Lib Dem peers challenge “outrageous gerrymander” by Tories

The Government has ignored Electoral Commission advice and brought forward changes to the way we register to vote. Individual electoral registration was brought in during the last Parliament, but electoral registers would have contained existing data until 1 December 2016. They have now moved this forward to 1 December this year.

Liberal Democrat peers didn’t miss this announcement sneaking out as MPs and Peers head off for Summer recess and they have laid down motions in both houses of Parliament to try to defeat it.

The Guardian has the details;

The Electoral Commission had advised the government in June to spend another year transferring voters on the old household-based register to the new individual register, but ministers want to short-circuit the process so that it is completed by December 2015, and not the end of 2016. The commission says there are 1.9 million names on the household register that are not on the individual register

The cleaned-up register will form the basis of the parliamentary constituency boundary review to be conducted before the 2020 election that will both reduce the number of seats and see a redrawing of the boundaries in favour of the Conservatives.

Although this is clearly an issue for the Boundary Review, surely this will also drop nearly 2 million people off the register for the European Referendum if it happens before 1 December 2016. Might that give an advantage to one side or the other? Given that it’s most likely to be young people who drop off the register, it could minimise the Yes vote.

The paper quotes Paul Tyler as saying:

Ministers should be thoroughly ashamed of this sneaky initiative, just before the long summer recess, trying to avoid proper parliamentary scrutiny.

We anticipate support from all the other opposition parties in the Commons, and also crossbenchers in the Lords, precisely because such changes to electoral law should avoid partisan advantage and seek consensus.

If the Tories are defeated on such an order – which is unusual but not unprecedented – they will only have themselves to blame for what looks all too like an outrageous gerrymander.

It seems very foolish indeed for a government to ignore the recommendation of the Electoral Commission which could not be clearer:

The implementation of the new registration system has gone well so far. But taking into account the data and evidence which is available to us at this point, and the scale and importance of the polls scheduled for next May, we are disappointed at the Government’s announcement and still recommend that the end of transition should take place in December 2016 as set out in law. We therefore recommend that Parliament does not approve this order. If Parliament decides to bring forward the end of transition we will, of course, work with Electoral Registration Officers, the Government and others to ensure the associated risks are managed as well as possible.

If Alex Salmond had sought to ignore the Commission’s advice on any aspect of the independence referendum, you can imagine what the reaction of Tory Ministers would be.

It’s good to see that our lot have their eyes firmly on the ball.

* Caron Lindsay is Editor of Liberal Democrat Voice and blogs at Caron's Musings

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  • Richard Underhill 22nd Jul '15 - 9:38pm

    Par for the course. This sort of behaviour undermines trust in government. Scrutiny is essential.

  • nigel hunter 22nd Jul '15 - 10:09pm

    This is typical Tory underhand tactics to aid them in making the country a Tory only Paradise ;(! They seem to think that the young should be seen and not here’d. This skulduggery should be widely advertised as it can rob people their say at elections.

  • Chris Rennard 22nd Jul '15 - 10:43pm

    Our press release also included my comments: “The Government is ignoring the independent Electoral Commission in pursuit of its own narrow party advantage. Removing nearly two million voters from the register in this way will make the electoral registers significantly less complete and the process for conducting next year’s elections less democratic. The proposed change will in effect deny many people the right to vote. There are already major problems with electoral registers missing about 8 million people who should be included. Minsters are now making the problem worse.. The Government’s motivation is not just to deny many people the right to vote next year, but to ensure that there are fewer non-Conservative constituencies in future. It is a shameful abuse of power and must be opposed.”

    Notes to Editors:
    · The Electoral Commission statement opposing the Government plan is here
    · The Government’s statement is here
    · The legislative order which will remove 1.9m voters from the register is here
    · Tom Brake’s motion in the House of Commons is here
    · Lord Tyler’s motion in the House of Lords can be found here

  • Chris Renard, m’Lud:

    I think you have omitted your links.

  • That is odd. I suddenly seem to have a face to my name.

  • I dare say its preaching to the converted here, but the 8 million bothers me more than the 2. All the time we continue to have a poll tax – benefits which get reduced when people live together- the system virtually bribes people to drop off the register.

  • Richard Underhill 23rd Jul '15 - 10:39am

    Chris Rennard please put in the links.

  • Richard Underhill 23rd Jul '15 - 10:40am

    It would be helpful to have the links.

  • This 8 million is an interesting figure. The Tories are in government on the back of 37% support on a 66% turnout, equating to 25% active support across the electorate. Does the electorate include the missing 8 million? If not, we can argue that the government has the active support of less than 20% of the electorate. Democracy or what???!!! Is this another example of the 80/20 rule? Small wonder they want to keep the numbers down.

  • Chris Rennard 23rd Jul '15 - 7:48pm

    Sorry just seen requests for links. They were in the original press release I submitted to LDV together with my comments (which I posted in comments above).

    I hope that these work:
    • The Electoral Commission statement opposing the Government plan is here

    • The Government’s statement is here
    • The legislative order which will remove 1.9m voters from the register is here
    • Tom Brake’s motion in the House of Commons is here

    • Lord Tyler’s motion in the House of Lords can be found here

    I have now posted more about this issue on Lords of the Blog:

  • Richard Underhill 23rd Jul '15 - 8:04pm

    80/20 is not a rule, it is a member of what is happening, sorry to be boring, but it is following the evidence, not controlling it.

  • John Tilley 24th Jul '15 - 7:02am

    Robin Lynn 23rd Jul ’15 – 11:45am
    “… The Tories are in government on the back of 37% support on a 66% turnout, equating to 25% active support across the electorate.”

    Yes this is such an important point. It is a fact which the BBC has not yet grasped (I wonder if it ever will).

    The fact is that Labour was not beaten by the Conservatives it was beaten by the SNP in Scotland and the Conservatives got a majority of 12 by taking dozens of seats from the Liberal Democrats.

    In England (which is home to 83% of the UK electorate) the Conservative Party only achieved a net gain of 21 seats, they made a net loss of seats to Labour.
    They gained 6 from Labour but lost 10 to Labour.

    In England, Labour’s share of the vote actually went up by 3.6%. They also won every single seat where they were challenging Liberal Democrat MPs.

    Conservatives have a majority of 12 because across the UK our former leader Nick Clegg marched the Liberal Democrats over a cliff to disaster.

    The Conservatives have a majority because Labour’s Jim Murphy (and some in our party) thought it was more important to be a Unionist in Scotland than to be an MP in Westminster.

    Liberal Democrats lost 15 seats to the Conservatives in the West Country and the Conservatives have a majority of 12.

    The arithmetic should not be too complex for anyone, even the BBC’s new political editor.

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