Andy Burnham: Image by NHS Confederation for flickr

On 17th March, mayors from across the country have written to the government to demand that they abandon plans to impose First Past the Post on their elections. The letter, whose signatories included Andy Burnham and Tracy Brabin, was sent as peers discuss these changes in the House of Lords. 

Last September, ministers introduced a proposal into the Elections Bill which would abolish the Supplementary Vote system for electing mayors and police and crime commissioners. This system gives voters a first and second preference choice, and prevents candidates from being elected on a minority of the vote. 

The government avoided proper scrutiny on this change, preventing MPs from calling witnesses to speak on it at Committee Stage by introducing the move to FPTP via an instruction to the Bill.

The full text of the letter can be found below: 

Dear Kemi Badenoch MP, Minister for Levelling Up Communities 

We are concerned at the UK Government’s decision to impose changes to the mayoral voting system. To change it without any local consultations or a proper debate in Parliament ignores the wishes of voters, and indisputably levels down our democracy. 

The Supplementary Vote system creates clear majorities for elected officials in as geographically diverse areas as the North East, East of England, West of England, or Greater Manchester, in a way which First Past the Post simply fails to do. Often we have to make tough decisions, whether on policing, transport, or housing. Knowing that we have the consent of a majority of voters helps us to make these choices, and to show clear leadership in our communities. 

So far, the Government has put forward no evidence that this will genuinely improve our democracy, or that people are broadly in favour of these changes. If anything polling has consistently shown that fewer than 30% of voters support the First Past the Post system, which maintains the government’s majority in Parliament. 

We are therefore calling for the government to abandon these proposals, and instead look into how we can bring power to the people, whether in Bristol or Barnsley. Throughout the coronavirus crisis, we have seen the importance of strong local champions who can represent their areas. Rather than undermine the popular legitimacy of such figures, ministers should all be striving to further these democratic links, levelling up our democracy and empowering local communities. 

Signed: 

Tracy Brabin, Mayor of West Yorkshire

Andy Burnham, Mayor of Greater Manchester

Dan Jarvis, Mayor of South Yorkshire 

Dr Nik Johnson, Mayor of Cambridgeshire & Peterborough

Dan Norris, Mayor of West England

Jamie Driscoll, Mayor of North of Tyne Combined Authority

Joanne Anderson, Mayor of Liverpool

Phillip Glanville, Mayor of Hackney 

Dave Hodgson, Mayor of Bedford 

Ros Jones, Mayor of Doncaster 

Norma Redfern, Mayor of North Tyneside 

Sir Peter Soulsby, Mayor of Leicester 

Peter Taylor, Mayor of Watford