Democracy event draws a crowd at TUC 2023 in Liverpool

Former Shadow Chancellor John McDonnell MP addressed a packed room at an event to promote proportional representation at the TUC Congress in Liverpool.

A growing number of unions are now backing a proportional voting system (PR) because they can see the current system isn’t working for working people. Most recently, public service workers union Unison and shop workers union Usdaw, with a combined membership of over 1.5 million people, have joined the call for change.

John McDonnell MP said:

“I genuinely do feel that people have a sense of unfairness and there’s such disillusionment now with politics overall that relates to the electoral system. The atmosphere is there for change.” 

The event, which focused on how PR can unlock economic equality, offered an opportunity for people to question a panel of experts in the field, including campaigners and leading trade unionists. It covered the experiences of Wales and Scotland who already have proportional representation following devolution, and also explored how New Zealand changed its voting system resulting in much greater support for trade unions and workers.

Nancy Platts, who coordinates the Politics for the Many campaign said:

“PR is about ensuring that workers’ rights and pay improve over time. It’s about reversing the trend where First Past The Post (FPTP) over-represents governments hostile to working people and as a consequence, sees their rights and conditions eroded over time.

“Changing the way we vote is a big change and quite rightly people have lots of questions. We wanted people to feel comfortable asking about the issues that mattered to them, so a lot of thought went into the organisation of the event. Speakers sought to give straight answers to people’s questions and concerns about new voting systems. Two key issues were raised that are common to most audiences we meet in this campaign.

“People wanted to understand how the constituency link would be maintained between them and their MP under PR and were satisfied that some forms of PR enabled that accountability to be retained. 

“Others raised their concerns about the Far Right. It was explained that FPTP does not keep extremists out of politics but allows them to remain hidden until it’s too late, whilst PR creates greater visibility and transparency of political viewpoints early on. It was also flagged that Scotland and Wales have had PR for more than 20 years and there is not currently a single far-right party represented in either parliament.”

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