This week we can focus on the financial statement that was set out by the Government on Friday Morning. Presumably MPs will reflect on that when Parliament reopens after the Labour and Conservative Conferences. Along with the opportunity for us to reflect on that mini-budget, this week is also an opportunity for us to observe what will happen in Liverpool where the Labour Party is holding their Conference. Presumably our two local MPs Lloyd Russell-Moyle and Peter Kyle and some local Councillors will attend that Conference along with people who may be standing at the next General Election for Sussex in other constituencies. As it happens, I was born and grew up in Liverpool so I hope that the people who attend the Conference will visit some of the communities in that area. In the last few years there have been several new buildings created which makes it a very suitable place for conferences, but there are many other places to visit in the same area.
One of the themes for this Conference that began yesterday and is running until Wednesday will hopefully be a focus on Proportional Representation. Sadly, some Labour members don’t support PR but hopefully there are many more who are in favour of it. A few days ago, I spotted a comment from a Labour MP who appeared on twitter. He is Jonathan Reynolds who is an MP for the Manchester region. His comment was
“I believe that the additional member system delivers the best of both worlds: a local MP with a constituency link, and a representative election that successfully reflects the intentions of the electorate.”
It is very clear that here in Sussex, a PR approach would be very helpful for thousands of people who vote in our elections. The fact is that the Conservative Party obtained 51% of the votes in both 2019 and 2017 and yet they received 81% of the MPs in 2019 and 75% of the MPs in 2017 which is clearly not appropriate. By the same extent there are nearly 30% of the voters in Brighton and Hove who voted Conservative in both elections and they have not had MPs in this area for several years. If an appropriate system could be set out that would both reflect the number of votes and also enable people to be represented by people that they would support would be a very good arrangement.
One of the issues that I have observed over recent years relating to PR is both the e-petitions that many of us have participated on and also the Early Day Motions that many MPs take part in. Inevitably there are a huge number of e-petitions that are set out with nearly 42,000 of them since the concept was emerged. Equally there are very many EDMs that have emerged since they were formed with nearly 55,000 items. As far as the PR aspect is concerned, they have been small numbers. However, they are nevertheless very significant. In terms of the e-petitions there have been at least 8 of them that focus on PR. It is not possible to take more than one of the same themes into e-petitions at the same time and they last six months so they have covered more than 4 years of the process. The first one was formed in July 2015 and the latest one was formed in July this year and it will continue until next January. Each of them has had many Sussex signatures. The most significant one so far had over 103,000 signatures of which nearly 5% of them were from Sussex. The current one is much smaller currently but more than 10% of the signatures are from Sussex. In terms of the EDMs there is only one that is focused specifically on the PR issue. It was formed back in October 2016 by a Labour MP who sadly is currently not an MP. He changed his political group back in 2019 because of the Brexit issue and he is now part of the Liberal Democratic party. Chuka Umunna was the Labour MP for Streatham. All EDMs need five supporters before they become formal and his supporters were from five other political groups. Caroline Lucas from the Green Party was one of them. He also got Liberal Democrat, SNP, Plaid Cymru and the Social Democratic & Labour Party. Another 64 MPs represented that EDM all from those different groups. The document began with
“This House welcomes the various collaborative campaigns to make votes matter by introducing a fair voting system; notes that petitions started since the 2015 general election calling for a fair voting system”
Let us hope that following this week’s Conference in Liverpool that the call for a fair voting system will raise much stronger throughout our Nation.