Labour members, Trade Unions and Socialist Societies passed a motion at the Labour Party Conference last month to end First Past the Post voting and back Proportional Representation.
South West Labour Party members played a critical role in the campaign – organising across the region through the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform in the South West. Delegates from the region played key roles in winning the debate at the Conference for two years in a row and trade unionists particularly in Unite the Union and in Unison.
Mary Southcott, who has campaigned for over 30 years as part of the the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform is jubilant.
“Many Labour supporters in the South West are disenfranchised by our electoral system – forced into tactical voting, rather than voting with their hearts.”
“The system benefits the Conservative Party. Why else would they seek more First Past the Post by scrapping second preference votes in Mayoral elections, like the West of England Combined Authority.”
“Labour took a leap into the future. This isn’t about parties, it’s about people who need a voting system which makes votes count.”
In 2021, a similar motion failed to pass at Labour’s Conference in Brighton. Despite overwhelming support from delegates of local parties – Constituency Labour Parties – only a handful of smaller trade unions supported the motion.
But campaigners kept going. By the end of summer this year, virtually every Constituency Labour Party in the south west had adopted policy to change the electoral system.
Many prioritised the motion for conference this year.
But the most important conversations took place in trade unions. Again, the south west was at the centre of the debate.
Aileen McLoughlin, a retired midwife from Bristol, took a motion for electoral reform at UNISON’s conference in June 2022.
“The 2021 Labour conference showed that support for PR relied on trade union support.
“In 2022, the big unions – Unite and Unison – joined other smaller unions in realising that the First Past The Post damages workers’ rights, unions and public services.
“Local Labour Party activists from the South West regional group of Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform gave invaluable support to union activists like myself to mobilise support for PR at Union conferences. Without this the change in policy at Liverpool would not happened.
“Work with unions must now continue. They play a critical role in ensuring Proportional Representation is prioritised and is in the Labour manifesto for the next election.”
The vote at Labour’s Conference in Liverpool was a huge milestone for electoral reform. Now all three of England’s main opposition parties support electoral reform. But more work will be required to ensure that electoral reform is prioritised in the Labour manifesto.
Rob Ewers from Taunton Deane Labour Party sums up the determination of many Labour members in the region to see this happen.
“The next Labour government needs to end the trickle-down politics of first past the post. Labour supporters in the south west are too often locked-out by this electoral system. Let’s keep working together to make first past the post history.”
This is a major milestone in the campaign for Electoral Reform. Opposition parties are united in their aim to replace the First Past the Post system with a fairer system.
Ed: West England Bylines does not support any particular political party. It does however endorse electoral reform and recently published this guide to Proportional Representation.
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