Out of bounds

Creative-Fences-04

Today  the Office of National Statistics released the Electoral Statistics for the UK for 2015. (Full data set available here.)

These are the first full registers following the change to Individual Electoral Registration (IER) which were introduced in England, Wales and Scotland in 2014. The old system was based on Victorian household registrations where the right to vote was dependent on property. We were the last country in the West to still use this system.

The registration form for all members of the household would be completed by one person, and this was considered as being open to fraud as non-residents or even non-existent people could be added to the address.  The introduction of IER was meant to improve the accuracy of the register and help to counter fraud, as each voter would have to individually register.

Total electors at 1st December 2014 Total electors at 1st December 2015 Percentage change
United Kingdom 45,325,078 44,722,004 -1.33%
England 37,831,553 37,399,942 -1.14%
Northern Ireland 1,232,382 1,243,369 0.89%
Scotland 4,035,394 3,896,852 -3.43%
Wales 2,225,749 2,181,841 -1.97%

So why is there a drop?

Some would say that the drop is partially due to this system achieving what it was set out to do, reducing voter fraud. However there has been a higher proportion of voters loss in areas with higher student numbers or levels of deprivation – areas which have already had much lower registration levels.  Conversely there has been an increase in largely wealthier areas.

So why are these figures important?

Constituency boundaries were previously based on the local population size, but they are now going to be based on this new smaller electoral roll. The Electoral Commission had recommended that it would take a couple of years to ensure that everyone had registered on the new system but the government ignored this advise and set a deadline of December 2015.

The review in the number of UK Parliament constituencies has been launched by the Boundary Commission, who aim to identify which 50 seats  will be removed in time for the 2020 general election.  This reduction has been part of the Conservative manifesto for the last two elections but was blocked by the LibDems and Labour peers in 2013 after Cameron abandoned plans for House of Lords reform.

The four UK boundary commissions have stated that they will draw up recommendations by September to scrap 32 of its 533 seats in England, 11 out of 40 in Wales, 6 of the 59 in Scotland and 1 from 18 in Northern Ireland, these recommendations will be presented to parliament in 2018.

The new seats will have to have to have between 71,031 and 78,507, there are currently  a great number of constituencies that do not reach this minimum number. Proportionally these smaller seats are “over-represented.”

Total electors at 1st December 2015 New Constituencies Average number of electors % of UK seats
United Kingdom 44,722,004 600 74,537
England 37,399,942 501 74,651 83.50%
Northern Ireland 1,243,369 17 73,139 2.83%
Scotland 3,896,852 53 73,526 8.83%
Wales 2,181,841 29 75,236 4.83%

When looking at the reductions it is easy to see why some think this is a scheme by Cameron to ensure his party stays in power – which first and foremost it probably is – he’s not a person I see doing something just to mitigate a democratic deficit. These new constituencies will be better balanced – as at present many fall far short in voter numbers – as long as all are counted, which as we’ve seen is not the case.

So why is Cameron – the man busy packing an already bloated House of Lords with more party donors – suddenly an electoral reformist?

It’s simple, Labour’s traditional English heartlands tend to be urban and as the constituencies expand they are likely to take in more rural Tory voting areas, making them more marginal. The first past the post system has given already given him a majority with only 37% of the vote and these tweaks will give his party has a clear run at power for many years.

Add to this Osborne’s proposed cuts in “Short Money” a policy that Labour found it actually could be bothered to stand against (weird, huh?) the Bastard Tories appear to cutting the official opposition off at the knees. It is pleasing that his seat – Tatton – falls below the planned electorate minimum, but somehow I am sure a safe seat will be found for him, especially with Cameron’s “No Tory left behind” pledge.

Will also be interesting to see if chief back-stabber/warmonger shadow foreign secretary, Hilary Benn will be affected as his Leeds Central seat was also recommended for abolition in the last analysis. It does appear that some Labour MPs are now feeling twitchy over these boundary changes in case their local parties support their leader more than them. But less of the schadenfreude.

This government may not be gerrymandering as much as I feared, but whilst we are still stuck in this union we have to face that they dominate England, who having 83.5% of the population and seats dominate the UK. (EVEL – what a pointless waste of time)

SNP Scotland, Labour Wales and Northern Ireland just have to put up with what they are given. This is democracy of a sort, but personally I don’t think what is right for SE England is right for N. England, Scotland or Wales. (I have no idea what NI wants – sorry.)

I started writing this full of “The Bastard!” ranting, and yes he is still a loathsome wanker not fit to run a piggery let alone a country,  but for once he can say he is doing “the right thing.” Unless people register to vote and then get off their backsides and actually vote, these people get away with it.

UK turnout in the 2015 General Election averaged at 66.1% (Scotland had highest at 71.1%) but that means 33.9% didn’t vote! Of all the figures I’ve looked at tonight, this was the most depressing.

The government wants your apathy and silence is taken as approval.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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