Posts Tagged ‘Electoral Commission’

“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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Despite a “concession” the lobbying bill is still a shambles

10/09/2013, 12:45:14 PM

by Wayne David

This afternoon, the house of commons is considering in committee the second part of the so-called lobbying bill. This is the part which puts restraints on the campaigning ability of charities and third sector organisations to campaign in the run-up to general elections.

The government is seeking to get this bill on the statute book as quickly as possible and with as little debate as they can get away with. Their aim is get this restrictive legislative agreed in time for the 2015 General Election.

Even though the bill was only published just before the summer recess, charities and campaigning organisations – from the WI and Oxfam, to the British Legion and Friends of the Earth – responded quickly to the threat which they faced. MPs were inundated with emails from concerned charities and even the impartial Electoral Commission came out strongly and criticised the poorly drafted legislation.

At second reading the government had a ‘bloody nose’ with many Conservatives as well as Labour MPs attacking the Bill. The leader of the house, Andrew Lansley, has indicated that the government will make a ‘concession’ to try to placate the groundswell of opposition. He has said that the government will not now seek to redefine what already exists in legislation with regard to what can be “reasonably” regarded as intended to promote or procure electoral success.

This move is welcome, but it only loosens the stranglehold that charities are facing. The concession does not go nearly far enough because the bill is fundamentally flawed and requires a whole host of changes before it can even begin to be considered as acceptable. In short, it is still a shambles. The Electoral Commission has made the very good point that the government should open up an immediate dialogue with all those affected by the bill “before putting amendments before Parliament”.


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The latest party funding figures tell us we can’t go on like this

23/08/2012, 07:00:00 AM

by Peter Watt

I’m on holiday at the moment and have both limited internet access and limited interest in all things political.  Normal levels of political obsession will no doubt return once the holiday is over.  One thing has caught my attention though this week and I felt the need to write about it.  It’s an old favourite of mine, something I feel passionately about – party funding and the trade unions.

The Electoral Commission has published its latest quarterly report on the donations to political parties.  The first thing to note is that overall levels of donations to all political parties were down almost £1 million when compared to the first three months of the year.  The Tories were down £250,000 receiving £3.8 million whilst Labour was down £450,000 receiving just under £3 million.

So it’s clear that Labour, already receiving less than the Tories, appears to be feeling the squeeze even more. The detail of the figures goes on to show that that even more of party’s income is now derived from a single source: the trade unions.  Of all of the donations received by Labour in this reporting period more than £2 million, or about 70%, came from the Trade Unions.  And of this £2 million, Unite gave over £840,000 almost double that of the next biggest, USDAW, at £429,000.

Our opponents have once again tried to make mischief and claim that this means that 70% of our income comes from the trade unions.  This is simply not true.  As I have blogged on Labour Uncut several times before, the Labour party does not in fact receive the majority of its income from the trade unions.

In an average, non-general election year income comes roughly from the following sources:

  • £8  million in affiliation fees from trade unions;
  • £7 million from the tax payer in short money;
  • £5 million from individual membership subscriptions.

This gives a “definite” income of about £20 million per year.  In addition the Labour Party gets:

  • £2 – 5 million in donations from individuals, companies and trade unions;
  • £5 million or so from other things like commercial income, legacies and dinners.

So while the attacks of our opponents are an exaggeration, we should not pretend that they do not have a point.  Labour’s financial position remains precarious and we need to face up to it.


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Electoral registration is too important to be a lifestyle choice

19/10/2011, 02:24:51 PM

by Wayne David

It has been described as the biggest change in our voting system since the introduction of the universal suffrage in 1928. So far, however, it has failed to appear on hardly anyone’s political radar. This needs to change because if the government are able to get away with what they are proposing, it will have a hugely negative impact on British politics, with millions of people being unable to vote.

In the last parliament, the Labour government secured cross-party agreement for the introduction of individual electoral registration (IER). With the support of the independent electoral commission, the Labour government brought forward reasonable measures to modernise electoral registration and reduce the possibility of electoral fraud. The Tory-led government has taken these proposals, but then infused them with its own distinctive venom. The result is a set of proposals which profoundly undermine the nature of the country’s democratic process.

Under the government’s white paper and draft bill, which are to be discussed in the Commons today during a debate called for by Labour, it is proposed that the move towards IER should happen quickly. The result will be electoral confusion as the introduction of IER will coincide with both the general election and the next parliamentary constituencies boundary review. Right from the start, there will be a question mark over the new boundaries, as no sooner will the boundaries have been established, then they will be reviewed on the basis of a new and potentially very different electoral register. (more…)

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Is it because I is forgetful?

21/07/2010, 04:07:45 PM

So, the Electoral Commission have decided to investigate Zac Goldsmith’s election expenses. This follows a Channel 4 investigation into his campaign in Richmond. Goldsmith came onto Channel 4 News to discuss the allegations and had a go at refutation by rant – just like his Dad, the late Sir James Goldsmith.

Maybe he’d have been better off pleading forgetfulness. This morning at Scottish Questions Labour MPs were surprised by a newcomer on the Opposition benches. It was none other than Zac Goldsmith. The Labour MP he was sitting beside tactfully nudged him. Goldsmith looked up, looked around and fled with a horrified look on his face.

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