Labour must be the party of electoral reform | 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

It is to be welcomed that Gordon Brown’s constitutional review has identified the House of Lords and the balance of power between the centre, nations, regions and localities as ripe for reform (Labour may abolish House of Lords if it wins next election, leaked report reveals, 22 September), but it is concerning that his proposals are proving contentious in the Labour party. Many other issues remain to be addressed, not least a flawed electoral system producing grossly disproportionate results, where the need for change is supported by the membership and unions, but not by the leadership.

One way to resolve these matters would be for Labour to set up a UK constitutional convention, using a consultative process to agree proposals on constitutional and electoral reform. Building cross-party and public consensus in advance would model good governance and enable an incoming Labour government to start the process of constitutional change, ensuring that a more proportional voting system is introduced prior to the next general election.
Dr Anthony Isaacs

• Jessica Elgot’s excellent article on the Labour conference (Starmer has eye on the election prize as Labour heads to conference, 23 September) left me, and all our supporters, bursting with eagerness to put our Labour values into practice in the next government. Any suggestion that the unity and passion of Labour members and trade unionists in support of proportional representation (PR) is somehow a defeat for the leadership is a complete misunderstanding. PR is a unifying policy across the Labour movement, and its popularity at the conference this year shows that members have more in common than anything that could divide us.
Sandy Martin
Chair, Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform

• John Harris is correct to point out the anomalies of the first-past-the-post system (Truss is on an economic rampage with no mandate. So why is Starmer resisting electoral reform?, 25 September), but a move to PR would not necessarily provide a more democratic solution or lessen the likelihood of being subjected to Tory policies. There is no perfect electoral system. Under PR, there would be hung parliaments and coalition governments, preceded by horse-trading between the coalition partners, where compromises are made behind closed doors.

Harris points out that in the 2019 general election, the Tories received one seat for every 38,000 votes, while for Labour it was one seat for every 51,000. But this “winner’s bonus”, a feature of first past the post, has benefited Labour when it has been the leading party, such as in 1997, when Labour received one seat for every 32,000 votes compared with the Tories’ one for every 58,000.

First past the post also has the advantage of preventing extreme parties from gaining power. In 2015, Ukip only received one MP in return for nearly 13% of the popular vote, and there was never any serious possibility of the BNP winning seats.
Glyn Evans
Ellesmere Port, Cheshire

• The simplest solution, easier than PR for voters to understand, would be to require all members of parliament to have a simple majority of votes cast. In any constituency where this is not achieved, there would be a runoff election a week later, with only the two frontrunners on the ballot paper. This proposal is easily understood and irrefutably sound.
Michael Radcliffe
Parwich, Derbyshire

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