It is amusing the way some Telegraph bloggers are dealing with the proposed referendum of AV and the Labour Party’s response to it; it’s an other opportunity to engage in a little mud-slinging.
A couple of days ago, the Honourable Tobes complained that Labour and, in particular, Jack Straw, was being “opportunistic” in its opposition to the referendum. Honestly, some people have nothing better to do. Here Young claims that
Straw’s excuse is that the bill paving the way for the referendum is also going to reduce the number of MPs from 650 to 600 and redraw some constituency boundaries to equalise the number of people in each constituency. That’s bad news for Labour since Tory seats are, on average, more populus than Labour ones, meaning Labour candidates require a smaller number of votes to get elected than Conservatives.
Ah, but Straw may actually have a point. I guess neither Tobes nor any of the other supporters of this bill have considered this. Instead they scream that Labour is being ‘unreasonable’ and that their worries are unfounded but how true is this?
Will Straw (Jack’s lad) notes the Electoral Commission’s investigation into under-registration earlier this year,
“The highest concentrations of under-registration are most likely to be found in metropolitan areas, smaller towns and cities with large student populations, and coastal areas with significant population turnover and high levels of social deprivation.”
So voters are an issue or, rather, the lack of them. I am also concerned with the coalition’s inference that they are being ‘impartial’. John Costello says,
By failing to factor them into his arithmetical review of constituency boundaries, Mr Clegg will be distorting the electoral map of Britain for good, and diluting the representation of people from poorer social groups in the process.
Poor people and people from minority ethnic groups are under-represented, yet this doesn’t seem to concern the coalition who bat the subject away with characteristic nonchalance. Labour are told to ‘go out and register some voters’. Costello continues,
The government’s boundary review promises to deliver the very antithesis of that objective. Now it’s true that over the past 13 years boundary reviews have been conducted on the basis of the existing, incomplete electoral registers. But not on the scale being proposed here (i.e. being used as the basis for chopping 50 seats), and the process was always balanced by the opportunity for public consultation.
So let me get this straight, there will be no public consultations? What happened to devolving power to the people? This article from the Independent says,
Cutting 65-80 seats by crudely equalising registered voters will simply reduce the number of seats in inner cities and areas that have devolved government (apart from London). In short, areas that never elect Tory MPs. This will be Florida-style gerrymandering of the electoral system, disenfranchising many of the most vulnerable people in society.”
Again, the coalition seems uninterested in this. Why? Is it political convenience? David Blackburn of The Spectator calls for Cameron to detach the boundary changes from the bill and notes that there is a sizeable number of Tory rebels. He also observes that “Bernard Jenkin, leader of the Tory rebellion, has the numbers to derail the bill”.
But AV is not PR and despite its supporters saying that “every vote will count”, it is little different to what we have already.
But the knives are out for Jack Straw but as this comment observes, the Lib Dems are rather fond of a little gerrymandering themselves.
The Liberal Democrats are the party for “Unequal Constituencies”. In the Scottish highlands and islands.
Hmmm… I wonder why that might be? It is a real puzzler.
The Lib Dems have handed the bill’s opponents an open goal with their H&I gerrymandering.
Ooops! Of course, an example of institutionalized gerrymandering exists across the Irish Sea where the Unionists have drawn and redrawn boundaries to preserve their majority and thus retain their grip on power in Northern Ireland. This was happening as recently as last year where unionists conspired to freeze out the SDLP from a committee.
Lisburn City Council breached its own equality agenda by excluding the SDLP from an important committee, the Equality Commission has found.
The party was not given a seat on the committee which is overseeing the council’s transition to a super council.
The truth of the matter is that any kind of voting reform must overseen and implemented by an outside body: this is normally the Electoral Commission. The redrawing of constituency boundaries is done by the Boundaries Commission. The Tories don’t want any change to the system and have done all they can to ensure that any bill is unpalatable to those who want change. The Lib Dems have clearly shot themselves in the foot on this issue: if the bill fails, they lose. If the bill succeeds they still lose. The only winners are the Conservatives and Labour.