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Our deeply flawed system is likely to cost Labour and Greens dear – we need PR

Paul Halas writes:

After attending the Greenpeace/XR hustings event at the Subscription Rooms in Stroud on November 19th, it struck me yet again that a collaborative approach by Labour and the Green Party, who both put forward terrific and somewhat similar policies on the environment, would be a logical step forward – even although Ms Scott Cato was keen to point out some of Labour’s alleged deficiencies.

It has been mentioned on numerous occasions that Labour hasn’t reciprocated the Green support it received in previous elections, which is a valid point.

This is due to the relative size of the parties – whatever the rhetoric there’s a vast difference in scale, especially nationally – and our disenfranchising electoral system.

How many votes would the Greens receive if they all actually counted for something?

Nobody knows, but I think the electorate should be given a system where people’s preferences are accurately reflected by the number of representatives elected.

Although I am a Labour member – one of the ‘big two’ – I’m firmly of the opinion that some form of proportional representation is the way forward.

People’s wishes would be honoured, and arrangements between similar-minded parties could be brokered based upon true proportionality.

It would certainly work for Stroud, and avoid much of the strife that’s taken place during the last few weeks.

But for now we’re stuck with the present deeply flawed system – and it looks likely to cost both Labour and the Green Party very dear.





Will the next general election be the last under First Past the Post?

On Saturday, as the campaign for proportional representation gathers strength in Britain, Richard House draws attention to a statement by his MP, David Drew (right):

I’ve long supported electoral reform, which is why I’m backing the Make Votes Matter campaign for proportional representation.

I’m one of 20 or so Labour parliamentary candidates, along with Polly Toynbee, Billy Bragg and others, who’ve signed this letter published in The Guardian today.

We must now commit to reviewing the voting system, especially as the Brexit crisis has tested our constitution to near destruction and left millions feeling unrepresented at Westminster.

We must lead the way to a democratic rebirth – transforming the current political paralysis and creating a democracy that works for the many, not the few.  We call on Labour to pledge that the constitutional convention will review the voting system in the forthcoming manifesto.

The following day Reuters reported that about 20,000 people campaigning for proportional representation rallied in the centre of the Georgian capital Tbilisi

They are demanding an early general election because the parliament had failed to pass a planned electoral reform, an immediate move to full proportional representation, scheduled to happen in 2024.

The main opposition parties joined forces to demand an earlier vote to be held by proportional system, the resignation of the government and the creation of an interim government. Activists put locks on parliament’s gates in a symbolic gesture and pitched tents around the building.

A search reveals that of the 43 countries within Europe, 40 use some form of proportional representation to elect their MPs and according to the ACE Electoral Knowledge Network, some form of proportional representation is used for national lower house elections in 94 countries.

Why doesn’t ‘democratic’ Britain already have proportional representation?

  Time for change




The ‘brute arithmetical realities of first-past-the-post’ could lead to a Tory/Brexit Party victory

After issuing this warning today, Richard House believes that nothing should concentrate the minds of the progressive left more urgently than ‘the prospect of five years of Johnson/Farage-driven scorched-earth neoliberalism’.

He points out that Labour should try to forge a pact with anti-Tory forces. If this proves too difficult to negotiate, the only other possibility for defeating a united right is for Labour to commit to introducing a fair voting system in its manifesto.

The Blair government’s tragic decision to enter the war against Iraq, was – according to Michael Prowse (FT: 23/24.8.03) – “precisely what one would expect of a system that does little or nothing to encourage rational debate or a public-spirited search for consensus. The outcome of this amoral and confrontational approach to politics is partisan, manipulative and accident-prone government”.

In May 2016, shadow chancellor John McDonnell urged Labour to back PR, which, Richard House believes, would give minority-party supporters an overwhelming incentive to vote Labour in seats where only Labour can beat the Tory/Brexit Party candidate.

Nancy Platts sees the movement for such change growing within the Labour Party

She reminds us that it will be seen and heard on August 31st, at a Manchester conference: This Is What Democracy Looks Like .

Recommending a report on the benefits of the case for fair votes, she says that it sets out the experience of councils in Scotland, as well as governments across Europe, showing that proportional voting systems – where every vote counts – help to foster ‘consensual’ politics, where unions and civil society are included as key players.

‘Partisan, manipulative and accident-prone government’, ora revitalised democracy’

The Green MEP, Molly Scott Cato, has long campaigned for democratic reform in the UK – for ‘changing our outmoded electoral system to one that is truly representative’.

Like Richard House, she advocates exploring ‘possibilities for electoral alliances and pacts where we can agree on a progressive programme and commitment to proportional representation . . . ‘, ending prophetically:

“These are dark days but by showing each other compassion and by standing together in support of a revitalised democracy we can find a way to build a stronger and more peaceful country”.





Make all votes matter: campaign for real democracy

On Tuesday, politicians from across the political spectrum, campaigners and people from all walks of life (a few pictured below), took part in the Hungry for Democracy action initiated by Make Votes Matter, a 24-hour hunger strike to call for a new voting system, one that truly represents the diverse nature of Britain today.  

Labour, Green Party, UKIP, Lib Dems, Women’s Equality Party, SNP, and Plaid all shared a platform to fight for a parliament that truly represents the people. 

Proportional representation is advocated to ensure a fairer distribution of legislative seats   At present, the power of the vote is determined by geography because of the out-dated first-past-the-post electoral system. People feel disenfranchised and ask why they need to vote when the same party always wins in their constituency. In some of those places the winning candidate is elected on under 50%, and in some instances with under 40% of the vote.

In the last election our voting system made a difference in only 99 of 650 seats.

Over 80% of the public in 2017 voted for one of two parties. An estimated 20% of the electorate voted tactically to keep out the party they didn’t want.

Proportional voting systems used for elections in the Welsh Assembly and Scottish Parliament, have been in place since 1999, providing a good blend of constituency MPs and  regional MPs.

Several parties – or groups within parties – are fighting for a manifesto commitment to proportional representation, building a better kind of politics. There could even be a cross-party, shared manifesto commitment to electoral reform and a constitutional convention.

A Progressive Alliance?









New Zealand’s new coalition: a model for our next parliament?

The Independent reports that the Zealand First party has agreed to form a centre-left coalition with the Labour Party; the Green Party will support the coalition but will not be part of the government.

Jacinda Ardern, who will take office next month said, in her first full interview since becoming prime minister-elect, that capitalism had failed our people. If you have hundreds of thousands of children living in homes without enough to survive, that’s a blatant failure,” she said. “What else could you describe it as?”

She added: “Has (the market economy) failed our people in recent times? Yes. How can you claim you’ve been successful when you have growth roughly three per cent, but you’ve got the worst homelessness in the developed world?”

The Labour leader said that measures used to gauge economic success “have to change” and has pledged that her government will judge economic success on more than measures such as GDP:

“The measures for us have to change. We need to make sure we are looking at people’s ability to actually have a meaningful life, an enjoyable life, where their work is enough to survive and support their families.” She also pledged that her government will:

  • increase the minimum wage,
  • write child poverty reduction targets into law
  • and build thousands of affordable homes

The Green Party’s joint leader Caroline Lucas, who won 30,139 votes to retain her Brighton Pavilion seat – increasing her share of the vote by 10.4% – advocates working towards a progressive alliance government by talking to the SNP, the Greens, Liberal Democrats and Plaid Cymru and forming the outline of an alliance which would prioritise bringing in proportional representation.

Neal Lawson of Compass asks: “Would Jeremy Corbyn rather be in government, sharing power with people like Nicola Sturgeon, Caroline Lucas and Leanne Wood – people with whom he has much more in common than with many in his own party – or let the Tories back into power?  

“The door is open to a new politics – all the parties have to do is walk through it”.





Petition to UK Government and Parliament:

To make votes matter, adopt Proportional Representation for UK General Elections 

The vast majority wants PR. Our FPTP voting system makes Parliament unrepresentative. One party got 37% of the vote and 51% of seats, while 3 parties got 24% of the vote but share 1.5% of seats. FPTP violates the democratic principle of majority rule and causes problems like costly policy reversals.

Sign this petition:

80,367 signatures

Show on a map

Government responded 

First Past The Post (FPTP) is a robust method of electing MPs. A referendum on changing the voting system was held in 2011 and the public voted overwhelmingly in favour of keeping the FPTP system.

Read the response in full here:

At 100,000 signatures… 

At 100,000 signatures, this petition will be considered for debate in Parliament

Share this petition by email or:




Austerity 4: cuts persist as the state offers even richer pickings for corporations

 Recently Lesley Docksey sent this heartfelt reflection:

“The trouble is we know the problem, and it’s all very well George and Seamas saying we have to ban this, get rid of that and set up something else.


“But how do we actually do it, how do we the people force a break between the corporate power and politicians?”

Despite the poor record of service by the private sector in prisons, transport, energy and water, British schools and hospitals are loudly threatened with takeover, a slavish imitation of our special friend’s policies for schools and hospitals.

Cameron's real change

Anne sent this link to an article by Jon Stone about the fire hazard and other structural failings of Cumberland Infirmary in Carlisle, first opened in 2000 under the “private finance initiative”, under which the NHS pays a private company rent-like payments to make use of facilities. The UK now owes more than £222bn to banks and corporations for these Private Finance Initiatives, conceived by Conservatives in the 1990s and ‘embraced’ by New Labour.

Will this hospital be handed over to ‘the state’? In other words, farmed out to Capita, G4S or Serco?

atos costs

In the FT, Gill Plimmer reported that the Official Journal of the European Union database, which records every public sector contract worth more than £115m, reveals that £20bn worth of government contracts is now handed to the private sector. About half of council waste management services and 23% of human resources, IT and payroll functions are now privatised. Tens of thousands of health, defence, security and IT workers have transferred to corporate employers such as Babcock, G4S, Serco, Capia, Mitie and Carillion. This continues, even though the reputation of the private sector in delivering public services has been repeatedly damaged – examples include the high profile failure of G4S during the Olympics and the legal action facing Virgin Care over its running of NHS and social care services in Devon. Monbiot’s devastating, fully referenced account of such failures may be read here and others have been written by Gill Plimmer in the Financial Times.

‘Mayoral hokum’

joe anderson liverpool mayorAs all these services are transferred via the state into corporate care, the cities themselves are being coerced to follow the mayoral route – which, as Steve Beauchampé notes in the Birmingham Press -was soundly rejected by voters in Birmingham, Coventry and seven other cities.

Did Liverpool – which held no referendum – make the right choice?

Chancellor Osborne is insisting that powers must be devolved through the office of a regional mayor – so much easier to induce or threaten than a whole council – a puppet?

As economic geographer, Professor Michael Chisholm summarised the position more politely, “One could cynically say that the proposal for elected mayors is yet another structural diversion while the steady centralisation of power continues”.

Beauchampé proposes consigning this ‘mayoral hokum’ to its rightful place in the dustbin of history, rejecting the notion that in a democracy just one person can understand, represent and address people’s priorities, needs and hopes, creating and implementing a vision for our fast changing region and its youthful population. He sets out a ‘radical’ – because truly democratic – alternative as a draft proposal.

But, as Lesley asks, “how do we the people force the break between the corporate power and politicians?”

Proportional representation could be the first step.


Scottish Yes voters: prepared to pay the price for a more just and equal society

prof antony black dundeeTo Professor Antony Black, Dundee, viewed from the inside, the No verdict felt like a revolution that did not happen.

In the FT he reports that many Yes voters were young and less well-off, but that there were also a surprising number of others supporting Yes because they were prepared to pay a high price for a more just and equal society.

poor no lawyers who owns scotland coverRecalling the complaint of the land reformer Andy Wightman, author of Who Owns Scotland and The Poor Had No Lawyers, that UK elections tend to be decided by a few voters in marginal seats in southern England, Black advocates PR:

Proportional representation must be part of the new deal.

Adding the point often made at the end of the campaign by Yes voters, that “the Westminster parties” would not keep their word, and any powers given to Scotland could always be taken back, he stresses the need for a constitutional arrangement where the new deal cannot be easily changed:

Ideally we need a written constitution with a defined process for amendment”.

Antony Black, Emeritus Professor, Politics and International Relations, University of Dundee, has published a comparative study of the political thought of ancient Egypt, Mesopotamia, Iran, India, Israel, China, Greece and Rome (2009), made a comparative study of the political thought in the West and in the Muslim-ruled world from their origins to the present (2008), wrote a complete history of Islamic political thought (2001) and worked on medieval and early modern European political thought and theories of community.