11 October 2011

A Very British Coup.

Up to 10 million people are about to be disenfranchised in this country. Not my view. but the view of the Electoral Commission. In any developing country this would surely be viewed as a scandal and given ample time in the Western media, yet somehow most people haven't a clue what is being done in their name and most seem to be unconcerned even if they do have an inkling.

Despite their hostility to politics in general, people seem to generally trust that one person one vote is enough for things to be fair, but under our system each vote only really affects the result in a minority of constituencies, and where you draw the boundaries determines who wins and whose votes count or not. This boundary task is left to the unelected boundary commissions - quangos with the power to allocate power. Where you draw the boundaries can have a bigger impact on the result than even large swings in voteshare for the parties.

The government are implementing boundary enlargement to increase the number of electors per constituency, thereby making MPs even more distant and unaccountable.

On top of this they are restricting variation in the size of 596 of the 600 seats to just 5% either way. This is leading to seats that are even more arbitrary and confusing, as county boundaries and geographical considerations are overlooked. As Lewis Baston puts it; "The impartial boundary commissions are carrying out very partial legislation".

The Tories are desperate for these boundary changes to correct what they see as a gross unfairness in the system - the fact that they can't win a majority of seats with just 36% of the vote (like Labour managed in 2005). Of course the real unfairness is that ANY party be allowed to win a majority of seats with such a small voteshare - but it would require proportional representation to cure that and hell will freeze over before the British people get that for Westminster elections.

But what really scares me, above all this, is the proposal to remove the legal requirement to register to vote. Mostly it is the young urban poor that fail to vote that will fall off the register. If they don't vote, why does this matter? Because boundary size is determined by those who register, not those who live there. Already urban areas have larger adult populations, this will exarcerbate the problem. The Tories are annoyed that Labour can win seats in urban areas despite low turnouts of voters there. This change coupled with the enlargement of such seats to include more rural Tory voters will add seats to the Tories without winning any extra votes. The Lib Dems would be mad to support this change that will go to parliament in 2013. But before the 5th December you can register your disapproval, if you can be bothered, that is.

1 comment:

  1. Registering but not voting also records abstentions.

    What is most worrying is that there seems to be so little follow up on registration. No wonder there are serious concerns over the accuracy of the register. A register free of fraud is what every democrat is after. However I am not entirely sure that individual voter registration will deliver this, and voluntary registration will make constituencies even more unequal (and let’s not forget that the redrawing of constitutions is using data that could have three and a half million voters missing as it is).

    As with the AV referendum, Clegg’s halfway good idea is being undermined by dodgy implementation.

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