With the news that Momentum’s Jon Lansman has been elected to Labour’s National Executive Committee, as reported by the BBC, there is been talk that Labour has been “taken over by a Leftist clique” and that the “Hard Left” has tightened “its grip” on Labour. This type of language is commonplace when Momentum and Labour are discussed.
Labour moderates – those on the right of Labour – will undoubtedly be frustrated by Momentum's progress within the Labour Party, but the brutal honesty of the situation is that Jon Lansman and other Momentum figures got there via democratic votes. This is how party democracy works. Furthermore, the idea of mandatory re-selection by local parties is arguably a fair, sound and democratic principle that should be a constant for all parties.
However, there is one problem that goes deeper than all this.
The reason for Labour’s infighting? The Labour party is effectively a large centre-left coalition with a complex set of internal party wars always going on. Power has swung from left to right several times over the last few decades, and the party is therefore driven by whoever heads the party and the ideology that comes with them.
The Conservatives have the same issue: they too are a broad centre-right coalition.
The main reason for all this? Britain’s voting system.
First-past-the-post perpetuates a two-party system due to the simple reason that it is difficult for third-parties to break through. Resultantly, parties are formed from broad schools of thought and are coalitions in all but name.
If the UK switched to using the Single Transferable Vote like in Ireland or the Additional Member System like in Scotland, there would be a short-term struggle for the existing parties, but in the long-run it would be much easier for the “losers” to exit and form their own parties and win seats under their own banners.
The new parties would have much more ideological coherence and while they would still have different bodies of opinion within them, swings from one to the other with leadership elections would be less dramatic. Furthermore, there would be a clearer choice on offer for the electorate, as well as a more democratic system in place.
The Labour party could eventually split into two or three parties, an outcome that would be much fairer for the electorate. They could come together after elections to form centre-left governments like in much of Europe - or the moderate Labour party could work with the new moderate Conservative party to form a centrist coalition.
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