, it is an ongoing scandal that so many of our parliamentarians remain unelected. Few could deny that Westminster is broken. Just 4% of people feel fully able to influence decisions in parliament, according to a BMG poll. It’s no wonder: politics remains undemocratic and hugely centralised, hoarding power for the few when we need to be sharing it.

Labour’s slogan “for the many, not the few” can only be realised by committing to replacing the unelected House of Lords with a PR-elected scrutiny chamber, representing all the nations and regions of the UK.

With a general election mandate from the public, this can be done in the first five years after winning power. Polling for the Electoral Reform Society shows what a vote-winner overhauling this private members’ club could be. With overwhelming cross-party support for change, this is a powerful coalition which Labour must lead. Committing to real reform would show that Labour stands for all voters, not just a privileged elite.
Pauline Bryan Labour peer, Lynn Henderson PCS national officer, former TUC Scotland president, Shavanah Taj vice president of Wales TUC, Sam Tarry TSSA national political officer and PPC for Ilford South, Alexandra Runswick director of Unlock Democracy, Holly Rigby journalist

• Your editorial (Labour’s plans are radical and needed to fix the economy and democracy, 5 November) and Polly Toynbee’s plea for electoral reform are both right, but missing the key radical initiative which this moment demands – reform of both Houses of Parliament, linked to moving parliament to a new site away from London.

It’s not a new idea, but its time has surely come. Reform of the Commons and the Lords is essential. We need parliament to make a radical break from its roots in the old, crumbling buildings. Just think how much we need reconstruction after the devastating, destructive sight of parliamentary “debates” and the gridlock of Brexit and two-party politics, watched in disbelief by disenfranchised voters. “Westminster” is now a dirty word, a synonym for a bubble remote from real life and rational thinking.

Move parliament to the Midlands or the north, as a great symbolic gesture of renewal and rebuilding of national cohesion; build modern debating chambers to encourage a new era of intelligent non-sectarian representation; provide up-to-date facilities for MPs with the finest sustainable modern architecture as a symbol of what Britain can do.

By all means preserve the current buildings to represent the glorious and not so glorious past of the “mother of parliaments”. But please let’s move on. The party that puts this in its manifesto gets my vote!
John Forsyth
Penzance, Cornwall

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