Andrew Marr: Most politicians would eagerly fix any voting system in their own favour

15 May 2023, 18:12 | Updated: 15 May 2023, 21:43

Tonight with Andrew Marr
Tonight with Andrew Marr. Picture: LBC

By Emma Soteriou

Most politicians would eagerly fix any voting system in their own favour, Andrew Marr has said.

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Opening LBC's Tonight with Andrew Marr, the presenter addressed potential changes to the voting system, highlighting Jacob Rees Mogg's admission of the Tories' attempt at gerrymandering and Labour's plans to allow 16 and 17 year olds to vote.

"I'd like to start by painting you a picture of a sun-splashed corner of Westminster this afternoon because it's been so British - and so telling, and so bonkers," Andrew said.

"On one side of the street, an evangelical church, the Emmanuel Centre; and out of it, pours a crowd of smartly dressed young Americans, some in boaters, or with bow ties, many wearing crosses on their lapels, all of them smiling.

"They’re there for the National Conservatism Conference, which also had lots of British delegates and was addressed by Jacob Rees Mogg, by the Home Secretary Suella Braverman and many more.

"Very concerned with illegal migration, the National Conservatives were interrupted by hecklers warning of fascism.

"As the delegates left in search of a spot of lunch, they were greeted by a familiar group of anti-Tory protesters blaring out the theme tune to Benny Hill, something which I suspect our American cousins may have found a tad perplexing.

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"Meanwhile, I think by coincidence, on the other side of the road, on a pavement just below the Home Office, there was a very different kind of Christian gathering, an open air prayer meeting, led by a priest in his surplice, singing hymns and praying to show their support for migrants. So there's a little picture of  the divided, passionate politics of modern Britain.

"The conference has been making headlines all day partly because of Mr Rees Mogg’s admission that the recent Tory policy of voter ID was an attempt at - his word gerrymandering.

"That's a word, imported as it happens from America, which means deliberate electoral manipulation. His point was that, for the Tories, it hadn't actually worked.

"Here’s what he said: 'Parties that try and gerrymander end up finding their clever scheme comes back to bite them, as dare I say we found by insisting on voter ID for elections.

"'We found the people who didn’t have ID were elderly and they by and large voted Conservative, so we made it hard for our own voters.'"

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Andrew Marr: Most politicians would eagerly fix any voting system in their own favour

Andrew continued: "This was all particularly spicy since it came on a day when the press was full of fury - pages and pages and pages of fury - about alleged Labour plans to twist the voting system in their direction, by allowing 16 and 17 year olds to vote, and also long settled EU citizens who lived here. Two very separate groups, of course.

"But for parts of the Tory right, this was a cynical attempt to impose endless Labour victories, perhaps imposing voting reform as well, to create a one-party state - that party not being the conservative party - on this blessed isle.

"At their most paranoid, Tory MPs were suggesting that Starmer was doing this in order to force through and win a referendum to get us back into the EU.

"So, a few handfuls of cold water. Starmer is against changing the voting system to proportional representation.

"He is completely against another referendum on the EU issue. And finally, these are not Labour policies, but plans, ideas... which have to go through the party process.

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"So if ever there was a moment to talk about who should vote, and who shouldn't, and the whole problem of manipulation then, my friends it’s tonight.

"Let's not be naive. I'm now going to let you into a dirty secret. Don't drop your toast, or let the beer slip from your grasp, or the car roll onto the verge - but here goes: Though they’d never say so given half a chance, most politicians would eagerly fix any voting system in their own favour.

"In which spirit I think I'm broadly in favour of giving the vote to people who've lived here a long time - not just a couple of years - and who’ve contributed by paying taxes and the rest of it. Teenagers are a bit different. Bad hair. A bit whiffy.

"We don't allow them to buy fags or alcohol; but we do allow them to work and serve in the army. 

"You may think they are not really mature enough to make a political choice; but on the other hand we have a political culture which is strongly biased - gerrymandered you might almost say - in favour of older, richer voters - and anything which changed that bias would be good for our democracy."