The government's corruption of the electoral process continues apace

by Stephen Tall on October 7, 2008

Two sad news stories today which will attract very little media coverage but which speak volumes about the declining integrity of democracy in the UK.

1. The entirely expected merging of the 2009 Euro elections and English local elections on a single date.

The BBC reports:

The government is to press ahead with plans to hold the 2009 English local and European elections on the same day. The change, which must be approved by both houses of Parliament by 7 November if it is to take place, would see both polls take place on 4 June.

Martin Land launched a broadside against the move back in May here on Lib Dem Voice:

Some people might think [merging the two elections] is logical enough. After all, the elections are only four weeks apart, and some civil servant with a preference for neatness has decided that these two could easily grouped together, especially now there is little risk of Gordon calling an election before 2010.

But I think this should be opposed, root and branch.

The local elections which risk being delayed in 2009 are mostly the County Council elections. The County Council elections for 2005 were held on the same day as the General Election. As they were in 2001 and in 1997. This means that electors in these areas have not had an election to these important local authorities where the issues could be discussed, unclouded by other elections, since 1993!

2. Triggering by-elections with undue haste disenfranchises voters.

Again, from the BBC:

The speed with which parliamentary by-elections take place could be preventing voters from taking part, the Electoral Commission has warned. People sometimes only have two days to register for a ballot, it added. The commission wants the minimum time between calling and holding general elections and by-elections to be increased from 15 to 25 days.

We all know why by-elections are called as quickly as possible – because the defending party is worried that any delay will allow opposition parties to mobilise their activists and cause an electoral upset. The impact on voters or democracy is a secondary consideration. You can read the Electoral Commission’s full report here.

Lib Dem bloggers Darrell Goodliffe, Alex Folkes and Duncan Borrowman have all posted their views on these issues.