Systematically Labour fiddles with a tried and tested system which has delivered results for years which have been accepted and unchallenged. It does so, not only for its own advantage, but to discredit the very elections themselves. That way they hope to keep power indefinitely – or if not ‘power’ the predominance of their way of thinking.
The British people sleep or they don’t care.
If you can’t even run an election ...
By Simon Heffer
They used to say in Northern Ireland “vote early, vote often”.
In Scotland many people are wondering whether they have actually managed to vote at all.
That perhaps 100,000 votes – a considerable number out of a small electorate and even smaller turnout – were spoiled because people could not comprehend the voting system and work out how to mark the ballot paper properly is a shocking indictment of Labour’s electoral management.
Had this happened in the third world, there would be calls for the election to be re-run: and they would be hard to dispute.
The problem in Scotland seems to have been twofold.
A failed electronic counting system, with machines breaking down, meant that counts had to be postponed all over the country.
Also, the combination of a first-past-the-post system and proportional representation in the same election (as in 1999 and 2003) ought not in itself have been confusing, but for the first time the two lists were included on the same paper.
No wonder the public was confused: and, as the Scottish political class was freely admitting as the scale of the debacle become obvious, if you can’t even run an election, how can you profess to be able to run a country?
Worst of all – and this applies throughout the whole of the United Kingdom – all Labour’s much-vaunted attempts to improve participation in our electoral system seem more and more to be underpinned with an unpleasant, and gerrymandering, cynicism.
When the Scottish Secretary, Douglas Alexander, announced the new system of two lists on one ballot paper for yesterday’s elections, he justified the change by saying it would “make things easier” for the public.
The fact that it did the complete opposite symbolises Labour’s administrative incompetence, and how out of touch those who make such decisions are from their consequences.
The party’s determination to encourage people to vote by, for example, the widespread availability of postal voting, is aimed almost entirely at making it easier for Labour’s client groups (many of whom are near the margins of society, or come from sections of it where participation in voting has often been low) to go out and support the party.
This also contributed to some of the difficulties in Scotland, with people in their own homes puzzling over how correctly to fill in ballot papers.
As we have seen several times in recent years, the scope for fraud in a system that encourages postal voting is enormous.
Going out to vote should be a conscious and important decision made by the elector: it is not, or at least should not be, like the casual act of filling in a lottery ticket.
The old system, whereby only those who were away from home or too infirm to get to a polling station would qualify for a postal ballot, was the right one.
The alternative is now becoming increasingly discredited.
Precisely because Labour thought it would assist their plans to buy England off over devolution by providing regional assemblies, John Prescott pushed postal voting in the referendum two years ago to secure a regional assembly for the north-east.
The plan backfired spectacularly, the referendum did not produce the result the Government wanted, and Labour had the embarrassment of backing down on plans to call other referenda elsewhere: regional assemblies in England are now a dead letter.
After the 2005 general election, the first in which postal voting was widely used, there were widespread allegations of fraud, particularly in ethnic minority communities.
This problem had been highlighted even before that election, after six men from Birmingham were convicted for offences involving postal voting at the 2004 council elections.
The judge in the case, Richard Mawrey QC, said that the system was “wide open” to fraud and that the Government was “in denial” about it.
At the 2005 election the number of postal votes rose from 3.9 per cent in 2001 to almost 15 per cent, with rises of nearly 500 per cent in participation being recorded in certain key marginals.
At the time of the election police forces were investigating 39 cases of fraud, and afterwards an international monitoring group, the Warsaw-based Office for Democratic Institutions and Human Rights told Britain, in the manner of a banana republic, to clean up its act.
This humiliation has taught the Government nothing.
The combination of ballot paper design and postal voting has served to undermine democracy, and will inevitably leave the validity of the Scottish elections in doubt long after the last result is in.
Labour has merely enhanced its reputation for incompetence, and for a determination to interfere in the electoral system not to promote ease of voting, but to try and manipulate arrangements to get as many of its own natural supporters to vote as possible.
In an age when the integrity of the results of British elections was never in doubt, the votes were counted by hand, voting systems were transparent and straightforward, and (other than in exceptional circumstances) people who wished to participate in our democracy had to make the physical effort to go and vote.
Labour has sought to change all these factors over the last 10 years, and the result is chaos and a defeat for democracy.
It stinks to high heaven and – with the intervention of the courts if the Government stubbornly refuses to take a lead – it must never be allowed to happen again.