The Government’s latest plans to undermine democracy must be opposed

Lord Rennard


On Thursday last week, the Government tabled a measure to bring forward changes to the electoral registers which provides the basis for conducting our elections and reviewing constituency boundaries.  It probably hoped that nobody would notice that this change could remove nearly two million people from the voting registers by the end of this year.  The independent Electoral Commission has recommended that Parliament does not approve the order permitting this to happen. My Lib Dem colleague Lord Tyler has already tabled a motion in the House of Lords to block this blatant attempt at “gerrymandering.”

The significance of the Government’s proposal, according to the Electoral Commission, is that it could remove approximately 1.9million people from the electoral rolls.  This would in effect deny many people the opportunity to vote in the elections to be held in May 2016 to the Scottish Parliament, the Welsh Assembly, the London Assembly and the local elections in England. There are already major problems with our electoral registers missing about eight million people who should be included on them and thereby enabled to vote.  This problem would be exacerbated.

The proposed change would be of considerable long term importance because of its effect on the forthcoming review of constituency boundaries.   The Boundary Commissions are under the present rules required to use the electoral registers as at 1st December 2015 for drawing up their proposals for new constituency boundaries based on roughly equal numbers of electors in each seat.  The premature removal of up to 1.9 million voters will have a very distorting effect on this process.   We know that the people currently missing from the electoral registers are disproportionately from those who are young, private sector tenants, people who are the most socially deprived and ethnic minorities.   The proposed change will make this underrepresentation significantly worse.

The Electoral Administration Act of 2013 requires that people who are only on the electoral register as a result of the previous household registration system will remain on the list of voters until December 2016.  The Government now wants to exclude them a year earlier.  Once they are removed from the electoral register, there will be fewer parliamentary constituencies created in urban areas where these underrepresented groups are most concentrated.  The Government’s motivation is not just to deny many people the right to vote next year, but to ensure that there will be fewer constituencies in future that are unlikely to return Conservative MPs.

In 2013,  I worked with a cross party group of peers to block the introduction of new constituency boundaries on the basis that it had become clear that the electoral registers to be used were not fit for purpose because so many eligible voters were excluded from them.  Amendments that I helped to negotiate to the resulting Electoral Administration Act specifically made provision to retain this large group of people on the register for the purposes of the 2016 elections and the next boundary review.  We created provision for the Government to bring this forward if the process of electoral registration was so dramatically improved that it was safe to do so, and provided that neither House of Parliament objected.   The Electoral Commission says that it is not safe to do so. The Government plan is an abuse of power and must be opposed.

The Electoral Commission statement opposing the Government plan is here

10 comments for “The Government’s latest plans to undermine democracy must be opposed

  1. Senex
    23/07/2015 at 7:51 pm

    The Prime Minister made it quite clear to the world that he has taken possession of Parliament when he referred to “my parliament” in a news cast. What do electoral boundaries matter in a totalitarian state be it England and the Provinces or Scotland.

    Comment redacted…

    And the Führer shook hands with him when he came to office.

    Ref: Prime Minister: NBC News Cast. Jul 18, 2015–cameron-resolved-to-fight-daesh-in-syria

  2. H Davies
    23/07/2015 at 8:30 pm

    Surely if people have made no effort to individually register then they should drop off the register? They will not by definition have been registered for the general election when one assumes turnout would be at its highest, so why would there be a problem having them not registered for these other perceived “second order” elections? If people don’t want to vote I see no reason for them to remain on the register.

    • Lord Rennard
      26/07/2015 at 10:05 am

      It is clear from the absence of perhaps 8 million people from the voting registers that many people do not know how to register, or more frequently believe that they are ‘automatically’ registered and do not need to take any action themselves.

    • Adrian Waller
      26/07/2015 at 4:40 pm

      I have removed myself from the electoral register to remove my consent to be governed by a rotten quisling parliament that ignores the obvious treason of subservient EU membership and consequent mediatisation of the monarchy.

      Parliament acts as a proxy for a foreign power !

      • Senex
        17/08/2015 at 12:02 pm

        There is nothing wrong with removing yourself from the electoral register if it benefits you in some way. There are two levels of enrolment on the register.

        The default position, the one preferred by your creditors is full disclosure. Here you are asked to volunteer information such as your email address and phone numbers and your details can be purchased by commercial interests.

        If you opt for partial disclosure then your details are not for sale. Only your prospective creditors and bone-fide operators will be able to search your details. Opting for Partial disclosure will see you receive an obliquely threatening solicitor’s office letter from your council confirming that you have opted out of full disclosure.

        In either case you can be found.

        When you enter or confirm other voting persons in the household they are not allowed to opt for partial disclosure. Instead they have to contact your council’s electoral office directly and beg to be removed from the register. Most cannot be bothered.

    • maude elwes
      27/07/2015 at 6:00 am

      @ H. Davies:

      What an odd reply to the continuation of Demoracy that post of yours is.

      What you should be regurgitating is, WHY, people don’t feel they have anyone or anything to vote for? Why are they so ignorant in the understanding of political democracy? Why are our comprehensive schools not teaching or even understanding the process of what a democracy is and how it functions? And more important of all, how desperately a democratic government must have a thriving opposition.

      The right to question is what is needed here.

  3. MilesJSD
    24/07/2015 at 9:48 am

    Hello, Lord Rennard;

    and incidentally-democraticly, have you noticed that even this House of Lords democratic e-site, direct with ‘The Public’, has recently been significantly ‘sitting on’, and not-publishing fully serious citizens’ submissions ?
    (Check also the “0 comments” posts currently up there;
    and note how posts are now being closed-off in a very much shorter time than back through to 2008.)

  4. maude elwes
    02/08/2015 at 11:02 am

    And as an observation over the last few days regarding the elusive minds we have in our parliament of what democracy really is. I have had to stifle the groaning hilarity at H Harman telling the world, via the media, she will be spying on and excluding those voters from other parties who now want to join Labour in order to vote for the open and steadfast Mr Corbyn

    Who the heckl does she think she will get to join Labour or vote for Labour if it is not people who have placed their bets elsewhere previously?. She spouts that Greens better not show their face for Corbyn as she has them in her sights, and, they will not pass her suitability agenda. The same goes for those Labour people who voted for UKIP or any Independents as they are also not true Labour men or women.

    Do they really believe those Blairites they clawed from the basement of politics are going to draw back and promote new interest in this dull as dishwater New Labour 1997 projectile spewing mouths to set the country on fire?

    They should be on their knees thanking fate for Corbyn and consider if they had him, with the desperate need they have for a woman and choose the fire brand, Glenda Jackson as his running mate, then they would indeed have a well matched pair. A yin and yang so to speak. Both of whom have the badly needed ability to articulate their policies.

    Of course that is is they really want a Labour win. Which going by what we are reading is the thing they fear the most. As they are not true Labour are they? They are light blue. And fear the return to an honest position of fearsome opposition followed by leadership.

    What we have presently is not democracy. Can’t be. As democracy has to have an opposing giant.

    • maude elwes
      14/08/2015 at 1:36 pm

      I didn’t realise until today Glenda Jackson retired to make way for the great orator, Tulip Sadique. What a terrible loss for Labour that is. Why GJ did that when more than ever her party so badly needs an intelligent voice like hers is an enigma.

      And as a little side line on the threat of those Blairite ‘Tory lite’ disasters threatening to leave, should their true front man take his rightful place, what a wonderful relief from those duplicitous dark room boys that would be. A purge like this would be manna from heaven.

      They should set up their own party, with that panicking, ugly, tooth challenged Blair, his side kick, Straw, dossier writer Campbell, small mammal lover Mandelson, and the rest. Grouped as one in a rotting fruit smelling bunch and see how many votes the country gives them, as they try, once again, to sell their traitorous line. The country needs a true opposition to these Macheavelian child neglectors, sitting, weasel eyed, grinning on those twelve seat fiddles opposite.

      Rigged ballots are always exposed when the citizens show their true colours.

  5. maude elwes
    20/08/2015 at 9:29 am

    I read this comment in the ‘Independent ‘today. It is all about what Democracy has become in this country today. Nothing but a bunch of wingers, who have the intellect of the worm. This was written by a person who has the handle of SveltBeast. Well I only wish I was as svelt a beast as she/he. Great bit of writing and of course thinking.


    Sour grapes dripping from his lips. There is a malodorous stench of handwringing and venom spewing forth from the establishment at the moment over the Labour Party Leadership election. “What have we done letting Jeremy in!” They bleat. The left argues It’s because they were morons to expect a debate to be won by anyone but them (they are) or that ordinary people are too stupid to be allowed to have an opinion. “Rip out JC and let Tony Blair into your heart and all your sins will be forgiven!” They chant. At the same time the right hand is swooning at the delicious dark deliberation that they are seeing their enemies crucifying themselves on the altar of traditional Labour principles. Or perhaps…! It cant be!…We have made a massive tactical mistake allowing traditional Labour values to be aired in public! Both now are co-joined in one unconscionable unholy mission. Get Corbyn pronto before anyone listens to his arguments.
    I think the Establishment and their attack dogs in New labour, the press, media and wider Oxbridge public school dominated culture have a large amount of culpability for the rise of an unknown MP who was originally arm wrestled into taking the job of articulating the traditional Labour platform before blossoming into a tour de force of dam breaking decency. In my worthless opinion, they are all reaping a home grown political whirlwind born of their arrogance, hubris and ideological myopia. An avalanche of pent up frustration and disillusionment towards the torpid, tired and tenacious lies dripping from their well-fed lips.
    So why is Jeremy so popular apart from his obvious skills, experience and conviction? How did the establishment call it so wrong?
    Firstly they are culpable for believing their own spin that trade unions are all hard left demagogues bent on misleading their members and that socialist arguments are yesterday’s news dead, and buried under the squeaky clean narrative of the conservative hegemony. Of course trade unions are far more conservative than have been properganderised having many millions of tory voters within them as well as right wing Blairites running them. Up until Ed Millerband democratised the voting system they were an effective block against traditional labour candidates getting on to the Labour list. They called it wrong because their constant lobbying for this democritisation would – they argued – “abolish the draconian bully boy bloc vote and replaced it with the far more just and democratic one person one vote ballot” They are now cursing this like enfranchised turkeys on Christmas Eve regretting their campaign for a yuletide vote. Now its “a catastrophic mistake; unfair, unrepresentative and rigged”. Secondly they are culpable for creating and championing a bankrupt economic ideology of austerity discredited by any credible economist and designed to shift even more of the nation’s wealth and assets from the many to the few. They are culpable because of their lust for the class war; the bedroom tax, the attacks on the disabled, the sick, the old, the young, the unemployed and the workforce. The humiliation of forcing the hard working poor onto poverty wages subsidised by soon to be slashed tax credits, driving them to feed their hungry children at the foodbank. They are culpable for their siren calls of “making work pay” for the many while filing their subsidised profits in tax havens. They are culpable for stripping the dignity from labour, humiliating and sanctioning the young and unskilled into poundland work for your benefits contracts and zero hour McJobs. They are culpable for their total disinterest in putting people to work, for asking the ordinary to put the yoke of a student/training loan around their necks for decades while slashing training and investment. They are culpable for refusing to provide affordable housing with the millions of jobs that would create. Finally they are culpable for pedalling a duplicitous self-serving narrative that Britain PLC can’t afford anything but cuts. Cuts to public services, jobs and pensions for the many….massive tax cuts and widening wealth gaps for themselves and their own.
    So the next time you hear the siren call from our expensively educated/medicated Westminster bubbleheads arguing they want you to be sensible because they know best. Just remember what a shower of forked tonged fraudsters they all are.


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