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Can Labour Win a General Election Under First Past the Post

March 20, 2020

It is vital that we have a strong opposition party to challenge Boris Johnson’s manipulative populist government which claims to represent the people, but which resists being held to account and sees no need to tell the truth or keep Parliament informed. Surely Labour has to be that opposition party. Unfortunately the Labour Party has had its problems .both internally and externally.

Internally there is the battle between the left and the moderates which I see no prospect of being resolved any time soon. There are also the allegations of Antisemitism which have manoeuvred the party into expelling members so accused without looking at the evidence or allowing them a right of appeal, thus denying their rights to a fair trial under the Human Rights Act.

These internal difficulties are partly the result of external pressures which the Right does not have to endure. My fear is that if Labour campaigns on a manifesto smacking of socialism, or departs in any way from the received neoliberal orthodoxy, it will be mercilessly attacked by the mainly right wing media and by the establishment seeking BBC. These attacks will be bolstered by ever more sophisticated social media campaigns supported by unlimited and undisclosed finance

Rather than attack Labour on its policies, I predict that the media and the Board of Deputies of British Jews (BoD) [1] will continue to attack Labour on its record on dealing with antisemitism amongst its members in spite of the facts that investigating allegations properly is surely no simple matter, and as far as I can establish there is no evidence that the extent of antisemitism amongst Labour party members is any worse than in the population as a whole.

For these reasons I think it will very difficult for Labour to win an absolute majority under First Past the Post (FPTP) in any future general election. FPTP admittedly give Labour a slight advantage compared with a fair proportional system, but it gave the Tories a much larger advantage.

Had the 2019 election been conducted under PR, the Tories would not have had an absolute majority. They would have been the largest party and would claim to form the government, but it is to be hoped that the Lib Dems would instead join a progressive alliance, thereby having much more influence on government.

It seems to me that Labour have a clear choice:

  • Stick with FPTP and continue to refuse to deal with other parties. This way they will remain the official opposition but will be increasingly irrelevant in the face of an ever more dictatorial Tory government.

  • Commit to fighting for proportional representation (PR) for Westminster as soon as possible, accepting that their future role is in leading a progressive alliance government. This involves seeking to work with other progressive parties – especially the Lib Dems.

Unfortunately none of the remaining Labour leadership candidates seem to be committed to PR.this. Clive Lewis is but he did not get enough support from the Parliamentary party for his bid to proceed.

There is a good deal of support for PR in the Labour Party and over 80 constituency parties have passed motions in support. Many MPs are still reluctant to change from the system that elected them.

Note [1]

The claim of the Board of Deputies (and indeed the Chief Rabbi) to represent all British Jews is hotly disputed, See:

I am not a member of the Labour and the views I express are mine only.

From → Democracy

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