The Two-Party System may be back, but Labour still need PR to reach Number 10 | Greg Rosenvinge

With Brexit seemingly intervening in all of our current political discourse, and Jeremy Corbyn’s eagerness to not allow politics to revolve around it (and to instead bring to light the real issues of the day, such as housing, the NHS and challenging the effects of austerity in general), it is difficult to justify Labour making a priority of campaigning for electoral reform.

However, in order to rightfully campaign for the real issues of today, Labour needs to get into government. Whilst the recent election definitely defied expectations of a Tory landslide, and ridiculed the critics who sentenced Jeremy Corbyn as unelectable and doomed for, it is hard to escape from the fact that if our electoral system was fair by making each vote count through minimising wasted votes, the Conservatives would have struggled, and probably would have failed, to form a government.

At face value, the recent election appears to indicate a resurgence of the two-party-system proclaimed dead after the rising third-party vote of 2010 and 2015. Labour and the Conservatives shared 82% of the vote this year, a massive 15% increase from 2015, as the UKIP vote was swallowed up post-Brexit by both the Conservatives and less expectedly from Labour. And whilst this is true to suggest the two main parties have strengthened, it would be unwise of Corbyn to not champion the cause of proportional representation.

Critics of PR lambast its supposed necessity of splintering parties into smaller, pluralistic parties incapable of winning majorities, and that after its magnanimous rise in the polls, just weeks after being slated for electoral disaster, Labour should be appealing to its broad-church roots as a means of electoral success. All of this is irrelevant to the clear crisis of democracy the 2017 election has presented us: the Conservatives gained a mere 2% more than Labour in the popular vote, and yet command a working majority with the help of the hard-right, anti-abortion, anti-LGBT rights and sectarian Democratic Unionist Party.

This is unacceptable considering 52% voted for parties such as Labour, the SNP, the Green Party, the Lib Dems and Plaid Cymru, and this is not even considering the sizeable socially-liberal section of the Conservative vote who would not consent to the involvement of such a backward party in government.

A majority of voters did not vote for this government, and yet Theresa May has bought off each of the 10 DUP MPs for £100m each. Not only does this preferential treatment towards Northern Ireland naturally irk the Welsh and Scottish local governments, it demonstrates a failure of British democracy to provide a government its people actually voted for.

And this isn’t even considering first-past-the-post’s failings on a more molecular level: how every 42,987 votes for the Conservatives returned one MP, and yet the Greens only returned with one MP despite gaining 525,435 votes, whilst UKIP returned with nothing for their 594,068 votes despite the SNP gaining a seat for every 27,930 votes it received.

The examples and statistics of the disparity between vote share and seat share in British elections is seemingly unending, and yet Labour are still to fully champion its cause like the Greens and the Liberal Democrats have. It is as if they are yet to realise how, even ignoring its moral virtues of providing genuine democracy to our electoral system, and government and politics thereof, the enacting of PR would provide Labour with a real route to government. Had PR been in place for the recent election, we could very well have seen Jeremy Corbyn in Number 10.

It would be wrong to suggest that PR does not have its supporters in the Labour Party, and indeed they are becoming more numerous and prominent, especially after the letter addressed to Jeremy Corbyn and signed by prominent MPs across the Labour political spectrum such as Clive Lewis and Chuka Umunna in May 2016, but nothing came of this, and only 7 MPs signed it.            

Supporters of PR within the Labour Party need to become more vocal and strident, both in Parliament and at the grassroots level. The Tories rely on first-past-the-post to be able to form governments, as no other sizeable party could help them reach a majority under PR. Labour should have no such fear.

Greg Rosenvinge is a writer for Student Voices and politics student at Newcastle
The Two-Party System may be back, but Labour still need PR to reach Number 10 | Greg Rosenvinge The Two-Party System may be back, but Labour still need PR to reach Number 10 | Greg Rosenvinge Reviewed by Student Voices on 11:04 Rating: 5

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