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Labour to consider reform of voting system following pressure from local parties

More than one-quarter of Labour branches have passed a motion to urge Sir Keir Starmer (pictured above) to consider electoral reform as a manifesto commitment - Credit: Tayfun Salci/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

The Labour Party is mulling over a decision to add electoral reform to its manifesto after party activists vote to end the first-past-the-post (FPTP) system.

More than one-quarter of Labour branches are urging Sir Keir Starmer to dump the party’s historical support for FPTP voting in favour of proportional representation.

Calls for Labour to change its stance has grown over the last two decades as it lost the backing of centre-left voters to the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party.

With a constitutional commission into strengthening the union set to launch in Spring, campaigners are stepping up pressure to have electoral reform on the agenda.

A party insider told the i that the commission is likely to look at calls for altering the voting system and said it would be “weird” for the issue of electoral reform to be “off-limits” in such a wide-ranging constitutional review.

Campaigners have been encouraged by Sir Keir remarking during its leadership contest: “We’ve got to address the fact that millions of people vote in safe seats and they feel their voice doesn’t count. That’s got to be addressed by electoral reform.”

Of the 648 Constituency Labour Parties, 166 have passed motions calling for a proportional voting system, with 45 motions carried this year alone.

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It is understood that one-third of Labour MPs and several shadow ministers back calls for electoral reform, and a poll in 2019 found that 76% of party members supported the cause.

The Labour for a New Democracy campaign group points to the 80 seat majority which Boris Johnson secured in December 2019 with 43.6 per cent of the vote, and argue that the current system forces the political parties to focus on a minority of target seats rather than appealing to the electorate in general.

Alex Sobel, the MP for Leeds North West, said: “There’s a growing understanding that our political system is simply not responsive to the needs of the people, and not up to the challenges of the 21st century. 

“We need a system where seats reflect votes, so parliament reflects the choices of the British people – and to create the possibility of collaborative, inclusive politics that serves the progressive majority.”

Analysis of polling figures by pro-EU lobby group Best for Britain in January showed that Labour would only secure just 284 seats at the 2024 elections if it went it alone. That is 42 seats below the 326 needed to govern with a majority.

It showed without a pact, Labour would be forced to form a coalition to govern but with one, and seeing Nigel Farage’s party bow out, it could win 146 more seats than than the Conservatives.