Tuesday, May 15, 2012

How Will Labour Campaign For A Full Franchise?

                                                               Click above to enlarge

In his speech to "Progress" (see here), Ed Miliband has announced that Labour will be undertaking the biggest electoral registration drive for a generation. I hope that this means that such a campaign will make full use of Labour's parliamentary avenues.

When I introduced a Private Members Bill in the 1992/3 parliamentary session aimed at tackling under-registration it was talked out by the Conservatives. For the measure to progress, we needed to win the closure vote and have a hundred members in our lobby. But despite the support of the Labour Front Bench (including that of Tony Blair, then Shadow Home Secretary, in the above letter), we failed as we "only" won the division by 78-0. It is hoped that in any re-run, sufficient Labour back-benchers will turn up.

In 2000, the Government eventually carried legislation which made various improvements in the electoral registration procedures, including a measure enabling those who moved home to transfer their registration arrangements without having to wait for the annual registration procedure. Unfortunately, the Electoral Commission now show that only 14% of those who have moved their homes are making use of this facility.

I hope that Yvette Cooper, Labour's current Home Affairs' Spokesperson, will have a look at my own failed efforts to improve the legislation, including the unsuccessful improving amendments I pursued when the Commons dealt with Labour's measure in 2000.

The serious nature of the issue has been revealed by the Electoral Commission.  At least 6 million are now missing from registers, with only 56% of 19-24 year olds being covered and the same low percentage for those in private rented accommodation.

Ed's and Yvette's campaign needs to draw from the Chartists and the Suffragettes, whose efforts have unfortunately been seriously undermined in recent years.

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