This is my open and honest response to this excellent article on Labour bias in the electoral system by Paul Davies at Make Votes Count (MVC).
I am a Labour supporter, so it might surprise you that I found this article very depressing reading from a Labour party point of view. I passionately believe it is in Labour's interests to change to a more proportional system and I also think the Tories reluctance to embrace change is because they see the long term advantage the current first-past-the-post (FPTP) electoral system gives them. I will explain why;
A lot of the points in Paul's article confirms what I have been arguing with FPTPers for some time.
The depressed vote in deprived urban areas is caused by a realisation by the voters of the 'reduced value' of their vote in a safe seat but also because the parties can afford to ignore these voters when making policy, precisely because their vote is of less value.
This is most damaging to the Labour party in the long term because these voters are more likely to be left of centre Labour supporting voters.
The longer the FPTP system continues, the more the Labour party will be forced to ignore these voters in favour of the 'special' more middle class voters in marginals and the more right wing Labour's policies become as a result, the more turnout will drop in urban areas.
The longer this spiral of decline continues, the more difficult it will be for parties to win back these voters, and the more this country will become like the US.
As these 'lost' voters were more likely to be left wing and support Labour, it is the Labour party who will be damaged the most in the long term, especially when the Tories enlarge and manipulate the boundaries (see below).
Although the present system's bias 'may' be enough to help Labour win the next election, I am thinking more ahead than 8 years to what will become once again a right wing Tory hegemony under FPTP. Like death and taxes, it is not a case of 'if' the Tories win again but 'when'.
Paul, you say it is 'impossible' to change the boundaries in the Tory favour, but this is where I disagree. It 'may' be virtually impossible with boundaries at their present size, but not if you increase their size and also take away the onus on the boundary commission to respect natural boundary considerations in making their decision. Look at how gerrymandering has been made into an art form in the US, where no restrictions are made on boundary shape or size.
This could easily be made into a vote winning move by the Tories. With the help of the Tory supporting majority of the media, they could get 'sympathy' votes by playing up the unfairness of the boundaries of the present system and also get votes for promising to reduce the number of MPs, always bound to be popular with the electorate.
Paul, the reason you are 'smashing your head up a brick wall' with the Tories, is not because they don't realise the bias in the system but because they know the lower turnout in urban areas will favour them in the long term.
The Tories are a lost cause as far as electoral reform is concerned. There may be a few who accept the 'moral' argument that it is good for democracy but most are looking for 'party political advantage' arguments not 'moral' arguments. This is why not a single Tory MP supports PR.
The Labour party however is a different matter. Already over 100 Labour MPs support PR and they are the party in power who can make the change. Pressure on them to honour their referendum pledge and persuade them to see how PR benefits Labour in the long term, is where MVC should be concentrating all its efforts.
There are far more Labour supporting votes to be made count under PR with an increase in turnout than there are Tory votes. This is the biggest single fact that is going to get this government to change to PR and we must make this point relentlessly.
If we don't, not only is the Labour Party heading for an even more right wing future, the country is heading for the travesty of democracy they have in the US, we can't let that happen. Labour have to change the electoral system now from a position of strength not waste another generation or more on Tory extremist government in the inevitable future under FPTP.