Thousands of Labour members support the radical shift away from Westminster’s first-past-the-post system – though it appears unclear whether it’ll have enough support to pass
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Labour’s conference is set to hold a crunch vote tomorrow on ripping up the voting system and backing Proportional Representation.
Electoral reform has been chosen as one of the top priorities after 139 local party groups submitted motions on the topic at the annual get-together.
It is thought the wording of a motion was agreed on Saturday night and could go to a vote on the conference floor on Monday.
The wording seen by the Mirror says: “The next Labour government must change the voting system for general elections to a form of Proportional Representation.
“Labour should convene an open and inclusive process, to decide the specific voting system which the party will commit to introducing in the next manifesto.”
But sources are downbeat about whether the motion will pass, with Labour’s leadership expected to welcome the debate but neither support nor oppose it.
One source told the Mirror: “I think it will do very well in the Constituency Labour Parties and it has cross-factional support. But unfortunately I don’t think there are major unions with the necessary votes backing it.”
The move to PR is backed by unions including ASLEF and the TSSA, but so far support from larger unions has been elusive.
It comes after Labour’s conference passed two motions pushing for a Green New Deal.
Matt Wrack, general secretary of the Fire Brigades Union (FBU), called for a socialist Green New Deal, arguing the climate emergency is already an “industrial issue”.
It includes repealing all anti-union laws, legal recognition of climate refugees’ right to asylum, and public ownership of energy firms.
Ian Vogler / Daily Mirror)
GMB general secretary Gary Smith proposed a less radical Green New Deal motion, which backs nuclear and “green gas”.
The socialist deal passed on a show of hands while the second GND motion passed on a card vote.
Gaya Sriskanthan, Momentum Co-chair said: “This is a turning point. The grassroots have had enough of timid centrism and have overwhelmingly endorsed transformative socialist policy that meets the crises of the 21st century head on.
“From the public ownership of the energy sector to the creation of a national care service and millions of green jobs, this motion gives us a clear vision of what a just transition under a Labour government would look like.
“The Labour bureaucracy tried to stop this motion ever reaching the floor – but members mobilised to defend it.”
If the PR motion passed, it would pile pressure on Labour leader Keir Starmer to back a radical end to Westminster’s first-past-the-post system.
While both Wales and Scotland use a partly proportional system, all 650 of Westminster’s seats are elected using first-past-the-post.
It means for example that the Green Party won 2.7% of the vote in 2019, but only one seat out of 650. The SNP won 3.9% but 48 seats.
A bid to change the UK system to Alternative Vote failed by a margin of 68% to 32% in 2011, but support has grown for a fairer system in the Labour movement.
Speakers from across the party’s usual factional divides will unite in a ‘Labour 4 PR’ rally tonight, including former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell and Luke Akehurst of the Labour First group.
Conference delegate Caroline Osborne, of the Labour For a New Democracy group, said she was “delighted” a motion that “thousands upon thousands of members back” had been selected for a vote.
She added: “We hope the leadership will support this clear priority of the membership – if it does we can together bring the whole of the party behind PR on Monday.”
Willie Sullivan, senior director of campaigns at the Electoral Reform Society said: “It’s clear from what we’ve seen at this support for PR is growing.
“With over 150 constituency parties submitting their priority motion on PR and conference delegates voting overwhelmingly to take the debate to conference floor it’s clear there’s support across the Labour movement for change.”