Morning Call: pick of the papers

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

1. Cameron does not deserve this B-team (Daily Telegraph)

The Tory leader David Cameron can do nothing to satisfy his selfish MPs, says Peter Oborne. The only winner is Ed Miliband.

2. Is plebgate a product of the push for police reform? (Guardian)

The Mitchell affair is a reminder that relations between this government and the force are as bad as any in living memory, writes Martin Kettle.

3. Damned and cast out prematurely. No wonder Mitchell is angry (Independent)

Sometimes in these storms spin doctors can make mistakes, says Steve Richards. Mitchell's apology, in staged public circumstances, seemed an implicit acceptance of guilt.

4. I am not a leftie bank-basher, but why has no one been jailed for their criminality? (Daily Mail)

Without the awareness of fault that a proper inquiry would bring, bankers will repeat their sins, says Stephen Glover.

5. Cameron is wrong to take on the Tory party (Financial Times)

The prime minister’s tactics appear disastrous, says Tessa Keswick.

6. A referendum on Europe? Bring it on, for all our sakes (Guardian)

Cameron, Clegg and Miliband all fear a public vote - but they should go for it nonetheless, says Timothy Garton Ash. Let the people decide.

7. Who Dares Wins (Times) (£)

Obama needs to insist on gun control, not just ask for it, says a Times editorial.

8. Confusion reigns when the police won’t talk (Daily Telegraph)

For the Metropolitan Police, press briefings are a thing of the past – and it’s the public that is losing out, says John Yates.

9. Europe must be sold on shale’s merits (Financial Times)

If the argument is not won, the region could miss out on a huge opportunity, writes Noe van Hulst.

10. The Church is being reborn in cafes and homes (Independent)

New congregations are being created for the benefit of people who’ve never been to Church, writes Andreas Whittam Smith.

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Britain's shrinking democracy

10 million people - more than voted for Labour in May - will be excluded from the new electoral roll.

Despite all the warnings the government is determined to press ahead with its decision to close the existing electoral roll on December 1. This red letter day in British politics is no cause for celebration. As the Smith Institute’s latest report on the switch to the new system of voter registration shows, we are about to dramatically shrink our democracy.  As many as 10 million people are likely to vanish from the electoral register for ever – equal to 20 per cent of the total electorate and greater than Labour’s entire vote in the 2015 general election. 

Anyone who has not transferred over to the new individual electoral registration system by next Tuesday will be “dropped off” the register. The independent Electoral Commission, mindful of how the loss of voters will play out in forthcoming elections, say they need at least another year to ensure the new accuracy and completeness of the registers.

Nearly half a million voters (mostly the young and those in private rented homes) will disappear from the London register. According to a recent HeraldScotland survey around 100,000 residents in Glasgow may also be left off the new system. The picture is likely to be much the same in other cities, especially in places where there’s greater mobility and concentrations of students.

These depleted registers across the UK will impact more on marginal Labour seats, especially  where turnout is already low. Conversely, they will benefit Tories in future local, Euro and general elections. As the Smith Institute report observers, Conservative voters tend to be older, home owners and less transient – and therefore more likely to appear on the electoral register.

The government continues to ignore the prospect of skewed election results owing to an incomplete electoral registers. The attitude of some Tory MPs hardly helping. For example, Eleanor Laing MP (the former shadow minister for justice) told the BBC that “if a young person cannot organize the filling in of a form that registers them to vote, they don’t deserve the right to vote”.  Leaving aside such glib remarks, what we do know is the new registers will tend to favour MPs whose support is found in more affluent rural and semi-rural areas which have stable populations.  

Even more worrying, the forthcoming changes to MPs constituencies (under the Boundary Review) will be based on the new electoral register. The new parliamentary constituencies will be based not on the voting population, but on an inaccurate and incomplete register. As Institute’s report argues, these changes are likely to unjustly benefit UKIP and the Conservative party.

That’s not to say that the voter registration system doesn’t need reforming.  It clearly does. Indeed, every evidence-based analysis of electoral registers over the last 20 years shows that both accuracy and completeness are declining – the two features of any electoral register that make it credible or not. But, the job must be done properly.  Casually leaving 10m voters off the electoral resister hardly suggests every effort has been made.

The legitimacy of our democratic system rests on ensuring that everyone can exercise their right to vote. This is a task which shouldn’t brook complacency or compromise.  We should be aiming for maximum voter registration, not settling for a system where one in five drop off the register.