The Labour party will debate Proportional Representation (PR) for UK general elections at its annual conference this month, following a huge show of support for change by the party’s grassroots supporters.
A total of 143 local parties submitted motions to conference on PR, almost as many as submitted motions on Brexit at the 2018 conference.
PR is an electoral system in which the share of seats each party wins broadly reflects the share of the vote they receive.
In the UK, proportional voting systems are already in use for elections to the Scottish Parliament, Senedd, Northern Ireland Assembly and London Assembly, as introduced by the previous Labour administration.
A total of 310 Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) – over 48% of all CLPs – have formally passed approval of PR.
YouGov polling of the Labour membership, released in July, found that 83% of members believe the party should support the introduction of a proportional voting system.
The number of motions submitted on PR was higher than for any single issue at the 2019 Labour conference – when 135 were submitted on the Green New Deal and 91 on Brexit.
The highest recorded number of motions on a single topic was 151 on Brexit in 2018. However, whereas these submissions took a variety of approaches towards Brexit, this year’s motions favour the next Labour manifesto advocating PR.
During last year’s Labour Leadership election, Keir Starmer highlighted his support for electoral reform.
He said: “We’ve got to address the fact that millions of people vote in safe seats and they feel their voice doesn’t count. That’s got to be addressed by electoral reform. We will never get full participation in our electoral system until we do that at every level.”
Maria Iacovou, from Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform and a delegate from Harwich and North Essex CLP, said: “The demand from Labour’s membership to the party leadership could not be clearer: the First Past The Post status quo is indefensible. PR is fairer, leads to better politics, and supporting it is the right thing to do.”
In September 2020, a number of Labour MPs called on the party leadership to back reform after the Labour-led Welsh assembly introduced the single transferable vote system to local government elections across Wales.