Peterloo led eventually to electoral democracy but – as recent events show – there’s one big bit of unfinished business
New evidence shows that it’s the Right that tend to benefit from the UK’s unequal electoral system. The Left is gradually embracing Proportional Representation, but it needs to move faster.
The Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform (LCER) has for over 45 years worked inside the Labour Party and trade union movement to change Labour’s policy on voting reform. It worked, with the late Robin Cook and with Jeff (now Lord) Rooker, to include the way we elect MPs on the agenda of Labour’s Plant Commission and then to defend John Smith’s promise “to let the people decide”.
LCER were instrumental in getting voting systems where seats broadly reflect the votes cast for the Scottish Parliament, the National Assembly of Wales and the Greater London Assembly. When the Jenkins Commission recommendation of Alternative Vote Plus was shelved, LCER worked to keep voting reform on the agenda. LCER had no alternative but to join with other electoral reformers in the Labour Yes! Campaign in the 2011 AV referendum. Its prime objective was always to emphasise Labour’s role in rejecting the current voting system and replacing it with one in which seats in the House of Commons broadly reflect the votes cast, in the context of wider constitutional reform offered now by a Constitutional Convention.
Since 2015 LCER has highlighted the need for Labour to drop its default support of the status quo and has worked closely with Make Votes Matter to provide speakers to Constituency Labour Party meetings, organise fringe meetings at Labour Party conferences and coordinate with pro-reform Labour MPs.