“Male MPs ‘seat-blocking’ safe constituencies in the Commons, says new report”

East Devon has two safe(ish) seats (though getting less safe by the day)!
Hugo Swire and Neil Parish are male.
Claire Wright is Independent and female.
Just saying …

“Male MPs are effectively “seat-blocking” safe seats in the Commons and holding back gender progress, according to new research that calls for an overhaul in the way politicians are elected to Parliament.

The new study from the Electoral Reform Society (ERS) claims that hundreds of seats have effectively been “reserved” by male politicians – forcing women to contest in marginal constituencies in order to enter public life.

The research, published on Tuesday, shows that of the 212 currently-serving MPs first elected in 2005 or before, just 42 are women. …

Jess Garland, the director of policy and research at the ERS, added that while Britain has experienced progress in gender equality at recent elections, it is being “held back by Westminster’s broken voting system, which effectively ‘reserves’ seats for men”.

She continued: “Over 80 per cent of MPs first elected in 1997 or earlier are men, with the one-MP per seat one-person-takes-all nature of First Past the Post leaving few opportunities for women’s representation once a man has secured selection. Sitting MPs have a huge incumbency advantage, and since open selections are relatively rare, we face a real stumbling block in the path to fair representation. …

Fight for your country, pay taxes, marry – but you are too “immature and irresponsible” to vote says Tory Deputy Leader

“Young people aged 16 and 17 lack the “maturity and responsibility” needed to vote, the de facto deputy prime minister has said.

In a move likely to anger young people demanding the right to vote, David Lidington dismissed calls for the voting age to be lowered to 16.

The Cabinet Office minister and unofficial deputy prime minister was stepping in for Theresa May, who is in China, at Prime Minister’s Questions.

He was responding to a question from Emily Thornberry, standing in for Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn, about why the Government refuses to reduce the voting age to 16.

In response to his answer, Ms Thornberry accused the Government of being a “coalition of cavemen”. …”

http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/voting-age-theresa-may-david-lidington-under-18-pmqs-maturity-responsibility-tory-a8187091.html

“Electoral Commission clears Remain campaign over allegations from Conservative MP”

The complaint was made by ex-Tory Minister Priti Patel, who was fired from (sorry “resigned from”) Theresa May’s Cabinet for having had numerous unauthorised meetings with Israeli politicians while “on holiday” in the country.

”Claims by Conservative MP and high-profile Leave campaigner Priti Patel that the Remain campaign broke the law during the European referendum have fallen apart under investigation from the Electoral Commission:

Former Cabinet minister and Brexiteer Priti Patel had … alleged that Britain Stronger in Europe failed to report joint spending with Labour, the Lib Dems and the Tories.

But the Electoral Commission said it did not have “reasonable grounds” to believe the official Britain Stronger in Europe (BSiE) group exceeded its spending limits and would not be opening an investigation.

In a letter to Ms Patel, the commission’s head of regulation Louise Edwards said: “Following examination we are satisfied that while liaison took place there is no evidence of joint spending as a result.

“The evidence indicates that the meetings were advisory in nature, focused on communications and did not involve or result in decisions on referendum spending, or the coordination of campaign activities across campaigners, as part of a common plan or other arrangement.” [Daily Mirror]

What has, however, stood up to scrutiny is a long list of rule breaking by anti-EU campaigners:

Nigel Farage fined half his salary
Brexit campaigners fined for sending 500,000 spam SMS
Record £12,000 fine for Brexit campaigner
Brexit campaigner fined £1,500
Two Brexit campaigners fined £1,000 each
11 anti-EU campaign groups struck off”

The full, very strongly worded letter from the Electoral Commission to Ms Patel is here:

https://www.markpack.org.uk/153854/priti-patel-remain-campaign/

Electoral Reform Society publishes four hard-hitting articles

There’s a lobbying scandal brewing in the House of Lords”

“As if the House of Lords did not already look like a private members’ club, an investigation by The Times has revealed that peers can continue to use the House of Lords’ subsidised dining rooms even after they retire.”

That means former politicians, who were not elected but selected for the role – are enjoying cheap food and drink thanks to taxpayers’ hard-earned cash. …”

https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/theres-a-lobbying-scandal-brewing-in-the-house-of-lords/

Referendum spending is a murky world – when it should be crystal clear

Negotiations on the UK’s exit from the European Union will dominate much of the political agenda this year. But 18 months on from the Brexit referendum, questions are still being asked about whether campaigners played by the rules when it came to spending. …”

https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/referendum-spending-is-a-murky-world-when-it-should-be-crystal-clear/

Political parties are too reliant on big donors – and it has to change

“The Mirror today published research findings showing that 39% of all cash donations to the Conservative Party declared so far this year are from 64 individuals and their businesses.

The 64 in question are all members of an exclusive donor club with a £50,000 annual membership fee.

This grants them access to senior party figures via swanky dinner events. Ministers who have attended in the first half of this year include Theresa May, Boris Johnson, Philip Hammond and Jeremy Wright. …”

https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/political-parties-are-too-reliant-on-big-donors-and-it-has-to-change/

Ministers are ignoring the elephant in the room when it comes to boundaries

Because of the current winner-takes-all voting system for electing Members of Parliament, 22 million votes were wasted at last year’s General Election – that’s 68% of the total votes cast.

So no matter what the size of your constituency is, most votes went into the black hole of our voting system.

That means 22 million people not just being under-represented – but not being represented at all in Parliament’s elected chamber.

Their votes are being thrown on the scrapheap – and the result is a highly distorted legislature that fails to represent the country. …”

https://www.electoral-reform.org.uk/boundaries-need-reforming-but-the-real-affront-to-democracy-is-first-past-the-post/

DUP funding to stay secret

Owl says: What a surprise! Remind me – isn’t the DUP a fundamentalist “Christian” party? Oooohhhh … wait for the fire and brimstone – not.

“Labour has criticised an attempt by the government to allow the DUP to conceal details of past political donations, including during the EU referendum, despite a 2014 law that extended party transparency rules to Northern Ireland.

The government has announced it will bring into force new transparency rules for Northern Ireland’s political parties to allow the Electoral Commission to publish details of donations over £7,500.

The provision for the new rules, which will bring Northern Ireland in line with the rest of the UK, was first introduced in legislation in 2014, with the wide understanding it would be applied from that year.

However, the Northern Ireland secretary, James Brokenshire, said he intended the act to be applied from 1 July 2017, which would mean donations during the EU referendum in 2016 are not made public.

Campaigners have raised questions over the DUP’s spending on the EU referendum in June 2016 – including a £435,000 donation from a group called the Constitutional Research Council (CRC), chaired by Richard Cook, a former vice-chairman of the Scottish Conservative and Unionist party.

The source of the cash was revealed by the DUP after a series of articles published by OpenDemocracy, though details of the CRC’s source of income are still opaque. …”

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/dec/19/labour-criticises-move-past-donations-dup-hidden

Every major (and some minor) party fined for election and/or referendum expense overspends or illegal payments

Owl says: with maximum fines being so low why should parties bother what they spend?

“Britain’s Electoral Commission said on Tuesday it has fined the Liberal Democrats party 18,000 pounds ($24,069) for breaching campaign finance rules in the 2016 European Union referendum.

The party was fined 17,000 pounds for failing to provide acceptable invoices or receipts and 1,000 pounds because some payments were reported in aggregate rather than as individual payments, the commission said in a statement.

“The reporting requirements for parties and campaigners at referendums and elections are clear, that’s why it is disappointing that the Liberal Democrats didn’t follow them correctly,” said Bob Posner, the Electoral Commission’s director of political finance.”

https://www.reuters.com/article/us-britain-eu-liberaldemocrats/uk-electoral-body-fines-liberal-democrats-over-brexit-vote-expenses-idUSKBN1ED0XG

Referendum: voting problems won’t go away for Ukip and social media use

“Ukip is to face a tribunal over its use of analytics during the EU referendum after refusing to cooperate with an investigation by the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO).

The ICO announced a formal investigation into how political parties use data analytics to target voters in response to concern about how social media was used during the referendum.

“We are concerned about invisible processing – the ‘behind the scenes’ algorithms, analysis, data matching, profiling that involves people’s personal information. When the purpose for using these techniques is related to the democratic process, the case for a high standard of transparency is very strong,” said Elizabeth Denham, the information commissioner, in an update on the ICO’s website.

Denham said more than 30 organisations, including AggregateIQ, a little-known Canadian firm that received millions of pounds from the leave campaign, were under scrutiny. While some were co-operating, she said, “others are making it difficult”.

She said that the ICO had issued four information notices, formally ordering organisations to disclose information, “including one to Ukip, who have now appealed our notice to the information rights tribunal”.

Separately the Electoral commission is investigating whether Vote Leave, the lead campaign for the leave vote in the referendum, broke spending laws by coordinating spending with other campaign groups.

A Ukip spokesman said the party was prepared to cooperate with the ICO, and was only appealing against a threat of criminal sanctions. “We’re perfectly happy to deal with them, but not under the threat,” he said.”

https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2017/dec/13/ukip-to-face-tribunal-over-use-of-data-in-eu-referendum-campaign