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6 October 2011

The great gerrymander: Mehdi Hasan on the Tories’ attempt to undermine the system

Tories continue to find new and ingenious ways to rig the electoral system in their favour.

By Mehdi Hasan

My column in this week’s magazine attacks the Tories’ “brazen attempt to gerrymander the electoral system” through rewriting the rules on voter registration and switching from compulsion to volition — which could see up to ten million mostly Labour-leaning voters just fall off the electoral register. Almost all of our major political commentators and pundits have missed this story, preferring instead to focus on the Boundary Commission’s recent review of constituency boundaries.

Those of us who have objected to the review, on the grounds that it is quite possible to remove the electoral system’s existing bias towards Labour without reducing the overall number of Commons seats, have been accused of being partisan, cynical and prone to conspiracy-theorising. Yet, earlier this week, at a ConservativeHome reception at the Conservative party conference in Manchester, the Transport Secretary, Philip Hammond, had this to say:

With your help — and a little help from the boundary review — hopefully we will be back in 2015 with a Conservative majority government.

[Hat-tip: Total Politics and Amber Elliott]

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From the horse’s mouth, as they say. His aides, of course, say that he made the remarks in “jest” but the point is that they’re true. The boundary review will disproportionately benefit the Conservatives — and so, too, will the proposed change to the registration of voters on the electoral list and the subsequent lack of enforcement. It is, as I say in my column, “the biggest political scandal you’ve never heard of”.

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