Government has extended voting registration to midnight 9th June

The UK Government has today announced that it will be extending the deadline to register to vote at the EU referendum to midnight 9th June.

So if you have yet to register, you still have chance to register and take part in the most important vote this County has had in a very, very long time. However, if you are already registered, please please do not try to re-register. As you are already eligible to vote and all you are doing is creating more work for Electoral Services.

The Electoral Commission have released a statement in response to the announcement.

 

If you are registered to vote, you do not have to re-register to vote in the European Referendum

I have seen many Facebook messages saying people have to re-register to vote in the European Referendum due to take place in six-weeks time. The simple fact is if you are already registered to vote then you do not need to do anything else at this time. You can vote in the referendum.

If you have not registered, and you want to vote in the EU Referendum, you need to register to vote by Tuesday, 7 June. If you do not, you cannot vote.

If you have not yet registered to vote, then you can apply online HERE . You can also use this website to check whether you are on the electoral register, update your name, address or other details or arrange to vote in person or by post. The process usually takes about five minutes to complete.

I know that some people have been confused by the information being sent out nationally and think they need to specifically register to vote in the EU Referendum. You do not.

If you are a British, Irish or Commonwealth citizen and registered to vote in local government and/or parliamentary elections you will be able to vote in the Referendum.

The confusion surrounding ‘can I vote’ has led to nine out of ten applications received at Cornwall Council over the past few weeks have been from people who are already on the electoral register.

This has led to an enormous increase in the workload of the elections staff who have to write to each one of these duplicate applicants to let them know they do not need to apply again.

However, there are still around 14,000 people in Cornwall who have not returned their application forms, despite numerous reminders from the Council’s elections team.

When the revised electoral register for Cornwall was published in December 2015, there were 396,474 voters on the register. This number increased by nearly 18,000 to 414,461 in time for the Police and Crime Commissioner elections.

With the intense publicity around the EU Referendum it has led to a further flurry of applications to the Council’s elections service over the past few weeks from people wanting to register to vote. As of this week the number of people on the electoral register is 415,645.

For more information on the European Union Referendum.

Brexit – should we stay in the European Union or go?

Before you read on, this is not an endorsement, recommendation or anything else but my thoughts and requirements for the forthcoming referendum on our future in the European Union. If you are not interested then I will spare you now from reading on.

The countdown to the EU referendum has begun. On the 23rd we will be asked: ‘Should the United Kingdon remain a member of the European Union’On the ballot form, you will need to tick one of two answers: ‘Remain a member of the European Union’ or ‘Leave the European Union’. Once the votes have been counter we will know if we belong in the Europe Union, set out on the course for leaving.

The first thing I will say whether we stay or go, the EU needs to be reformed. The current monster that is the EU is not accountable and it is definitely not democratic. Ask yourself without refering to a search engine who are your MEP’s? I bet you will be hard pressed to actually name your MEP’s. And yes we have more than one in the South West.

I have wanted a referendum on in/out for many years. This referendum has been a long time coming and in my view could have been asked years ago. Yet previous Governments were too scared to ask the question for fear of the answer. Even the current Government probably did not think this referendum would happen; as they were not expecting to actually win the General Election outright.

In fact the ideal time for a referendum would have been when John Major signed the Maastricht Treaty in 1992. Yet the public was not given a say unlike other European citizens. The Danish took two attempts to be convinced, and surprisingly, the French narrowly passed this treaty.

My aim for the referendum will be to finally decide once and for all to either accept the EU for its good and bad points, or do something about it and leave. We really cannot continue to have this halfway house of standing in both camps.

Since the announcement was made, the referendum debate has been centering of who is in the in or out camp. Instead of looking at the merits of belonging in or out of the EU, the ‘debate’ has been along the lines on the personalities in each camp. I have to say who really cares. I am really not interested in hearing about the continuation of a rivalry started at Eton between a senior boy and his fag.

No doubt it will get worse when the A to Z list of celebs start to endorse the different camps. Seeing Farage and Galloway sharing a stage brought home the reality this vote could turn in to a circus. This vote is too important to be decided on personalities. If it is, then God – or any other deity – help us. We are lost. We might as well get Simon Cowell to run some sort of X-factor/Talent show to decide our future…

I will be straight; I am truly in the undecided camp. I like Europe; I have lived there, visited most of the EU member states and was even born in West Germany. Yet I really struggle withs the current monster that is the EU and is a far cry from the noble aims of the European Economic Community formed in 1957. The EU needs to be reformed. Plain and simple.

However, before I vote, I want to understand all the positives and negatives for both leaving and staying. For that to happen, each side in this argument will need to rise above the fear factor, mud-slinging and cheap shots to give a clear, thought-out reasoning to their cases. I an affraid to say, this has yet to happen…

I have already heard some of the arguments of being in the EU have prevented war in Europe. Eh… What about the Balkans. There was a brutal war there. I have the campaign medal. And Leaving the EU would be the end of the world and the U.K would end up in some post-apocalyptic wilderness. The world is not flat and if we sail off on our own we will not fall off the edge.

I want to move past the cheap shot of immigration and being fearful of ‘Johnny Foreigner.’ There are an estimated 2.2 million Brits living in Europe, with near half living in Iberia. Immigration works both ways.

I also want to move on from, or better, ignore Cameron’s deal and his ‘Munich agreement’ which I believe is nothing more than a sop to stop Cameron actively campaigning against leaving. His comment of I don’t love Brussels (actually a lovely city), I love Britain was cringe-worthy.

What I want to hear about is the economic, social and environmental reasons to remain or leave the EU based on fact. After all we joined the EEC in 1973 for economic reasons. If we vote to leave, it has to be in the best interests of the U.K. and not for some jingoistic reason.

Whilst the referendum is a national issue, I want to know how leaving could affect Cornwall with it grant funding from Europe. I am no fan of Gove, but it did resonate with me in his words of saying we pay so much in, get some back, but told how we should spend it.

If by chance the referendum returns a vote of wanting to leave as the result are just too close to call, do you really think the other European member states will allow us to leave?

Even with a ‘yes to leave’ vote the negotiations to leave will take up to two years. In that time Germany as the largest contributor will do everything to keep us in. This means in their desperation, we might actually get the reform the EU so desperately needs, but as yet is unwilling.

If we go, who else will follow us out of the door? Do you really think Germany wants to be left as the main contributor to the EU budget? Its own nationals might start to start question about the merits about staying in the EU.

From this we might very well end up with what I call the Irish question. Keep asking until you get the answer you want as was the case of Ireland joining the single currency.

There is a lot to play for in the coming few months. However, I beg the campaigners of each camp, keep to the facts, help us understand, as from this allow us to vote with a clear understanding of what are voting for. As whatever the outcome of the vote, will have far reaching consequences on all our lives.

 

 

 

 

We are still an United Kingdom

Two years ago and the question on should Scotland be an independent country hardly registered on most people’s thoughts. In fact, I believe the country as a whole nearly sleep-walked into a large void and great uncertainty. Thankfully, this did not happen, as the country as a whole suddenly woke up to the reality of  307 years of union could be over if something did not change. no thanks

 This referendum showed when the voter is engaged people will turnout and vote. This was shown by an amazing turnout of 85%. The last time a voter turnout was that high in a national vote was in the 1950 General Election when Clement Attlee became PM. The turnout then was 83.9%.  With all votes now in,  the margin of win for the No or Better Together campaign was larger than all the polls and pundits predicted; with the final vote split as follows:

  • No – 2,001,926
  • Yes – 1,617,989

In percentage terms this is 55% for No and 45% for the Yes. Even though the win is by a clear 10% and that might not seem much, but only four of the 32 local authority areas voted Yes. These were Glasgow – 53.49%; Dundee City – 57.35%; West Dumbartonshire – 53.96%; and North Lanarkshire – 51.07%.  The 28 authority areas who voted No included Orkney who rejected independence by 67.2% followed by Scottish Borders with 66.56%. However the clear winning margin of 10% is enough for one side to claim outright victory, there is a still a clear indication 45% of those who voted want change.

The decision by the voters of Scotland showed the  union’s status quo cannot continue. How this will change is anyone guess, and will be played out in the coming months with parties across the political spectrum  trying to out do each other on devolution pledges leading up to the General Election in 2015. The West Lothian question has to be answered. It is not right 59 MP’s can have a vote on purely English matters, when this privilege is not reciprocated in Scotland. How Wales and Northern Ireland fits in to the new union will have to be carefully considered too.

How this vote impacts on Cornwall is yet to be seen. Cornwall Council has long campaigned for more powers for the people of Cornwall. It has had some successes, but just how far will the Government go is the $64,000 question. The Government will also have to try to placate the non-Scottish MP’s who now will be rightly saying what about us after all the pledges to Scotland. As for the pledges to Scotland, they must be honoured, but all parties cannot and must not forget the other home nations

My view is devolved powers cannot have another level of bureaucracy or another level of Government in place. Powers should be given to the existing authorities. No doubt post the Scotland vote there will be calls for another tier of Government, but it is not one I currently subscribe to. I cannot see how another level of bureaucracy could be supported in these financially challenging times. People want services delivered and in a cost- effective manner.

I am a firm believer in less centralisation, but I also know there has to be a limit or a point where devolution is not cost-effective. It is okay asking for more powers, but if those powers cost more to deliver, then surely there has to be a stopped point on what is sensible devolution and what is nothing more than fanciful thinking.

Lastly and this has often been lost in the YES / NO election campaign is the voice of young people. I think this referendum has also shown 16/17-year-olds should be given the vote for all elections from now on. I hope this can be implemented quickly, though I doubt it will be for the General Election in 2015. Well done to Scotland for showing us the way on how to get young people involved in deciding their future.

The United Kingdom is still as one. And for this, I thank you Scotland and its people.

Europe – Yes, No, Let’s Have a Vote!

It is not often that I make comments on this blog on national, or international topics, but the latest bun-fight between the 27 member states of the European Union has compelled me to.

Let’s start with a little bit of praise for Gordon Brown. If it was not for his instistence of the five economic tests being passed, Tony Blair would have had us signed up and using the Euro quicker than the coins could have been minted. Also his other great move was to make the Bank of England independent from the Government. Well done, Gordon. Then again, he did change the banking regulations to a more relaxed, self-administered process which you could argue is part of the cause to the worldwide financial mess we are now in.

The latest summit to save the euro had 26 of the member states sign an accord. Britain decided to use its veto and say no. Was this the right move? Well who knows because the actual details to why the PM turned it down is a little blurred. Those who want to find a simplistic answer say it was to protect those greedy banker mates of his. I feel this is child like simplicity because the financial industry is not just about a bunch of slacked-jawed, pinstriped suited buffoons. It is a world trading market, which is taxed by the UK Government. So it is right the PM makes sure it is protected.

However, this leads on to the bigger debate of Europe. Historically Britain has always had suspicions on the motives of ‘Johnny Foreigner’ from across the channel. The French, and in my opinion, the ungrateful General de Gaulle vetoed Britain’s membership of the EEC  in ’63 and ’67. It was not until de Gaulle fell from power that Britain joined the EEC on the third attempt in 1973. As de Gaulle is quoted: “France has no friends, only interests”. Has much changed since then?

Since 1973 no one in Britain outside the various governments, has had a say on Europe. We have been promised a referendum by the various political parties, but when is comes to discussing a referendum, all the parties find an excuse not to have one. Is this because the answer will be an Agincourt style two-fingers up at Europe? The again, if the country was allowed a sensible debate on Europe; how Britain fits in, the result might be different.

Until such a time as there a referendum we will have to listen to the various political European squabbles from the sideline. Who knows, maybe my son’s children will finally get a say on Europe.

The People Have Voted

The once in a lifetime chance to take part in a Referendum has passed. It took me less than 30 seconds to complete, and I was the only person in the polling station (apart from the election staff). I will tick it off the list of things to do, but it will not be a chart topper in that list.
The turnout was better than expected with the South West having a turnout of 44.6% (1.8 million people); with Cornwall’s turnout 40.2%, (and double what I predicted in a previous blog).
The result was a resounding No to AV. The split of the vote is as follows:
No to AV – 117,770 (69.71%)
Yes to AV – 51,184 (30.29%)
168,954 cast with 279 spoiled ballot papers
You can’t argue with the result and the winning margin. The people have voted and made it very clear what they think. Out of the 37 areas in the South West Region, not a single one voted in favour of Yes to AV.

The result UK wide is:

No to AV – 12,640,417 (68.31%)

Yes to AV – 5,863,519 (31.69%)

The Electoral Commission has a great website HERE

Yes/No AV Debate at County Hall

On Tuesday night I was invited to the Yes/No AV debate organised by the BBC, but held at County Hall. By attending I was hoping for serious points being made as to why I should vote yes or no in the Referendum on the 5th May.

There were four panel members, Candy Atherton, former Labour MP and George Eustace MP both in the No to AV camp. In the Yes to AV we had Lord Dartmouth, MEP for UKIP and Nathan Hallow for the LDs The ringmaster was BBC’s local radio presenter Laurence Reed.

Members of the audience asked questions to the panel members, who took it in turn to answer them. At first the questionable were answered in an orderly fashion, but this soon stopped and the panel members started to interrupt other members. By the end of the debate the panel were talking over the other members in louder and louder voices hoping by talking louder it would some how make their points better.

The main point of the debate was to explain to those present and the listeners of the radio show the pros and cons to the two options. The panel members missed this, and spent a lot of the time trying to score small and sometimes petty points on the other panel members. All the panel members made draw dropping comments that should never have been said.

I came away from the debate with no clearer picture of the best system. I am not sure what the general public will think of it, but you can listen on Thursday 28th via Radio Cornwall’s Laurence Reed Show from 12 noon and come to your own conclusion.

For me, it was like a pantomime show, in parts entertaining, but once over forgettable.

Referendum – Yes, No or Don’t Care?

In little over two weeks the Country will have the chance to take part in a Referendum on how we elected MP’s to Parliament. The Government is giving us a choice between the current system of First Past the Post (FPTP) and Alternative Vote (AV). The last time anyone outside of Wales and Scotland had the chance to take part in a Referendum was in 1975

So what are the differences between the two options? The simplest way to understand is to watch the short and simple film provided by The Electoral Commission. This also saves me from boring you to death with lots of words!



My personal feeling with this referendum is AV is fudge on what could have been achieved. If we really had the choice I would have preferred Single Transferable Vote (or at least a choice of different systems than the current two on offer). This in my opinion (for what it is worth) is far better then listing a whole host of candidates and then picking them in order of preference. For me, I would probably just vote for one candidate or at a push, pick one other if I thought they had like minded views.


Why would I only pick one, or at a push two? This is because outside of Wales and Scotland it is a three party state.  Contrary to what is going on at national level they all during an election campaign and preach they are different. Of course, there are parties who are not in the gang of three, but if these other parties are to be elected to Parliament in any significant numbers it would take a complete change of mindset from the citizens of the UK for that to happen, not just a change to the voting system.

The real interesting point to this Referendum is even if the AV vote is won, it does not necessary mean AV will be used. The reasons are because it depends on the rest of the Bill on boundary changes getting though Parliament, and that my friends, is a whole different kettle of fish. The plan under the Bill is to get rid of at least 50 MPs and their seats. You can imagine these 50 MP’s and the party which is likely to lose the most (Labour, but around 13 from the Cons) seats are not over the moon for having to vote in favour to receive their P45’s. Of course there is always the House of Lords to help ease their way into retirement as an incentive to say yes to the Bill. That is if there is any room left after the latest round of ‘re-balancing’ the Lords.

For the Duchy/County/Independent Country (depending on your viewpoint) of Cornwall the change to the boundary will have a further ‘bonus’ of probably having to ‘share’ an MP with our neighbours in Devon. That means those MPs from Cornwall who support AV will have to vote in favour of a shared MP if they wish for AV to become a reality. If they do, then no doubt at the next election this point will be on ALL the rivals’ election material.

As there are no Parish, Town or Unitary elections in Cornwall (until 2013) turnout is likely to be low. My guess is if turn-out in Cornwall gets past 20% this will be a good result. Nationally I fear the turnout will be in the low 30%. Which is kind of ironic as a point that the pro AV claim is most MPs are not elected by the majority; this could lead to a counter claim of a change to the voting system that is made by a minority?


Lastly, and I believe real issue which should be addressed is why so many people at national and local level choose not to vote. The average turn-out (Cornwall Unitary Election 2009) at local level was 40.1% and national (General Election 2010) was 65.1%. I doubt the main reason as to why so many don’t turn out is not because of the current voting system. Most I believe will say I am not interested, it does not affect me, or they are all the same and nothing changes.

How do we change people’s lack of interest in voting? Well, we could go down the Australian route and make voting compulsory? Or is making people turn up an affront to democracy, the right to freedom of choice, and the right to vote or not?