To stop the Tories, Labour has to embrace proportional representation
The case for proportional representation (PR) has never been stronger.
The Conservatives have won a huge Parliamentary majority on 43.6% of the vote. This is barely more than they got in 2017, but with Labour only winning a third of the vote, it looks like a landslide. The role of the Brexit Party was crucial to this Tory Party win as they attracted enough Labour votes in many northern seats to deliver Conservative MPs.
On the other side of the Brexit divide, this election saw Conservative voters turning Lib Dem, Lib Dems voting Labour and Labour voters going Lib Dem. Tactical voting was pushed very hard in an attempt to compensate for the failure of First Past the Post to reflect an anti-Conservative majority. It clearly wasn’t enough. Although the parties who want a second referendum got 52% of the vote, Boris still won.
Some took it even further and removed their party from being a choice in some constituencies. The Brexit Party didn’t stand in any Tory marginals and the Remain Alliance tried to generate a consensus in over fifty seats between Greens, Lib Dems and Plaid Cymru. This election was a fork in the road and sheer desperation, rather than hope, influenced many voting decisions.
Could we have done it better – yes, but only if Labour had been willing to talk. That lesson needs to become part of the Labour Party DNA in the next five years of opposition. Boris Johnson will push through boundary changes and voter ID suppression (US style), plus Labour have lost Scotland and that may become permanent if independence goes ahead. It all means it will be even harder for Labour to win next time. Only by supporting proportional representation will they get the enthusiastic cooperation of the Greens and other parties and be able to form a government.
PR needs to be part of a package of reforms that renew our broken democracy. It would include replacing the House of Lords with a democratically elected second chamber and rule changes to electoral law that end the interference of foreign powers and big money.
The choice of who we vote for should be a positive thing. I’m happy to argue with anyone about who has the better policies and vision, but we must end the emotional arm-twisting seen during this election with many exchanges reduced to a simple “if you vote for anyone but Labour you are letting the Tories in”. It is simply hypocritical for Labour activists to support first past the post, but complain that others are splitting the vote by standing for election. It is doubly hypocritical to ignore requests for discussions ahead of the election and then demand that everyone else supports you in marginal seats. Greens stood down in over 30 seats in 2017, and many Greens also stepped aside this time. But Labour do not reciprocate, nor even say thank you when we do. If we want to stop this all happening again in five years’ time, then they must recognise that it takes two to tango and please learn to dance.