DPMQs: Something has happened here

Whisper it. A quiet revolution has happened. Keep this quiet, please!

Deputy Prime Minister’s Questions used to be akin to Bear Baiting (with apologies to bears and ursine mammal lovers everywhere). Nick Clegg would stand up and have all sorts of sticks prodded into his midriff by Labour members, while their sistren and breathren used to shout and jeer. The poor bear Clegg used to get all red in the face and start shouting back at them, before escaping to nurse his wounds.

Something has changed.

This week, apart from the odd bit of rowdiness during a question on the consultation concerning the opt-out for individual voter registration, DPMQs was a relatively sober and quiet affair. Nick Clegg dealt with questions on a whole host of issues with aplomb, calmness and skilful command of the details.

The only time he got remotely red-faced was when he had to defend the Right Honourable Dr Liam Fox MP. On that matter he was remarkably persuasive amidst repeated questions from Labour MPs. I am not sure that when I have delivered Focus leaflets in hozizontal rain, blizzards and at 5am that I have ever envisaged the leader of our party eloquently defending someone with the views of Dr Fox, but defend him he did – very well. (To be fair, his defence was focussed on the process being followed to investigate Dr Fox’s dealings with Mr Werritty).

I would estimate that this week’s DPMQs session covered more national subjects than the average PMQs session – bearing in mind that the Prime Minister is usually asked many questions pertaining to specific areas.

By my count there were seventeen topics covered, which I have listed at the bottom of this article.

Suffice it to say, it was a political anorak’s paradise.

On the opt-out for individual voter registration, Nick Clegg took the wind out of the Labour party’s sails by stating that he was minded, as a result of input received during the consultation, to change the final legislation to reflect concerns expressed. Mark Pack explains this development here. Nick Clegg got very impassioned on this point, insisting very forcefully that there will be “no removal of compulsion”.

One final point: Where was Chris Bryant? He is usually Clegg-baiter-in-chief.

I listed the following subjects covered in this session:

Prisoners’ voting rights
West Lothian question
Eletoral registration (several times)
Dr Liam Fox (several times)
Referendum on independence for Scotland
Eurozone crisis
Banking in relation to small businesses
Supreme Court role
Student voter registration
Police Commissioners
Boundary changes
Hillsborough disaster
Voting age
Green technology
Health reform
House of Lords reform

Paul Walter blogs at Liberal Burblings

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10 Comments

  • Sid Cumberland 13th Oct '11 - 11:05am

    “It is a legal requirement to complete the registration form even if there is no change to the information currently on the electoral register for the address. Failure to register to vote or deliberately giving false information could lead to a fine of up to £1,000.”

  • Alex Macfie 13th Oct '11 - 1:43pm

    @Cllr James Baker: regarding your point 3, the privacy issue is already addressed by the so-called Edited Electoral Register. Only the Edited register is available to the public, and it is possible to opt out of this when registering. Voting rights are determined only by inclusion on the Full Electoral Register, which is not available for general perusal by the public.

  • Cllr Colin Strong 13th Oct '11 - 2:28pm

    @Cllr James Baker: regarding your points 1 and 5, the electoral roll is used to determine those who perform jury service, therefore its use it not solely electoral.

    regarding your point 2, you are quite correct. However, being on the electoral roll and available for jury service means that there is no compulsion to vote. Also the boundaries of parliamentary constituencies and local authority wards/divisions would be affected by non-voters not appearing on the roll. Whether this is a good or bad thing would probably depend on the partisan outcome of such changed boundaries.

    regarding your point 3, apart from the edited electoral roll there is also in the Full electoral roll an Other Electors part where those individuals are registered to vote in a given polling district but have no physical address.

    I agree with point 6.

    As a Councillor I say to non-voters “it is your right NOT to vote…it just means somebody else will make the decision for you.. so you cannot complain afterwards.”

  • Yes the jeering was less and it was slightly more civilised and constructive, though Labour MPs still pulled their usual trick of asking the same question 5 different ways, making Clegg give the same answer over and over. Now either they do this on purpose, don’t communicate with each other over who is asking what, or they have the memory of a goldfish?! It’s a pointless practice imho!

    I wouldn’t say Clegg went all out and defended Liam Fox. He just stated that the investigation must be allowed to finish but that the situation could potentially be very serious.

    I just wish someone would tell Labour to stop wasting time asking the same question over and over. If my Labour MP asked a question that required the same answer that Nick had give 4 time already I’d be complaining to her for wasting a question and not have her constituents best interests at heart, but trying to play party politics instead.

  • Insistence that people have the right not to register as voters crosses the boundary between liberalism and extreme libertarianism to my mind.

    Voluntary registration leads to a swathe of people who fail to see the importance of involvement in democracy being excluded from all decision-making – to say nothing of jury service. Is that right? Some countries with liberal traditions make voting compulsory and I for one have some sympathy with that (you can always spoil your vote) but certainly voluntary self-exclusion from the register is a complete no-no to me

  • Denis – Nick has said that this will change. I think he will drop the opt out voluntary clause.

  • Regret that it was only about ‘voting’ ie the interests of the Liberal Democrats that Nick became impassioned when there are people facing real hardships and lack of opportunties in this country. The LibDems are showing themselves to be just as self serving as Labour and Tories when they have a whiff of power. More and more of he poopulation are feeling like me – disenfranchised. I used to have time for Nick.

  • Paul Walter Paul Walter 17th Oct '11 - 5:47pm

    But he was talking about having the widest voting registration. That covers everybody, however they vote, and even if they don’t vote.

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