Local electoral reform could boost Labour in south

Published on Wednesday, 29 January 2014 10:37
Written by Govtoday staff

Labour should embrace a fairer voting system for local elections if it wants to live up to its One Nation ambitions, according to a new report by the Electoral Reform Society.

The report, Towards One Nation, shows that introducing the 'Scottish system' for local elections would put Labour on the map across the country – especially in the 'electoral deserts' of the south – and ensure Labour voters get their fair share of Labour councillors.

Local electoral reform:

  • Would put Labour councillors in 27 of the 69 local authorities which were Labour-free in 2011
  • Would strengthen, rather than weaken, Labour's super-majorities in urban areas
  • Has seen Labour retain power in Scotland since its introduction in 2007, despite the Scottish National Party's improved performance in recent years. Labour is now in government in four more Scottish councils than it was in 1999.

Towards One Nation demonstrates how local electoral reform is both good for voters (it gives Labour voters in the party's weaker regions, such as rural areas and the south of England, genuine representation) and good for the party (by making campaigning worthwhile in every part of the country).

Phil Collins, columnist for The Times, writes in a foreword to the report: "The 69 district and unitary councils which had no Labour representation at all in 2011 is chastening. Some of these are the contemporary equivalents of the rotten borough... Starting with Keir Hardie himself, electoral reform has always had its Labour supporters but it has never been a majority pursuit in a party which benefited from an unfair system. It is time it was. It is good for the health of the Labour party and it is good for the health of politics more widely."

Katie Ghose, chief executive of the Electoral Reform Society, said: "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.

"This isn't just a problem for Labour – it's a problem for the health of our democracy. Over a quarter of the electorate in Castle Point, Essex, voted Labour in 2012, yet this didn't yield a single councillor. That makes a mockery of the idea of democratic representation. 'No-go' areas for parties have no place in a modern democracy.

"Local electoral reform would allow Labour to represent its voters in the south of England, giving the party a crucial toehold in areas where they need to rebuild their activist base. Labour has made much of being a One Nation party and renewing its structures to reach out to a wider pool of supporters and voters. Local electoral reform would help the party do exactly that."

Andrew Burns, Labour leader of Edinburgh City Council, said: "Labour in Scotland are doing as well in terms of leaders and better in terms of influence than they ever did under the old non-PR system. The labour councillors who were so heavily concentrated in certain parts of the country are now spread more thinly but more widely across the whole country, doing away with 'them and us' areas and creating a real One Nation Labour party. If Ed Miliband is to address the English north-south divide in terms of representation then introducing the Scottish system for local elections would be an important step."

Source: Electoral Reform Society

Add comment