05 October 2006

Only Labour will give us PR, it will not come from a hung parliament.

Every country that has had continuously since the war a proportional electoral system has enjoyed higher economic growth, better public services, lower inequality, tougher environmental standards and higher political engagement than the UK over the said period.

If the Labour party stands for anything it should stand for these things.

So when Jack Straw and others in the Labour party say PR doesn't deliver, frankly they are talking rubbish.

When Labour reneged on their manifesto commitments to have a referendum on PR, they failed the British people.

Despite 60% of voters consistently voting for left of centre, redistributing and tax increasing parties, this system has instead given us regressive tax cutting Tory governments most of the time. Never has there been 50% support for regressive tax cuts despite the best efforts of the right wing press to persuade us.

Yet still Labour members close their eyes to reform in favour of their tribal instincts.

Cameron masks his cynical and partizan policies as if improving democracy. £50k limits on trade union donations to destroy Labour funding while foreign billionaires secretly fund the Tories. Reducing the number of MPs to 500 (to maximise the effect of the Tory rural vote) despite the UK already having the lowest number of elected officials per head in Europe. These policies are clearly designed to increase Tory MPs not democracy.

Unless we change the electoral system now from a position of strength we might once again face decades of regressive government and it will be the British people who will pay the price for our cowardice.

Left of centre policies will definitely benefit under PR (the evidence for this is clear worldwide) and the largest left of centre party, us, should benefit as well. What are we scared of?

Finally to those who think a hung parliament will bring PR. Replacing Labour MPs with Tory MPs who are universally hostile to PR will take us further away from PR not closer. Only persuading a majority of MPs of a Labour government will bring PR (just like it did in New Zealand - and Labour there have increased their vote with each of their 3 victories, unlike us who have lost nearly 5 million votes). The best thing Lib Dem members could do to bring PR is a mass defection to Labour and voting for a PR friendly Labour leader in our leadership election. Think about it.


  1. Not sure that your call for a mass Lib defection is going to hit the button. Best of luck though.

  2. Neil, every country that has had PR since the war.

    Could you list your sample set for us please?

    I get Ireland and maybe Malta, Germany, Italy and Turkey.

  3. Not often I agree with TW but I think the 'countries with PR fare better economically that those without' is weak. Many of the nations that top the GDP per head league don't have PR (eg US, France, UK).

  4. Tim, all the four Scandanavian countries have had higher post-war growth than the UK ,as have the Benelux countries. West Germany has gone from an economy smaller than ours to 20% bigger since 1960. Not surprisingly re-unification slowed Germany's growth post 1990, but once again they are about to power past us. Plus the countries you already mentioned have had higher growth rates.

    HV: The argument on economic growth is completely sound I can assure you.

    I notice none of you even try to dispute that PR countries have less inequality, better public services, higher political engagement and tougher environmental standards.

    Overall it seems the advantages of PR are undeniable. So why oppose it?

  5. The fact that there's a correllation between countries with PR and high economic growth does not prove a causal relationship. It's more of a freakanomics thing (look it up). Consider the high economic growth of India and China for example.

    Your arguement about Lib Dems joining or voting Labour to get PR is off the mark. The strategic voting thingy in 1997 and subsequently didn't get us any closer to PR. You could turn it around and say that Labour supporters who want PR should vote LibDem and hope for a hung parliament, and that LibDems should stop voting Labour where the alternative would be a Tory because Labour might support PR again if there is a hung parliament (or they are forced to enjoy a spell of opposition again). They certainly seem to oppose it when in power.

  6. Marcuse: As I explained a hung parliament reduces the prospects of PR. There would be more Tory MPs (who are universally hostile to PR), so a bigger percentage of Labour MPs would be needed to win a vote for reform. It might be possible to persuade 50% of Labour MPs to support a referendum on electoral reform, but getting two thirds or more to support it (that would be required under a hung parliament) would be impossible.

    If you support PR then join the Labour Party now and get to vote in our leadership election. Peter Hain for deputy supports AV, John Denham for deputy or leader supports PR, Alan Johnson for leader/deputy supports PR. You would do more for your cause than languishing in the Lib Dems or Greens etc. Have some real power and vote for the next PM.

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