For the past year, I have been Shadow Europe Minister. This was an important job I found interesting and given the importance of European issues, it was extremely relevant. However on Friday I received a call from Ed Miliband asking me if I would take on a fresh challenge. He wanted me to be the new Shadow Justice Minister, responsible for Constitutional and Political Affairs.
This is a ‘promotion’ as I will be second to Sadiq Khan MP, the Shadow Lord Chancellor. It is also an extremely important brief because I will have to deal with a number of important issues which are on the Government’s agenda. In the long-term there is the Reform of the House of Lords and, more immediately, there are the Parliamentary boundary changes which are extremely controversial and the Government’s plans to change the way in which the Electoral Register is compiled.
This may seem a small issue but the Government is proposing to change the way the Electoral Register is drawn up so that individuals, rather than households, will have to register to be able to vote. As a consequence, the Electoral Commission has estimated that the numbers of people on the Electoral Register will fall from over 90% to around 65%. In other words, approximately 10 million people will no longer be able to vote.
The likelihood is that the overwhelming majority of these people no longer on the register will be drawn from poorer communities and most of them will be people who are inclined to vote Labour. In other words, the legislation will give the Government a head start at the next General Election, especially as the draft legislation makes it clear that the change should come in as quickly as possible.
This is crude political gerrymandering by the Government. Having pushed through Parliamentary boundary changes which will hit the Labour Party far harder than any other Party, the Government is now determined to go a stage further and introduce measures which will have the effect of reducing Labour’s electoral base. It will be my job to expose what the Government is doing and to do my level best to stop them. As I say, this will be a challenge.
Labour MP for Caerphilly