THE BLOG

The Autumn Statement - Midwinter for Democracy

25/11/2015 17:43 GMT | Updated 25/11/2016 10:12 GMT

They often call our Parliament the Mother of all Parliaments. Our democracy is said to be the oldest in the world. We pride ourselves on our sense of 'fair play'. But that democracy is under unprecedented attack as this Government fixes the system to help keep the Tories in Government for a generation.

The Conservative Government has changed the way that the electoral roll is compiled meaning that, for the first time, every voter must register themselves. This is a pretty seismic shift and one that means millions of people will find that they have fallen off the register. This is pretty bad for democracy, since the vast majority of the missing voters are likely to be younger, in social housing or privately rented accommodation, students or from socially disadvantaged groups. Yep - all those groups that are most likely to vote Labour.

If it stopped there it would be bad enough, but that is just the beginning. The Government has also changed the law so that the constituency boundaries on which the 2020 general election will be fought will be on the electoral roll as it stands on 1st December 2015. So constituency boundaries are being redrawn at the very moment when the electoral roll is most heavily skewed towards the Conservatives.

Now this all leaves me feeling faintly uneasy - a crude attempt to fix the next election in a manner that I thought was extinct in western Europe - but it gets worse. Not content with trying to rig voter rolls and election boundaries, the Government is now trying to stifle any opposition.

The Government may not like criticism, but that doesn't give it the right to introduce legislation - the 2014 'Gagging Act' - in order to silence them. The Government may not like the BBC offering balanced political coverage, but that doesn't give it the right to 'go to war' with the BBC and threaten its charter status.

I've said before that the Government is trying to silence the trade union movement. The Trade Union Bill that is currently in front of parliament does exactly that. But this isn't just about Trade Unions - it's about the Conservatives abusing their majority to cut funding to the Labour Party, overturning a parliamentary convention set down by Sir Winston Churchill and seeking to decimate trade union political funds. At a stroke, the legitimate voice of millions of working people in the political process will become a whisper.

The obliteration of trade union political funds will heavily impact on our democracy - the Labour Party will lose some £35 million across every five year Parliament. The Conservative Party will establish an overwhelming financial dominance over the Labour Party, making British elections uncompetitive.

When I started writing this article, it was in anger at how the Conservative Party was determined to stitch up voter rolls, constituency boundaries, silence its critics and destroy the Labour Party. But, in the last few minutes, it's got worse.

Today is the day of the Autumn Statement. He didn't say it in Parliament, but hidden on the bottom of page 76 of the Treasury Documents is a cut to the state funding available to opposition parties of 19%. It's not just another £2 million off the Labour Party's annual finances, it's the slow strangulation of our democracy by a Conservative Party determined never to lose another election.

Another nail in the coffin of democracy.

If you believe that what this Government is doing in wrong, make sure your voice is heard at http://action.unionstogether.org.uk/democracy