Morning Call: pick of the papers

The ten must-read pieces from this morning's papers.

1. The immigration triffid is growing. Eradicate it (Times) (£)

Even the Labour leader seems to believe - wrongly - that foreigners (a) take British jobs and (b) drive down wages. David Aaronovitch calls for a change.

2. Now Ed Miliband's challenge is to put his stamp on his Labour party (Guardian)

After the most radical speech by a leader for a generation, Miliband must turn the brave talk into a winning platform, says Seumas Milne.

3. Tentative progress, but Germany remains the key (Independent)

This leading article urges that the fact that the solution to the crisis is more Europe, rather than less, should not be lost in the rhetoric.

4. The best way to tackle the Big Four (Financial Times)

John Gapper argues that it would be better to encourage the emergence of new competitors to the biggest firms through ownership and anti-trust measures.

5. You don't always win on moral high ground (Times) (£)

In business you have to take unpopular decisions. James Dyson argues that that doesn't mean they're wrong.

6. A Robin Hood tax could turn the banks from villains to heroes (Guardian)

An EU-wide Robin Hood tax is close to becoming reality, says Bill Nighy. Cameron must now tell the City to get on board.

7. Failed by the very people who are there to protect us (Independent)

Yvette Cooper has done a good thing in setting up an independent review of policing, says Andreas Whittam Smith.

8. Cameron has lost his way on crime (Financial Times)

The Conservatives traditionally flew the flag for law and order. The sad reality is that this flag is flying at half-mast, writes Paul McKeever.

9. Children First (Times) (£)

More children are being taken into care, and fewer are adopted. This leading article says that the adoption system has grown worse, not better.

10. Regeneration? What's happening in Sheffield's Park Hill is class cleansing (Guardian)

Once unpicturesque council tenants have been 'decanted', inner-city estates can be safely claimed by the affluent, says Owen Hatherley.

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Q&A: What happened at Barnet's polling stations this morning?

Eager democrats who arrived early in the morning to vote in the London elections were turned away. 

What’s going on?

When polls first opened at Barnet’s 155 polling stations at 7 this morning, many registered voters found that they were not on the station’s voting lists, meaning they were unable to cast their vote. Many reports suggested that the overwhelming majority were turned away. Rules were later relaxed in some, but not all, polling stations to allow those who arrived with their polling cards (which explicitly state they are not needed to cast a vote) to vote.

Why is this happening?

It is, needless to say, unclear. But some reports have suggested that polling station staff only had the updates to the electoral register (that is, those who have newly-registered) rather than the entire register itself. Which makes you wonder why nobody realised before 7am that there might be rather more people wanting to vote in Barnet than the lists suggested.

Is this a conspiracy?

No, of course it’s not. And if you think it is, take the tinfoil hat off and stop watching Russia Today. Barnet is a Tory-led council. If this mess harms any party it is likely to be the Conservatives. We don’t know how Barnet voted for mayor in 2012, but we do know the votes of Barnet plus predominantly Labour-supporting Camden: Boris Johnson got 82,839 first preference votes while Ken Livingstone received 58,354. But remember London’s not just electing a mayor today. It is also electing the members of the Greater London Assembly – and one of them represents the constituency of Barnet and Camden. The incumbent, Andrew Dismore, is from the Labour Party, and is running for reelection. He won fairly comfortably in 2012, far outperforming Ken Livingstone. But Tory campaigners have been talking up the possibility of defeating Dismore, especially in recent days after Labour’s anti-semitism ructions (Barnet has London’s largest Jewish population). Again, if there are voters who failed to vote this morning and cannot to do so later, then that will hurt the Conservatives and help Dismore.

Is it the fault of nasty outsourcers?

Seemingly not. As we’ve written before, Barnet Council is famous for outsourcing vast proportions of its services to private contractors – births and deaths in the borough are now registered elsewhere, for example. But though postal votes and other areas of electoral administration have been outsourced by Barnet, voter registration is performed in-house. This one’s on the council and nobody else.

What has Barnet done about it?

The council initially issued a statement saying that it was “aware of problems with our voter registration lists” and admitting that “a number of people who had not brought their polling card with them were unable to vote”. Which was a bit peculiar given the polling cards say that you don’t need to bring them to vote and there were plenty of reports of people who had polling cards also being denied their democratic rights.

As of 10.40am, the council said that: “All the updated electoral registers are now in place and people can vote as normal.” There appear to be no plans to extend voting hours – and it is not possible to reopen polling tomorrow morning for the frustrated early birds to return.

What does this mean for the result?

It’s very hard to form even a vaguely accurate picture of how many voters who would otherwise have voted will not vote because of this error. But if the margin of victory in the mayoral election or the relevant GLA contest is especially slim, expect calls for a re-run. Frustrated voters could in theory achieve that via the arcane procedure of an election petition, which would then be heard by a special election court, as when Lutfur Rahman’s election as Mayor of Tower Hamlets was declared void in April 2015.

Some have suggested that this may delay the eventual result, but remember that counting for the London elections was not due to begin until Friday morning anyway.

Is there a dodgier barnet than this Barnet?

Yes.

 

Henry Zeffman writes about politics and is the winner of the Anthony Howard Award 2015.