Only a referendum on PR can save Labour now argues latest report
A new YouGov poll commissioned by Compass shows that Labour might not just lose the next election but that it might be out of power forever. On current polling Electoral Calculus predicts the Labour will win only 200 seats next May. In addition to this they may have to fight the 2014 election from an ever lower base for three reasons.
· First, an incoming Conservative government has pledged to cut the number of parliamentary seats by 10%. This will hit Labour hard because the biggest reduction will be in Labour strongholds such as Wales and industrial and urban strongholds which have seen population flight. One electoral expert has predicted that of the 65 seats that will go, a conservative assessment would be that 45 of them are Labour.
· Second, the likelihood of the SNP winning a vote on Scottish independence increases considerably with the election of the Tories in Westminster. New YouGov polling conducted for Compass shows that 34% of the Scottish electorate will be more likely to vote for the SNP promise of a referendum on Scottish independence by the end of 2010. This could be enough to see a Yes vote through. There are currently 59 Westminster seats in Scotland and 41 of them are Labour. They would all be lost.
· Finally, an incoming Tory government is very likely to introduce new party funding rules, which will break the link between Labour and the unions, further destabilising the Labour Party already heavily in debt and with a declining membership base.
Allowing for double counting, given Labour will have lost seats, it would be a cautious estimate to suggest that the party would lose a further 70 seats from the combined loss of Scottish representation and seat reduction, leaving it with as few as 130 MPs. These three factors could then combine to ensure that an already intellectually and organisationally weak party fails ever to recover.
But backing a referendum on PR dramatically changes Labour's fortunes. A recent poll for the Electoral Reform Society showed that 30% of Liberal Democrat voters and 30% of Labour voters were more likely to vote Labour if the party backed a poll on electoral reform on the day of the general election. Crucially this week's new YouGov poll for Compass shows that 66% of the public support a referendum and only 16% are against.
Neal Lawson Chair of Compass said:
"Labour leaders seem to have their heads in the sand. They think they can defy the polls and secure a victory against Cameron on issues such as economic competence and public spending when all the polls say this is virtually impossible. The party needs a game changer, a policy that wakes up the electorate, creates a strong dividing line with the Tories and which could propel the likely outcome of the next election from a comfortable Tory win into the terrain of a hung parliament. Only then would Labour be able to live and fight again. A referendum on PR is such a policy.
"Everyone who wants the Labour party to win, or at least to keep out the Tories, must be able to see the prize of backing a PR referendum, and that the danger of refusing to do so is potential political oblivion.
"Labour promised a referendum on electoral reform in 1997. The case for it now is not just strong - it is unanswerable. Failure to act could well mean this is not just a defeated Labour government, but the last Labour government. It is time to change the game. Otherwise ‘our turn' might never come round again. This will have been Labour's last turn.
For further information call Neal Lawson on 07976 292 522
Note to editors:
- Compass is the largest pressure group on the centre left of British politics with over 30,000 members and supporters
- Compass today releases a report called The Last Labour Government: why only a referendum on PR can save the party now.
- All polling figures, unless otherwise stated, are from YouGov Plc. Total sample size was 2,098 adults. Fieldwork was undertaken between 21st - 23rd September 2009. The survey was carried out online. The figures have been weighted and are representative of all GB adults (aged 18+).
Download The Last Labour Government
Want to write an article like this? If you’re a Compass member you can submit your own articles and start your own debates on the Compass debates member’s section, an autonomous space for our members to initiate debate and discuss ideas.
To keep updated on the latest Compass news, please join our mailing list.