Tag Archives: electoral

Under-30s are paying unaffordable rent – are the Tories ruining their own future?

Hot on the heels of the energy prices crisis comes the revelation that a growing number of people aged below 30 are being forced to pay unaffordable amounts in rent.

40 per cent of them are now paying more than 30 per cent of their income on rent – a five-year high, according to figures by property market consultancy Dataloft.

The data suggests under-30s are now paying more of their earnings on rent than any other working-age groups.

It seems rents are increasing because fewer houses are on the market after landlords decided to sell properties because of rising taxes, charges and maintenance costs.

As a result, people are offering more than the asking price to landlords, just to secure a property.

The government reckons it has taken action via a £37 billion support package to help households with rising costs.

It also says plans announced in June would ban landlords from evicting tenants in England without giving them a reason, and give renters more power to challenge unjustified rent increases and poor conditions, providing renters with a “fairer deal”.

But you’ll notice there’s no effort to provide more rented housing to lower the costs.

And this leads us to a vital question: are the Tories poisoning their own future?

I was listening to the A World To Win podcast in which author Phil Burton-Cartledge suggested that the Tories are in decline because they rely on older people voting for them – but this isn’t a consequence of age but of the social circumstances surrounding age.

Older people vote Tory because they have accumulated property – but property acquisition is starting to break down: “If you can’t get younger people onto the housing ladder, then the Conservatising effects of property will not have the same consequences.”

Host Grace Blakeley added: “The housing crisis, combined with issues around employment, progression and wages, the cost of childcare, have forcibly extended a lot of people’s youth such that, whilst you can say there’s always going to be plenty of old people, actually a lot of Gen Xers and Millennials will be young in attitudes as well as in living standards for much longer.”

And here, it seems, younger people can’t even think of buying a home because they can’t even afford to rent.

How are the Tories ever going to get these people to vote for them, when the Tories have taken away all their hopes of social status?

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#DowningStreetFlat controversy resurfaces as information shows #BorisJohnson lied to investigation

Has this Downing Street story resurfaced now so manipulative people can confuse it with the story about the Downing Street party last year?

Even if not, it seems to be doing just that, as commenters on Twitter have been mixing the two merrily.

So, for clarity, here’s Labour’s Zarah Sultana with the story:

Boris Johnson – a liar?

Okay, it’s not much of a revelation. But the evidence that he lied to an investigation by Lord Geidt, the independent advisor on ministers’ interests, about how he paid for the flat can only harm Johnson at a time when he desperately needs validation.

Johnson was accused last April of having misled Parliament by failing to provide details of funding for the renovations to his official Downing Street flat.

The allegation was that private donations to the Conservative Party totalling £60,000 had been used as part of £200,000 worth of refurbishments to the flat.

If so, it should have been reported to the Electoral Commission, because the Ministerial Code demands that “a statement covering relevant Ministers’ interests will be published twice yearly”. The last such statement (at the time of the investigation last April) had appeared in July 2020, eight months previously.

If Johnson had received the money from other people, this created a potential conflict of interest but Geidt concluded very swiftly that Johnson did not breach the Ministerial Code and that no conflict, or reasonably perceived conflict, of interest arose.

He said that £52,000 had been contributed by Lord Brownlow, but via a blind trust, meaning Johnson seemed unaware that Brownlow had contributed his own money to it.

But the Electoral Commission had launched its own investigation – and this has just concluded that Johnson did approach Brownlow for cash, via WhatsApp – the government’s favoured method of avoiding scrutiny, back in November 2020:

So what actually happened, it seems, was this:

Johnson wanted to redecorate the flat but his tastes ran to much more expense than the £30,000 per year annual allowance he receives for this purpose.

The Conservative Party then received a donation for £67,801.72 from Brownlow’s firm Huntswood Associates Ltd – but declared only £15,000 of it as a donation. The rest went towards the flat redecoration via a payment from the Tory Party to the Cabinet Office.

This, plus the £30k allowance, was still not enough so Johnson WhatsApp’ed Brownlow for more on November 29, 2020, leading to a further payment direct to contractors of £59,747.40.

The Tories said the £53k they didn’t declare was not a donation, but was in fact “a donation to the Prime Minister via the party”, or “a ‘gift to the nation’”, or “a ministerial matter”, or “the repayment of a loan”.

But the Electoral Commission disagreed, saying the full amount “was a donation and should have been reported to the Commission”; the party’s records of the £53k sum were “not accurate”; and there were “serious failings in the party’s compliance systems”.

As a result, the Conservative Party has been fined £17,800 for failing to comply with electoral law. See information here and here for more details.

That covers the money that went through the Conservative Party but not the extra cash that Brownlow put up himself.

It seems clear that, having requested it from Brownlow, Johnson could not have been unaware of its origin when the bills were suddenly paid.

Certainly his former advisor (and now bitter enemy who calls Johnson the “Shopping Trolley”, using an image of one, on Twitter) Dominic Cummings seems to think so:

Lord Geidt is said to be furious about it – and has reopened his investigation. Whether he did so at the request of Labour’s Angela Rayner (below) is not known to This Writer:

The prime minister’s office at Downing Street has said it will answer any questions Geidt has.

If he finds information that shows Johnson did know the source of the money – or had reason to – then he is likely to have broken not just the Ministerial Code but also the wider Members’ Code, applicable to all MPs.

Any such breach would require his resignation from his job – although as final arbiter on breaches of the Ministerial Code, he could always corruptly dismiss the findings. He’s done that before.

Coming after the allegations about Christmas parties in Downing Street while London was in Tier 3 lockdown, before a by-election triggered by the resignation of a Tory MP amid corruption claims, and while Tory backbenchers debate whether they’ll support new Covid-19 social distancing rules that many believe Johnson is imposing as a distraction, this is another hammer blow to Johnson’s credibility.

If he is found to have known about any of the parties, or the Tory loses the by-election, or Parliament fails to ratify the ‘Plan B’ measures, or he’s found to have broken either of the codes relevant to the flat refurb – or any combination of them – Johnson’s career should be over.

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Johnson to strip Electoral Commission of power to prosecute after it threatens action over his flat

Tinpot dictator: Boris Johnson wants to strip the Electoral Commission of its power to prosecute law-breaking – not because it is a bad idea, because it isn’t. He’s doing it because the commission may use this power to prosecute HIM over the funding of his Downing Street flat refurbishment.

Of course Boris Johnson is taking away the Electoral Commission’s power to prosecute people because it criticised him. It’s what he does.

Look at his current attack on the courts’ powers of judicial review. That happened entirely because judicial reviews ruled that he had broken the law by proroguing Parliament, and with his Brexit policy.

He is a classic, small-minded, tinpot, banana-republic dictator. His only function is to satisfy his own personal desires and to attack anybody who frustrates those desires.

And the UK’s voters put him in charge of one of the world’s richest and most powerful countries. Perhaps a few million people need to take their vote a little more seriously next time?

Boris Johnson is to strip the Electoral Commission of the power to prosecute law-breaking, just weeks after it launched an investigation into his controversial flat refurbishment.

Ministers have announced that a new Elections Bill will remove its ability to prosecute criminal offences under electoral law – arguing it “wastes public money”.

The watchdog launched an immediate protest, warning the move would “place a fetter on the Commission which would limit its activity”.

The shake-up was condemned as a “thinly-veiled government power grab” by the Electoral Reform Society.

Source: Electoral Commission to be stripped of power to prosecute after probe into Boris Johnson’s flat makeover | The Independent

Electoral Commission ‘wrongly recorded donations to Conservatives’. Oh, so is that all right, then?

Backhander? Or tax evasion? What was really going on with the donations to the Tory Party by companies that had long since gone out of business?

The Electoral Commission has admitted that it mistakenly recorded a donation to the Conservatives from an active company as being from a defunct firm, because they shared the same address.

It has asked for another mistake in recording a donation to the Tories to be taken into account as well.

Does that let the Tories off the hook, then?

No. No, it doesn’t.

There remains one more donation (of which we’re aware) to be explained.

It was apparently made by a firm called Unionist Buildings Limited, in June 2017. Records show the firm was dissolved six months early, in January that year.

The Conservatives have admitted incorrectly reporting donations from that firm but have given no further details.

Why not? Guilty conscience?

These discrepancies only came to light after the Labour Party discovered them and raised them with the Electoral Commission.

How can we be sure they are the only examples of false reporting of donations? We can’t, can we?

HM Revenue and Customs will be interested in donations from dissolved companies, particular if there are monies owing to HMRC or other creditors, because if you can pay donations, then you can pay your creditors.

Also, if this money came from the company, then was it profit generated by the company? If it was, then Corporation Tax and VAT is very likely to be due upon it.

In other words, has Labour uncovered tax evasion by Tory donors?

If so, we need to find out if this is an isolated incident or if it is more widespread. And we need to know now.

I wonder how the Tories will try to squirm out of this.

Source: Elections watchdog admits errors in reporting Tory donations – BBC News

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Tories plan to rig local elections with change from proportional representation to FPTP

The Conservatives are planning to make it easier for them to win local elections by changing the voting system to make it less representative.

Currently, elections for Combined Authority mayors, the mayor of London and police and crime commissioners are carrried out using a version of proportional representation which takes into account the preferences of people whose first choices do not have the highest number of votes.

Two candidates go through to the second round if no one gets more than 50 per cent of the primary vote.

A winner is then chosen from the remaining two by taking preferences into account from the voters who chose eliminated candidates as their first preference.

This means that everybody’s vote helps to influence the result – but the Conservatives lose out.

That’s why they want to change the system to FPTP – “First Past The Post” – in which the party winning the most votes in a single round of voting wins the election, even if it doesn’t have the support of a majority of the people.

Priti Patel announcing the plan to change the system, lied that the British people had rejected proportional representation in a referendum in 2011.

She was wrong. The public endorsed FPTP only for general elections, because the referendum was focused only on them.

The intention is clear: the Tories are going to rig local elections to ensure that they have the best chance of winning.

The London School of Economics has warned that the change could wipe out the accountability of a London mayor (for example) by removing small parties like the Liberal Democrats and the Green Party from the London Assembly, which holds the mayor to account.

And London Labour warned,

For the Tory Government to impose a change to the electoral system without first asking the views of Londoners in a follow-up referendum demonstrates their breathtaking arrogance and their utter disdain for devolution.

Fortunately for democracy, any change to electoral systems will have to be approved by Parliament via legislation, and this cannot happen before the local elections – including the London mayoral election – on May 6 this year.

Just watch how quickly the Tories try to impose the change if they lose that election!

Source: Government plans to change London mayor elections to First Past the Post : CityAM

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Labour NEC elections: should Electoral Commission investigate Starmer vote-rigging claims?

Stymied: Keir Starmer has failed to increase his power on Labour’s ruling NEC – and may face an investigation by the Electoral Commission over the possibility that his leadership team interfered with the votes, binning many that should have been counted.

Perhaps Labour Party members – the few who remain – should be grateful for small mercies: after the NEC election left-wing Grassroots Voice candidates took five of the nine CLP seats.

It means Keir Starmer’s ‘Stalinist Right’ (apparently) faction has been denied a chance to consolidate its power over the party; he will continue to face opposition to his more extreme right-wing policies in the party’s ruling committee.

But do these results really matter, when they come amid allegations of vote-rigging?

The claim is that Starmer’s leadership has been disregarding votes by people who subsequently quit their membership of the Labour Party in disgust at the undemocratic decision to suspend Jeremy Corbyn for no reason at all.

And it seems this claim may have validity. The number of votes counted in this election is said to be around 117,000 – 27 per cent of the membership, according to the most recent figures we have. Last time, 68 per cent of the membership voted.

That’s a huge difference.

It is entirely possible that the 117k figure represents 68 per cent of the current membership, after the party haemmorrhaged members following Starmer’s election as leader and his immediate choice to betray those who voted for him by ignoring his 10 pledges and turning the party’s direction sharply to the right.

But if Starmer’s people have been binning votes from people who were members before they quit in disgust, then it seems they have acted unconstitutionally by removing votes that should have counted; these people were members when they voted and had every right to vote at the time.

Fortunately for democracy in the UK, we have an organisation dedicated to ensuring that elections are carried out in a free, fair and legal way.

So here’s the question:

Should the Electoral Commission be called in to investigate this election?

And if so:

Should the result of the NEC election – as currently reported – be ignored until the Electoral Commission is able to confirm (or deny) it?

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The Tories are attacking the Electoral Commission. What are they trying to hide?

Is Boris Johnson attacking the Electoral Commission to hide his connections with Russian influencers like Evgeny Lebedev?

Boris Johnson’s onslaught against the rule of law is building up speed.

His Conservative government wants to either abolish or significantly reform the Electoral Commission – the independent organisation that regulates political donations, spending and other areas, and has the power to undertake its own investigations, and fine parties and officials for breaches of the rules, although more serious matters are passed to police.

The Liberal Democrats reckon this is an attempt to prevent the exposure of “embarrassing funding connections to Russian oligarchs” – and This Writer finds it a more convincing argument than Labour’s simple claim that it risks undermining faith in democracy.

The reference to the Russia connection seems most likely because Johnson is the kind of man who acts according to his immediate needs. After the so-called ‘Russia Report’ was released, showing that his government had allowed Russians to launder money in the UK, and had turned a blind eye to Russian influence in UK politics, an attack on the organisation that regulates such things seemed inevitable.

The Tories say the Commission should accept more outside scrutiny or be disbanded. I’m not particularly against that idea, but it raises a significant question: whose scrutiny? It would have to be somebody independent – and I doubt the Tories would accept that.

And they say the Commission should not have new powers to prosecute political organisations and/or politicians. Why not? What would be the problem, if it was done with the agreement of these new outside scrutineers?

This affair could tie itself in a nasty little knot if we’re not careful – and, probably, if the Tories get their way.

Source: Tory plan to scrap election watchdog ‘undermines democracy’ | Conservatives | The Guardian

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Should Labour and the Lib Dems go into an electoral pact?

Number 10: What strategy will put Jeremy Corbyn in the prime minister’s house?

Simon Wren-Lewis on his Mainly Macro blog raises an interesting question: with the Brexit Party making overtures to the Tories about an electoral pact, should Labour and the Liberal Democrats do the same?

He makes some good points in favour of it – there are many seats where it would make sense for either party to stand aside, allowing the other a greater opportunity for victory, and it makes no sense for the Liberal Democrats to try to block Labour, only to let the “no deal Brexit” parties have a majority in the House of Commons. Every Liberal Democrat attacking Labour is supporting a Johnson/Cummings administration.

But if the Liberal Democrats have any kind of reputation at the moment, it is for treachery. They cannot be trusted. That position will only have been strengthened – against Labour – with the defections to that party of former Labour and Conservative MPs. That will push Labour away.

And the Liberal Democrats themselves may fear that Tory propaganda painting Jeremy Corbyn as the Devil himself will put marginal Tory voters off switching to them, if they go into a pact with Labour.

So Professor Wren-Lewis is supporting tactical voting – supporting the LDs where they have a more realistic chance of winning, and Labour where that party would fare better.

But his logic isn’t perfect. He says voting for a Labour MP who supports leaving the EU will not help as such a person would not support a second referendum with remaining in the EU on the paper – but this fails to take into account the fact that such a referendum is Labour policy and it is better to have a government with such a policy, if you are a remainer, than a government former by a Johnson/Cummings/Farage “no deal Brexit” alliance.

He also says the Tories can expect around 350 seats according to current polling, but he is out of date. Current polling, it seems, suggests the Tories could only muster around 285 seats unless they win constituencies that would be far from their grip usually.

He also suggests that Labour cannot hope to enjoy the huge surge it had in 2017 because Dominic Cummings will use all the social media expertise he learned during the EU referendum campaign to undermine it. This ignores the fact that the media will have to ditch their anti-Labour bias by law, that hundreds of thousands of young people are signing up to vote just so they can support Labour, and that Labour has a thriving social media presence of its own that has made mincemeat of the Tories on that platform for years.

I mean, you’re reading This Site – right?

Professor Wren-Lewis is right to sound a note of caution – but I wonder if he is going too far.

You can read his article here.

What do you think?

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Lib Dems drift further to the political right in possible deal with Tory rebels

Jo Swinson: It’s an old pic but we don’t have any actual images of her negotations with Rory Stewart and his pals.

If this is true (and it’s a Sunday Times report, so that’s debatable), then it confirms the Liberal Democrats’ rightward drift since Jo Swinson took over as leader.

Remember last week, when former Tory Phillip Lee crossed the floor of the House of Commons to sit with the Liberal Democrats – prompted the party’s LGBT representative, Jenny Rigg, to quit?

She tweeted her anger at what she saw as her party’s capitulation to Toryism.

And it seems she was right:

Rebel Tories expelled from the party are in talks with the Liberal Democrats about a non-aggression pact.

The former Lib Dem leader Tim Farron is helping to broker a deal between Rory Stewart, an expelled Conservative and neighbouring Cumbrian MP, and the new leader, Jo Swinson, insiders say.

Under the proposal, Stewart would stand as an independent MP at the next general election but agree to accept a soft Lib Dem whip in exchange for the party not fielding a candidate against him. It is understood that the Green Party would also stand aside in Stewart’s Penrith seat.

[Other expelled Tory rebels including Sam Gyimah and Margot James are implicated in the deal.]

Make no mistake: a deal would only be possible if the Liberal Democrat leadership and the expelled Conservatives were able to see eye-to-eye politically.

And Ms Swinson’s behaviour makes it clear that it is her party that has moved into conjunction with the Tories, not the other way round.

This must be heartbreaking for all the traditional Liberals who have supported their party through nightmares like the Coalition government and beyond – not to mention those who voted LD because they want to remain in the EU. What a bare-faced betrayal.

Source: Lib Dems to stand aside for Rory Stewart and other Tory rebels in general election | News | The Sunday Times

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Tory corruption: They’re planning a law to allow MPs to break electoral spending limits

MPs, election candidates and party officials will be able to break election spending limits with impunity if the Tories pass a new proposed law.

The intention is to create a new “test of authorisation” – a buffer between candidates and the current law that would stop them being accountable for funds donated by outside bodies such as national parties.

This would, of course, also let Nigel Farage’s Brexit Party off the hook over the funds it may be receiving from foreign organisations intent on perverting the course of UK elections.

But the Tories won’t care about that.

They reckon they can still count on receiving more money in donations from their rich cronies than any other party, and apparently want to use that money – so electoral law must be subverted.

In This Writer’s opinion, it is utterly corrupt. What do you think?

Conservative ministers are drawing up a law to protect MPs and party officials from prosecution if their national parties overspend during elections, leaked documents have shown.

The move follows the conviction in January of Marion Little, a Tory party organiser from head office, and the acquittal of the MP Craig Mackinlay after they were accused of breaking electoral law as the party fought off a challenge from Nigel Farage in Thanet South.

In an email sent three weeks ago to Theresa May and the cabinet secretary, Mark Sedwill, the government outlined plans for a new “test of authorisation” so MPs and election agents were no longer held automatically responsible for resources donated by outside bodies, such as national parties.

Transparency campaigners have said they believe the move is an attempt to avoid future prosecutions and would overturn a ruling by the supreme court.

Alexandra Runswick, the director of Unlock Democracy, said a “test of authorisation” would give candidates and party officials another level of defence from prosecution. “Such a move would not appear to be about reinforcing and strengthening electoral law. This would instead protect party candidates and open up the possibility of outspending rivals.”

Source: Tories draft electoral law to protect MPs if parties overspend | Politics | The Guardian

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