Labour and Tories unite to block motion on electoral reform for local elections

A motion calling for a system of Proportional Representation (PR) for local elections, brought before Exeter City councillors last night [1], was blocked when both the Labour and Conservative groups refused to back it.

Diana Moore, the Green councillor who proposed the motion on behalf of the Progressive Group of councillors, expressed alarm at the way Council leader, Phil Bialyk, shut down debate on the motion. She said:

“We know the Tories are opposed to anything but our unfair First-Past-the-Post (FPTP) electoral system, but it was shocking to see the Labour leader block debate on our motion by preventing Labour councillors expressing their views. At least 54 other Constituency Labour Parties in the UK have passed motions backing PR and Cllr Bialyk himself acknowledged there is strong support amongst Labour members and voters for electoral reform.

“Clearly, Exeter City Council doesn’t have powers to introduce such a system by itself, but as our motion pointed out this was a chance to indicate support for PR for local elections by backing a straightforward call for reform. We made clear that the reason for raising this now is the proposed white paper on devolution. This provides an opportunity for councils to indicate to the government that they back changing local elections to a fairer system where seats match votes.”

Independent councillor for Newtown, Jemima Moore, added:

“Perhaps Labour fear the consequences of introducing fair elections in Exeter. In the last Exeter City Council elections held in 2019, Labour won nine of the 14 seats on just over a third of the vote. Meanwhile, councillors in the Progressive Group won three seats on just under a third of the vote. Clearly the make up of the Council is not an accurate reflection of the way people vote in Exeter.”

Kevin Mitchel, leader of the Progressive group and a Liberal Democrat councillor in St James and Duryard ward, concluded:

“The Covid-19 pandemic has suggested we need more, not less, democracy. And there is clear evidence that countries and regions that have PR enjoy benefits such as higher turnout in elections, lower income inequality, higher social expenditure, more effective action on climate change, and improved satisfaction with governance. This is not only a matter of making elections fairer; it’s about creating a more just society. All the more reason why it’s so disappointing that Labour in Exeter have failed to engage with us on changing our unjust electoral system.”


[1] See Page 2, Notice of Motion by Councillor D. Moore under Standing Order No. 6: Making Votes Matter in Local Elections

See also Cllr Diana Moore’s speech, published on her blog 

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