What can you say about the report by the Election Review Panel on the elections for the Mayor of London and the London Assembly in 2016 and yet be polite? Not a lot it would seem but then that would be appropriate because the report has not a lot to say on the election apart from the balls-up in Barnet, the now traditional discrepancies in tallying the numbers for the Mayoral result and the date of the 2020 elections possibly clashing with the date of the General Election in the same year.
As regards 2020, excuse me for pointing out something that seems blindingly obvious; that is a problem for the Prime Minister. Unlike the date of the next elections in London, the date of the next general election is has not been set in stone although in legislation.
I suppose of all the boroughs in all of London had to be Barnet, the poster borough for outsourcing, that there would be a problem as regards voter registration. Although not mentioned in the report, it would be interesting to know whether the cost-cutting by the council was a factor. It would seem announcing the results at City Hall are done to save money yet despite it being the most inappropriate place to do so. It is not fit for purpose. The ninth floor, where reporters were penned, no pun intended, would not pass any health and safety check with computer wires and television cables snaking across the floor. Perhaps if the chairman of the report had attended the count at City Hall he would have had a better understanding of the pathetic nature of the situation I described in my submission. In the basement, officials even stopped posting the constituency results in order to sort out the problems with the Mayoral numbers. Something I mentioned to one official but no further results were sellotaped to the wall.
On the subject of saving money which was part of the remit of the report, it acknowledges that it would be cheaper if the count was done manually. Yet it rejects any proposal to do so. It acknowledges also that manual counting provides greater levels of transparency. So what is the problem of saving money and providing a degree of democracy being seen to be taking place? My local library installed a high-tech means to raise and lower the blinds. It broke and took months to repair. Sometimes keeping matters simple is the best.
Speaking of the report’s remit, it is a pity that it did not include making the elections more equitable. Perhaps they thought that is the responsible of the Electoral Commission. Let me make it absolutely clear the elections for the London Assembly and the Mayoral election are weighted in favour of the big political organisations. I am not surprised that the three members of the panel – Labour, UKIP and Green – did not see fit to say a word about the institutionalised inequality of the present system because it works to their benefit. The present electoral system is a cosy, expensive cartel and it is they that reap the rewards.
Finally, the report’s chairman, Len Duvall, gives London Elects, the body charged with organising the elections, a pat on the back by stating there was a record turnout – 46.1 per cent. (The pass mark for a master’s dissertation is fifty per cent). Any election where less than half of the electorate failed to vote I do not regard as satisfactory. The election review panel’s report is unsatisfactory. It is compiled by the winners to satisfy their own political ends. Democracy is not best served by the continuation of such a system in its present form.
Terry McGrenera, the House Party; homes for Londoners