How Labour can benefit from a principled stand in favour of electoral reform | Letters

Readers reflect on a Guardian editorial urging Labour to back proportional representation, and Gordon Brown’s commission

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
Caldicot, Monmouthshire

• 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
Lee-on-the-Solent, Hampshire

Have an opinion on anything you’ve read in the Guardian today? Please email us your letter and it will be considered for publication.

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
Labour must be the party of electoral reform | Letters
Letters: It must build a consensus for a new voting model before the next election, says Dr Anthony Isaacs. Plus letters from Sandy Martin, Glyn Evans and Michael Radcliffe


29, Sep, 2022 @3:52 PM

Article image
How to fight the Tories’ electoral dominance | Letters
Letters: Labour must aim for broad appeal with moderate, centre-left policies, says John Mills. However, David Cockayne argues that all opposition parties need to work together for a fairer voting system, while Ken Richardson hopes that people won’t get conned by the rightwing press again


18, Jan, 2021 @4:30 PM

Article image
A Labour-Lib Dem pact and the need for reform | Letters
Letters: Under a PR system there would be no need for tactical alliances, writes Theo Morgan, while Jan Kamieniecki advocates looking at other voting models. Plus letters from Judith Martin, Nigel Lindsay and Jeremy Beecham


02, Mar, 2020 @5:36 PM

Article image
Labour should fight for electoral reform | Letter
Letter: Labour parliamentary candidates and other supporters of Make Votes Matter call on the party to back a system of proportional representation


14, Nov, 2019 @6:23 PM

Article image
Labour has it all to play for at the next election | Letters
Letters: Les Summers thinks the next election is as open as any has ever been, while Dr Tim Williamson says a proportional voting system is essential. Plus Daniel Peacock and John Airs on Labour infighting


21, Apr, 2020 @5:11 PM

Article image
Labour must look to a centre-left alliance | Letter
Letter: Roy Boffy on the divisions within the Labour party and the need for Keir Starmer to prioritise electoral reform


26, Nov, 2020 @5:48 PM

Article image
Labour must beware falling into the Tory-lite policy trap | Letters
Letters: The fundamental changes the country needs must not be sacrificed to appease the right of the party, says Dr Peter Mangan. Plus letters from Alan Gent, John Hackett, Henrietta Cubitt and Brian Ronson


12, Oct, 2022 @4:31 PM

Article image
Electoral reform and making every vote count | Letters
Letters: Readers respond to Polly Toynbee’s call for the Labour leadership candidates to back proportional representation


15, Jan, 2020 @4:38 PM

Article image
Labour and England’s place within the union | Letter
Letters: Labour also wants England governed by the same union state that is fracturing in front of our eyes, notes Prof John Denham


05, Jul, 2021 @4:28 PM

Article image
Labour must embrace radical electoral reform | Letters
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


07, Nov, 2019 @6:11 PM