On Monday 30th October, there was a Westminster Hall debate on the e-petition on proportional representation. With the exception of John Spellar, every contribution by a Labour MP was in favour of PR, with excellent contributions by Catherine McKinnell, David Drew, Ian Murray, Jonny Reynolds, Stephen Twigg and others.
As a member of the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform executive, this was music to my ears, and now is the time for official Labour Party policy to support the abolition of First Past The Post (FPTP). We have been down this road before of course.
On each occasion in 1979, 1983, 1987 and 1992, the Tories got far less than 50% of the vote, but far more than 50% of the seats. This forced Labour to think that it may never win again under FPTP, and so we considered the possibility of electoral reform.
In our 1997 manifesto, we promised an independent commission on electoral reform, followed by a referendum on its proposals. Our biggest ever victory under FPTP in 1997 surely discouraged the Labour Party from its enthusiasm for electoral reform.
Nevertheless, the commission was set up, chaired by Roy Jenkins, and in 1998 recommended AV+, maintaining the constituency link but allowing for broad proportionality and strong government. The Blair government claimed that it accepted the proposals in principle, and would put them to a referendum when they got round to it.
12 years later and not even the possibility of a referendum had been mentioned by the government, despite being in our 2001 and 2005 manifestos, and in our 2010 only a commitment to a referendum on AV, without the proportional element. In our short-lived coalition negotiations with the Liberals in 2010, we even wavered on that.
Our party clings to First Past The Post out of familiarity and out of tribalism. We must overcome this pig-headed and frankly childish stubbornness which refuses to contemplate the possibility that we might have to share power with others.
We are a democratic socialist party, and although we have a superb socialist programme, we do not yet have a programme for democracy. First Past The Post is manifestly undemocratic. Votes do not match seats. In the general elections of 2015, 1992, 1987, 1983, 1979, 1970, 1959, 1955 and 1951, the Tories got less than 50% of the vote but more than 50% of the seats.
Surely no-one in the Labour Party wants to see the Tories governing, inflicting huge damage on our country, having gained a minority of the vote? Under a more proportional system, Labour may have to govern in coalition with others, but that is a price worth paying to protect the country by locking the Tories out of power, and it would fulfil our values as a party that believes in democracy.
The debate is available to watch here: http://parliamentlive.tv/Event/Index/c52f8c49-55ac-44c8-bf23-b1705afadaf8
Benjamin Eckford is a member of the executive committee of the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform