Widening the franchise will guarantee Labour governments for the foreseeable futureby Jason Reed / December 10, 2019 / Leave a comment
Back in October, when the general election bill was tearing through parliament faster than a squirrel that’s just seen Jo Swinson, something very significant occurred in which the election was almost handed to Labour before the campaign period had even begun. Opposition MPs tabled amendments to grant voting rights to two new groups for the first time ever: 16- and 17-year-olds, and EU citizens living in the UK.
Then-Deputy Speaker Lindsay Hoyle jettisoned those amendments, no doubt winning over countless Tory MPs in the process and contributing to his landslide victory in the speakership election the following week. But if those votes had taken place and been won by Opposition MPs, as seemed likely, Boris Johnson might as well have given Jeremy Corbyn the keys to No 10 there and then.
If the Labour leader triumphs on Thursday he will surely seek to extend the franchise again. The implications could be enormous—for the political parties and for British democracy.
The most immediate consequences of these changes to the size and shape of the electorate if enacted by a new Labour government would be seen in the Brexit referendum that it intends to call.
For starters, there are an estimated 2.24m EU nationals working in the UK, my family among them. That is equivalent to around 5 per cent of the existing voting population; a staggering quantity which would result in a sudden and wild electoral imbalance, like placing an anvil on a seesaw.
EU citizens are, of course, considerably more Europhilic than the population as a whole, since they are connected to the continent in a way that the rest of us are not. Corbyn was called out by Johnson in one of the hundreds of interminable TV debates in this election for his “sly attempt” to “fiddle” the result of that vote in favour of Remain.
Giving EU citizens a vote on Europe would be like giving Londoners a vote on Scottish independence. It is not their place to make that decision. Further, EU citizens were unable to vote in 2016, so allowing them to vote now on the same question would be unfair and undemocratic.
And that is before we get to 16- and 17-year-olds. There will already be stronger Remain support in any second referendum without rule changes, thanks to “organic expansion” of its voter…