PM 4 PR? One policy guaranteed to put Ed in No 10. Photo: Getty
Show Hide image

Proportional representation: the pledge that would guarantee a Labour landslide in May

With one tiny hitch...

Recently, just about everyone has an opinion about how Labour can fix its middling poll ratings and win the upcoming election outright. Combine all the advice and you get a nice simple message: it needs to be simultaneously more left and rightwing, while ensuring it remains centrist. Easy.

But I have an even easier proposition, and something that – and I don't say this lightly – is virtually guaranteed to give Labour a landslide win in 2015. What's more, it'll draw in voters from the Lib Dems, Ukip, SNP, Plaid Cymru and Greens alike. It'll even pull in a handful of Tories, and not just those who slipped and put their X in the wrong box. But it does have one tiny drawback.

OK. Here's the manifesto. Don't worry, it won't take long to read. In fact, it's 485 pages shorter than Ukip's 486-page long 2010 opus, with room for overbearing stock photography, generous spacing, and a size 72 font:

Within 90 days of forming a government, we will vote on changing the Westminster electoral voting system to Proportional Representation, and then call a snap election.

That's it.

“PR? That's your big idea?” I hear you cry.

Yes, but think about it: a single-issue party with a chance of getting voted in, and then the guarantee of an instant second election? Ukip, the Greens, the Liberal Democrats, the SNP, Plaid Cymru, Respect... all of them would have to stand down and put their weight behind this once-in-a-lifetime chance to get rid of the hated First Past the Post, the system that limits their chances of making real progress.

Anyone can put electoral reform in their manifesto, tucked away somewhere at the back where only the most bored politico would spot it (Labour has done it in two of the last four elections), but to make it your entire manifesto: people would know you're serious. I can see the campaign now: "Vote Labour now, so you don't have to in 90 days", with a grinning Ed Miliband holding the pledge card.

The Conservatives would panic, and the press would go bananas, but if you get everyone bar Tory voters behind the Labour party, then current polling would suggest a turnout of around 67 per cent to Labour and 33 per cent to the Conservatives. Ironically, First Past the Post's archaic mechanisms would deliver a healthy, decisive majority at this point, just as David Cameron promised it would when he campaigned against AV.

Indeed, my entirely unscientific attempt at replicating this on May2015.com's result calculator gives Labour 567 seats to the Tories' 58. A handful of seats are held by "others", mostly in Northern Ireland. Presumably the DUP managed to get onto the extremely sparse leaders' debates in this fantasy world.

This would lead to the unusual spectacle of the still fresh government voting to bring itself down, what with the Fixed Term Parliament Act meaning the Prime Minister can't unilaterally call an election. The Tories wouldn't know how to vote.

The chances of this happening? Close to zero. The Labour party is extremely well aware of how well First Past the Post serves the party, and how PR would be giving this away forever. The chance to govern based on 35 per cent of the vote would slip away, with only the delicious prospect of the Tories doing even worse to soothe Labour heads. There's a fair case to be made that that's what’s slowly happening anyway, but that's for another piece.

So, if you're reading, Ed: here's an incredible chance to go down in history as a genuinely reforming, albeit short-lived, Prime Minister with a share of the vote Blair could only dream of. You could even put nationalising the railways in size 6 font at the bottom of that one page manifesto, and try to slip that in too, if you fancy.

Alan Martin (@alan_p_martin) is a freelance politics, science and technology writer

Getty
Show Hide image

The 8 bits of good news about integration buried in the Casey Review

It's not all Trojan Horses.

The government-commissioned Casey Review on integration tackles serious subjects, from honour crimes to discrimination and hate crime.

It outlines how deprivation, discrimination, segregated schools and unenlightened traditions can drag certain British-Pakistani and Bangladeshi communities into isolation. 

It shines a light on nepotistic local politics, which only entrench religious and gender segregation. It also charts the hurdles faced by ethnic minorities from school, to university and the workplace. There is no doubt it makes uncomfortable reading. 

But at a time when the negative consequences of immigration are dominating headlines, it’s easy to miss some of the more optimistic trends the Casey Report uncovered:

1. You can always have more friends

For all the talk of segregation, 82 per cent of us socialise at least once a month with people from a different ethnic and religious background, according to the Citizenship Survey 2010-11.

More than half of first generation migrants had friends of a different ethnicity. As for their children, nearly three quarters were friends with people from other ethnic backgrounds. Younger people with higher levels of education and better wages are most likely to have close inter-ethnic friendships. 

Brits from Black African and Mixed ethnic backgrounds are the most sociable it seems, as they are most likely to have friends from outside their neighbourhood. White British and Irish ethnic groups, on the other hand, are least likely to have ethnically-mixed social networks. 

Moving away from home seemed to be a key factor in diversifying your friendship group –18 to 34s were the most ethnically integrated age group. 

2. Integrated schools help

The Casey Review tells the story of how schools can distort a community’s view of the world, such as the mostly Asian high school where pupils thought 90 per cent of Brits were Asian (the actual figure is 7 per cent), and the Trojan Horse affair, where hardline Muslims were accused of dominating the curriculum of a state school (the exact facts have never come to light). 

But on the other hand, schools that are integrated, can change a whole community’s perspective. A study in Oldham found that when two schools were merged to create a more balanced pupil population between White Brits and British Asians, the level of anxiety both groups felt diminished. 

3. And kids are doing better at school

The Casey Report notes: “In recent years there has been a general improvement in educational attainment in schools, with a narrowing in the gap between White pupils and pupils from Pakistani, Bangladeshi and African/Caribbean/Black ethnic backgrounds.”

A number of ethnic minority groups, including pupils of Chinese, Indian, Irish and Bangladeshi ethnicity, outperformed White British pupils (but not White Gypsy and Roma pupils, who had the lowest attainment levels of all). 

4. Most people feel part of a community

Despite the talk of a divided society, in 2015-16, 89 per cent of people thought their community was cohesive, according to the Community Life Survey, and agreed their local area is a place where people from different backgrounds get on well together. This feeling of cohesiveness is actually higher than in 2003, at the height of New Labour multiculturalism, when the figure stood at 80 per cent. 

5. Muslims are sticklers for the law

Much of the Casey Report dealt with the divisions between British Muslims and other communities, on matters of culture, religious extremism and equality. It also looked at the Islamophobia and discrimination Muslims face in the UK. 

However, while the cultural and ideological clashes may be real, a ComRes/BBC poll in 2015 found that 95 per cent of British Muslims felt loyal to Britain and 93 per cent believed Muslims in Britain should always obey British laws. 

6. Employment prospects are improving

The Casey Review rightly notes the discrimination faced by jobseekers, such as study which found CVs with white-sounding names had a better rate of reply. Brits from Black, Pakistani or Bangladeshi backgrounds are more likely to be unemployed than Whites. 

However, the employment gap between ethnic minorities and White Brits has narrowed over the last decade, from 15.6 per cent in 2004 to 12.8 per cent in 2015. 

In October 2015, public and private sector employers responsible for employing 1.8m people signed a pledge to operate recruitment on a “name blind” basis. 

7. Pretty much everyone understand this

According to the 2011 census, 91.6 per cent of adults in England and Wales had English as their main language. And 98.2 per cent of them could speak English. 

Since 2008-2009, most non-European migrants coming to the UK have to meet English requirements as part of the immigration process. 

8. Oh, and there’s a British Muslim Mayor ready to tackle integration head on

The Casey Review criticised British Asian community leaders in northern towns for preventing proper discussion of equality and in some cases preventing women from launching rival bids for a council seat.

But it also quoted Sadiq Khan, the Mayor of London, and a British Muslim. Khan criticised religious families that force children to adopt a certain lifestyle, and he concluded:

"There is no other city in the world where I would want to raise my daughters than London.

"They have rights, they have protection, the right to wear what they like, think what they like, to meet who they like, to study what they like, more than they would in any other country.”

 

Julia Rampen is the editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog. She was previously deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.