Make Votes Matter was honoured to attend the Napo AGM at the invitation of General Secretary Ian Lawrence, and delighted to meet so many union members.
Make Votes Matter believes that democracy in the UK needs a radical overhaul, and that Proportional Representation (PR) is the answer to that need. The current system, First Past The Post (FPTP), has been used since the late 1800s. Since then, the UK has changed dramatically, yet our archaic method of electing MPs is largely unchanged. We wouldn’t expect prison safety and reform to be the same as it was in the 1800s, so why should it be different for our voting system?
FPTP isn’t fit for purpose. It creates governments with minority support but false majorities in Parliament, which have thrown trade unions under the bus time and time again. In fact, since 1980 there’s been 14 pieces of legislation restricting employment and union rights.
In 14 of the last 15 elections, most people voted for parties left of the Conservatives, but they have been in power most of the time. When Labour do get into power, the FPTP pendulum swings again and another minority Tory government undoes their work – generally to the detriment of the unions.
FPTP creates a small number of marginal constituencies which decide elections, so political parties focus their efforts on just a small number of voters in these seats and largely ignore the rest of the country. The amount of votes required to elect an MP from each party differs wildly, with parties like the Tories and DUP benefiting. Worst of all, 68% of votes were wasted in 2017, and didn’t count towards the final outcome whatsoever. This disenfranchisement has led to a scourge of tactical voting, with 20-30% voting to keep out their least preferred candidate last year.
Introducing PR has the potential to greatly influence society for the better. For example, countries with PR benefit from reduced inequality, better minority and gender representation in Parliament, higher voter turnout, and increased environmental protection. Scandinavian countries such as Norway and Denmark both use PR and are shining examples of how society can prosper.
PR can lead to long-term decision making in the best interests of the country, where spending on public services is often higher. After years of austerity that have decimated public services in the UK, PR would offer an alternative based on real democracy where probation services are properly resourced. By 2019/20, the Ministry of Justice will have had a real-terms budget cut of 40%. This staggering reduction in funding from £9.3bn to £5.6bn has led to the involvement of private firms such as G4S becoming involved in probation delivery, arguably to the detriment of service delivery.
To win PR in years, rather than decades, a concerted effort is required by a cross-section of society. Make Votes Matter convenes the Alliance for PR, bringing together a wide range of campaign groups, political parties, and trade unions to campaign collaboratively. To succeed, the movement will most certainly need a commitment from the Labour Party and the support of more trade unions. The good news is unions like TSSA and PCS already support PR, along with 84 Labour MPs, including John McDonnell, and there have been 47 motions for PR raised by Constituency Labour Parties. Now we need your help to make PR Napo policy!