Posts Tagged ‘Paul Wheeler’

“Boiling a frog” or how our voting rights have been eroded by the Tories

09/01/2018, 10:04:49 PM

by Paul Wheeler

If four years ago political commentators had suggested that millions of eligible voters would be arbitrarily removed from the electoral register or that the government would be introducing a system of voter identification at polling stations outlawed in Texas, they would have accused of paranoia.

Yet as we enter 2018 that’s precisely what’s happening in Britain – one of the world’s oldest democracies. In a classic Tory approach none of this has been announced as a public policy but in a combination of stealth and cock up we are heading to a fundamental erosion of long held voting rights.

Individual voting registration (IVR) was introduced in 2014 and sold as a way of democratising the registration process by allowing anyone to register to vote rather than relying on a self nominated (and usually male) Head of Household. The problem was that it relied on 350 local councils- the majority small district councils- to introduce this radical change at a time when their overall budgets were being dramatically slashed by central government..

The Electoral Commission, who were the cheerleaders for IVR,  could have learnt from Australia where IVR had been a feature of the electoral process for decades and relies on a comprehensive system of data tracking with government and housing agencies to maintain an accurate record (they even cross-reference to ensure that the recently deceased are automatically removed from the electoral register). They chose not to contact any of the relevant agencies in Australia presumably on the basis that Britain knows best.

Needless to say the introduction of Individual voter registration didn’t go well. Millions of forms were dispatched to individuals in a complex paper chase of which the only real beneficiaries were the Post Office and the suppliers of official stationary. Apart from a few London and metropolitan boroughs little attempt was made to cross reference the voter register with other official records to maintain an accurate electoral register. One example indicates the shambles of IVR as introduced in Great Britain. ‘Attainers’ – 16-17 year olds- had traditionally been included on the register by heads of households. Now no-one had responsibility for including them. The result was that the number of 16-17 years on the register collapsed in a large number of areas (over 50% in Liverpool). In Australia their inclusion on the register was the responsibility of schools and colleges –a sensible approach not even considered here.

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Just not good enough – a story of Labour selection

06/03/2015, 03:49:55 PM

by Paul Wheeler

I had an interesting conversation with a well connected Labour councillor recently. We both had an interest in a recent Parliamentary selection contest.

His preferred candidate won and it was clear why. He had the better website, he had been full time contacting members for months, he was bright, articulate and union sponsored. In fact he was so well organised he even got his supporting union to provide a breakfast to ensure his supporters turned up for the early morning selection meeting. As my new friend put it cruelly but accurately my preferred candidate ‘just wasn’t good enough’

And he was right. He ran a slip shod campaign with a pretty poor website and relied on old contacts and promises. All he had going for him was that he was born and bred in the constituency and as a leading councillor had helped turned the town around when everyone else had written it off.  Critically for a lot of new members to the area he hadn’t been to university and was therefore not ‘quite up to the job’ of being an MP.

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