“Have your say on changes to East Devon constituency boundary”

The East Devon constituency is set to lose part of Exeter (St Loyes) and instead gain Exe Valley in new proposals published today by the Boundary Commission. The Tiverton and Honiton constituency is unchanged.

Is our Electoral Office up to dealing with this change, given its many problems with the area it already covers?

“The Boundary Commission for England (BCE) today (Tuesday) opens its third and final consultation after revising half of its initial suggestions based on 25,000 public comments.

The body has been tasked with making independent recommendations about where the boundaries should be in order to cut the number of MPs from 650 to 600 and ensure that the number of electors in each constituency is equal.

The initial proposal for East Devon, currently held by Sir Hugo Swire, also saw it gain Cowley, Stoke Cannon and Up Exe from Mid Devon, which remains.

Sam Hartley, secretary to the BCE, said: “We’re delighted with the huge number of comments on our initial proposals that we’ve received from members of the public, many of which contain valuable evidence about people’s local communities.

“Based on what people have said to us, we have revised more than half of our initial proposals.

“The new map of the country we publish today is, we think, close to the best set of Parliamentary constituencies we can achieve, based on the rules to which we work and the evidence given to us by local citizens.

“But we still want people to tell us what they think of this latest map before we make our final recommendations to Parliament next year. It’s so important to have your say in this fundamental democratic exercise.”

As part of the BCE’s brief. the number of constituencies in the South West must reduce from 55 to 53. By law, every constituency it proposes must contain between 71,031 and 78,507 electors, as East Devon already does, with 73,355 people registered to vote.

The constituency consists of Broadclyst, Budleigh, Clyst Valley, Exe Valley, Exmouth Brixington, Exmouth Halsdon, Exmouth Littleham, Exmouth Town, Exmouth Withycombe Raleigh, Newton Poppleford and Harpford, Ottery St. Mary Rural, Ottery St. Mary Town, Raleigh, Sidmouth Rural, Sidmouth Sidford, Sidmouth Town, Whimple, Woodbury and Lympstone, and Topsham.

People have until 11 December to comment. Visit http://www.bce2018.org.uk to respond to the consultation. If agreed by Parliament, the new constituencies will be in use at the next scheduled General Election in 2022.”


Does Jacob Rees-Mogg contribute to his local food bank? They need it

“After Jacob Rees-Mogg said he found the huge rise in food banks “uplifting” in a live interview on LBC, we went to find out how many people in his constituency use this service.

According to the manager of the Somer Valley Food bank Paul Woodward, over 1,500 people used the food bank last year. Since April, in just over six months, almost 700 people have come to collect food already. This is added to numbers from Bath, where local food banks can see over 20 people a day.

While Jacob Rees-Mogg said food banks are a good thing as they show what a “good compassionate country” the UK is, the numbers paint a different picture.

According to data by the Trussel Trust, which accounts for about half the food banks in the UK, the number of emergency food packs given out has risen from 61,468 in 2010/2011 to 1,182,954 last year.

The Somer Valley Food Bank stated they currently have more stock going out than going in. There are collection boxes at local churches and supermarkets. Mr Woodward said they need the usual long-life food such as tinned meat, fish and vegetables, but also UHT milk and sponge pudding.”


“Do we need political parties?”

A view from a German writer:

“In many Western countries, party structures are dissolving. Traditional political organisations are disintegrating, being swept away by new movements, or infiltrated by fresh members. There is not much left of the once-defining role of classical parties. And the examples are abundant.

In France, the traditional party system has decayed. The Socialists, after being the governing party in Paris until spring, have practically ceased to exist. Other traditional parties have also been hit hard, replaced by movements such as Emmanuel Macron’s “En Marche!” and Jean-Luc Melenchon’s “La France insoumise”.

The US’ once-lofty Republicans – the self-proclaimed “Grand Old Party” – have now disintegrated into separate wings, whose positions differ to the extent that a common programme is hardly recognisable. And the party organisation is so weak that it could be captured by a non-politician like Donald Trump.

Until recently in the UK, the Labour Party, which had been positioned in the pragmatic centre, has moved vehemently to the left. It was infiltrated by an influx of often young new members, who celebrate the party’s leader, Jeremy Corbyn – formerly a marginal figure in the political life of the island – as a pop star.

In Italy, the populist Five Star Movement of former comedian Beppe Grillo has been unsettling the political system for some years. On the right, the former regional party “Lega Nord” is expanding with new national-populist content.

There’s an evolving pattern. Traditional political structures are breaking up, liquefying political systems. People are becoming more important than parties, and posing seems more relevant than policies.

Politicians who have served their time and worked their way up through party ranks are ousted by outside figures with star attributes – cheered along by citizens, who suddenly behave like fans. [Watch out Hugo!]

Still, there’s a prominent exception: Germany.

Or so it would seem. Large parties and their established top figures still dominate the political scene. At the top are well-tempered characters like Angela Merkel, the chancellor, and Martin Schulz, the Social Democratic contender. And, above all, both of them promise that as little as possible is going change.

But this is just the visible surface. In Germany, like elsewhere in Europe, the political system is being transformed. Anger and frustration are on the rise – sentiments which parties like the far-right AfD are only able capture to a small extent.

The next federal government will likely be formed by a coalition that promises stability on the verge of boredom. However, this does not preclude the possibility of unexpected turns in regard to specific topics.”


“Five areas in England to pilot voter ID checks” – unfortunately ours isn’t one of them

“Voters in five areas in England will be asked to take identification to polling stations at local elections next year as part of a pilot scheme.
People in Woking, Gosport, Bromley, Watford and Slough will be asked to take different forms of ID with them to see which works best.

The Electoral Commission recommended three years ago that voters be asked to prove their identity.

Minister Chris Skidmore said the aim was to ensure the system was “secure”.
Reports of “personation” in polling stations – votes cast in someone else’s name – increased from 21 in 2014 to 44 in 2016.

Mr Skidmore said the current situation meant it was harder to take out a library book or collect a parcel than it was to vote in someone else’s name.
He told the BBC: “We currently have a situation where people can go into the ballot station, point out their name on the register, don’t need to provide any information to prove who they are.”

He said it was corrosive to democracy if people did not believe the system was secure.

“At the moment we simply don’t know if people are impersonating one another or not. We just need to make sure that the system is secure enough.”
For some years, voters in Northern Ireland have had to prove their identity at polling stations.

But Tom Brake, for the Liberal Democrats, described the latest proposals as “a completely unnecessary move that risks undermining our democracy by preventing millions of people from voting”.

“Evidence from around the world tells us forcing voters to bring ID won’t stop determined fraudsters, but is likely to led to even lower turnouts amongst young people and minority groups.”


Plymouth postal votes fiasco gets fierce criticism; EDDC’s SECOND postal vote fiasco still awaiting scrutiny

Our fiasco here:

Plymouth fiasco here:

Plymouth City Council has received a report into electoral issues that led to problems at the last general election.

Between 150 and 200 people were unable to vote, and about 2,000 postal ballots were not sent out.

An independent report headed by Dr Dave Smith, the former chief executive of Sunderland City Council, looked into all aspects of the way the election was managed.

He will present it to full council on 25 September.

The council said his recommendations included telling it to:

Act swiftly to permanently recruit enough suitably experienced electoral registration staff to ensure the elections team is up to recommended staffing levels

In the meantime, ensure there are enough interim staff with sufficient operational experience to manage the team, build capacity and ensure focus

Make sure sufficient resources and properly documented systems, procedures and processes are put in place to ensure a successful election canvass and prepare for local elections in 2018 and plan for a future general election

Develop a more detailed communications plan with key stakeholders to ensure effective election communications especially when unusual situations arise

Carry out an independent review in January 2018 to ensure the council is suitably prepared for elections in May 2018″


When is a question not a question? When you ask it of Theresa May!

Ian Blackford, the SNP Westminster Leader, said it all when he quipped: “I was under the impression that this was questions to the PM.”

At PMQs this week, Theresa May failed to answer almost every question that was put to her, which leaves one wondering why this theatrical spectacle is still continued.

Asked about the worry felt by the constituents of Oxford West and Abingdon about leaving the single market and how this would affect the local economy, Theresa May decided to accuse MP Layla Moran of providing misinformation to her constituents about Brexit. May claimed that the Tories are seeking a deal that “gives us access to the single market” – not something that has been announced as part of the Government’s confusing position on Brexit, but presumably that doesn’t matter.

When quizzed on the damning UN report detailing that the UK actively discriminates against disabled people through cuts, Theresa May claimed that “those who are most in need” are receiving help, and that the support they are providing has “actually increased”. Must all be in the UN’s imagination, then – not to mention the imaginations of disability charities, my esteemed colleague James Moore, and those processing Freedom of Information requests. The fact that the DWP was told to “discriminate” against claimants with mental health conditions is obviously part of May’s utopian plan to help out those in need.

On the next question, Theresa May refused to accept that a 1 per cent pay increase for police officers and prison officers, with 2.9 per cent inflation, was in fact a real terms pay cut. She went on to say that, actually, police officers had actually enjoyed a 32 per cent increase over the past seven years.

I’m sure it will come as a shock to many police officers on the beat that they’ve “never had it better”, particularly considering over 20,000 of their jobs have been slashed (as well as there being 7,000 fewer prison officers). She then failed to guarantee that there would be no further police and prison officer cuts. Transparency really isn’t one of May’s fortes.

Corbyn continued by asking what has happened to the average person’s bank account over the past seven years, which, to her due, she did answer. May detailed that the average person is £1,000 better off due to tax allowances. I’m sure many people will be sitting at home wondering if their extra grand has gotten lost in the post.

Getting a proper answer or some form of acknowledgement that there may be an issue for even one single person in the country during a period of protracted austerity and a skydiving pound has become a rarity for Theresa May. She seems to be under the impression that she is not accountable to the people in this country, and that she can continue to hide what the Government is doing behind rhetoric while the public sit at home and nod.

Criticism is justified on both sides of the benches when it comes to the lack of discussion on Brexit. One wonders if they think by not talking about it, we will forget that it’s happening. With talks being stalled for an extra week and two major votes through Parliament this week, you would think it would be worth mentioning.

Alas, only Layla Moran got a brief word in edgeways on the subject.

During the general election, it was widely publicised that Theresa May rarely engaged with a member of the public who wasn’t a paid-up member of the Conservatives – you’d think that perhaps, after all of that criticism, she’d have changed her tune. This is how Corbyn swiped many of her votes, after all. But it appears that the Prime Minister has simply retreated further into her shell, with her fingers firmly wedged in her ears.

If Theresa May does remain in her position until 2022, then we have an awful lot of answer-free PMQs to sit through until the next general election.”


It didn’t take long for the police union to call her a liar!