Yesterday, the unelected Lords did their democratic duty by their vote on the tax credit cuts, which David Cameron had denied he would make before the election. There are important constitutional issues raised. The most obvious is that politicians should not lie to the electorate. Today, the Lords must block the Tories shameful attempt to rig the electoral system itself.
Jeremy Corbyn spoke about this issue in his Conference Speech: -
"Just before the summer, the Tories sneaked out a plan to strike millions of people off the electoral register this December - a year earlier than the advice of the independent Electoral Commission.
"It means millions could lose their right to vote. It's more than 400,000 people in London. It's 70,000 people in Glasgow. Thousands in every town and city.
"We know why the Tories are doing it. They want to gerrymander next year's mayoral election in London by denying hundreds of thousands of Londoners their right to vote.
"They want to do the same for the Assembly elections in Wales. And they want to gerrymander electoral boundaries across the country by ensuring new constituencies are decided on the basis of the missing electors when the Boundary Commission starts its work in April 2016.”
The media barely mentioned this at the time. Imagine how they would have reacted if such a grave accusation had been made against a newly elected Corbyn government.
This issue relates to the transition from the previous method of compiling the Electoral Register to the new method called Individual Electoral Registration (IER). The timetable in the original legislation was for the transition to IER to end in December 2016. However, the Tories are trying to bring the date forward to December 2015. Corbyn was warning of the likely consequences.
The Boundary Commission work referred to by Corbyn relates to drawing up new constituencies. If this work is done on the basis of millions missing from Electoral Register, then it will affect the fairness of the 2020 election and beyond.
The Electoral Commission are independent experts and they have advised strongly against the Tory plan. Their reasons are clearly set out in the dry document, Assessment of Progress with the Transition to Individual Electoral Registration June 2015.
Here are some extracts from the Electoral Commission’s advice to peers today.
“We are disappointed at the Government’s announcement and still recommend that the end of transition should take place in December 2016 as set out in law. We therefore recommend that Parliament does not approve this order.
The Commission believes that there should be a compelling case for bringing forward the end of the transition. [And there is not such a compelling case]
On 1 December 2015, should Parliament approve the Government’s order, any of the 1.9 million entries on the register that have not been individually registered or already removed through the annual canvass process will be deleted from the register.”
There is no doubt that deleting all or some of the 1.9 million entries referred to by the Electoral Commission will benefit the Tories and harm Labour. IER particularly affects those in rented accommodation, younger and poorer voters and also students - universities no longer register automatically those in halls of residence, for example.
Today the airwaves are full of Tories invoking democracy. Their protestations ring particularly hollow on a day when they are trying to force through parliament a measure designed to rig the Electoral Register in their favour in the teeth of advice from the independent experts, the Electoral Commission.