Momentum, the Labour campaign group dedicated to keeping Corbynism alive, this week demanded that Keir Starmer commit to introducing a proportional voting system should he win election, replacing the current first past the post model for electing MPs.
‘A popular consensus is building across the labour movement for a change to our first past the post electoral system, which has consistently delivered Tory majorities on a minority of the vote and hands disproportionate power to swing voters in marginal constituencies,’ said Gaya Sriskanthan, Momentum’s co-chair. ‘Momentum will join the charge for PR, as part of a broader commitment to deep democratic change and alongside our strategy of building popular support for socialism in our communities.’
Why, of all the things Momentum could campaign for, would they pick changing the voting system? It is because the following logic has formed into a sort of dogma on the left of British politics over the last couple of years: we have a ‘progressive’ majority in this country, but the voting system allows the Tories to win on minority support; if we had a PR system, the splits amongst non-Tory voters would matter less and this ‘progressive’ majority could assert itself at the ballot box. The result, surely, would be permanent centre-left governments.
I worked on the Yes to AV campaign and following that, for the Electoral Reform Society for a few years, so I’ve thought more about this than I really should have. And I can tell you that Momentum and indeed the wider left’s logic here is deeply flawed. In fact, the introduction of a proportional voting system would have almost exactly the opposite effect they seem to think it would.
For a start, PR would be terrible for the Labour party.