Labour leader Keir Starmer is under pressure from party activists to commit to voting system reform in the manifesto, The Guardian has revealed.
The call comes amid rising public concern about its unfairness and fears that it could leave left-of-centre parties out of government for good.
With Labour and Starmer searching for a “big idea” to reignite his leadership, polling today for the Best for Britain group shows that only 39 per cent of people believe their vote has made any difference to the results in recent first-past-the-post elections.
The poll, answered by more than 3,000 adults, showed 52 per cent of voters supported some form of electoral reform to make the number of elected representatives better reflect the total of votes cast, with only 17 per cent opposing it.
The majority of Labour supporters were in favour (64 per cent), and half of the Tories were too (50%).
Support climbed to 52 per cent in Leave, Tory seats, where just 15 per cent opposed it. In many cases, these are the very seats that Labour needs to win if it wants to kick the Tories out.
Meanwhile, local Labour groups are throwing their weight behind a motion backing a switch to proportional representation. Currently, 216 Constituency Labour Parties have supported the motion, placing Starmer and the party’s top team under intense pressure to act at this autumn’s party conference.
No more ‘splitting the vote’?
Ahead of the 6 May local elections, research for the Politics for the Many campaign showed that the “winner-takes-all” voting system meant voters on the left were “in effect being punished for having a choice of parties to vote for”. The research showed that in nearly half of wards (48 per cent), there was one unified party on the right (the Conservatives) standing candidates against three candidates from parties on the progressive “left”: Labour, the Liberal Democrats and the Greens. In 85 per cent of wards, there were more “left” parties standing candidates than “right” parties.
Nationally, the Tories now hold a working majority of 87 seats in the Parliament, having won 42 per cent of the vote at the last general election in December 2019. The Conservatives gained 48 seats, increasing their vote share by only 1.2 per cent. As a result of the First Past the Post system, the Tories required 38,000 votes to elect each of their MPs, compared with 51,000 for every Labour seat, 300,000 for each Liberal Democrat and 900,000 for the single Green MP.
But with the Tories certain to oppose any change to a system that benefits them, Labour knows it will have to be returned to power under the current arrangements before it can implement reform.
After four general election losses and the recent local election setbacks, there are now growing calls for Labour to abandon its caution, and join so-called “progressive alliances” with the Liberal Democrats and Greens. Under such alliances, the parties with the least support would stand aside or not campaign actively at future elections, to ensure the left of the centre votes was maximised behind a single candidate.