Michael Meacher has me confused over individual electoral registration

Dear Michael Meacher,

I’m puzzled by your views on individual electoral registration. You call it “insidious”, “underhand”, “utterly anti-democratic” and “Tory”. Yet the legislation for it was introduced by a Labour government, Labour’s 2010 manifesto boasted about Labour’s achievement in passing that legislation and – as far as I can see – you didn’t rebel once over the legislation when it was going through Parliament.

Of course there are issues about whether or not electoral registration should be voluntary and whether the annual canvass should be kept in 2014, but those are not the target of your written ire. Your piece specifically instead refers to individual electoral registration.

You may not have seen my tweet last week asking you about how you reconcile this but by all means let me know via email instead and I’ll update my post on the matter accordingly.

I guess perhaps it is a sign of just how sneaky a Tory plot it is that the Tories got a Labour government to legislate for it and Labour MPs like yourself to vote for it…!

Yours etc.

 

UPDATE: In a reply to me subsequently, Michael Meacher has said that his comments are only about voluntary electoral registration. Fair enough, though to have written at such length without making such a basic distinction shows rather poor judgement.

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13 Comments

  • I think the issue is more that this registration reform is being tied to the redrawing of the boundaries in a way that effectively means the changes are, to Labour eyes, a massive gerrymandering effort by the Tories. Indeed Lib Dems should be concerned that those most disenfranchised by poverty, disability or social circumstance are already the least likely to vote, and under the Coalition’s proposals will be even less likely to do so in the future. They also tend not to vote Tory.

    Still, why address the issues when you can chuck personal abuse at an opposition politician?

  • Alex Macfie 10th Oct '11 - 9:07pm

    Geoffrey: We are discussing the issue on its merits. From a liberal point of view, individual electoral registration is an excellent idea, because it helps ensure that the right people are on the electoral role, in both directions:
    — it ensures that all individuals in a household get the opportunity to register. In other words, registration is not in the hands of the “head of the household”. Therefore, others in the household are not disenfranchised becasue the householder doesn’t want them to be able to vote. It also prevents the situation where non-resident landlords themselves at the address, and withhold the form from the actual residents.
    — it makes it harder to register non-existent voters. Under the current system, I could write that Mr Michael Mouse and Mr & Mrs Donald & Daisy Duck lived with me in my flat, sign the form and send it off, and these “people” would be registered as voters, so I have 4 votes for the price of one. If each individual has to sign their own registration form, it’s much more likely that the people on the electoral roll are actual voters.

    It’s Labour who are point-scoring on this issue, given that it was the last Labour government that started the ball rolling on individual registration. I suspect that there are also elements in the Labour party who do not wish to lose the opportunity to “vote early and vote often” that the current household registration system provides.

  • Alex Macfie 10th Oct '11 - 9:11pm

    The only concern I have with the current proposal is that it is for voluntary registration, rather than making it compulsory. But even so, it is still an improvement on the current system, which puts people’s right to vote in the hands of their landlord or head of the household.

  • Andy Dowland 11th Oct '11 - 7:08am

    @Mark

    As g has pointed out, making voter registration more time-consuming at the same time as having a policy of redrawing the constituency boundaries every five years on the basis of registered voters is the argument Michael Meacher is making.

    Being in support of policy A, but not of policy A & B being introduced together does not make someone a hypocrite.

  • Hi Mark, given that Nick Clegg has now decided that the registration, as proposed, is flawed will you change your mind? Or do you think Nick Clegg is wrong, and your argument still stands?

  • Andy Dowland 11th Oct '11 - 6:07pm

    @Mark

    Many thanks for taking the time to respond. For the avoidance of any doubt, I’m not Michael Meacher and I wouldn’t seek to speak for what he meant, but it looks clear to me.

    Here’s what the Labour Manifesto 2010 says:
    “We have already legislated to enable the individual registration of voters. We will now act, legislating further if necessary, to end the unacceptable situation where three million eligible voters cannot vote because they are not registered to do so.”

    The Conservative Manifesto 2010 says:
    “We will swiftly implement individual voter registration, giving everyone the right to cast their vote in person and making it easier for UK citizens living overseas to vote.”

    So Labour’s promising to implement individual registration if it’s going to get the three million eligible voters that aren’t on the electoral register to be registered. The Tory plan is to bring in individual voter registration in order to increase the number that are disenfranchised for partisan reasons. It’s not hypocrisy to point that out.

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