On Monday, Labour conference debated and voted on a motion to back PR, adding a pledge to their next manifesto.
Despite the overwhelming support of local party delegates, 80% of whom supported the campaign for Labour to back reform, due to opposition from several of the party’s affiliated trade unions the motion was narrowly defeated.
The motion, backed by the Labour for a New Democracy campaign, had been submitted by around 150 Constituency Labour Parties (CLPs) was the second most popular issue in the CLP section in the conference priority ballot.
The motion, the most submitted on any single issue in recent years – follows a grassroots campaign from party activists in support of electoral reform and growing levels of support across the party.
Supporters of PR won the argument with the Labour membership – both the debate and the result showed almost no support for the broken status quo.
Make no mistake, this is remarkable progress for the campaign. Just a few years ago it would have been near unimaginable for proportional representation to be the main topic of conversation at Labour Conference – talked about in the leader’s office, trade union delegations and the bars and fringe meetings across Brighton.
Active trade unionists within Politics for the Many are already organising to make sure next time the Unions vote en masse with the membership.
But it also came down to a lack of support from the party’s leadership. PR is a policy that unites the Labour party, with supporters coming from all wings of the party. You saw this at the Labour for PR Rally held on Sunday. MPs, NEC members, activists, young members, trade unionists and local councillors all stood up in support of reform – a united force behind fairer votes.
Had the leadership backed this call from members as they backed other reforms this week PR may now be Labour Party policy.
Keir Starmer needs to live up to what he said in his leadership campaign and use his influence to win this debate. Support for proportional representation among Labour members is not going away.
Next year, let’s make sure the unions and leadership back them as well.