An interesting debate is brewing over at Bloggers4Labour about a Guardian column by Bill Rammell and Liam Byrne, and a response to that column by Jon Cruddas. The essence of the debate is that Byrne and Rammell state that Labour must continue a relentless pursuit of gaining the support of key groups in super marginals, and Cruddas fears that as a result the party will not pay enough attention to people elsewhere and – in his mind – this means neglecting true supporters.
In a way both sides are right. Byrne and Rammell know how to get a strategy right to win elections, and Cruddas wants to appeal to the party in order to get elected as Deputy Leader (although of course I want Harriet to beat him). I feel torn inside about this very issue. I have never lived in a Westminster constituency that has been even close to marginal – Newport West (Paul Flynn), Vauxhall (Kate Hoey) and Camberwell & Peckham (Harriet Harman) are all solid Labour, and Oxford West & Abingdon was solid Lib Dem. Labour has never really wanted to particularly win the votes of the people where I have ever lived. Yet with the electoral system we currently have, nor should it.
The only solution therefore is to change the electoral system – PR (proportional representation, NOT public relations!) With the introduction of either some form of regional lists / additional member system like in Germany, or single transferable vote as used in Ireland, every vote would count. Labour – and the other parties too – would need to shore up their core support, and also appeal to voters perceived to be to the left and to the right of them. Every voter would be treated more equally across the country, as every vote would count in the way it presently does not. The voice of Cruddas to appeal to traditional Labour support, and the voices of Byrne and Rammell to appeal to young IT professionals, would be equally valid.
So let’s quit this debate about narrow strategy, and be radical about election system reform instead.