Monday, February 03, 2014

Towards One Nation

Meant to flag-up this Electoral Reform Society blog-post from last week - link here; and I'll just paste the full text below for ease of reference:


At the end of last year we published a report, Northern Blues, which made the case for a fairer voting system at the local level from the Conservative perspective. It had a real impact, convincing a range of previously sceptical Conservative commentators of the case for local electoral reform.

Today we are publishing its corollary, Towards One Nation, the Labour case for local electoral reform. It may seem strange that there could be a Conservative and a Labour case for a particular voting system, but the truth is that a fairer system – while ultimately giving the voter a better deal and improving our democracy – also benefits both parties.

Read the full report

For the Conservatives, it means being able to represent its voters in the north and urban areas, and starting to rebuild shattered activist bases in its weakest areas. For Labour, it is a path to realising its ambition to be a One Nation party with representation everywhere – whereas currently the party is locked out of whole regions of the country.

Our report shows that introducing the voting system currently in place for Scottish local elections (i.e. the Single Transferable Vote) across England and Wales would put Labour councillors in 27 of the 69 local authorities which were ‘Labour-free’ in 2011. Most of these areas are concentrated in the south of England and rural areas. It is fascinating to see how regions thought to have minimal Labour support are in fact seeing Labour voters severely under-represented by the voting system. In Castle Point in Essex, for instance, over a quarter of the electorate voted Labour and yet this didn’t yield a single councillor.

Naturally, Labour opponents of local electoral reform will worry about the effect on some of the party’s super-majorities in urban areas. But Towards One Nation shows how having the vast majority of representation on councils completely out of proportion to the number of votes won can in fact weaken the party in power. Labour has at some point lost control over around 60% of the councils in which it had super-majorities in the 1990s.

Another potential objection is that Labour has been weakened in Scotland since the introduction of a fairer local electoral system in 2007. Yet the party is in government in three more Scottish councils than it was in 1999 (when Labour was arguably at the height of its powers), and has the same number of council leaders.

For all its ambition to represent people from across the country, Labour is practically non-existent in parts of the south of England and rural areas. Thousands of people vote Labour in these places, yet simply don’t get the representation they deserve. Local electoral reform would allow Labour to represent its voters everywhere, giving the party a crucial toehold in areas where they need to rebuild their activist base.

Labour is striving to be a One Nation party and is renewing its structures to reach out to a wider pool of supporters and voters. Local electoral reform would help the party do exactly that.

Read the full report


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