GMB union joins Tory right against AV


11:30 am - August 1st 2010

by Sunny Hundal    


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The GMB union is to marshal its 610,000 members and “substantial” sums of money to campaign against a change to the voting system.

In a move that will put the union at odds with Ed Miliband, its preferred candidate for Labour leader, the union’s general secretary, Paul Kenny, will play an active role in opposing the alternative vote in the referendum. The campaign, which will target members and the wider public, is expected to be backed by a six-figure sum from union funds.

The revelation is the first sign of campaigners on both sides of the debate preparing for a multimillion-pound marketing drive, with grass-roots movements claiming huge amounts of money will be raised by rallying activists through Facebook and Twitter.

Under Electoral Commission rules, a “designated organisation” will officially front the “yes” and “no” campaigns, and will be limited to spending £5m each.

They will be allowed TV broadcasts, free leaflet delivery to voters, free use of public rooms for meetings and up to £600,000 of public money. With only nine months before the Government wants to hold the vote, a fundraising race is already under way.

…more at The Independent

Can anyone explain why a union would waste money campaigning against AV rather than, say, Tory cuts?

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Sunny Hundal is editor of LC. Also: on Twitter, at Pickled Politics and Guardian CIF.
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Reader comments


1. nautilusinred

Seems odd to me, if it’s separate from the gerrymandering concern. I’d have thought the reaction of most people in favour of electoral reform to the AV referendum itself would be more “meh” than “yes” or “no”.

The disease has spread: first Labour came out against AV purely for opportunistic reasons, now their client unions are infected with this sort of nonsense.

It’s not just AV, it’s the gerrymandering of the boundaries so that the poorest areas have the least representation. Equalising constituencies by electors, rather than population as it should be, will cut into the number of Labour MPs while giving those that stay an obligation to represent larger numbers of people than their Lib Dem and Tory colleagues in richer areas.

@Blanco: Labour hasn’t come out against AV at all. If it were a question of “AV- yes or no?” it would be supported. Blame the Lib Dems for gettin greedy and being willing to sacrifice AV in the hope that they can hit two birds with one stone and reduce representation for poorer areas at the same time.

I also favour electoral reform but AV will achieve little to make the outcome of elections more reflective of votes cast and it will block the possibility of better more fundamental reforms for decades to come.

Personally, I support the reform proposals of the Jenkin’s Commission, which reported in 1998 – sometimes called AV+
http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/uk_politics/255179.stm

Jesus H Christ on a bike. One of the few decent things this Gov has on the table and the GMB oppose it? Why? On what possible grounds could they want to keep the ridiculous, unfair, antiquated FPTP?
I understand opposition to the boundary changes as it looks v suspicious particularly when the electoral register is far from complete; but voting reform? Something liberal-lefties have wanted for years? Fuck the GMB and its pretence to look after its members. Six-figure sums of £££s to block progress while its members face cuts and job losses like never before.

@5

What makes you say it will block the way for more progressive measures in the future? Personally I think if AV is rejected by the referendum that is it for voting reform for another 100 years.

8. paul barker

Why are you surprised ? TUs exist to defend the interests of their members & only their members. Inevitably they are defensive, small c conservative, always looking back. AV & equalisation of seat sizes will both reduce the over-representation of Labour voters & thus take power from Affiliated TUs.No surprise that some TUs will oppose reform.

Heh, I agree Mr S Pill, I love the idea that by voting against AV we will somehow get a better system rather than an entrenchment of the Tory vote and an implicit endorsement by the public that FPTP shouldn’t change.

Note: We had a referendum on Europe in the 1970’s, and it’s still generally considered “too soon” to have another one now.

“I also favour electoral reform but AV will achieve little to make the outcome of elections more reflective of votes cast”

There are two aims that voting reform has to achieve, and reflecting much more proportionately the wishes of the electorate is ONE of those two things, not the whole lot. The other thing that is necessary, and more pressingly, is the reduction of safe seats and the creation of more marginality in each seat. AV does this job, and, like it or not…that’s the system on the cards.

And you know what? It’s a good system for the second aim of reform, and it’s not a *bad* system for the first aim. Granted it won’t necessarily be more proportional but it WILL be more representative of the overall desires of the electorate on a constituency by constituency basis.

Anyone also throwing the boundary changes in with this is purely trying to vote against AV without appearing to be the utter moron, that dislikes positive change, that they really are.

GMB. (Resigned sigh) Loons.

@Lee Griffin: Are you stupid?

“Anyone also throwing the boundary changes in with this is purely trying to vote against AV without appearing to be the utter moron, that dislikes positive change, that they really are.”

Bollocks. I’m lukewarm about AV and bitterly opposed to reducing representation for the poor. AV is not worth giving the richest areas more MPs per head than the poorest. There’s no reason why the two had to be lumped together.

“Equalising constituencies by electors, rather than population as it should be, will cut into the number of Labour MPs while giving those that stay an obligation to represent larger numbers of people than their Lib Dem and Tory colleagues in richer areas.”

You can’t equalise by population, for a start the population includes many people that aren’t eligible to vote. You could determine the areas by pure eligibility to vote, but the whole point of registering is that without that exchange you simply don’t *know* how many people there are that are eligible.

The only workable way to deal with electoral boundaries is through registered voters, it’s the only way to be truly fair about it all. Yes, that’s right fair. The only people that matter in electoral terms are those that care to want to vote. With all the greatest respect, everyone else has decided they can’t even be bothered to engage enough to spoil their ballot paper. If they don’t want to be involved in the political system then they shouldn’t be counted as part of it when the voting papers go out.

I disagree very much with the reduction in the number of MPs, I don’t believe that itself is fair…but then I also don’t believe our MPs do anywhere near enough actual representation anyway (in general). Increasing the amount of constituents they can ignore really won’t alter political life and representation all that much in real terms.

But how hard is it actually to represent people en masse anyway? Are MPs and the local parties they work with so inept that they can’t work on the behalf of groups of people with problems? Do they have a quota of individual cases they can hear about each month? If so then the problem lies much deeper than constituency sizes, we’re not meant to have 1-to-1 tuition here.

Saying that Tories in richer constituencies will represent less people that Labour in poorer ones is as uninformative and potentially disingenuous as it comes. The reality could be that the rich Tory gets a LOT of individual cases, more so that Labour in their disenfranchised and disaffected constituencies. Despite representing physically less people, it is perfectly possible for those people to be politically more active…in fact the figures of how many voters per population actually suggests this would be the case.

But I personally see it as a long fight the Lib Dems are doing here. The reduction in MPs won’t make a whole lot of difference, but there will be calls for more people to help represent. With AV done the next logical step is to enlarge the constituencies again and simply fill these larger constituencies with more MPs. Voila, STV.

11. Like I said, you’re over-egging the pudding on this one chap.

@11 I think you have problems with understanding the situation.

GMB aren’t putting money into opposing the boundary changes. That is not the issue here. So stop trying to deflect attention away from electoral reform.

GMB are putting money into opposing electoral reform. AV is flawed but it is the basis of STV, the optimal voting system. We win this, and we have a chance to get STV. We lose this, we lose any chance of getting STV.

11. To clarify. You would prefer that MPs had less people to represent while a significant number are put in positions that mean their need to be a representative is undermined by how safe their seat is…in direct effect reducing the amount of people that engage come election time…

…than to have MPs representing more people, in such a way that they have to be much more conscientious over their duties because their likelihood of a safe seat is greatly reduced and more susceptible to local swings.

Correct?

@12 & @14

Spot on.

Talking our of your arse. MPs have to represent everyone in their constituencies, registered or not. To equalise constituencies on current electors is to resign yourself to the fact that the poor cannot be engaged, and that’s disgraceful. The way to engage people is not to cut them out completely. Whether you like it or not, people who don’t register pay their taxes and use public services- they are entitled to fair representation.

@Blanco: “@11 I think you have problems with understanding the situation.

GMB aren’t putting money into opposing the boundary changes. That is not the issue here. So stop trying to deflect attention away from electoral reform.

GMB are putting money into opposing electoral reform. AV is flawed but it is the basis of STV, the optimal voting system. We win this, and we have a chance to get STV. We lose this, we lose any chance of getting STV.

Try and understand- there aren’t two different votes for boundary changes and AV. The coalition has decided to bundle them together. There is no way a person can vote for AV without voting for fiddling the boundaries, so it is very much the issue.

17. It’s cool, I get it. You’d rather kill reform for 100 years than have MPs do a little more work. That’s your (moronic) view, and I’ll accept that.

“To clarify. You would prefer that MPs had less people to represent while a significant number are put in positions that mean their need to be a representative is undermined by how safe their seat is…in direct effect reducing the amount of people that engage come election time…

…than to have MPs representing more people, in such a way that they have to be much more conscientious over their duties because their likelihood of a safe seat is greatly reduced and more susceptible to local swings.

Correct?”

Complete non-sequiturs. Equalising by electors doesn’t make safe seats disappear and I would probably vote for AV if it was a choice of “AV- yes or no?”

I didn’t choose to combine the two issues together, remember.

@Lee Griffin: Blame the Lib Dems. What did you expect? That Labour people would vote MPs away from impoverished areas with the most need of effective representation and reduce the number of Labour MPs because they tend to represent those impoverished areas purely in order to be able to put a number 2 against the Green party?

Get real.

@Mike.

Erm, the referendum isn’t going to be about boundary changes. The cyncial Tories have tied the two issues together in the bill it’s true, but there’s still a way to get AV on the books without gerrymandering the system. The point is the GMB are opposing changing the voting system which will kill any reform for a generation (or two).

Off-topic – I looked up “gerrymander” last night, it’s quite funny how that word came to be 🙂

How exactly can a person vote for AV without these boundary changes if it’s one referendum?

It’s dishonest to try and say the referendum isn’t about boundary changes when the votes we’ll be making will decide whether it goes ahead or not. It is about boundary changes as well as AV.

@Mike

I think you’ve got that wrong. If parliament votes the bill through, the boundary changes will take part regardless of the result of the referendum. Therefore we have no say whatsoever in the boundary changes, we will be voting purely on AV.

Is that how it is? That’s awful. I suppose I’ll vote for AV with the hope that it doesn’t get through parliament in the first place. Shit that’s low of your lot.

26. Margin4eror

The only hope of stopping the bounary changes and other awful changes to our present reasonably fair bi-partisan rules on boundary changes – is to bring down the coalition.

Voting against AV might do that by utterly wrecking the part of the Lib Dem support that is clinging to the idea that all the pain and suffering is worth it for AV.

It might also make the tory right rather triumphant – which would really sting the lib dems and trigger enough revolt to end the coalition.

However

If labour were ambitious – they would propose an ammendment to the AV question in the bill – so as to change the referendum to one on Proportional Representation instead.

That really could kill off the bill and cripple the coalition as the Lib Dems would have to vote against PR. And that would end them as a party.

AV & equalisation of seat sizes will both reduce the over-representation of Labour voters & thus take power from Affiliated TUs

No it won’t. There was a piece of research released a few weeks ago pointing out that changing constituency sizes would not affect Labour’s electoral advantage. That would only change under PR.

“Is that how it is? That’s awful. I suppose I’ll vote for AV with the hope that it doesn’t get through parliament in the first place. Shit that’s low of your lot.”

Yes, exactly the same as how we got 28 days detention without charge without the public having a say, and the loss of the 10p tax bracket that hit the poor the hardest. Welcome to parliamentary democracy.

The two issues are combined, unless Labour and others (including some Tories) decide to vote through an amendment that took reduction of MPs off the agenda. We have what we have, the question is do you want less MPs under FPTP or under AV.

I think this is the error of the Labour benches, if they’ve managed to make people like you, Mike, believe that voting no in this referendum is a vote to “not gerrymander” then they are shooting themselves in the foot AND the country in the face.

@Lee Griffin: Well, no. I still agree with Labour voting against this nonsense. I might vote for AV, but if it’s a step towards PR I may not. We’ll have to see what the arguments are.

*voting against it in parliament, anyway. I don’t know what they’ll recommend if the two both pass.

“Can anyone explain why a union would waste money campaigning against AV rather than, say, Tory cuts?”

Hmmmnn.. the ways of Unions are wondrous strange indeed!

They’ve probably fallen for the preposterous crap that this is somehow “unfair” to the Labour party, and gerrymandering in favour of the Tories etc… the standard stuff. From everything I’ve heard the gerrymandering complaint is a total red herring, as the current boundaries favour Labour.

If the Unions had an ounce of sense or conscience (a bit of a stretch after their woefully supine performance during 13 years of NuLabour, but stil…..) they ought to be at the forefront campaigning FOR electoral reform. No wonder union membership has collapsed…..

“Yes, exactly the same as how we got 28 days detention without charge without the public having a say, and the loss of the 10p tax bracket that hit the poor the hardest. Welcome to parliamentary democracy.”

No, you’re not listening. Your government has chosen to put Labour in a position where it has to vote for something it disagrees with either way. That is what is low.

@3: it’s the gerrymandering of the boundaries so that the poorest areas have the least representation

No, so all areas have the same sized electorates. Since people in poorer areas are less likely to vote, that mean voters in those areas achieve greater representation than voters in richer areas.

(Of course, there might be legitimate concern that some people find it harder to get on the electoral roll than others; but that’s a different issue to either AV or equal-sized constituencies).

@Galen 10: Maybe wait for what the union will say, eh? Rather than condemning them because of what you think they probably might think maybe.

@5 Bob B: AV […] will block the possibility of better more fundamental reforms for decades to come

I fear the exact opposite — if proponents of PR don’t get AV, it’ll take electoral reform off the table for decades to come. The Labservative elite will be able to say “but the electorate don’t want electoral reform”.

@Phil Hunt: You’re dead wrong. MPs represent all of their constituents, registered voters or not. The unregistered pay taxes, use public services and they’re expected to obey the laws to the same standard as registered voters.

@18: There is no way a person can vote for AV without voting for fiddling the boundaries, so it is very much the issue.

Eh? I was under the assumption that the boundaries issue wasn’t to be put to a referendum.

@Phil Hunt: Yes, read the rest. I made a mistake about that, but still support Labour’s opposition to the dual bill.

Hell, I’m edging towards voting “no” for AV but still undecided. Especially if it would mean no PR in the future.

“MPs represent all of their constituents, registered voters or not. The unregistered pay taxes, use public services and they’re expected to obey the laws to the same standard as registered voters.”

You’re still presuming that MPs in poorer areas need to represent more people in a more difficult way, and that it is harder to represent poorer people than richer people. You also seem to be under the impression that MPs are the ones offering one to one support for people, and that each individual’s problems being taken on by a NATIONAL REPRESENTATIVE will be dealt with in a different manner and using different resource no matter how similar they are to the other hundreds of issues they get wind of.

@26: If labour were ambitious – they would propose an ammendment to the AV question in the bill – so as to change the referendum to one on Proportional Representation instead.

Or change the bill to ask another question as well: “Should parliamentary consituencies be multi-member?” If this passed it would mean the electoral system became the proportional STV or SNTV.

“No, you’re not listening. Your government has chosen to put Labour in a position where it has to vote for something it disagrees with either way. That is what is low.”

It’s *our* government, as voted for by people under the FPTP system, using the democratic structures as defined by our constitution. If we reduce boundary sizes it’s because the people have given the power to those that want it to be such.

I think it’s you that isn’t listening, Labour wanted AV, what they don’t want is the opposite of what the Tories want. Tories see that Labour have an unfair advantage in elections through the way boundaries are split up and want to see seats more fairly represent those that vote for them. This of course benefits Tories and negatively affects labour.

Don’t try to make this out as one set of people trying to screw over another, like it’s all one way, if Labour manage to swing the opposition of the “gerrymandering” of seats so that we keep the number of MPs we have, then all they’ll have done is continued in the “gerrymandering” of the voting system to give them a 10-20% boost in their representation in the House of Commons.

@Lee Griffin: Don’t worry your pretty little head about what I seem to be saying or what you think I’m presuming and address what I have said. If you think there’s a case for having less MPs because they can effectively represent more people than they do now, fine. The issue is that by equalising based on registered electors you have a situation where there is less parliamentary representation for the poorest than for the richest, less people in parliament representing the poorest 10% than the richest 10%.

@Lee Griffin: Nonsense once more. It is not Labour’s fault that they represent the poorest. It takes less to vote in a party in areas of low registration but that goes for all parties who fight elections in those areas. The people are there, if you can get them to vote for you then you can get into parliament. Should people who spoil their ballots or register but don’t vote also be discounted? They have the same effect of making it so that less votes are needed to gain a seat.

And come the fuck on. Do I have to agree with everything a democratically elected government does? Am I not allowed to think a government’s actions are “low” just because it was voted in?

Mike – boundary reviews have been done on the basis of number of registered electors since, well, forever. Why is it suddenly such a big issue that it needs attention right now, before this reform goes through?

I don’t see voter registration as likely to increase any time in the near future, so the fact that some people aren’t registered /now/ doesn’t really change the numbers in 5 years time.

I mean, if it did, then labour could use it to pull a proper coup with their hordes of unregistered potential supporters… but that’s quite far-fetched.

45. Margin4eror

@40

well indeed. Though I have to say I imagine the public would vote against in a referendum just as I expect it will do just that with AV too.

I fear Labour won’t be so ambitious and troublesome though. Which is a shame.

@Nick: This is what I’ve posted on another website-

“1) Whether you want to morally judge people for not registering to vote or not, they still get representation of an MP, it just means that more people will be sharing an MP- registered or not- in areas of low registration, which means less MPs per head in poorer areas than in richer areas. The MP would not only represent the 75,000 that are registered, but all the others that don’t register on top of that.

2) Equalising by electors can further inflate the numbers of MPs in wealthier areas because it is legal to register in multiple areas if you’re a second home owner or a university student, for example.

3) If the issue is seriously that in some areas it takes less votes to put an MP into parliament, then being registered and not voting is just as bad. So poorer areas will still take less votes for an MP to be elected because of people who are registered yet simply stay home.

4) I didn’t know it was illegal not to register, I’m sure many don’t. I think a registration drive would be better- trying to get people to vote would be a better way to solve the problem than deciding that those who aren’t currently registered are a lost cause.”

I wouldn’t have supported a boundary review based on electors rather than population if it was ever brought up. Now is when it has been brought up.

In the run-up to the general election, I convinced my lib-dem PPC to pop down to the local ‘travellers’ camp (actually red-brick houses, so not much actual travelling, but still) in an attempt to drum up some extra votes.

Not a one of them were registered to vote (we’re talking > 100 people here, probably). Not a one of them particularly cared about the outcome of the election. Complete disenchantment. With the exception of that one visit, there hadn’t been any contact between politics and that community since before the 2005 election.

Yes, an MP has a duty to represent their unregistered constituents. But the idea that this could be a straw that would break the backs of the struggling MPs in disadvantaged areas is, I think, very disingenuous. In the main, people who are eligible, but aren’t registered, to vote, don’t get engaged in constituency politics – and so, don’t make their MP’s life any harder.

Besides, I’d expect any MP worth his or her salt to be able to handle 100,000 constituents without blinking. Well, maybe, maybe not. Who knows how many constituents an MP can handle at a time? I don’t, and I bet you don’t either. More importantly, I’ve not heard any MPs complaining about being overwhelmed with enquiries from their constituents – and until we do start hearing that, I think we can safely assume the workload isn’t too much.

Of course, none of this is relevant to the GMB’s opposition to AV, since the referendum has nothing to do with the boundary review. I suspect they’re just being contrary for no good reason.

That’s not the point I was trying to make at all. It is not that I don’t think an MP can comfortably represent100,000 people at a local level. It’s that it means poorer areas will deliver less members of parliament than richer areas with the same population. I’m not decided over whether I would be for or against reducing the number of MPs by equalising constituencies by population to a higher number, for example. It is equalising by electors that leaves poorer areas with less of a presence in parliament than richer ones- and doesn’t eliminate the issue of voter apathy in poorer areas from the registered or not that means it takes less votes to return an MP in poorer areas.

“Of course, none of this is relevant to the GMB’s opposition to AV, since the referendum has nothing to do with the boundary review. I suspect they’re just being contrary for no good reason.”

Oh do you? Why? Do you suffer from the Lib Dem disease that makes you think any and all opposition is dishonest? That no one can possibly disagree with you without having some underhand motive, or because they just want to be contrary for no good reason? How about you wait and see what their reasons are and stop being such an arrogant child.

But the bill will put into law the boundary changes. The electoral system will only be put to a referendum. So the tory bit will go through , on the vote of a few hundred Mps and then they will use all their money and media might to stop the AV bit in referendum.. I can see the AV referendum being lost and then the tories can then rule for the next thousand years.

The Lib Dems are signing their own death warrant. No wonder Call me Dave likes Clegg. He buys every bit of horse shit the tories sell him.

48 – bless. Can’t we keep the ad homiens out of it?

Opposing the combined bill going through parliament is reasonably sensible if you’re against the boundary reform. Once that bill has passed (and it will), opposing the referendum on the basis of the failings of the boundary review simply isn’t a good position to take. Characterising it as ‘contrary’ doesn’t seem particularly outrageous to me. It’ll be interesting to read their reasoning, if they ever bother to provide it. The soundbites in the Independent article are factually wrong and poorly thought-out.

As for that boundary review – the poor already get less representation in parliament, and I’m unconvinced that it will make their situation still worse – although it could be argued that it’s a missed opportunity to make their lot better. But how? Are the MPs in poorer areas representative of their poorer constituents? I wouldn’t say so, generally – they’re representative of the more-affluent section that’s engaged in the system and voting. So it’s really not clear that giving regions with more poor people, more MPs, is going to make them more representative overall of that poor subset who aren’t voting.

That’s using ‘not registered’ as a proxy for ‘poor’, of course. IME, ‘young’, is another such one – but really it comes down to ‘disenfranchised’. People don’t register because they hate politics and politicians, or simply don’t care. If people don’t engage with the political system, you simply can’t represent them effectively. The politicians I’ve talked to simply don’t bother to try unless pushed. Attempting to fix all that by calculating boundaries based on an assumption that everyone is going to vote /won’t fix that/. It will, however, lead to constituency sizes that are unequal in terms of size-of-electorate – personally, I’m not too hung up on unequal constituency sizes (and some kind of proportional voting like AV+ would make it even less of an issue), but I understand why the conservatives don’t like it. And trying to brand it as ‘gerrymandering’ is simply inaccurate.

Mike, the smallest two English constituencies have roughly the same proportion of registered electors compared to the 2001 census population figures as most of the largest. I’ve checked this, although doing it per constituency is a PITA so I’m not going to keep doing it.

The current boundaries were drawn up based around current registered electors, but each county was divided up so you had weird disparities (Bradford seats average 69000 electors, Calderdale seats average 74000 electors simply because fo the borders, but the Calderdale seats don’t make much sense anyway in terms of community, mine certainly doesn’t).

In addition, and this is the key point.

The boundary changes happen regardless of the result of the referendum. The bill comes into force as an Act, the constituency redrawing process starts, and a referendum on part of the provision then takes place.

Regardless of the result of the referendum, the boundary changes happen.

So you, as a non-MP, don’t get a vote on the boundary changes. At all.

Ergo the whole discussion is a red herring, as the Bill is about both, but the referendum isn’t, therefore the boundary changes don’t affect this in any way.

So why are you voting against AV, as a specific? Why is the GMB going to campaign against it, as a specific?

Give us reasons for opposing this change, don’t get sidetracked by something else, that isn’t relevent to the referendum vote.

52. Margin4eror

“regardless of the result of the referendum, the boundary changes happen”

erm – only if the coalition survives the referendum result.

If the referendum is a yes vote – the lib dems have to keep the tory whip until the end of the parliament when AV will finally be passed into law.

If however, the AV vote failes – then the coaltion can collapse.

Lib Dems who stand by the party hoping the suffering of the poor is worth it cos they’ll get AV for it – may then feel duped and angry. They could defect, cross the house, or put real pressure on their leaders. There would also be nothing left that the Lib Dems have to stay in coalition to get. So the leadership could then pull out. Indeed in hope of recovering some left-wing credential, they would do it on some made up point of principle about the tories going too far on some policy or another.

And that would mean boundary changes and all sorts of other horrible policies halt. If Labour continue their recovery by then, we could actually get the tories out within a couple of years.

And I suspect that’s the thinking of the GMB and some labour leadership candidates.

Margin, there’s a warped logic to what you say, which would explain why it’s happening. It’s based, unfortunately, on the supposition that the LDs are only in this for the AV vote. Which is bollocks, unfortunately.

For a start, reform of the House of Lords, with genuine PR not single member non-PR preferential voting (which is important but not the end goal). Then there’s other stuff, like the raising of the tax threshold, scrapping ID cards, etc etc etc.

Combine that with two other key points. One, Labour is giving zero reasons, whatsoever, to incentivise any LDs from crossing the floor, let alone the whole party. Two, premature election with a broken coalition destroys the basic principle of compromise politics and electoral reform for generations.

If this doesn’t work, and can’t be shown to have worked, then we throw away any hope of genuine political reform. The first coalition government since 1962 (and no one remembers that one because it ended in merger), if it’s not a success, then the idea of having coalitions as the norm, of genuinely pluralist politics, is dead.

And that’s the fundamental flaw with that line of thinking.

Proving, to Tories, that coalitions can work, is essential. End of debate.

54. Margin4eror

Matgb

Alas Matt i fear you are buying a little bit into some idealistic rhetoric.

For example, the lib dems had no long standing commitment to raising the income tax threshold. That’s just a policy. They will play it up as the tories have thrown them that bone in the coalition deal. But it was just a policy no more important than their opposition to VAT rises.

However, electoral reform, even in such watered down form, is something lib dems stood for. Their supporters and MPs believe in it.

And in a year’s time assuming the GMB/tories/labour/etc win the referendum – the case will be made that the LibDems destroyed electoral reform by selling out. (whether or not one believes they sold our or genuinely believe in their government)

People could back reform if the result was predictable. ie if we got a system like germany which is basically a two party system where five parties form two blocks.

Instead the Lib Dems, unless they mean to align long term with the tories, have wrecked that and made clear that in hung parliaments they will hold parties to ransom in return for forming a government chosen by the lib dems, for the lib dems – not by the people, for the people.

At which point, with their one principle aim gone, burried by their own willingness to horse-trade, i expect real presure will come to undo the mistake.

Mike is absolutely right on the boundary issues. However others are absolutely right that it has no relevance to the outcome of the referendum issue once a bill is passed in parliament (except that people who care about the boundary issue may trust the Lib Dems a little less – but I suspect that ship has sailed anyhow).

And the GMB are absolutely right to take a position on this if they feel it affects their members’ interests – who are the only people they should be considering. The GMB are an affiliated union & they are affiliated because their members continue to choose to be affiliated. They believe that having a parliamentary voice for their members is important and believe that is best achieved through a link to the Labour Party. I fully understand why they would be against moving to a system which may change the Labour Party in itself, and which may be a stepping stone to full PR which could change the dynamics of our national politics from a two and a half party system loosely based on class to one where the nominal party of the working class could never be in government on its own again.

Now there will be those here who disapprove of interests-based politics, others who like me think the Labour Party was set up to provide a parliamentary voice for trade unionists & although the union link should be transparent that there’s nothing wrong with unions campaigning for the kind of Labour Party & kind of parliamentary system that best serves their members’ interests.

“The issue is that by equalising based on registered electors you have a situation where there is less parliamentary representation for the poorest than for the richest, less people in parliament representing the poorest 10% than the richest 10%.”

You talk about parliamentary representation in such basic terms, and that’s why discussing it with you is such a tedious exercise. You don’t get your head around the idea that just because an MP has more poor people in their constituency by population that it doesn’t mean more work, you don’t seem to realise that when it comes to parliamentary issues the types of representation an MP will provide is vastly more universal than the type of issues most poor people will want help with that will, ultimately, be better served by their councillors or council in general.

And finally you then talk about parliamentary representation without understanding the greater complexities of how much time MPs have. For instance, does Cameron and Clegg have as much time to deal with their constituents as a new back bench Labour MP? How does the internal politics of westminster mean these issues are fairly given the time they need, how much does luck play a part?

Ultimately how much “work” an MP has to do is much more based on the diversity of their constituency than their poverty level. A 50,000 member constituency of rich, poor, middle class and multi-cultural members is going to be more complicated to represent than a constituency with a mainly 10th decile poor black african and asian community.

And as I said, I’d rather not cut the number of MPs BUT I can see that it’s actually not going to make any difference to how well MPs do their job as it is ultimately not going to bring swathes of new issues they’re not already having to deal with that lies within their remit to their desk.

“And come the fuck on. Do I have to agree with everything a democratically elected government does? Am I not allowed to think a government’s actions are “low” just because it was voted in?”

I never said you couldn’t say it was low, I just was pointing out the hypocrisy. Labour put a shit load of TRULY low things through on their majority, this by comparison is simply not low unless you are unable to understand the lack of additional complexity that these boundary changes will put upon an MP.

“Should people who spoil their ballots or register but don’t vote also be discounted? They have the same effect of making it so that less votes are needed to gain a seat.”

No, they chose to take part in the process one way or another. Everyone else has chosen not to.

It depends how you want to look at it but the realities of our system are that constituencies are set up to *try* (and fail as it is at the moment) to represent the national desires for government through seats of MPs. Constituencies primary function is not, as you believe Mike, to be to provide a fair geographical area for MPs to have an equal workload.

If people don’t wish to engage in the system they don’t wish to have a say (or a protest) about the formation of government, those people don’t get to be represented because they have chosen that they don’t want their view on who would be best in government to be represented. This is why it is right to divide boundaries on actual registered voters.

The boundary resizing as it stands is clearly more about trying to undo some of the unfair advantage labour has, and about saving a bit of money in a token manner, in that sense I don’t agree with it because a better voting system will sort out the former and the savings will be negligible for the latter.

But boundaries have to be, as our constitution is currently, based on people that want to engage in general elections. It’s the only way to be as fair as possible with an unfair electoral system.

Talking our of your arse. MPs have to represent everyone in their constituencies, registered or not. To equalise constituencies on current electors is to resign yourself to the fact that the poor cannot be engaged, and that’s disgraceful. The way to engage people is not to cut them out completely. Whether you like it or not, people who don’t register pay their taxes and use public services- they are entitled to fair representation.

Why aren’t those people registered?

59. margin4error

ukliberty

Lots of reasons.

One growing reason is that the poor and young are increasingly transient in the UK because without social housing they drift from one private tenancy to another and so their registrations laps quicky and without actively seeking to register many don’t think about it until it is too late.

Also, the poor tend to be more suspicious of authority, especially minority groups like muslims and blacks who asa group feel somewhat victimised by courts and police. So signing formal registers often seems less than appealing.

And some people just don’t bother or forget or don’t realise they are not registered already. (That last one was a big issue with recent changes that mean when the form comes round, if you don’t include yourself you slip off the register, as opposed to the past when you had to actively point out changes. I believe that was only in some areas though.)

anyway

as best as is possible constituencies should have the same number of people in them. And by that I largely mean adults for practical reasons. Numbers of kids change far more rapidly and out systems are not cut out to keep track of them. If they were kids should count too. (They are citizens as well)

@59

One growing reason is that the poor and young are increasingly transient in the UK because without social housing they drift from one private tenancy to another and so their registrations laps quicky and without actively seeking to register many don’t think about it until it is too late.

Very true… I myself moved house 4 times in one year a few years ago and despite thinking myself politically aware managed to leave it until the last day to register. So it’s inevitable that some folk slip off it.

What I don’t get about the Tory proposals is that the boundaries are already looked at by the electoral commision and changed every now and again in accordance with their recommendations. So using an Act of Parliament looks a bit dodgy. And tying it to the AV reforms is plain nasty.

#60 Also don’t forget that legislating for, consulting on, implementing and carrying out elections on the basis of new boundaries all within one parliamentary term is unheard of. If it was really about fairness, why the rush to do it before the next election?

@61

Well quite. And if they are using the electoral register to redraw the map then where is the big campaign to get the unregistered on the list? Where are the facebook groups and government websites dedicated to the cause? I’ve heard very little from the coalition about a campaign to get people enfranchised.

Tim, unheard of “in this country” is what you meant there, many other Westminster system countries manage it, including NZ and IIRC Aus, but Aus has a three year Parliament.

Most boundary reviews take less than 5 years, but they start late and finish late. The last one was conducted 11 years after the previous one, the 2005 election was run on boundaries drawn in 1994 on an electoral register taken from 1992 (IIRC).

I have no problem at all with a review happening in every Parliament. I would rather this was being done with consensus, and that it was being done on the basis of multi-member seats, but unfortunately not enough people voted for that.

There is no justiication for some seats to have nearly double the electorate of others within England. That the other nations have different sizes is historic and should’ve been addressed with devolution.

The Tories ran on a manifest to cut the seats by 10% (approx 585). The Lib Dems ran on a manifesto to reduce the seats to 500 but on a different electoral system. The only ‘betrayal’ here is that the reduction is going to be smaller than either party argued for.

There’s a clear mandate to do this, both Cameron and Clegg clearly talked it up as policies during the debates and similar. The systen as proposed appears fair, but undoubtedly has some problems.

If, instead of calling ‘gerrymandering’ at all points, those opposed accepted it’s going to happen and instead concentrated on making sure the review process as fair as possible, this whole debate would be a lot less frustrating.

As it is, I’m losing sympathy with opponents, because they’re repeating an argument that they lost. Seriously, it was a big part of the LD campaign, and I personally got good feedback on the doorsteps for the idea of reducing the number of MPs and strengthening local councils.

margin4error, I am being led to believe there are adults (kids aren’t allowed to vote) who pay taxes, use public services, are citizens, but do not register to vote, and the number is sufficient to make a difference to a vote in ~65,000 constituency. And that is why constituencies consisting of such people should have more value in a vote than constituencies that don’t consist of such people. Is that a fair summary? (I do not believe you have made the latter claim – that is what others seem to me to have said)

One growing reason is that the poor and young are increasingly transient in the UK because without social housing they drift from one private tenancy to another and so their registrations laps quicky and without actively seeking to register many don’t think about it until it is too late. … And some people just don’t bother or forget or don’t realise they are not registered already.

OK, so that’s their responsibility.

Also, the poor tend to be more suspicious of authority, especially minority groups like muslims and blacks who asa group feel somewhat victimised by courts and police. So signing formal registers often seems less than appealing.

OK, well they need to get over that – at some point in the voting process they will come into contact with some kind of authority. The form isn’t complicated (I have one in front of me) and if there are no changes you can use “freephone, Internet or SMS”.

#63

Apart from anything else, doing it within one parliamentary term is hugely beneficial for incumbents, as parties don’t know for certain what seats will exist and cannot select candidates and build their profiles in opposition until very late in the day.

And of course reducing the number of MPs was popular at a time when large parts of the electorate thought most MPs were corrupt and when everyone was cutting back. Tell me though why we can’t equalise constituencies while increasing the number of MPs, which would be far more democratic and be less likely to create lots of strange seats with boundaries that don’t make geographical sense to any of the communities living there.

66. Margin4eror

uk liberty

On your first point – yes it is their responsibility. And they pay the price by not getting to vote. Just as if a very stable and fairly wealthy home didn’t register when they moved in 30 years ago it would be their responsibility and they wouldn’t get the vote.

Not sure how that’s relevant though. After all, they still exist. So why not count them? (aside from that not counting them helps the tories out a bit)

Also I can’t help fear that once the electoral system has a precedent behind it as a basis for judging population in areas, funding will quickly follow that path so the tories can shift even more cash away from the poor to the wealthy than their awful budget managed.

As for your second comment. I’m a little upset at this as I’ve always had you pegged as a thoughtful poster even when we disagree.

But after years of open racism, years of police persecution, and of course ongoing subtle abuse by the criminal justice system – to tell the UK’s black population as a whole to just get over it is disgustingly crass and insensitive.

Or at least it would be.

But that pales some how by comparison to saying the same to the UK’s muslim population who still face much of the open biggotry, police and political persecution, along of course the ongoing subtle abuse by the criminal justice system today!

I’m stunned by such sentiment.

67. Margin4eror

Tim

to be fair – conservatives have never much cared for tradition and convention when it gets in their way.

margin4error, no-one AFAIK has proposed a mechanism whereby a person can vote but at no time during the voting process will he be required to come into contact with some kind of authority. What is the counting process? Can people vote after they have been counted?

OK, “get over it” is flippant but at some point those people, if they want to vote (and some don’t want to) will surely have to fill in some kind of form even if they only register at voting time. On my voter registration form they do not ask for ethnicity or religion or anything personal other than name and date of birth (if 16 or 17). I’m not aware of any stories about people suffering as a result of what they write on their registration forms.

The reasons why people aren’t registered to vote are many and varied; the point is that a) they exist and b) they should be targeted to get themselves registered. What’s worrying is that there is no concerted effort to get voter registration up before boundary changes are decided.

But Pill, we’ve just had the bigest effort possible, surely? There was a concerted campaign by all parties, local councils, Facebook, the Electoral Commission and the Govt itself to get as many people as possible registered in the run up to the GE.

The boundary changes will be taken from the register at the end of this year, ergo everyone that registered for this GE will be included in the review.

In addition, it’s the December register that’ll be taken, and there’s traditionally an annual push each autumn to get registration up to date.

Maybe you missed it, but there was a big campaign to get registration done on time, I was part of it locally, and registration spiked substantially in the weeks before the cutoff for the GE.

Personally I take the view that if you weren’t registered for this GE, you’re unlikely to be, but you may want to register for the next GE;I wasn’t registered in 2005 (private tenant, I’d moved, missed the deadline) but was a candidate (albeit for the council) in 2010. Proportionately, some people drop off, but come back on again, it happens.

We can do a big push between now and Xmas, if the big concern is specific areas being under registered, why not go get them registered?

@70

The fact that 3,500,000 people are still not on the electoral roll after the recent GE highlights the scale of the problem. It is rather unfeasible to expect all of (or most of) those people to have signed up by December imo. I repeat: what is the problem in allowing the electoral commission to do its job?
I’ll do my bit in my local area of course if needs be (and via my blog, natch 😉 ) but the gov should be doing a lot more to engage people in the political process – the big society can’t be used as an excuse for it giving up its responsibilities.

I don’t expect most of them to. I expect that those not on it will remain not on it until they decide being on it is worth it, and that needs a huge amount more research, promotional work, etc.

The problem with ‘letting the EC get on with its job’, is that that job is never likely to be done. To reiterate, this Bill will see a boundary review after every GE, using the register from the end of that calender year.

The 2005 GE was fought on boundaries drawn up using the 1992 electoral register. The 2010 GE was fought on boundaries drawn up from, IIRC, the 2003/4 electoral register.

I think a review every Parliament makes sense. It’ll take about 3 yeas to get a review done. It needs to start at the end of this year in order to be ready to give time for candidate selection, local party reorganisation, etc.

And yes, the Govt does need to do a lot more to engage people. But they’ve only just got into office. Personally, I think changing the electoral system, devolving a lot of power back to local authorities (including giving councils strategic oversight of local health provision), strengthening police authorities (and even the bloody elected commissioners, Do Not Want but…) will do a lot to re-engage people.

Seriously, I supported Labour in 97 and 01 because they promised to do this sort of thing. They failed. It’ll take a lot to sort the mess out, but the boundary review needs to get started ASAP, and this is going to be the best state the register is in for a long time.

@72

We’ll have to agree to disagree on this one. Though you’ll be pleased to note I will be campaigning in favour of a Yes vote for AV 🙂

74. margin4error

UK Liberty

I’m not really sure what your point is. Obviously they can’t vote if they don’t register. And many of “these people” (blacks and muslims in my example) make the decision either explicitly or implicitly.

But again – I don’t see how that means they don’t exist?

margin4error,

I’m not really sure what your point is. Obviously they can’t vote if they don’t register. And many of “these people” (blacks and muslims in my example) make the decision either explicitly or implicitly. But again – I don’t see how that means they don’t exist?

I didn’t say they don’t exist. I refer you to Mike@17 and this; there are “inbuilt social injustices of parliamentary democracy” and a “need to take not just registered voters but all possible voters into account when determining constituency size”.

So my question is this: what system alternative to the present electoral registration process can be used to take all possible voters into account when determining constituency size?

76. margin4error

UKliberty

I fear we’ve been talking at cross purposes.

The only way to work out who can vote where is the voter registration system. Though an annual drive in areas of low registration would be a good move too.

That’s very different to basing constituency boundaries on voter registration though, as that would leave out a lot of constituents.

77. margin4error

Actually, thinking about it, maybe I’m wrong.

Everyone has a National Insurance number. Maybe we just need to merge that with voter registration. That would count all adults – working or not – and each NI number would just need to be registered to its address to work fairly well.

Of course the transience issue would still exist. (people wouldn’t change their address registered every time they move)

But it would resolve some of the problem.

The National Insurance number will include people who aren’t eligible to vote.

16 & 17-year-olds (and they should be eligible to vote, really, but they’re not).

Non-British citizens here to work who aren’t on this list:
http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/glossary/q#Qualifying-Commonwealth-citizen

etc.

margin4error,

That’s very different to basing constituency boundaries on voter registration though, as that would leave out a lot of constituents.

Leave them out from what?

80. margin4error

UK Liberty

it would leave them out of the calculation when working out how many people live where, a calculation that is fone to ensure that constituencies are made roughly the same size when they are redrawn.

Sorry I thought that was clear by nature of the conversation.

Obviously some people are also (rightly) angry at possibly taking out the process by wihch local appeals can be lodged and effectively ending the cross party process involved.

Others are also concerned at the breaking of a precedent against redrawing boundaries and using the new ones for the next election. (the next election traditionally uses the past boundaries so as to avoid governments redrawing them when they get in to give themseles unfair advantages – though of course that’s the point of these changes from the coalition.)

But the key one you were commenting on way back when – was removing a bunch of poor people from constituencies so as to make more constituencies in rich areas and fewer in poor areas (so as to benefit the tories and lib dems electorally)

margin4error,

… to make more constituencies in rich areas and fewer in poor areas (so as to benefit the tories and lib dems electorally)

Well, that makes much more sense to me as a complaint (I don’t know whether it is true or not) than “poor people or ethnic minorities are less likely to register to vote but more likely to vote Labour if they do register so we have to automagically include them / equalising constituency sizes based on registrants is wrong” (you weren’t saying this, btw).

82. Margin4eror

uk liberty

ah I see.

I agree people overcomplicate a fairly simple issue.

Constituencies should all have roughly the same population so far as it is practical. It really is as simple as that. And the LibDem/Tory proposals are an attempt to not do that any more.

Margin4Error? Attempt to not do it anymore? Surely the exact opposite is true. The stated objective is to equalise constituencies, you’ve put forward nothing that asserts that’s not going to happen.

Having spent a big chunk of time going over this the last few months, there are some vast disparities in both constituency and population size, and virtually every constituency I’ve checked had roughly 80% electorate compared to 2001 census population, with the exception of some known to have shrunk (not always Labour) and some known to have grown (Isle of Wight).

And also, it won’t affect the number of LD seats overall, they’ll lose proportionately, they have some of the smallest seats and some of the largest. Tories are disproportionately from the larger seats, but also have some of the smallest.

Seriously, I’ve seen no evidence whatsoever that the system as proposed will do anything other than equalise. If there were some serious evidence put forward, I could and would make sure it was punted to the right place. The objective is to make each seat roughly the same size.

If you’ve got evidence, actual real arguments, that say the legislation as written won’t acheive that, I’m all ears. I’ve yet to see any, therefore I suspect you’re blowing smoke.

I believe in equal representation, I’ve long argued for STV, but if we have to stick to bloody single member seats, let’s do it right.

84. Neil Williams

The GMB ar 100% correct to oppose AV. AV is NOT PR and the Liddems sold out on this issue like many others within hours of gleefully joing a right wing Tory Coalition.
You can be sure that if we ever got AV then full PR would be lost for many generations. On top of this the ConDem coalition intend to play around with the constituency boundries – and its not surprising to know it would assist the Tories in most cases.
There is nothing progressive about AV when the votes for the least favoured candidates decide who wins in the end – a funny sort of democracy if you ask me! With full PR and regional top up you get one vote and the winner is selected by all who think that person would make the best representitive (not 2nd/3rd /4th /5th best as with AV).
All progressive people should oppose AV in next years vote and see the back end of the nasty very conservative LibDems in government!!


Reactions: Twitter, blogs
  1. Liberal Conspiracy

    GMB union joins Tory right against AV http://bit.ly/bwiHa6

  2. Adam Bienkov

    I struggle to see why this is any of the GMB's business http://bit.ly/bwiHa6

  3. Gary Dunion

    GMB vs AV. WTF? http://bit.ly/bwiHa6 (ht @AdamBienkov)

  4. Ryan Bestford

    RT @libcon: GMB union joins Tory right against AV http://bit.ly/bwiHa6

  5. Jerry Taylor

    RT @libcon: GMB union joins Tory right against AV http://bit.ly/bwiHa6 — All the forces of evil uniting against democracy.

  6. Sarah

    RT @libcon: GMB union joins Tory right against AV http://bit.ly/bwiHa6 >>>Nice the GMB have so much money to spend on this. #yestoav

  7. Lindsay Williams

    RT @libcon: GMB joins Tory right against AV http://bit.ly/bwiHa6 >>>Nice the GMB have so much money to spend on this. #yestoav

  8. Becky Wright

    RT @AdamBienkov: I struggle to see why this is any of the GMB's business http://bit.ly/bwiHa6 <<< to bloody right

  9. Daniel Harkin

    oh no gmb! didn't you hear Mandy's advice on #fivedaysthatchangedbritain ? –> http://bit.ly/cVbd2u

  10. Chris Keene

    GMB against election reform http://liberalconspiracy.org/2010/08/01/gmb-union-joins-tory-right-against-av/ why?

  11. Dave Boyle

    @carsmilesteve there's useless, and doing stuff I really want nothing to do with, like spending subs on no2AV shite: http://s.coop/ici





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