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How to rig a British election

How to rig a British election

I am not one for conspiracy theories... but the UK Government is discreetly entrenching one party rule. It is distorting the key principle of one person, one vote. Exhibit one is a plan to draw constituency boundaries based on voter registration, rather than actual population. Exhibit two is the rush to individual voter registration despite warnings from the Electoral Commission that thousands will be disenfranchised - nearly 800,000 by the last count.

The government's proposals will lead to greater representation for the white, wealthy and the old, who are more likely to register to vote (and vote Tory when they do). In basing constituency boundaries upon a subsequently flawed electoral roll, the Tories are increasing representation to areas with higher voting turnout. These places tend to be more rural, enjoy higher rates of affluence and have fewer ethnic minorities. Again, the end result is likely to favour The Conservatives. Studies show that the poor, the young and non-whites who live inner cities, and who tend to vote Labour, are far more likely to become disenfranchised.

Granted, these initiatives do not on their own prove the existence of a plot. Yet they represent the latest in a string of stealthy assaults upon democracy. Other examples include the barring of Scottish MPs from voting on some measures deemed "English only", a rule that further increases the Tory majority in parliament. Attempts to limit the rights of trade unions to strike will impair the influence of Labour's major donors. While previous soundings about cutting funding to opposition parties - known as short money -  would have hindered the ability of opposition MPs to hold the government to account.

Owen Jones put it this way: "[The] Tories know they won on the lowest share of the vote of any majority Conservative government, and five percentage points fewer than John Major’s own surprise victory in 1992. Better to act now, to rig the system to guarantee Tory victories."

Osborne and Cameron are doing what even the most conservative of American judges, including Samuel Alito, say is unfair. Both he an his colleagues on the Supreme Court ruled unanimously this week that congressional boundaries should be based on roughly equal population size, and not on voter registration. Remember, these are judges who in 2013 allowed southern states to impose voter ID requirements that suppresses turnout amongst poorer, non-white groups who cannot afford passports. A progressive court this is not. Yet even it has drawn a line, so to speak, eschewing political preferences over what is constitutional and what is just.

How ironic that America, home of political machines that make sport of redistricting, should hold lessons for the gerrymandered isle across the pond.

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