Posts Tagged ‘elections’

Five things we have learnt about England’s voter ID trials in the 2019 local elections

The Cabinet Office and Electoral Commission have published their evaluations of the voter ID trials that were held during this May’s local elections. Michela Palese assesses what we have learnt from them, and what concerns remain.

The ID trials, which followed an initial set of pilots last year, required voters in ten English local authorities (Braintree, Broxtowe, Craven, Derby, Mid-Sussex, North Kesteven, North West Leicestershire, Pendle, Watford and Woking) to present personal identification when visiting the polling station.

As in 2018, the participating local authorities tested three different types of identification requirements: a photo ID model (Pendle and Woking), a mixed model where voters presented either one piece of photo ID or two pieces of non-photo ID before casting their vote (in Braintree, Derby among other areas), and a poll card model, in Mid-Sussex, Watford and North West Leicestershire. In the areas piloting the photo ID and mixed ID models, voters who did not have the required identification could apply for a locally issued certificate of identity.

While the Cabinet Office declared the 2019 trial to have been a ‘success‘ for the government’s voter ID pilots, the Electoral Commission was more cautious in its judgement, saying: ’Important questions however remain about how an ID requirement would work in practice, particularly at a national poll with higher levels of turnout.’

So, what did we learn from the Cabinet Office and Electoral Commission evaluations?

1. Around 2,000 people were initially turned away from the polling station for not having ID, with around 750 of them not returning to vote

Compared to allegations and verified cases of personation – the crime of pretending to be someone else at the ballot box – the figures for numbers turned away in each pilot area (see Table 1) are extremely high. Figures released by the Electoral Commission in March 2019 showed that, of the 266 cases of electoral fraud investigated by police in 2018 just one in five (57) related to complaints made about the voting process. Of these, personation fraud at the polling station accounted for just eight of the allegations made in 2018. There is therefore insufficient evidence to suggest that personation fraud is widespread in the UK, which makes it hard to justify this level of disenfranchisement for lack of ID.

Table 1: Number of people who were not able to show ID in each trial area

Source: Electoral Commission; *In Watford, the lower number in the range indicates those that gave their name to polling station staff and were then not issued with a ballot paper because they did not have ID; the higher number also includes those who left before giving their name, so cannot be confirmed as registered at that polling station.

2. Requiring voter ID can have a potentially disproportionate impact on certain groups

As the Electoral Commission stated in its evaluation, some groups of people may find it harder than others to show ID, particularly photo ID. This includes people with protected characteristics as well as other less frequent voters. Possession of ID is not universal in the UK and previous research by the Electoral Commission showed that around 3.5 million citizens (7.5% of the electorate) do not have access to photo ID. Getting ID costs time and money, which some may not be able to invest, and we know that certain groups – particularly marginalised or vulnerable groups – are less likely to have ID.

Awareness of ID requirements also differs across demographic groups: those aged 18–34 were less likely to have heard about the pilots than those aged 55+; similarly, those from a BAME background were less likely than white respondents to be aware of the ID requirements.

Requiring identification has the potential to discriminate against certain groups and, as the Electoral Commission stated in its evaluation: ‘If there were to be a disproportionate impact on particular groups of voters this could also have a negative impact on public confidence; we know that problems at elections can affect voters’ and non-voters’ overall perceptions of the poll.’

3. Requiring voter ID had only a small effect on voter confidence among voters in pilot areas

The Cabinet Office report found that the perception of the polling station being safe from fraud and abuse increased by around 2–5 percentage points across the pilot areas. But levels of confidence in safeguards at polling stations were already high – with between 85% and 87% of people saying that voting at polling stations is safe from fraud and abuse before taking part in the pilots.

Similarly, the Electoral Commission’s post-poll research found that 77% of electors thought voting in general is safe, particularly at the polling station (81%). Indeed, looking at the Electoral Commission’s post-pilot surveys, it is clear that postal voting is more of a concern: ‘72% believe postal voting to be safe from fraud or abuse whereas 87% believe voting at a polling station is safe. The proportion who would describe voting by post as unsafe (15%) is three times the proportion who would describe voting at a polling station as unsafe (5%).’

In short, though the evaluations conducted by the Cabinet Office and Electoral Commission indicate a slight increase in perceptions of polling stations being safe from fraud and abuse as a result of the pilots, pre-existing levels of confidence in the security of polling station were already very high. This cannot be said for other aspects of electoral integrity, such as postal voting, on which the government is not currently focused.

4. Fraud is not voters’ top concern about elections

Post-poll research by the Electoral Commission found that electoral fraud is not at the top of electors’ concerns. Only one in four respondents (24%) said electoral fraud was somewhat of or a serious problem, with more (26%) stating it isn’t a problem.

By contrast, low voter turnout and bias in the media were considered to be a problem by 64% and 56% of respondents respectively. Other issues that came higher in people’s priorities were: inadequate regulation of political activity on social media (chosen by 38% of respondents); inadequate regulation of the money political parties spend on their election campaigns (38%), and foreign influence on UK election results (30%).

Only barriers to democratic participation for minority groups and intimidation of candidates that stand for election were lower priorities for voters than voter ID (chosen by 22% and 18% of respondents respectively).

5. Questions remain about how voter ID requirements  would work for the whole country in a general election

Unable to draw any definitive conclusions from the trials on how voter ID would work if rolled out nationally, the Electoral Commission highlighted three areas for further consideration: any scheme should clearly deliver improved security; it should ensure accessibility for all voters, and any ID scheme should be realistically deliverable at a national level, taking into account the resources required to administer it. Though most voters were able to vote on 2 May in the pilot areas, some of them were not. The disproportionate effect requiring voter ID has on certain communities in particular, as shown above, and the restrictions on where and when free local elector cards can be obtained are further evidence that current ID requirements are not accessible for all voters.

Though electoral administrators were satisfied with how the pilots were administered and didn’t find them to have been too resource- and time-intensive, the setting in which the trials were conducted is highly dissimilar to that of a typical general election – which is likely to attract higher numbers of voters from much more heterogeneous demographics.

Mandatory voter ID – particularly in a polity such as the UK with no universal, free or cheap access to ID cards – poses a risk to democratic access and equality which far outstrips the levels of personation at the ballot box and the slight increases in perceptions of polling station voting being free from fraud or abuse.

We should be focusing on addressing voters’ concerns – low turnout, media bias, financial interference in elections, among many others – not on preventing voters from exercising their democratic right to vote.

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Note: The above was first published on Democratic Audit. Photo by Dom J from Pexels.

About the Author

Michela Palese is Research and Policy Officer for the Electoral Reform Society.

 

 

Boris Johnson’s double Donald dilemma

LONDON — For Boris Johnson, the G7 will be a tale of two Donalds.

The new U.K. prime minister flies into Biarritz Saturday lunchtime, determined to show the world Britain has its mojo back. The centerpiece of his weekend is a meeting first thing Sunday with Donald Trump. Hours later, Johnson will come face-to-face with Donald Tusk.

“My message to G7 leaders this week is this: The Britain I lead will be an international, outward-looking, self-confident nation,” Johnson said in his pre-summit statement. Those who think Brexit — even the no-deal Brexit he is prepared to enact in just 10 weeks’ time — means the U.K. retreating from the world are “gravely mistaken,” he added.

If the Trump meeting is likely to be hailed by Johnson as an exemplar of the U.K.’s new place in the world, the Tusk one will be a reminder of the fractious Brexit process he needs to navigate before he can pursue that agenda with gusto.

In truth, neither head-to-head will be easy. While in style Johnson might appear to share the straight-talking rambunctiousness of his North American ally, in substance many of the prime minister’s policy positions remain closely aligned with those of his continental counterparts. Play too nicely with one and he risks antagonizing the other — or worse still, being stranded, lonely in the middle.

European Council President Donald Tusk | Frederick Florin/AFP via Getty Images

Trump might talk up his good relations with Johnson, choose the prime minister as his first bilateral of the summit and discuss the agenda with him by phone beforehand, and Johnson may enjoy sharing the limelight with a U.S. president, but the two countries are far apart on key foreign policy questions, particularly on Iran and climate change. Regarding a new U.S.-U.K. trade deal, despite public confidence, officials in London are under no illusions about the serious hurdles that need to be overcome.

As for Tusk-Johnson, the European Council president said in February said there is a “special place in hell” for those who championed Brexit without a plan to carry it out. Most thought he was referring to Johnson, the champion of the 2016 Vote Leave campaign, who was then a backbench MP opposing Theresa May’s Brexit deal.

As fellow leaders, their diplomatic relations haven’t been much more cordial. This week, Tusk responded to a letter from Johnson requesting that a key pillar of May’s deal — the Northern Ireland backstop — be removed, by effectively accusing the U.K. prime minister of wanting to reimpose a hard border on the island of Ireland.

And despite some warm words and mixed messages from Emmanuel Macron and Angela Merkel this week, a new deal before October 31 that could avert an economically disruptive, crashout Brexit still looks unlikely, and Johnson knows it.

“I want to caution everybody, OK? Because this is not going to be a cinch, this is not going to be easy. We will have to work very hard to get this thing done,” he told broadcasters on Friday. No wonder then that the other message Johnson intends to convey to Tusk on Sunday, according to officials, is that the U.K. really means it (this time) when it says it will leave with no deal.

Looking both ways

The paradox of Boris Johnson’s G7 agenda is that while the Trump meeting is at its heart, his other key messages could hardly sound more different to those of the U.S. president.

A convinced advocate of global action to combat climate change and protect the environment, the U.K. prime minister joined French President Emmanuel Macron in advance of the summit in highlighting the seriousness of the “heartbreaking” Amazon rainforest fire.

On Russia, he opposes Trump’s wish to invite President Vladimir Putin back into the G7 fold, and on perhaps the most pressing foreign policy issue on the summit agenda — Iran — he stands with France and Germany.

U.K. officials indicated in advance of the summit that there is no change in the U.K.’s support for the nuclear deal, and that London, despite the change of leadership, is still not supportive of the U.S. “maximum pressure” on Iran strategy.

New Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab is, one official said, more inclined to a hard-line stance on Iran than his predecessor, Jeremy Hunt (Johnson’s vanquished leadership rival), but the overall direction of U.K. foreign policy — on this and much else — has not radically changed.

This much was clear from Johnson’s pre-summit statement.

“We face unprecedented global challenges at the very time when public trust in the institutions designed to address them risks being undermined,” he said. “International tensions and new trade barriers are threatening global growth. Violence and conflict are trapping countries in poverty, depriving children, and particularly girls, of the universal right to education. Climate change is accelerating the devastating and unprecedented loss of habitats and species.”

It’s not a pitch tailor-made to appeal to Donald Trump.

Nor will the two leaders necessarily find an easy path to a new trade deal between their countries. In private, U.K. officials recognize the difficulties involved in securing a post-Brexit trade deal with the U.S. — namely ensuring protection for U.K. farmers and the NHS, while persuading Washington to open up the U.S. market to the U.K.’s services firms.

Boris Johnson (L) and U.S. President Donald Trump greet before a meeting on United Nations Reform at UN headquarters in New York on September 18, 2017. | Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images

Talk of a series of mini-deals, promoted by Trump’s National Security Adviser John Bolton on a recent visit to London, is not considered viable in London, and Downing Street is downplaying any suggestion of a timetable for negotiations emerging from the Trump-Johnson meeting.

“The prime minister and president have both repeatedly expressed their commitment to delivering an ambitious U.K.-U.S. free-trade agreement and to starting negotiations as soon as possible,” a Downing Street spokesperson said.  “Of course we want to move quickly, but we want to get the right deal that works for both sides.”

Johnson’s real fight back home

And then, of course, there’s Brexit.

Angela Merkel’s suggestion on Wednesday of a 30-day timetable to find a solution briefly raised hopes in the U.K. that the EU might climb down from its refusal to countenance a reopening of the legally binding Withdrawal Agreement struck with May.

However, EU officials have been clear that there has been no change of position and that it is still up to the U.K. to come up with what Tusk on Monday called “realistic alternatives” to the Northern Ireland backstop plan.

While Macron hinted on Thursday at more talks led by the EU chief negotiator Michel Barnier, the EU has not dropped its insistence that the backstop stays in the Withdrawal Agreement.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson | Dan Kitwood/Getty Images

As Merkel in particular emphasized, the non-legally binding Political Declaration on the future relationship between the U.K. and the EU — the second element of the Brexit deal — can be changed, and Barnier is authorized to start talking about that. But without changes to the Withdrawal Agreement the U.K. won’t be at the table — so deadlock looks likely to persist.

EU leaders also have half an eye on Johnson’s home front. MPs return to parliament in little over a week’s time, and opposition parties and Conservative rebels are expected to fight tooth and nail to block Johnson from taking the U.K. out of the EU on October 31 without a deal. While it is not yet a public position, many government officials are convinced Johnson will seek an election to prevent the House of Commons — where he has a majority of one — standing in his way.

For now, that is where Johnson’s real fight lies, and until he wins it, his fellow G7 leaders will be justified in wondering how long his tenure as a member of their exclusive club will be.

David Herszenhorn and Gaby Orr contributed reporting for this article.

Nearly half of UK voters back no-deal Brexit and no PM Corbyn, poll finds

Almost half of British voters would prefer the country to leave the European Union without a Brexit deal and Labour’s Jeremy Corbyn not to become prime minister, according to a YouGov poll.

When asked to choose between that scenario and one in which Corbyn becomes the country’s next leader and holds a second referendum on Brexit, just over a third backed the option that could see Britain remain in the EU.

Nearly one in five people said they remain undecided.

The poll represents a setback for Corbyn’s plan to create a cross-party coalition to fight the government’s plan to leave the EU with or without a deal on October 31.

The Labour leader is trying to convince others to call a no-confidence vote in Boris Johnson, the country’s current prime minister, and install Corbyn as the U.K.’s interim leader until a new general election can be called.

Corbyn on Saturday reiterated his intention to lead a caretaker government if Johnson is ousted. “I am the leader of the Labour Party, Labour is the largest opposition party by far. That is the process that must be followed,” he told ITV News.

“We will do everything we can to stop a no-deal Brexit,” Corbyn added, stating: “What we need is a government that is prepared to negotiate with the European Union so we don’t have a crash-out on the 31st [October].”

According to the YouGov poll, Brits are still against a no-deal Brexit, with 49 percent agreeing that would be an unacceptable final outcome, versus 38 percent of respondents that found it acceptable.

More people polled were in favor of accepting the deal negotiated with the EU than were against.

The YouGov poll also suggested Brexit-supporting voters were more united than those who would prefer the U.K. to remain in the 28-country bloc.

Four out of five Brexit supporters told the polling company they would support a no-deal Brexit with Corbyn not becoming the next prime minister, while only 64 percent of voters who wanted to remain in the EU want the Labour leader to take over as prime minister and call a second Brexit referendum.

Almost a quarter of voters who voted to remain in the EU during the 2016 referendum would prefer to see the U.K. leave the bloc instead of Corbyn taking over as the country’s next leader, according to YouGov.

The poll of 1,968 people was conducted on Thursday and Friday.

Backbench UK MPs balk at plans to stop Brexit

Up to 15 Labour and independent British politicians may block attempts to delay or stop Brexit, making it tough to stop London from pushing ahead with leaving the European Union on October 31, according to analysis by The Sun.

The British newspaper said a number of Brexit-leaning lawmakers, including Labour MP Kate Hoey, would not support cross-party plans to take a no-deal Brexit off the table.

That could make it difficult for efforts by Jeremy Corbyn, the Labour Party leader, to create a coalition of like-minded politicians to topple the current government and call for a general election to postpone Brexit.

“Like all other Labour MP’s I fought on a manifesto in 2017 to respect the referendum vote,” Hoey wrote on Twitter. “Any action taken now to stop us Leaving on October 31st by Labour is a knife in the back of the majority of Labour constituencies who voted to Leave.”

The growing political uncertainty comes as Sadiq Khan, the London mayor and a senior Labour official, called on Jo Swinson, the leader of the Liberal Democrats, to back Corbyn’s plan to halt a no-deal Brexit. Swinson had said she would not support a Corbyn-led plan to call a no-confidence vote in Boris Johnson, the U.K.’s prime minister, and install the Labour leader as interim prime minister until a new election could be called.

“The Liberal Democrats’ continued insistence that Jeremy Corbyn could not lead this potential unity government is now the single biggest obstacle to stopping no deal,” Khan wrote in a letter to Swinson, according to the Guardian.

As expectations mount that British voters will be called upon to resolve the political impasse through a general election, Sajid Javid, the country’s chancellor of the exchequer, said he would likely simplify the U.K.’s tax system when he announces his budget later this year.

Johnson, the U.K. leader, promised to lower people’s taxes during his prime ministerial campaign, and Javid reiterated that changes to the country’s tax system were likely on the cards.

“It wouldn’t be any surprise that I think taxes should be efficient,” the U.K. lawmaker told The Times. “We want to set them at a rate where we are trying to maximise revenue, and that doesn’t always mean that you have the highest tax rate possible.”

Former Tory MP Sarah Wollaston joins Lib Dems

Sarah Wollaston, a former U.K. Tory MP who quit the party to fight against a no-deal Brexit, joined the Liberal Democrats Wednesday.

Wollaston, who became the Lib Dems’ 14th MP, said in a statement she believed joining the party was the best way to represent her constituency of Totnes, which narrowly voted to stay in the EU in the 2016 referendum.

The GP, who herself voted Remain but pledged to commit to delivering Brexit after the referendum, said her job had played a role in her decision.

“As a doctor for over twenty-four years, I try to base my decisions on evidence, and as that emerges, to be open to changing course,” Wollaston said. “As the economic facts unfolded, I found myself unable to support a version of Brexit with consequences that I know would hurt so many individuals, businesses, families and communities.”

Wollaston initially quit the Tories to join The Independent Group (now known as ChangeUK) in February, but left the group in June to become an independent. Wollaston said in her statement she would be more effective if she was a member of a party rather than continue on on her own.

“We are now entering the final weeks to prevent the dire consequences of the PM’s ‘do or die’ approach to Brexit,” she wrote. “Preventing that harm will take unprecedented cross-party working and my in-box has been full of messages urging me to be part of a Remain Alliance which I will be doing through joining the Liberal Democrats.”

Wollaston’s move came as Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn made a formal offer to MPs from across the political divide on Wednesday to back his bid to seize power from Prime Minister Boris Johnson and block a no-deal Brexit. In a letter to the SNP, Lib Dems, Plaid Cymru, Greens and four senior Tory backbenchers, Corbyn urged them to back a no-confidence vote in the PM and support his caretaker government. He promised to then secure an extension to the Article 50 Brexit process and call an election, in which Labour would campaign for a second referendum with an option of staying in the EU.

This article is part of POLITICO’s premium Brexit service for professionals: Brexit Pro. To test our our expert policy coverage of the implications and next steps per industry, email [email protected] for a complimentary trial.

Jeremy Corbyn seeks help to block no-deal Brexit

LONDON — U.K. Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn launched a plea Wednesday, urging fellow opposition parties to back his bid to seize power from Boris Johnson and block a no-deal Brexit, but faced immediate attacks from his would-be allies.

In a letter to party bosses and other senior backbench MPs, Corbyn said he would “seek the confidence of the House [of Commons] for a strictly time-limited temporary government.”

He promised to secure an extension to the Article 50 Brexit process and call an election, in which Labour would campaign for a second referendum with an option of staying in the EU.

But his continued refusal to fully support overturning the 2016 referendum results altogether drew the ire of the party leaders he wrote to.

Prime Minister Johnson has vowed to take the U.K. out of the EU, deal or no deal, by October 31 and has refused to rule out ripping up constitutional norms to do so.

Anti-Brexit parties are reportedly set to meet on Thursday to discuss how to maximize their support across the country.

MPs have been mulling routes to block him, including the option of defeating his administration in a vote of confidence and then forming a cross-party government of national unity.

Corbyn wrote to the Westminster leaders of the Liberal Democrats, the Scottish National Party, Plaid Cymru and the Green Party, which are all supportive of a second EU referendum, urging them to back him as a temporary premier after a vote of no confidence.

He also wrote to Tory backbenchers Dominic Grieve, Oliver Letwin, Nick Boles and Caroline Spelman, who have been plotting to block a no-deal departure.

The Labour leader said their priority “should be to work together in parliament to prevent a deeply damaging no-deal being imposed on the country, denying voters the final say.”

Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson said Corbyn is “not the person who is going to be able to build an even temporary majority in the House of Commons” | Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

“This government has no mandate for no-deal, and the 2016 EU referendum provided no mandate for no-deal. I therefore intend to table a vote of no confidence at the earliest opportunity when we can be confident of success,” Corbyn wrote.

But Lib Dem leader Jo Swinson said Corbyn is “not the person who is going to be able to build an even temporary majority in the House of Commons for this task.”

“I would expect there are people in his own party and indeed the necessary Conservative backbenchers who would be unwilling to support him. It is a nonsense,” she added.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said he would work with the Labour leader but said the party “needs to get off the fence on Brexit.”

Liz Saville Roberts, the Westminster leader of Plaid Cymru, welcomed the proposal of a national unity government but blasted Corbyn for committing to a general election first over a second Brexit referendum.

SNP Westminster leader Ian Blackford said he would work with the Labour leader | Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

“His approach seems to be driven by the fact that Labour know their current frontbench cannot command the confidence of the House of Commons,” she said in a statement.

She was echoed by Green MP Caroline Lucas, who said “the proposal from the Labour leader does not guarantee that the people are given the final say on Brexit.”

“Holding a general election before a People’s Vote is the wrong way around,” Lucas added.

In what appeared to be a pre-emptive response to the appeal from Corbyn, Johnson earlier on Wednesday accused him of wanting to “cancel the referendum and argue about Brexit for years.”

He said on Twitter: “I am committed to leading our country forward and getting Britain out of the EU by October 31.”

A Downing Street spokesman said there is a “clear” choice: “Either Jeremy Corbyn as prime minister, who will overrule the referendum and wreck the economy, or Boris Johnson as prime minister, who will respect the referendum and deliver more money for the NHS and more police on our streets.

“This government believes the people are the masters and votes should be respected, Jeremy Corbyn believes that the people are the servants and politicians can cancel public votes they don’t like.”

Anti-Brexit parties are reportedly set to meet on Thursday to discuss how to maximize their support across the country.

This article is part of POLITICOs premium Brexit service for professionals: Brexit Pro. To test our our expert policy coverage of the implications and next steps per industry, email [email protected] for a complimentary trial.

UK MPs rewarded for failure with post-election payouts

LONDON — British MPs worried — in some cases almost certain — that they will lose their seat in a general election have an incentive to stand anyway: lots of cash.

With the major parties on a war footing for an election that could come as soon as the day after October 31 — when Boris Johnson has promised the U.K. will leave the EU, “do or die” — a host of lawmakers face an uncertain future. But the humiliation of losing their seat could be soothed by a redundancy payment that’s double the statutory payout given to members of the public who lose their jobs.

While there’s no suggestion that any MPs are standing just to get the money, the choice facing them is clear: Quit before the election and get nothing; or stand, and if they fail to get reelected, get a check. It’s been called a “perverse incentive” to contest elections.

Frank Field, who resigned from the Labour Party last year after almost 40 years as the MP for Birkenhead in the northwest of England, announced earlier this month that he would stand at the next general election.

The 77-year-old chair of the work and pensions select committee has formed a new party, Birkenhead Social Justice, to fight a seat that had a Labour majority in 2017 of more than 25,000 votes.

“At a time when distrust in politics is running high, it seems odd that defeated MPs can get double the maximum redundancy available to ordinary voters” — Willie Sullivan, senior director at the Electoral Reform Society

If the people of Birkenhead choose the new Labour candidate over Field, he would get a £31,500 “loss of office” payment, plus up to two months of his MP salary (worth £13,244) for the time spent winding up his office and any other administrative tasks needed to be done.

With the political climate being so volatile, the Independent Parliamentary Standards Authority (a House of Commons watchdog that makes the redundancy payments) could be writing a number of checks.

IPSA rules say that MPs who have served for at least two years and lose their seats get double the statutory redundancy pay that members of the public get, as well as the two-month salary allowance, plus winding-up expenses for staff or removal costs.

Statutory redundancy is calculated based on age and the number of years a person has held a job, up to a certain limit. Field’s payout would be the maximum possible for an MP.

Change UK leader Anna Soubry is one of several politicians who are in line for redundancy payments in the event that they fail to win reelection | Chris J Ratcliffe/Getty Images

Willie Sullivan, a senior director at the Electoral Reform Society, a pressure group, said it is right that MPs put out of a job are compensated like any other public servant, “particularly if we want to see more diversity in politics.”

He added: “However, while there is no evidence the current situation is being abused, clearly it will need to be reassessed if there is a perverse incentive for MPs to always re-stand even if they do not wish to win.”

“At a time when distrust in politics is running high, it seems odd that defeated MPs can get double the maximum redundancy available to ordinary voters. There are many reasons people feel disenchanted, including a feeling of ‘one rule for us, another for them.’”

Independents’ fears

Independent MPs might seem at risk — for having left a party and for being away from the election machines of the Tories and Labour — but they could still hold on.

Joe Twyman, co-founder and director at Datapoll, pointed to research showing that “old, tribal loyalties to parties are not what they once were thanks to Brexit,” with more people ready to vote along Leave/Remain lines.

“That could mean that in certain circumstances, MPs who have switched to become independents could hold on depending on the constituency profile and indeed their own position,” he said.

“In normal circumstances you would expect an independent candidate to get absolutely nowhere at a general election” — Joe Twyman, co-founder and director at Datapoll 

Twyman said that Field — a pro-Brexit candidate in a pro-Brexit constituency he has represented since 1979 — “stands a very good chance of holding on.”

“Frank Field is the obvious example because he’s been in so long and his margin of victory [in 2017] was so large,” he added. “For the other candidates it’s more difficult.”

Other new independents are yet to confirm whether they will stand again.

Ex-Labour MPs Ian Austin (Dudley North), Ivan Lewis (Bury South) and Angela Smith (Penistone and Stocksbridge) are in line for redundancy payments worth £21,500, £26,800 and £23,000 respectively, plus the two months of salary, if an election comes before the end of the year.

Their former colleagues Luciana Berger (Liverpool, Wavertree), Gavin Shuker (Luton South) and John Woodcock (Barrow and Furness) are all in line for £9,400.

Meanwhile, ex-Tory MP Heidi Allen (South Cambridgeshire) has racked up a £5,800 redundancy pot, while Nick Boles (Grantham and Stamford) has amassed £14,200.

Former Change UK then independent MP Sarah Wollaston joined the Lib Dems this week, but is highly unlikely to win her Totnes seat back. She would be due £14,200 in redundancy payments if she stands in the seat and loses.

Elsewhere, the MPs that make up the Independent Group for Change — the successor to Change UK, which performed dismally at the European Parliament election in May — are also facing possible defeat.

Former Labour MPs Mike Gapes (Ilford South) and Ann Coffey (Stockport) are in line for the maximum £31,500 loss-of-office payment if they stand in their existing seats and lose.

Change leader and ex-Tory Anna Soubry (Broxtowe) has built up a £14,200 redundancy pot, while former Labour MPs Chris Leslie (Nottingham East) and Joan Ryan (Enfield) have £12,600 and £6,300 waiting in the IPSA bank.

“In normal circumstances you would expect an independent candidate to get absolutely nowhere at a general election,” Twyman said. “Independents usually get about 100 votes and nobody pays very much attention to them.”

But, he added: “Obviously this is a different case because in a lot of instances what we are looking at are sitting MPs who are then running as independents or indeed as groups of independents or as minority parties and all that sort of thing.

“Even then you would expect them to have very little chance in normal circumstances, but these are far from normal circumstances.”

This article has been updated to reflect Sarah Wollaston’s new party affiliation.

This article is part of POLITICO’s premium Brexit service for professionals: Brexit Pro. To test our our expert policy coverage of the implications and next steps per industry, email [email protected] for a complimentary trial.

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