Shadow cabinet minister Lucy Powell floats ditching first-past-the-post voting system as Tories fear Labour deal with the Lib Dems to shut them out of power for a generation
A senior Labour MP has hinted that ‘conversations’ about ditching Britain’s first-past-the-post voting system could take place if the party wins the general election.
Lucy Powell, the shadow leader of the House of Commons, told a fringe event at Labour’s conference she was ‘personally’ in favour of ‘looking at electoral reform-type stuff’.
Her comments will ring alarm bells among Tories, who fear a loss at the general election could see Labour and the Liberal Democrats work together to overhaul Britain’s voting system.
There are concerns a deal stitched-up between the two parties on proportional representation could lead to the Conservatives being shut out of power for a generation.
Critics of electoral reform say replacing first-past-the-post ballots for electing MPs would simply lead to weak coalition governments, with parties haggling over who to share power with after each general election.
Lucy Powell, the shadow leader of the House of Commons, told a fringe event at Labour’s conference she was ‘personally’ in favour of ‘looking at electoral reform-stype stuff’
Her comments will ring alarm bells among Tories , who fear a loss at the general election could see Labour and the Liberal Democrats work together to overhaul Britain’s voting system
There are concerns a deal stitched-up between Labour’s Sir Keir Starmer and Lib Dems’ Sir Ed Davey on proportional representation could lead to the Tories being shut out of power for a generation
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In her remarks at the fringe event on Monday at Labour’s conference in Liverpool, as reported by the New Statesman, Ms Powell said: ‘I’m personally for, kind of, looking at electoral reform-type stuff.’
She added that electoral reform was ‘a bit of a distraction’ and ‘we’ve got to win the election with the rules which we’re operating under, and we should be laser-focused on that for now’.
But Ms Powell suggested that ‘conversations can come later’ after Labour takes power.
‘I do believe quite strongly that one of the counterbalances to political alienation is that direct relationship that we have with our voters through the constituency link,’ she added.
‘Polling is always pretty clear about how people feel about their own actual MP versus MPs and politicians in general.’
Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer has previously ruled out striking any deal with the Liberal Democrats after the general election in the face of Tory warnings about a ‘coalition of chaos’.
If Labour fall short of a majority at the general election – but are the largest party in the Commons – the Conservatives have claimed Sir Keir could seek agreements with other parties, such as the Lib Dems or SNP, in order to prop him up as prime minister in a hung parliament.
At their party conference last year, Labour delegates overhwelmingly backed a motion calling on the party to embrace proportional representation.
It stated: ‘Labour must make a commitment to introduce proportional representation for general elections in the next manifesto.’
Some of Labour’s biggest trade union backers, such as Unite and Unison, have moved towards supporting proportional representation in recent years.
But Labour’s national policy forum blueprint for potential policies to put to voters at the next general election has made no explicit commitment to changing Britain’s voting system.
‘The flaws in the current voting system are contributing to the distrust and alienation we see in politics, but there is no consensus for a new system,’ the document states.
‘Any proposed change to our voting system must be carefully thought-through – it cannot be dictated by political leaders or forced upon the country from the top down.’
Sir Keir has previously said that electoral reform is ‘not a priority’ for him and ruled out including proposals for a shake-up in Labour’s general election manifesto.
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