There are three notable ways in which the Tories are planning to tilt the system in their favour – and make it even harder for Labour to win next time.
The Conservatives signalled immediately after their victory that they intended to pursue the boundary changes vetoed by the Lib Dems in 2013. Their plan to base the new constituencies on electoral registration, rather than population, means that Labour would be hit hardest.
Allowing expatriates to vote for life
A new Votes for Life Bill will abolish the current 15-year limit on UK expatriates voting in general elections. The Tories have presented the move as merely ending an “unfair” rule but there are political calculations at work. No age group is more likely to vote Conservative than the over-65s, who account for a disproportionate share of expatriates.
Forcing trade unionists to opt-in to the political levy
The Trade Unions Bill being piloted by Business Secretary Sajid Javid includes a measure consciously designed to hit funding for Labour. Under the legislation, union members will be required to opt-in to paying the political levy, rather than being automatically enrolled (and having the right to opt-out). The result, as when the change was last imposed in 1927 following the general strike, is likely to be a significant drop in subscriptions.
By reducing the size of unions’ political funds, which are used to support Labour among other activities, the reform will strengthen the Tories’ already vast funding advantage.
It took until 1946 and the Attlee government for the opt-in system to be scrapped after 1927 – the Tories’ changes are designed to ensure that Labour has to wait as long this time.
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