The Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform asked the Labour Leadership candidates about their views on the electoral system. Read their replies below (in alphabetical order).
1. What is your position on reform of the voting system we use to elect Members of Parliament?
I believe in the wisdom of ordinary citizens. That’s why I have set out proposals to extend democracy in every part of public life: in national politics, communities, the economy and workplace – and in the Labour Party. Democracy is a fundamental to our politics.
Our electoral system should properly reflect the collective choices of the electorate as well as providing stable government and direct representation - in any change the constituency link must be maintained, as it has been in Wales and Scotland. Reform of the electoral system should be considered as part of a wider constitutional convention to comprehensively weigh the reforms that our constitution needs at national, regional and local level.
2. Would you like to add anything about possible democratic reforms you support particularly if you would like to spell out the process by which Labour comes to a decision about the voting system we go into the General Election supporting?
Labour's stance on the electoral system should, like other major decisions, be taken by the membership of the Labour Party collectively, along with our affiliates. This should be done using broad consultation and decisions by the Labour Party conference, whose sovereignty I am committed to restoring.
I have set out my policies for a comprehensive democratisation of national politics, communities, the economy and workplace.
My pledges are:
Democracy in the country: We will support radical devolution of power to local councils, regions and nations, in consultation with party members and local people; replace the House of Lords with an elected second chamber; end the 'revolving door' corporate grip on politics and the civil service; and create a new role for citizens' assemblies in shaping political accountability for the future.
Democracy in the community: We will give people a real say in their local communities, through democratic participation in budgeting, online democracy and control of local services; full transparency in public decision-making and contracts with private companies; and a citizens' right to challenge the outsourcing and privatisation of local services through referendums.
Democracy in the economy: We will give employees a real say in the organisations they work for, and the boardrooms that control them; introduce new collective and individual rights at work, including sectoral union bargaining rights, and mandatory collective bargaining for companies with 250 or more employees; require the election of employee representatives to executive remuneration committees; act to ensure women’s equality in the workplace; and create a democratically controlled regional investment bank in every region.
Democracy in the party: We will work to make the Labour party a truly democratic and pluralist organization, rooted in our communities and workplaces, in which members and affiliated organisations have real control, including through a sovereign conference; empower its working class, women, black, disabled, young and LGBT members, and ensure the diversity of the population is reflected in every section of our party; strengthen the women’s, BAME and youth conferences with a clear policy-making role; create a charter of rights for party members; and support moves to widen representation on the national executive to reflect the huge increase in party membership.
(The same two questions were responded to as follows)
At heart I am a constitutional reformer and believe there needs to be a debate about the Westminster voting system. I know many want to see a proportional system which reflects overall voting patterns and I also appreciate the argument that there is an anti-Tory majority across the country that is being let down by the first past the post system. Despite the merits of these arguments, I am not yet convinced that the correct response is to move to a proportional system. The link between Members of Parliament and their constituencies means that our politics is grounded in local concerns and local senses of identity, and I would be really concerned about giving that up. The Westminster system is not perfect, but the local link is precious and I believe it is worth preserving. My experience in Wales is that proportional systems can lead to a disconnection between elected politicians and local communities.
The last Labour Government made great strides in delivering devolution to Wales, Scotland, Northern Ireland and London, but we need to go further. When deciding which powers to transfer away from Westminster I am guided by the belief that devolution should always be a means of empowering communities, not leaving them to fend for themselves with fewer resources as the Tories would have it. Our Union is, and should always be, a way of pooling risks and sharing rewards and that principle should be at the heart of our decisions.
Our country and our Party face important constitutional challenges and I see the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform as having a vital role in those discussions.
The Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform (LCER) is the Labour-based organisation making the Labour Party case for a more democratic and proportional electoral system. On 27 September, LCER and MVM are co-hosting a rally at the Labour Party Conference in Liverpool: Time for Labour to embrace PR.