Who’s really ‘gerrymandering’? Express attack on Labour backfires

Columnist Ross Clark throws a stick but it's really a boomerang


Express columnist Ross Clark warns that Labour are seeking to ‘manipulate voting rules’ to fudge the result of the EU referendum (May 26, p12). He accuses the party of ‘blatant gerrymandering’ in calling for the vote to be open to 16 and 17-year-olds.

Mr Clark even decides to show off a bit with some trivia about the provenance of the term:

“What they are doing is a grubby piece of gerrymandering – named after a 19th-century governor of Massachusetts, Elbridge Gerry, who redrew electoral boundaries in such a way as to maximise his chances of winning.”

This certainly is a grubby move. But isn’t there another contemporary example that better suits the charge of gerrymandering?

Perhaps the scheme to redraw electoral boundaries in such a way as to maximise their chances of winning by the current Conservative government..?

Adam Barnett is a staff writer at Left Foot Forward. Follow MediaWatch on Twitter

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20 Responses to “Who’s really ‘gerrymandering’? Express attack on Labour backfires”

  1. GTE

    Perhaps the scheme to redraw electoral boundaries in such a way as to maximise their chances of winning by the current Conservative government..?


    Or perhaps its applying the law to remove the Gerrymandering of electoral boundaries that favour Labour?

    Perhaps the Tories should get the electoral commission to include a requirement that the boundaries are fair over time, as well as at a particular point in time. That way the bias that Labour has enjoyed, gets balanced by a period where the Tories get an inbuilt advantage.

    Basically, your a pillock because you didn’t complain when it was in your favour. That makes you a hypocrite as well.

  2. jaz

    If one was to spend one’s time pointing out the fallacies in columns in the Daily Express, there would be nothing left of one’s day.

  3. Cole

    Maybe the pillocks are those that favour the current voting system. The Conseevative government has an overall majority but was opposed by 63% of those that voted (and the situation was pretty similar with Labour in 2005). It’s daft.

  4. AlanGiles

    Surely the real question is should 16/17 year olds be allowed to vote, and – if so, why?. Thanks to the ridiculous laws which now forces you to stay at school till you are 18, they are (sorry no other word to use) school pupils, and they are making no financial contribution to society. I wonder how many would vote anyway?. It is interesting that it is the pro EU lobby who most favour 16/17 year old voters – perhaps they feel they are more gullable?

  5. Mat Bob Jeffery

    Actually, 16 year-olds only have to attend school/college or some form of formal training if they don’t have a job. As such, many are “contributing” to society in exactly the way you describe: they are paying taxes. To be honest though, your definition of who is worthy to participate in a democracy is not far off a “land-owning” democracy concept, which is more than a little rubbish.

  6. Selohesra

    perhaps rather than an age limit we could adopt a tax threshold so that you only vote if you pay say > £10K income tax in the previous year – that way mature 16 year olds who go out and get a job can vote and those who chose to stay at home on the x-box don’t

  7. Dark_Heart_of_Toryland

    Or perhaps we could adopt an income limit (linked to to a capital wealth limit), so that you only get to vote if your income is no more than the national average wage. This would stop greedy, selfish, self-centred b*stards from voting in right-wing governments which will screw up the economy for the rest of us.

  8. Dark_Heart_of_Toryland

    So you think that the way to repair the current broken voting system is to make it even less democratic? And you have the nerve to call anybody else a pillock? Remember the Tories were all in favour of keeping FPTP. Now they want to gerrymander it in their own favour.

  9. Mat Bob Jeffery

    Yeah – If it wasn’t obvious in my initial post, I’m closer to this view Selohesra. A person’s wage (or lack of) should not exclude them from being able to vote.

  10. Patrick Nelson

    So basically all sorts of people should be deprived of the vote because they don’t have much money? Its a bit like in the old days when only landowners had a vote.

  11. AlanGiles

    I left school at 15, and I had very little interest in politics at that age – which I think is quite common. It is only as you get older you start to form views and impressions, and looking at some 16/17 year olds playing games on their mobile phones and being more interested in TV talent shows and talking on Facebook, I don’t think they have changed much.

    It’s not a question of what they earn – I have no problem whatsoever with people on benefits or unemployed voting, so I am not trying to exclude adults, it’s just that to me, at anyrate, it seems questionable why rabid EU supporters want to demand the 16/17 year olds should vote. I frankly doubt many of them will. Could it be that they think they will be easier to influence?

  12. wilwa

    The Tories wish to base boundaries on the number of voters registered in each constituency. But not all constituents are registered. At the moment boundaries are based on the populations of each constituency, a far more democratic method. People should register, it’s in their own interests to do so, but the fact that they do not, should not be used as an excuse to gerrymander their fair right to equal representation out of existence. The only reason the Tories are trying to do this is because a higher proportion of Tories register than Labour. Sad but true. But the gerrymandering is on the part of those who seek to discount those who are failing to register.

  13. wilwa

    It does seem unfair, regardless of who wins under it. Proportional representation is favored in many countries today, it works well in Germany. We need to look at it without the blinkers of self interest.

  14. Brumanuensis

    “Or perhaps its applying the law to remove the Gerrymandering of electoral boundaries that favour Labour?”

    So you’re accusing the Boundaries Commission of deliberately drawing constituency boundaries to favour Labour? That’s a very strong accusation. Any evidence for it?

    Fun fact. Here is the vote – seats ratio for each of the major political parties at the 2015 General Election.

    Conservative – 34,244 votes per seat won

    Labour – 40,290 votes per seat won

    SNP – 25,972 votes per seat won

    Lib Dem – 301,986 votes per seat won

    UKIP – 3,881,129 votes per seat won

    Green – 1,157,613 votes per seat won


    Here are the figures for 2010:

    Conservative – 34,989 votes per seat won

    Labour – 33,350 votes per seat won

    Liberal Dem – 119,788 votes per seat won

    SNP – 81,898 votes per seat won


    I’m not spotting a massive bias against the Tories or in favour of Labour, in those figures.

  15. Brumanuensis

    “At the moment boundaries are based on the populations of each constituency, a far more democratic method”

    No, they’re not. They are based on registered electors.

  16. Brumanuensis

    A bit prejudiced Alan. I don’t support votes for 16 or 17 year olds – because I think that eligibility to vote should be tied to the legal age of majority – but I think caricaturing teenagers in the way you have is unfair. They may not know much about politicians or political parties, but in my experience they do have strong views on politics and are interested in political ideas.

  17. AlanGiles

    I think the problem is because they are so easily influenced they might be easy to “put one over on” and if a 16 year old is promised something and they don’t get it, they are far more likely to by cynical about politicians afterwards. It’s fine being a cynic in your fifties or sixties because life by then has few surprises.

    I think some very manipulative politicians are keen to lower the voting age, because they only think about the next vote or next election, but I suspect if they continue to behave in the future as they have in the past, you will find that even fewer people vote, long term. We had a Green candidate to vote for in May, but if we hadn’t for the first time in my long life I just would not have bothered, frankly.

    As for your point about cariacturing teenagers – yes you probably have a point, but if Joey Essex at 20 something believes the 2nd world war started in 1979, or that Tony Blair was the PM when it broke out (I am sure he would have loved to have been), it makes you wonder what he was like at 16. Sadly, ignorant people like him are treated as heroes, which is a sad indictment on society.

    I think elections are already too much like circuses with ageing drag queen Eddie Izzard inviting himself along to so many events in full slap, God knows how much further the show would be dumbed down if we had to cater for young teenagers

  18. wilwa

    Wrong. They most certainly are based on the population within a constituency, The Tories want to change it to registered voters within constituencies because it is believed that a higher proportion of potential Tory voters are registered than Labour voters. A cynical ploy and one which most certainly qualifies as gerrymandering. You really should check the facts before claiming something that is actually the opposite of the truth.

  19. Brumanuensis

    Sorry, you are completely and utterly mistaken here. Look here for example, for a summary:


    “Firstly, each proposed constituency has to comply with 2 numerical limits:

    the electorate of each constituency must be within 5% of the United Kingdom electoral quota. The electoral quota is the average number of electors per constituency, defined as the total mainland electorate divided by the number of mainland constituencies, where “mainland” excludes four island constituencies: Orkney and Shetland, Na h-Eileanan an Iar (Western Isles), and two on the Isle of Wight.

    the area of a constituency must be no more than 13,000 square kilometres”.

    N.B. the ‘electorate’, not the ‘population’.


    “One of the main issues with the current law is that unregistered voters are not considered when drawing up constituency boundaries, although they are obviously still entitled to support from their MP. Urban and socially deprived areas where registration is low will be under-represented while affluent areas where registration is high will have disproportionate representation”.

  20. Harold

    If these changes go through I feel we will; enter a period of One Party Rule, with the right wing press and media, re-drawing the boundaries and weakening the Union/Labour links it will be a long time before any party or parties get the chance to form a Government. This may well please the newspaper non-doms and their supporters but the Lib Dems, Ukip and the Greens will not be too happy. If we are to have a re-drawing it should be regular and in a manner which does not give anyone an advantage.

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