Elections Bill (Instruction)

Part of the debate – in the House of Commons at 8:21 pm on 20th September 2021.

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Photo of Cat Smith Cat Smith Shadow Minister for Young People and Voter Engagement 8:21 pm, 20th September 2021

I am as staggered as my hon. Friend to learn that the Conservative party’s PCC for Cleveland was sacked for theft from a Safeway supermarket. I would certainly agree that it is totally untenable for a criminal to hold the position of PCC, and if what my hon. Friend has shared with the House tonight is true, I would expect a resignation and some kind of by-election for that PCC role with immediate effect.

Turning back to the instruction, the supplementary vote system has been used to elect the Mayor of London since 2000, so it is certainly not a new system of voting. The instruction on the Order Paper suggests that it is somehow something that has come to light since the Bill has been published, but if we have been using this system of voting for the London Mayor for well over two decades, it seems inconsistent for the Government not to have been able to see fit to put this in the Bill before this late stage.

The Minister said that this measure was in his party’s manifesto, and indeed the 2017 manifesto stated:

“We will retain the first past the post system of voting for parliamentary elections and extend this system to police and crime commissioner…elections.”

However, if he reads his party’s 2019 manifesto, as I have done, he will not see it anywhere there. So this was not in the last manifesto and it has not been in the Bill since the beginning. Is this not just another example of Tory arrogance and some kind of apparent allergy to scrutiny and accountability? This Bill has been utterly chaotic and it seems increasingly likely that we are going to get a new Minister on the Bill Committee, although we do not yet know who it will be, and a new Government Whip mid-Committee. To top it all off, we are now not entirely sure whether the Bill sits within the Cabinet Office or the newly renamed “Department for Levelling Up”. So let me level with the Minister tonight: this instruction motion stinks of gerrymandering and we will vote against it.