Nick Clegg Says Tories Wants A 'One-Party State' Amid Claims Government Is 'Rigging The System' To Stay In Power

25/02/2016 13:39 | Updated 26 February 2016
Steve Parsons/PA Archive

Nick Clegg has criticised the Conservatives for “rigging the rules” in its favour that could lead to a Tory "one-party state".

Speaking to The Independent, the former Deputy Prime Minister joined the growing outrage over how a series of policies have been introduced that gives the incumbent government a huge advantage over their rivals.

He said: “If you look at the way the Conservatives seek to hobble and neuter Westminster, the bullying swagger with which they treat the BBC, the general air of hubris, there is a feeling that politics is being reduced to the whims and mood swings of one political party. That is not healthy.

“A combination of US-style game playing by the Conservatives and Labour’s self-indulgence is conspiring to leave millions of British voters completely voiceless.”

His criticism comes as officials have announced details of how the UK’s electoral map is to be re-drawn, but an analysis of the Boundary Commission’s proposals suggest it could cost the Labour Party 10 MPs to the Conservatives at the next election.

The plan to make each parliamentary seat roughly the same size, as well as reducing the number of MPs by 50 to 600, was ditched under the Tory coalition with the Lib Dems but has become a priority now the Conservatives have a majority.

The move follows hard on the heels of a series of announcements that will limit the opposition to the Government, from slashing party funding to reining in the House of Lords, and paves the way the Tories to increase its majority in the 2020 election.

gloria de piero

Labour's Gloria De Piero has accused the Conservatives of a "partisan plan to give the Tories an unfair advantage at the expense of democracy"

Gloria De Piero, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Young People and Voter Registration, said the boundary review was “another example of David Cameron and the Conservative Party trying to rig the system for their own political ends”.

“This is all further evidence of their partisan plan to give the Tories an unfair advantage at the expense of democracy,” she said.

Here are five instances where critics claim the Conservatives are stacking the deck in their favour.

1. Boundary review

For a series of economic and social reasons, the UK’s 650 constituencies vary wildly in size and a long-held ambition has been to “equalise” how many people are in each one. At the same time, a clamour to reduce the cost of politics has led many to call for the number of MPs in Westminster to be axed.

But the Tory government has faced accusations of “gerrymandering”, manipulating the boundaries to their favour, as it pushes forward with the reform. While the independent Boundary Commissions in the various UK nations are doing the work, the terms have been set by ministers.

Research for The Times carried out by political analyst Lewis Baston suggests Labour could face the loss of 24 seats compared to just 14 for the Conservatives.

“Labour already needs a 1997-sized lead to get a majority of just one seat. It looks as if it’s going to be even more difficult on these numbers,” Mr Baston said.

2. “Short money”

Opposition parties are given state funding to help with running costs, based on their share of the vote in the general election. The idea is to provide robust opposition to the government of the day, reflecting the wishes of the electorate. It’s dubbed “short money” after a former leader of the House of Commons, Edward Short.

As most attention was on David Cameron’s Brussels “deal”, ministers quietly published online a ‘consultation’ on proposals to slash grants by 19% this year and freeze it thereafter until 2020. If adopted, it would mean a big cut in funds for UKIP and the Greens, as well as protections for a future Tory Opposition. The Tories were accused of being a “so-called one nation party is trying to create a one-party nation”.

Watch MPs below accuse Tory ministers of trying to create a “one-party state” over plans to slash taxpayer funding to Opposition parties at Westminster

3. House of Lords

house of lords

Last year, ministers failed in their attempt to force through controversial cuts to the tax credit top-up benefit after the plans were blocked by the House of Lords. In response, the Government installed Conservative peer Lord Strathclyde to review the upper chamber, and the swift audit resulted in him recommending it loses its power to veto statutory instruments - the device which allows governments to bring in measures without a full Act of Parliament.

Labour warned the move “paints a very unattractive picture of a Prime Minister and a Government that will not tolerate challenge; that loathes scrutiny and fears questioning”.

4. Trade unions

Proposals in the Trade Union Bill could see Labour lose £6m in income. It changes the way trade unionists pay into their union political fund, the only source from which unions can give money to Labour, and means each union member will have to agree in writing every five years to opt into paying the political levy, as opposed to opting out under the current system.

While Labour has complained it has been targeted while no limits are placed on private business donations to the Tory party, even the former head of the civil service has attacked the plans. Bob Kerslake said the Bill marked a “partisan and disproportionate” attempt to improve the position of the Conservatives at the expense of Labour.

5. Voter registration

The Government has changed the way people register to vote, which requires them to vote as individuals rather than as households. And the Electoral Commission has found almost 800,000 potential voters were deleted from the electoral register since the system was introduced.

While the Government said only ‘ghost’ electors had been removed from the roll, Labour warned of disenfranchisement in university towns and among younger people who are almost eligible to vote - again a move likely to benefit the Tories.

Suggest a correction