Greens and Lib Dems stand up to Labour over a proportional electoral system

I asked Hove’s Green candidate, Ollie Sykes, why he did not stand aside for Labour’s Peter Kyle in order to strengthen the ‘remain’ vote and form a ‘progressive alliance’ that mirrors a more proportional electoral system.

Mr Sykes, who served as a Councillor for Brunswick and Adelaide Ward until 2019 said: It’s because of a lack of reciprocation and because Hove is not a marginal seat. It’s extremely clear and it makes perfect sense because of the rationale and the nature of the seat.”

Later in the interview below, Mr Sykes said: “I think Labour and Peter Kyle personally support changes to our electoral system. If Peter Kyle had said he would support something proportional, I would have considered standing aside. In fact, I would have to think about that.”

In terms of a general election, Mr Sykes said: “All we can do is hope for is a hung Parliament.” Liberal Democrats have stood aside for Caroline Lucas from the Green Party in Brighton Pavilion in favour of a proportional electoral system but neither the Green Party nor the Lib Dems have stood aside for Peter Kyle in Hove and Portslade.

The reason this article matters is that a government majority of 66 sets a very dangerous precedent and will undermine Parliamentary scrutiny. I think our democracy is at risk and our constitution because of an unaccountable Prime Minister.

First Past the Post voting system

Mr Sykes said the problem with the British parliamentary system is it’s a two party contest, it’s a rigged game designed and maintained by two players.

“Despite the game being rigged when any other players do well, like the Greens are doing well in Brighton and Hove, the main players will still tell the smaller parties to step aside,” he said.

“Tactical voting is what people do to keep the Tories out. That contribution, that borrowed vote, is purely seen as a deserved, merited win. I think tactical voting causes long-term damage and the depression of the smaller parties.

“Evidently most people don’t spend their lives ‘doing politics.’ When it comes to elections, there’s always lots of discussion of tactical voting. There’s an impression that we do have a form of proportional representation (PR) because of the coalitions.

“But a local vote will have an impact on the vote nationally in terms of the nature of the next government.

“In a first past the post system, people are told a vote for the smaller parties is a wasted vote.

Green Position on Brexit

“The Green Party’s position on Brexit and wanting a People’s Vote has been clear from very early on. We think the only way out of this Brexit debacle is to have two options on the ballot paper, Leave and Remain.”

I asked Mr Sykes again why he did not stand aside like Lib Dem Paul Chandler in Brighton Pavilion to ‘stop Brexit’ and the Green Party Candidate said: “I think Labour and Peter Kyle personally support changes to our electoral system. If Peter Kyle had said he would support something proportional, I would have considered standing aside.” He then slightly retracted this by saying: “In fact, I would have to think about that.”

However, when they were both cross-examined at a hustings by the electorate according to Mr Sykes, Mr Kyle said that all proportional systems of government lose the geographical link.

Marginal Seats versus a proportional electoral system

I asked Mr Sykes what he thought of the Alternative Vote electoral system. He said in the marginal seat of Ceredigion in Wales where Gethin James was standing for the Brexit Party, 70% of votes cast were against the candidate that won the election. He said: “It’s possible in a multi-way marginal under the first past the post system.”

“In the 2015 and 2017 general elections, the number of votes that were effectively wasted were 64% and 71% respectively.”

Electoral turnout in Ceredigion, Plaid Cymru won by 0.2% with only 29.2% of the vote. None of the other votes were transferred from the losing parties so they were effectively wasted.

In a two party system, both the main parties want to win an outright majority. Mr Sykes admitted that in a proportional system there will be more extremists where parties are “forced to speak to each other, it’s just grown up politics.”

A proportional electoral system

The problem is a proportional system is not the way the political system in marginal seats works at the moment in the UK. In Britain the constitution which is unwritten works by a series of checks and balances between the executive i.e. the government, Parliament and the judiciary.

The power of a referendum or an election is to shift this balance of power by asking the people. The problem at the moment is that politicians can’t decide if and how to implement the outcome of the last EU referendum.

Labour’s Position

In response to Mr Sykes remarks, Labour MP for Hove and Portslade, Peter Kyle who has campaigned for a Confirmatory Referendum which is like a People’s Vote, said: “The Greens are obsessed with doing deals, I just want some common sense in this one-off Brexit election.

“I’ve said throughout this campaign that Labour supporters in areas we have no hope of winning, should consider voting for an anti-Tory party. Ollie is only interested in a deal that helps his party out, his first thought is ‘what’s in it for me and my party.’ This simply isn’t how I do my politics, I put our country first every time.

“The Greens and Lib Dems support a version of electoral reform that delivers for their party interests. I support a comprehensive review of what is wrong with our politics and finding appropriate ways of fixing it. Everything should be up for discussion including electoral reform but not limited to it.

“I’m sad that stopping Boris Johnson’s Brexit comes second to getting a vague commitment on proportional representation for Ollie, but it is what I’ve come to expect.”

Labour’s Jack Straw who served in Tony Blair’s government preferred an Alternative Vote system to Proportional Representation. The problem with PR is it has many electoral forms and tends to result in coalitions.

Liberal Democrat Position

Beatrice Bass who is the Liberal Democrat candidate is also standing in Hove. She said: “I am standing in this election to uphold the liberal values which the Liberal Democrats hold dear – equality, liberty and community.

“And I contribute to our aim of building a fair, fee and open society. I am proud to be standing on a fantastic manifesto with progressive policies and a comprehensive plan to tackle the climate crisis, improve health care and our education system, boost our economy and invest in our left behind regions and nations.

“In fact, the manifesto contains a policy that I introduced: to protect music venues in support of our vibrant music scene. And as a ‘Remainer’ and internationalist, I support the Lib Dems in our fight to stop Brexit.

“Hove is not a Remain Alliance seat because the Labour party is not part of the Remain Alliance, and Peter Kyle is standing on a manifesto to negotiate a new Brexit deal.

“Labour has been sitting on the fence for too long and has suffered under the antisemitism scandal.

“Many Labour members have ended their membership and have recently joined the Liberal Democrats (our local membership has increased significantly in the last few months and many former Labour members are now part of my campaign team.)

Liberal Democrat position on Brexit and a proportional electoral system

“People don’t trust Labour who want to negotiate their own Brexit deal and who continuously refuse to back Remain.

“The Lib Dems tabled People’s Vote motions 17 times in Parliament, but they did not pass because of a lack of Labour support.

“Increasing Labour MPs will mean we might have another delay whilst they negotiate a new deal and we’ll have further uncertainty over what that deal will be. There is also a high risk that this deal would win backing at a confirmatory referendum, which means we get a Labour Brexit after all.

“The safest way to stop Brexit is to vote for a party that is committed to fight for remaining in the EU.

“The Liberal Democrats are the biggest and strongest remain party and I am standing on a manifesto to either revoke article 50, if the Lib Dems gain a majority, or, if there is a hung Parliament, to continue our fight for a referendum, where the Lib Dems firmly, unanimously and unequivocally back Remain.

“Further, Brexit has changed the political landscape and people are moving away from the traditional right or left wing politics to voting either for an open, pro EU, pro equality party like the Lib Dems or Greens in the South East.

“Or they vote for a populist, protectionist and anti EU party like the Conservatives or the Brexit party.

“Many former conservative voters in Hove feel politically homeless. They do not support Boris Johnson’s protectionist Brexit direction. They also strongly disagree with Jeremy Corbyn’s hard left socialism.

“They are now looking at the Liberal Democrats and I would like to give these constituents a credible alternative and an opportunity to vote for a progressive party with policies fit for the 21st century.”

In Brighton and Hove we are beginning to see a progressive coalition on the left that may, win a People’s Vote that will help us break the Brexit impasse and could also herald in a proportional electoral system at Westminster.