In his recent speech at the GMB conference, Keir Starmer mentioned the words “working people” 22 times – pledging to put the fight for working people as Labour’s “driving purpose”. He highlighted Labour’s commitment to serving the interests of working people and expressed his desire to make the Labour Party the natural home for them. However, one crucial aspect that was noticeably absent from Starmer’s speech was electoral reform and proportional representation.
With relations between Starmer’s office and Unite noticeably frosty, GMB remains arguably the most powerful affiliated union in terms of influence in the Leaders Office, despite strains on the relationship due to debates about energy and fracking. Whilst Starmer has kept his cards close to his chest on electoral reform, the GMB has been a pro-FPTP supporter in the movement.
GMB risk being left behind on electoral reform
This leaves GMB as the only major affiliated union to support First Past the Post, well out of step with the rest of the labour movement. This outdated voting system has proven to be ineffective in representing the interests of working people, leaving them unable to exert influence on national politics.
In Labour’s working-class heartlands, there is strong support for a move towards proportional representation, with a margin of 4-1 in favour in the Red Wall. As other unions and ordinary voters gravitate towards electoral reform, the GMB risks being left behind.
Proportional representation would significantly alter the composition of parliament and give a fairer representation to different political parties. Every vote would count. This would ensure that the voice of working people, who make up a significant portion of the population, is accurately reflected in the decision-making process.
A fairly elected parliament would protect the right to strike
Moreover, a proportional parliament would have the potential to prevent the passage of undemocratic legislation, such as the anti-strike bill, which infringes on the rights of GMB members and undermines the power of unions. The current government has been able to pass such laws due to the concentration of power resulting from the First Past the Post system. By adopting proportional representation, the GMB and Labour could take a significant step towards safeguarding the rights and interests of working people.
It is essential for the GMB to reassess its stance on electoral reform and align itself with the changing tides of public opinion. The majority of working people, who form the backbone of the union, are in favour of proportional representation. By continuing to support the outdated First Past the Post system, the GMB risks alienating its members and losing its relevance in the evolving political landscape.
Electoral reform and proportional representation are crucial elements in achieving true representation and empowering working people. The GMB must embrace this necessary change to remain in step with the aspirations and demands of its members. Keir Starmer and the Labour Party have the chance to lead the way in advocating for electoral reform and securing a fairer political system that ensures every vote counts and the voice of working people is heard loud and clear.
It is time for the GMB and Labour to work together to give working people the representation they deserve and restore faith in the democratic process.