Workers and workers’ organisations have a fine record fighting for democratic rights, from the Chartist movement to the movement for universal suffrage. Now, we are fighting for an electoral system that does not give the party of big business an unfair advantage. in our electoral processes.
Significant suffrage campaigners on the left like Sylvia Pankhurst and others had support from the likes of the first Labour Party leader, Keir Hardie. Labour MP George Lansbury even stood down and fought a by-election on the issue of universal suffrage.
It is therefore very positive to see trade unions including Unite, Unison and others are considering supporting a move to a system of Proportional Representation (PR) for elections in the UK at their forthcoming conferences. Five trade unions including the Bakers, Food & Allied Workers Union (BFAWU), the Transport Salaried Staffs’ Association (TSSA) and Musicians Union (MU) support introducing PR.
Greens will note that a growing number of Labour MPs including Clive Lewis, Ben Bradshaw, and Ruth Maskell support introducing a proportional electoral system. Three quarters of Labour Party members support this, as do nearly a third of Constituency Labour Parties.
This is the moment for Green trade unionists to be working within their trade unions to build support for Proportional Representation.
A right-wing government is in power, in large part because of an unfair voting system in which millions cast votes that are entirely unrepresented in parliament. Millions more are disenfranchised entirely, because their citizenship and migration status unjustly prevents them from participating in UK elections. The Conservative government is planning to introduce voter ID schemes that will further disenfranchise already marginalised communities.
If the last general election had been held using a proportional electoral system, the Conservative Party would have be 81 fewer MPs down and would not have a majority in the House of Commons. Both Labour and the Greens would have gained more MPs. If all residents of the UK were permitted and empowered to cast votes, our political landscape would be transformed for the better.
By working within their trade unions, Greens can help get Proportional Representation and begin to build a real democracy. The campaign for PR is a bottom-up campaign.