Trade unions back overhaul of Westminster voting system

Trade unions back overhaul of Westminster voting system

- in Unite
houses of parliament

Trade union leaders are adding their voice to calls for Westminster to adopt proportional voting system, rather than ‘first past the post’.

Trade unionists have backed calls for a change to the voting system, as leading activists published a report setting out the need for a change.

As union delegates gathered for the Scottish Trade Union Congress (STUC) last week, figures such as Unite Assistant General Secretary Howard Beckett and STUC Vice President Lynn Henderson have put their weight behind the calls for reform.

The report, called Politics for the Many: The Trade Union Case for Political Reform, is a challenge for the trade union movement to support a proportional voting system in Westminster – following in the footsteps of Scotland – and “fix the broken political model”.

The report argues:

  • The Westminster political model has allowed for sweeping legislation to continually strip back trade union rights in the UK – while locking unions out of involvement in government, in contrast to much of Europe
  • The Westminster voting system is increasingly working against the progressive majority from forming the next government
  • Proportional representation is linked to greater economic equality and better social outcomes

Writing on openDemocracyUK, Unite’s Howard Beckett said the first past the post system is currently failing the Labour movement:

An electoral system which once benefited Labour has become rigged in the opposite direction.

Assuming the contest was to end in a draw – i.e. the Conservatives and Labour won the same number of votes in a General Election today – they would not be rewarded with the same number of seats in the House of Commons. The Conservatives would be the largest party by 12 seats – an issue known as ‘electoral bias’.

Labour would need to do 0.8% better than the Conservatives to become the largest party. But to win a majority, the figures are more stark: Labour will need a lead of 7.4%, compared to just 3.4% for the Conservatives.

The reason for this absurd bias in UK General Elections is because of the archaic voting system being used, First-Past-The-Post.



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