Crackdown on electoral fraud wrecked by Coalition feuding

Bitter government row over parliamentary boundaries sees Bill delayed indefinitely

The Conservatives made an embarrassing retreat today when they put plans to combat electoral fraud on hold in an attempt to salvage a review of parliamentary boundaries that could give them an extra 20 seats at the 2015 general election.

The Electoral Registration and Administration Bill was delayed indefinitely after Liberal Democrats joined forces with Labour in the House of Lords and threatened to pass an amendment delaying the boundary review until 2018.

Nick Clegg announced in July that his party would block the new constituency map in retaliation for David Cameron’s decision to drop plans for a mainly elected second chamber in the face of a Tory backbench rebellion. The Tories want to keep the review alive until October next year, when Parliament is due to vote on it, in the hope that it could still take effect at the 2015 election. They hoped to persuade the Lib Dems to change their mind or to win the support of minority parties such as the Ulster Unionists and Scottish and Welsh nationalists.

This approach was wrecked when Labour tabled an amendment to the Bill killing off the boundaries’ shake-up – and a reduction in the number of MPs from 650 to 600—until 2018. The Independent understands the issue was discussed by Labour and Lib Dem peers and   in private conversations between Mr Clegg and Ed Miliband.

Lord Strathclyde, the Tory Leader of the Lords, is said to have been in a  “blind panic” when he learned of the scale of collusion between Lib Dems and Labour last week.

Mr Cameron was described as “furious and seriously angry” when he learned about the covert efforts by his Coalition partners to scupper the Boundary Commission’s work,  meaning the 2015 election would definitely be fought on the current constituencies.  Mr Clegg was called by the Prime Minister to explain the ambush, and observers say a “heated and frank exchange” took place between them. One source described the incident as “Mr Cameron giving a damn good bollocking to the Deputy PM.”

Mr Cameron  ordered Lord Strathclyde to salvage what he could and “pull the vote” on the amendment if necessary. Today Lord Strathclyde told peers the Bill would not go ahead at all until “senior members of government” agreed on its future.

An unintended consequence is to delay the Bill’s proposal to switch from the present system under which voters are registered on a household basis to one where people must register individually. One aim was to stop fraud at the ballot box— for example by the use of postal votes. In 2005, a judge condemned the Government for complacency about fraud which would disgrace a “banana republic” when he found six Labour councillors guilty of “massive, systematic and organised” postal voting fraud in  Birmingham City Council elections.

However, government sources tonight said that individual voter registration was not dead and insisted the Bill would be brought back.  A Liberal Democrat spokesman said: “The decision to delay the Bill in the House of Lords was one taken by the Conservatives. The Liberal Democrats are clear where we stand. We will vote for the amendment [on boundary changes] whenever it comes before the House. The amendment tabled is in line with what we have previously said on the boundary review – that it should be put off until the next Parliament and that we should not spend further money on a review we have publicly said that we would not support. That is why we will be voting for the amendment whenever it comes before the House.”

The Lib Dems insist there is no point in pressing on with the boundary review when it is certain to be delayed until after the next election in the Commons vote next October.  It has already cost £5.8m and another £3.8m is due to be spent on it.

Baroness Royall, Labour Opposition leader in the Lords, accused the Tories of trying to “subvert democracy.” She said: “ The Government would be better advised putting in both the effort and the money into improving the electoral register, and making sure that as many citizens as possible are able and do take part in our country’s democracy, than gerrymandering the voting system.”

News
people Emma Watson addresses celebrity nude photo leak
News
Katie Hopkins appearing on 'This Morning' after she purposefully put on 4 stone.
peopleKatie Hopkins breaks down in tears over weight gain challenge
News
Boris Johnson may be manoeuvring to succeed David Cameron
i100
News
peopleHis band Survivor was due to resume touring this month
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
News
people'It can last and it's terrifying'
News
In this photo illustration a school student eats a hamburger as part of his lunch which was brought from a fast food shop near his school, on October 5, 2005 in London, England. The British government has announced plans to remove junk food from school lunches. From September 2006, food that is high in fat, sugar or salt will be banned from meals and removed from vending machines in schools across England. The move comes in response to a campaign by celebrity TV chef Jamie Oliver to improve school meals.
science
Arts and Entertainment
tv
Life and Style
fashionModel of the moment shoots for first time with catwalk veteran
Life and Style
fashionPart of 'best-selling' Demeter scent range
News
i100
Sport
Tom Cleverley
footballLoan move comes 17 hours after close of transfer window
Sport
Alexis Sanchez, Radamel Falcao, Diego Costa and Mario Balotelli
footballRadamel Falcao and Diego Costa head record £835m influx
Life and Style
fashionAngelina Jolie's wedding dressed revealed
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Senior Data Warehouse Developer - (Oracle, PL/SQL, ETL, OLAP, B

£65000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: One of the global leaders in fina...

Deputy Education Manager

Negotiable: Randstad Education Sheffield: Deputy Education Manager (permanent ...

Science Teacher Urgently required for October start

£6720 - £33600 per annum: Randstad Education Nottingham: We are currently recr...

ICT Teacher

£120 - £130 per day: Randstad Education Group: We are looking for an outstandi...

Day In a Page

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes': US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food served at diplomatic dinners

'I’ll tell you what I would not serve - lamb and potatoes'

US ambassador hits out at stodgy British food
Radio Times female powerlist: A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

A 'revolution' in TV gender roles

Inside the Radio Times female powerlist
Endgame: James Frey's literary treasure hunt

James Frey's literary treasure hunt

Riddling trilogy could net you $3m
Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

Fitbit: Because the tingle feels so good

What David Sedaris learnt about the world from his fitness tracker
Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Saudis risk new Muslim division with proposal to move Mohamed’s tomb

Second-holiest site in Islam attracts millions of pilgrims each year
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering