Mayor of Greater Manchester comes out in favor of proportional representation and reform of the House of Lords, reports Sam Bright
Greater Manchester Mayor Andy Burnham has called for a ‘complete rewiring of Britain’ and its political system – including the introduction of proportional representation (PR) for general elections and a sweeping reform of the House of Lords.
In an interview for my book, Fortress of LondonLabour’s Burnham said the government’s current ‘race to the top’ theme – Britain’s regional rebalancing – risked being ‘a fad that burns bright but is fast fading’ without democratic and economic reform fundamental.
Burnham caused a stir last week when he highlighted the cost of train services from Manchester to London – pointing out that an open return ticket costs more than a flight to India, Jamaica, Brazil and the Ivory Coast.
The former health secretary, who resigned from parliament in 2017, has strongly criticized the growing divide between London and the rest of the country – a process that has been spurred on by successive governments. Since 2009/10 to 2019/20transport expenditure in London per capita averaged £864, compared to £379 in the North West of England and £413 in England as a whole.
The Mayor of Greater Manchester has said that ‘all parts of the north need substantial regional devolution’ in order to deliver on the government’s promise to level up the left behind areas of the country.
“The House of Lords must be an elected senate of nations and regions,” he continued. “And I would turn the House of Commons elections into a proportional representation system. Each MP fights for his small constituency, and this prevents people from acting in a large area. I would like MPs to be elected more on a regional basis than on a constituency basis.”
These ideas are a notable departure from the current Westminster system – and a departure from central Labor policy. Indeed, a poll conducted by YouGov last summer revealed that an overwhelming 83% of Labor members interviewed supported the introduction of a proportional representation system for general elections, in which seats in Parliament are more closely linked to the share of votes cast. However, the official position of the Labor Party has not been to support electoral reform or changes to the structure of the House of Lords.
This despite the fact that party leader Keir Starmer pledged during his 2020 leadership campaign to consult with members on electoral reform – and defend to abolish the Lords, “[replacing] with an elected chamber of regions and nations”.
How can we solve theTrouble in the House of Lords?
“We have to take into account that millions of people are voting in safe seats and they feel their voice doesn’t count,” Starmer said of the current “first-past-the-post” electoral system during his presentation. leadership campaign. “This needs to be addressed through electoral reform. We will never achieve full participation in our electoral system until we do so at all levels.
The current electoral system – which awards local seats to candidates with the most votes – benefits conservatives. Indeed, there are more viable parties on the left of the political spectrum than on the right, dividing the non-Conservative vote and allowing the Conservative Party to accumulate more constituencies.
If the 2019 general election had been held under a proportional model, the Conservative Party would not have won an outright majority, according to academic Heinz Brandenburg of the University of Strathclyde. Under the first-past-the-post system, however, Boris Johnson claimed a substantial majority of 80 seats.
Proportional systems also allow representatives to come from larger geographic areas. British elections to the European Parliamentfor example, operated under a regional closed-list system, with a number of elected representatives from each of the three nations and nine English regions, elected by proportional representation.
Alongside an upper house made up of representatives from nations and regions – closer to the American or Australian systems – Burnham argues that such reforms would secure more power and influence for regional interests.
Structures and mentalities
“Labour’s instinct under the first-past-the-post system is to temporarily supplant the Tories and become a top-down centralizing force,” said Labor MP Clive Lewis. said. “The problem is that we lose three times more often than we win – so we don’t have many opportunities to govern and often when we do we tinker around the edges.”
What is needed instead, Lewis believes, is a leveling vision that promises electoral reform and greater political control for devolved leaders. For him, Labor must claim the slogan “take back control” of Vote Leave and promise to fulfill the wishes of the British people by “empowering local communities, regions… Labor must define its program through power, control, agency and democracy”. , rather than simply promising more public spending than the Conservatives”.
However, the Labor Party leadership remains skeptical – despite Starmer’s previous promises.
Labour’s leveling leader, Wigan MP Lisa Nandy, told me she was ‘frustrated with the endless debate in Westminster – and indeed in parts of local and regional government too – over the structure”.
For the left-behind regions of the country to form a more central part of our collective political psyche, the “mindset” of political leaders must change, she believes, rather than the democratic constraints within which they operate.
Nandy and Labor are strongly in favor of giving more powers to local, regional and national administrations. However, in terms of democratic reform of the voting system or the House of Lords, the party remains skeptical.
The growing regional wealth gapwhy is it important
Nandy appears skeptical of fundamental democratic reform and its ability to alter the balance of power in Britain. Instead, she believes it is up to individual political leaders to change the weather. The MP told me that the day after she took over as shadow secretary of state for levelling, housing and communities, she privately informed her counterpart Michael Gove that she wanted the rebalancing of the country “became as uncontested as equal marriage by the time David Cameron took office”.
In terms of deconcentration, the government’s proposals contained in its race to the top white paper are among its “most radical”, according to the Institute for Government.
By 2030, the white paper states that ‘every part of England that wants one will have a devolution agreement with powers at or near the highest level of devolution and a simplified settlement of long-term funding’ . In the short term, the government plans to negotiate 10 new devolution deals in England and has promised additional powers to Burnham in Greater Manchester and Tory Mayor Andy Street in the West Midlands.
When it comes to electoral reform, however, the Conservative Party is showing its natural instincts – protecting the status quo. After Labor won 11 of 13 mayoral posts across the country last year, the government signaled its intention to change the voting system for these contests from the existing supplementary voting system – in which the public ranks their two preferred candidates – first-past-the-post. system used in elections to the House of Commons.
“It’s likely that first-past-the-post would make it easier for the Conservatives to win if they could put forward a very good candidate,” said local government academic Professor Tony Travers. Told the Guardian.
Despite Andy Burnham’s beliefs, it seems that the campaign for electoral reform – moving away from the established first-past-the-post system – is currently backsliding.
Sam Bright’s book, “Fortress of London: why we must save the country from its capital”will be released on April 28
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