PR for Westminster would bring progress

Amonst the many debates at STUC congress this week on workers rights, the Trade Union Bill, the economy, Europe, etc,  Motion 122 from the Public and Commercial Services Union calls on Scottish trade union movement to support proportional representation (PR) for Westminster elections.

Our union has supported PR since 2008, but following the  general election result last May, it is now abundantly clear that First Past the Post (FPTP) is no longer fit for purpose.

Only 24% of the electorate voted for the Tories, yet David Cameron was able to form a majority government and accelerate the war on welfare recipients, introduce the vindictive trade union bill that not only aims to curb trade union activity, but attempts to undermine the human rights of our members to collectively organise and exercise their right to strike, and the Panama papers reveal cover up and protection of class interets at the highest level of hypocracy.

But it is not just because the Tories are bad that PCS argues for a fairer voting system. We believe that FPTP is broken.

In his 2014 book Missing Scotland Willie Sullivan looks at why over a million Scots choose not to vote and what it means for our democracy. His extensive interviews and discussions with working class people across Scotland show that those who do not vote do care deeply about society and the need for change, they just do not see the existing politicians, political parties and political structures as agents of that change.

FPTP at Westminster drives the two main parties, Labour and Tories alike to chase support from middle ground voters in marginal seats, abandoning the heartlands and issues most deeply felt by their core support. Amongst those missing millions in 2015 were Labour switchers to SNP in Scotland, and also Labour and Tory voters to UKIP elsewhere.

Sullivan’s research was undertaken before the Indy Ref, where voter turn out peaked, only to sink to “normal” last May. In my view, it was the spread of ideas and creativity within the Independence debate that sparked participation, not the political parties populating the official campaigns. 

Last September, the British TUC adopted a similar PCS motion, so now we turn to the Scottish workers movement to add voice to the growing demand to bring Westminster elections into line with the devolved legislatures, the European Parliament and Scottish local government. 

The Tories have barefaced cheek to spotlight union ballot turnouts, whilst denying us the tools to increase participation. It is therefore time for us to floodlight the nonsense that remains FPTP.

Scottish Left Review have kindly allowed me to articulate further on the case for Westminster PR. 

Please leave a comment on my blog if you wish to join the debate.


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