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How Labour's proposed new leadership election system would work

The introduction of a one-member-one-vote system would dramatically reduce the disproportionate power wielded by MPs.

Ed Miliband speaks at the 2010 Labour conference after being elected leader. Photograph: Getty Images.

For the first time since Ed Miliband announced his intention to reform the relationship between Labour and the trade unions, the party has confirmed that its leadership election system will change as a result. A Labour spokesman told The Staggers:

Ed has always been very clear that the scale of the changes that he wants to make are likely to have consequences for other rules and structures of the Labour Party. He does want to change the way that we elect our leader and our deputy leader, and we are going to continue discussions on that.

The most radical option on the table is to introduce a full one-member-one-vote (OMOV) system. At present the decision lies with an electoral college split three ways between the party's 272 MPs and MEPs, all party members (187,000 at the last count) and members of affiliated trade unions and socialist societies (around 2.7 million).

But with Miliband planning to make all trade unionists who choose to donate associate members of the party, the third of these sections will effectively cease to exist (most socialist societies already require their members to be members of Labour). It this that has raised the question of whether the party should introduce a OMOV system, with MPs' votes no longer given greater weight than those of party members and individuals no longer to vote multiple times (by virtue of their membership of two or more affiliates). As I noted in 2010, Labour is the only one of the three main parties which does not give the final say to individual party members. Under the electoral college system, the vote of one MP is worth the votes of 608 party members and 12,915 affiliated members and the vote of one party member is worth the votes of 21 affiliated members.

One potential stumbling block to reform is the role of MPs, some of whom will resent having their influence diluted. But one compromise Miliband is exploring is to allow MPs to nominate leadership candidates in advance (as the Conservatives do), before they go forward to a full ballot  of the party membership. This would eliminate the risk of members electing a leader who lacks sufficient support in the PLP.

Incidentally, while some have suggested that Miliband would have lost the 2010 leadership election under the proposed new system, the truth is that he would have won by a larger margin. Since David won the MPs' section by 140 votes to 122, his share is heavily reduced under OMOV. He also won the party members' section by 66,814 to 55,992, but Ed's large lead among affiliated members (119,405 to 80,266) means he pulls ahead.

It's not a perfect simulation; I don't have the data needed to strip out multiple votes (most MPs, for instance, had at least three votes owing to their membership of affiliated societies) and it's hard to know how many trade unionists would have participated under an opt-in system, but it's the best guide currently available.

Here's the new result in full (you can view the actual result here). 

2010 Labour leadership election result under one-member-one-vote

Round One

1. Ed Miliband 125,649 (37.1%)

2. David Miliband 114,205 (33.8%)

3. Diane Abbott 35,259 (10.4%)

4. Ed Balls 34,489 (10.2%)

5. Andy Burnham 28,772 (8.5%)

Round Two

1. Ed Miliband 137,599 (41%)

2. David Miliband 118,575 (35.4%)

3. Ed Balls 40,992 (12.2%)

4. Andy Burnham 38,050 (11.4%)

(Since Abbott was eliminated in the first round in the actual contest, I have had to use Burnham's numbers.)

Round Three

1. Ed Miliband 149,675 (45.3%)

2. David Miliband 127,389 (38.5%)

3. Ed Balls 53,669 (16.2%)

Round Four

1. Ed Miliband 175,519 (54.4%)

2. David Miliband 147,220 (45.6%)

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