• ‘Labour for a New Democracy’ project founded to turn Labour members’ “overwhelming support” for Proportional Representation into policy within twelve months

  • Helen Clark, Prime Minister of New Zealand 1999-2008, gives keynote speech at launch event held during ‘Labour Connected’ conference

  • Project backed by prominent Labour MPs and campaign organisations

A new project aimed at putting the Labour Party at the centre of calls for electoral reform was launched at an event on Monday 21st September, with former Prime Minister of New Zealand Helen Clark as the keynote speaker.

The ‘Labour for a New Democracy’ project – a collaboration between Labour-linked groupings, campaign organisations and prominent MPs – will aim to secure a commitment to changing the voting system by the time of Labour’s 2021 annual conference.

Three quarters of Labour members believe the party should commit to introducing a form of Proportional Representation, meaning the share of seats a party wins matches the share of the votes they receive, according to polling.

The project will aim to turn this “overwhelming support among local Labour and trade union branches into demands for policy change”, its organisers say.

The virtual launch event heard about the benefits of electoral reform from Helen Clark, the former Labour Prime Minister of New Zealand, a country that itself moved from First Past the Post to a form of Proportional Representation in the nineties. 

Clive Lewis MP, who also spoke at the event, said: “The UK is facing a public health crisis, a climate crisis, and a crisis of inequality. At their hearts, each of these is really a crisis of democracy. Electoral reform is not a panacea, but our current system has proved incapable of responding to the challenges of our time or the needs of the British people. If Labour is to lead the way to a better politics, we must embrace PR.”

Local Labour branches covering 85 parliamentary constituencies have already called for electoral reform in the last few years. Organisers plan to rapidly increase this number in a bid to persuade the party leadership to embrace reform, before taking the policy to the 2021 party conference.

Sandy Martin, Chair of Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform, said: “More Labour members than ever understand that the system we use to vote determines the governments we get. With PR and a succession of progressive governments, we can tackle the climate emergency, austerity, and global insecurity. Labour for a New Democracy puts that understanding into action. We call on Labour members everywhere to table a simple motion putting their support for PR on the record.”

Caroline Osborne, from Make Votes Matter which is coordinating the project, said: “We’re delighted to have brought together such a formidable lineup of Labour and democracy organisations to pursue this common goal. We all lose out from First Past the Post, but without Labour’s support there’s little prospect of it changing. That’s why members everywhere need to stand up for equal votes.”

Jessica Metheringham, Chair of Unlock Democracy, said: “The way in which we vote is such a crucial part of our democratic system, and moving towards PR an essential foundation for building a better democracy. Unlock Democracy’s aim is a codified constitution, one which put fair votes at the heart of a fair democratic system.”

Willie Sullivan, Senior Director, Electoral Reform Society said: “The UK remains the only democracy in Europe to use First Past the Post. Any Labour government serious about redistributing power must make tackling the democratic crisis a priority. Only serious structural reform can begin to repair this lack of faith in our democracy. A proportional voting system for the Commons and a fairly elected second chamber representing all nations and regions of the UK will give people a voice.”

For more information about Labour for a New Democracy visit the website.

 ENDS

Note to Editor

For media interviews contact Joe Sousek at Make Votes Matter on 07402 965 566 / 020 3612 2091, or joe@makevotesmatter.org.uk