Pre-election polls in numerous countries this year have widely missed their marks, often by underestimating support for candidates on the ideological fringes. The polling failures in countries like Britain, Poland and Israel point to technical issues that could well foreshadow polling problems in the United States, many analysts believe. “The industry has a collective failure problem,” said John Curtice, the president of the British Polling Council and a professor of politics at the University of Strathclyde in Glasgow. Partly this is the result of changing methodologies. “It’s now a mix of random-digit dialing — that is, telephone polls — and Internet-based polls based on recruited panels,” he said. Both modes present potential problems. Opinion polls in advance of Britain’s general election in May severely underestimated the number of seats that Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservative Party would win. After the election, the polling council called for an independent inquiry into what had caused the error. The council plans to release its findings in mid-January, a report that will be closely read by pollsters in Britain and around the globe.
David Cameron’s reforms to the voting system have narrowly survived an attempt to kill them off in the House of Lords, despite warnings from the Electoral Commission that people could be disenfranchised. Peers rejected a fatal motion that would have stopped the Conservatives bringing forward use of a new electoral register to December 2016, even though it contains up to 1.9 million fewer names than the old register. The new register requires everyone to be registered as an individual, which differs from the old system under which the head of a household was able to register all occupants. The narrow win will be a relief for Cameron after the House of Lords voted down the government’s cuts to tax credits on Monday.
David Cameron has vowed to ignore a European Court of Justice ruling expected this week that could outlaw Britain’s blanket ban on prisoner voting. In an explosive move on the eve of Mr Cameron’s conference speech, Europe’s highest court is on Tuesday predicted to rule that automatically stripping convicts of the vote is a violation of their human rights. It would be a defeat for the British government, whose lawyers argued it would be a major extension of the EU’s powers because voting arrangements a matter for national governments to decide.
David Cameron has been told by Conservatives Abroad to hurry up with a bill to restore British expats’ full voting rights. The Government promised in the Queen’s Speech in May to abolish the so-called “15-year rule”. This currently prevents around a million of the five million Britons overseas from voting in UK and European elections if they have lived out of the country for that period of time. However, the Votes for Life Bill to restore their rights has not been tabled for debate in Parliament yet. With the EU referendum looming in 2017 – and potentially as early as next year – expats in Europe are concerned they might not be able to participate. In May, a Downing Street spokesman indicated that the 15-year rule would remain in place for the referendum, causing concern among expats who want to have their say.
United Kingdom: EU referendum: David Cameron suffers defeat in parliament over ‘purdah’ rules | The Guardian
David Cameron has suffered a humiliating defeat over the EU referendum as Tory rebels and Labour put aside their differences to oppose changes to the rules that restrict government campaigning before an election. The government lost by 27 votes as a group of Tory backbenchers argued that Downing Street was trying to unduly influence the result in favour of staying in the EU. The rebels, led by Eurosceptics including Bernard Jenkin, Bill Cash and Steve Baker, said it was wrong of the government to seek changes to purdah, which is the month-long period before a poll when government announcements and spending are restricted.
David Cameron has accepted a recommendation by the Electoral Commission to change the wording of the EU referendum question to avoid favouring the pro-EU side. Downing Street has announced that the government will table an amendment to the EU referendum bill to reflect the new wording. The move by No 10 means that voters will be asked whether Britain should remain a member of the EU or whether the UK should leave the EU. The government had intended to ask voters simply whether the UK should remain a member of the EU, prompting the Electoral Commission to warn that this could favour the status quo in the referendum. The prime minister’s spokeswoman said: “We will follow the recommendation of the Electoral Commission by tabling an amendment to the bill. The government’s approach has been to follow the Electoral Commission’s advice.” The move means that, unlike the Scottish referendum, there will not be a yes and a no campaign. Instead, there will be a campaign to remain in the EU and a campaign to leave.
Labour has accused David Cameron of attempting to rig the electoral system, after the government ruled it would adopt a new electoral register this year even though up to 1.9 million voters on the old list are still missing from it. The government said it would adopt the individual register from December this year, overruling the advice of the Electoral Commission, which said it should not be implemented until December 2016. There are currently 1.9 million more voters on the old household register – under which one person was responsible for registering everyone in the home – than the new individual register. The discrepancy has raised concerns that many of these people will lose the right to vote unless they re-register before elections in May 2016.
United Kingdom: Prime Minister refuses to rule out EU referendum on same day as other elections next year | The Guardian
David Cameron has left the door open for an early EU referendum to be held on the same day as other elections next year, despite Labour’s call for it to take place on a different date. At his weekly prime minister’s question time, Cameron was pressed by the acting Labour leader, Harriet Harman, to rule out holding the poll at the same time as elections for the Scottish parliament, Welsh and Northern Ireland assemblies and the London mayor in May 2016. Harman said she “strongly agreed” with the Electoral Commission that referendum polling day should not feature any other elections and urged the prime minister to agree a separate voting day.
United Kingdom: UK lawmakers back Cameron’s EU referendum plans but debate highlights risks | Reuters
Lawmakers on Tuesday backed Prime Minister David Cameron’s plan for a referendum on Britain’s EU membership, but a heated debate highlighted passions that could split his Conservative Party and re-open Scotland’s bid for independence. Cameron, seeking to put an end to a decades-old rift within his party over Britain’s place in Europe, has promised to negotiate a new settlement with Brussels and hold a referendum by the end of 2017. Voters will be asked: “Should the United Kingdom remain a member of the European Union?”, a choice of wording which allows the “in” campaign to brand itself as “Yes”.
United Kingdom: Prisoners may be given vote because of human rights climbdown, Tory adviser warns | Telegraph
Prisoners in Britain may be given the vote because of David Cameron’s refusal to pull out of the European Convention on Human Rights, a leading QC and adviser to the Conservative Party has warned. Philip Hammond, the Foreign Secretary, has confirmed that pulling out of the convention is not “on the table” despite objections from both Theresa May, the Home Secretary, and Michael Gove, the Justice Secretary. Jonathan Fisher QC, who has advised the Conservatives on a British Bill of Rights to replace the Human Rights Act, said it means that when “push comes to shove” the party will have to give way to Strasbourg judges on prisoner voting.
United Kingdom: EU referendum voting rights will not be extended to all UK citizens living abroad | The Guardian
The government has ruled out extending the right to vote in the upcoming EU referendum to all British citizens living abroad, despite a promise made by the Conservative party chairman that it would. The EU referendum bill, which will be announced after the Queen’s speech on Wednesday, will make clear that the franchise – the people eligible to vote – will be the same as in general elections, which is adults from the age of 18, Irish and Commonwealth citizens resident in the UK, and British citizens who have lived abroad for less than 15 years.
Amelia Abplanalp doesn’t know who to vote for in the United Kingdom’s next general election and her indecision doesn’t appear to be unique. The 27-year-old who works in politics said she represents the problem many voters here face with fewer than 100 days to go before polls open May 7 in what analysts say is the most wide open race in generations. “It’s a real challenge to know what it is I’m voting for,” Abplanalp said. “The Conservative Party (says it’s) going to address spending, but at what sacrifice? Labor is traditionally a party that says ‘we’ll put money in and make sure people have enough food,’ — how are they going to pay for that? The Green Party is offering fantastic policies, but how is it going to pay (for them)?” For years, the Conservative and Labor Parties have dominated British politics. With the exception of the current coalition government — led by Prime Minister David Cameron — in power since 2010, the two main parties have effectively taken turns governing the nation since 1945. But experts say the political landscape is now vastly different, making outcomes more unpredictable.
With opinion polls on Thursday’s Scottish independence vote too close to call, Prime Minister David Cameron of Britain faces the risk this week of becoming the leader who presided over the breakup of the United Kingdom. And that is only one of his immediate problems. After the release on Saturday of a video showing the beheading by Islamic radicals of a British hostage, David Cawthorne Haines, Mr. Cameron led a meeting on Sunday of his emergency response committee, including his top military and security officials. Another British hostage, Alan Henning, has been named by the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria as the next to die. Mr. Henning, believed to be in his 40s, is an aid worker from Manchester who was kidnapped last December near Idlib, Syria, with other aid workers, some of whom were Muslim and were interrogated and released, according to Tam Hussein, a freelance journalist working with Channel 4 television.
British expats have long campaigned against the rule which states that once they have lived abroad for longer than 15 years they lose their right to vote back in the UK. That has left many UK citizens disenfranchised as they are also denied the right to vote in most foreign countries, unless they seek citizenship. And this week it appears that at least one political party has answered their call. While the Liberal Democrats have said they will push for changes on expat voting rights, and there are suggestions some Labour MPs also support a possible scrapping of the current regime, David Cameron’s Tory party has now promised to abolish the rule – if they win the next general election, scheduled for May 2015. The Tories say they want to protect the rights of citizens overseas who have “contributed to Britain all their lives”, according to a Tory spokesman quoted in the Daily Telegraph.
For the first time in the EU, you will hear, we have a broad choice. We can vote for a specific candidate for the post of the European Commission president, not only for members of the European Parliament. The candidates of the biggest political families in Europe were selected in the American style – some more democratically (via primaries), others via the ordinary party procedure. Whatever the manner, they are already touring European cities and capitals competing for our vote. They even call their campaign with the same term as in the US – campaign trail. The culmination will be on May 15th when the five candidates will appear together in a debate which will be broadcast live within the Eurovision network and online. To sum up, European democracy in action. There is no doubt that it is more than exciting that, finally, the EU will come to us instead of us constantly going to the EU. The European political parties will fight for our vote, they will present us their ideas, plans, visions about the future of the Union not from the distant Brussels, but they will come in our capitals and cities. They will try to balance between nationalists, austerians, spenders, Germans, Greeks, the north and the south, the east and the west, between Euro-Atlanticists and pro-Russian forces. But there is a problem. In these elections, for the first time, the clash between the national and European political interest will be especially strong because the national parties make calculations of their own for these elections, while the candidates at EU level threaten to mess them up. And this is especially evident in the fact that there are two parallel elections for the post of European Commission president going on. One is the democratic one that I mentioned above and the other is the well known behind-the-scenes way in which the highest European posts are always bargained.
U.K. prisoners serving sentences of less than a year should be given the right to vote in elections, a cross-party panel of lawmakers said today. It would be better for Britain to uphold the rulings of the European Court of Human Rights than continue to deny the vote to all prisoners regardless of length of sentence, the panel, drawn from members of both the House of Commons and the House of Lords, said in a report.Prime Minister David Cameron said in November 2010 that the thought of giving prisoners the vote made him feel “physically ill” after a ruling by the ECHR that banning prisoners from voting was incompatible with the convention.
Two convicted murderers who argued that European Union law gave them the right to vote in UK elections have had their appeals dismissed by the supreme court at Westminster. Peter Chester, who is serving a life sentence in England, and George McGeoch, who is behind bars in Scotland, both tried to sidestep British legislation over prisoner voting rights, the European court of human of rights in Strasbourg having in the past ruled illegal Britain’s voting ban for all those serving any sentence. A parliamentary committee is considering whether to enforce the rulings or defy the European judges. The supreme court justices observed that since Strasbourg had already declared the blanket ban on prisoners voting incompatible with human rights, there was no point in repeating it. David Cameron welcomed the unanimous supreme court decision. The prime minister tweeted: “The supreme court judgment on prisoner voting is a great victory for common sense.”
United Kingdom: Lobbying bill poses threat to blogs and political rallies, says elections watchdog | theguardian.com
Officials may have the power to ask people to take down blogs or stop political rallies under the new lobbying bill, the head of the Electoral Commission has warned. The regulator said there are “real questions around freedom of speech” as MPs prepared to debate the controversial new laws in the House of Commons. Charities have protested that the bill will limit their ability to talk about policy issues, because it puts new spending restrictions on political campaigning in the runup to an election. Jenny Watson, the chair of the Electoral Commission, said it needed more guidance from parliament as it will be asked to adjudicate on what constitutes campaigning for a political purpose, setting it up for legal challenges by charities, faith groups or trade bodies. She said would be a significant intervention if the regulator was to “ask someone from taking down a blog or a website or to prevent a rally from happening”.
United Kingdom: Independence Referendum: Electoral Commission call on David Cameron to show what a No vote would mean for Scotland | Daily Record
Election watchdogs have rocked the referendum debate by demanding David Cameron spell out what voting No would mean for Scotland. The Electoral Commission threw down the gauntlet yesterday to the Prime Minister on more powers for Holyrood. In their recommendations for how the historic vote should be run, they urged both the UK and Scottish Governments to outline their plans for the aftermath of the referendum. As revealed by the Record earlier this week, the experts rejected Alex Salmond’s preferred question for the crunch ballot. They said his wording – “Do you agree Scotland should be an independent country?” – would unfairly encourage people to vote Yes. Instead, they suggested a more neutral wording – “Should Scotland be an independent country?”
The dilemma regarding the enfranchisement of prisoners is becoming a constitutional issue. There are two opposing moral positions. David Cameron has said “It makes me physically ill even to contemplate having to give the vote to anyone who is in prison.” But the rule of law is about more than gut instincts. The UK government has an unequivocal responsibility to implement judgments of the European Court of Human Rights. If it refuses to bring forward plans to provide votes for at least some prisoners by Thursday of this week it will be in breach of its obligations.
United Kingdom: Tories bow to European court of human rights over prisoner voting rights | The Guardian
The government is planning a draft bill introducing limited prisoner voting rights to comply with the European court of human rights, despite fierce opposition from Eurosceptic backbenchers. But embarrassed government ministers are likely to defer the hugely controversial announcement until just before a late-November deadline, allowing it to be made after the police commissioner elections on 17 November.
With a single word yesterday, David Cameron seized an opportunity that could work wonders to restore his battered fortunes. That word was: ‘Yes.’ He had been asked if he would give an undertaking not to succumb to the diktat from the European Court of Human Rights, demanding that prisoners should be given the right to vote. Further, would he stand up for the sovereignty of Parliament and the British people by upholding the huge Commons vote in support of the blanket ban?
United Kingdom: European Court Rules British Prisoners Must Be Granted Voting Rights | International Business Times
Some British MPs are outraged by a ruling from the European Court of Human Rights that prisoners must be given the right to vote in political elections. The Court supported a prior ruling that a blanket prohibition on inmates in England and Wales voting was unlawful. British prisoners have been barred from voting for 140 years. However, the court suggested that the British government could have the right to extend voting rights only to certain prisoners, that is, by withholding enfranchisement to the worst criminals, including murderers and rapists. London now has six months to comply with the court’s ruling, or face the risk of court challenges and incurring large legal costs, including possibly paying compensation to 2,500 prisoners who have filed suit to overturn the ban. However, UK MPs, who last year overwhelmingly voted to continue the prohibition on prisoners voting, may be irked by European court dictating policy to them.
George Galloway, who was expelled from the U.K. Labour Party under Prime Minister Tony Blair over his opposition to the Iraq War, was unexpectedly re-elected to the House of Commons in a special election in northern England. Galloway, running for the Respect Party, took 56 percent of the vote in yesterday’s election in the Bradford West district. He beat Labour, the main opposition party in the Commons, which previously held the seat, into second place. Labour’s candidate, Imran Hussain, took 25 percent. Jackie Whiteley of Prime Minister David Cameron’s Conservatives came third with 8.4 percent. Bradford West had the third highest proportion of Muslim residents of any electoral district at the time of the 2001 census, at 37.6 percent. Galloway, who was expelled from Labour in 2003, took Bethnal Green and Bow in east London, the second most Muslim constituency, from the party on an anti-war ticket in 2005. He failed to win a seat in the Commons in 2010.
British Prime Minister David Cameron is desperately trying to stave off an official inquiry by the electoral commission into Conservative Party fundraising, after a top official was forced to resign for improperly offering access to him. The battle between Conservatives and the Labour Party on the issue now centres on the electoral commission, after former Labour justice secretary Jack Straw wrote to it demanding an official inquiry. If such an inquiry were to go ahead and have negative findings, it could have a devastating impact on Tory fortunes. Consequently, Number 10 is keen to do everything possible to ensure that one is not ordered. Last night, the electoral commission was keeping its counsel. In his letter to the commission, Mr Straw said the Tory co-treasurer Peter Cruddas and former party staffer Sarah Southern had broken rules simply by listening to undercover reporters offering to funnel Middle Eastern money to the party.
The government has insisted that it will not disclose details of private meetings between David Cameron and Conservative party donors in the wake of claims by the party’s treasurer that large cash payments could secure intimate dinners with the prime minister. Francis Maude, the Cabinet Office minister, said demands for lists of visitors to Cameron’s flat in Downing Street were unreasonable, but insisted the party had nothing to hide. The Commons Speaker, John Bercow, is likely to accede to Labour requests for an urgent government statement on the issue. The opposition has already demanded an independent investigation into the claims. Tony Blair’s former chief fundraiser, Lord Levy, who called for private meetings at Downing Street to be revealed, said he was not aware of any such meetings having taken place at No 10 or Chequers when Blair was prime minister.