This post is an updated version of my mass voter registration plan. I previously posted a rough version which was not as factual, although it did explain the problems with political defenses.
The problem & the solution
The City of London Corporation is a profoundly undemocratic local authority at the heart of world capitalism, which conducts lobbying for the biggest corporations, holds funds in secret and organises social functions for the 1%. Seizing control of it democratically will not end the problems caused by corporatism gone mad but it will be a body blow for the unfettered capitalists. It will also send a powerful message around the world – that the people in London are willing to declare that democracy must triumph over unfettered capitalism.
Our candidates should keep their manifestos very simple. There’s no need to work out a sophisticated plan to run the City. There isn’t one at the moment. In fact, no political candidates stand in City elections and many are elected by default (no-one stands against them). I propose a three point maninfesto, based on the demands of Occupy London:
- All City of London Corporation cash and other financial assets be published in full, along with all historical financial records
- Corporations be banned from voting in future elections – only humans can vote
- All lobbying conducted by the City of London Corporation be banned permanently
That wipes out most the offensive work done by the City of London Corporation and leaves its job restricted to the ordinary business of being a local authority. Since this is currently conducted without reference to any political principles, the 1% can hardly object to us continuing in the same manner. We could expect the people elected according to this basic plan to make other radical decisions. For example, I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Lord Mayor’s Banquet run on a very different basis – I’d like to see it run in the streets and everyone invited, not just the so-called great and good. Also there’s all kinds of stuff that could be sold off and the money donated to London’s poor (the charity Shelter springs to mind), for example that fancy golden carriage and there are also several buildings. However, the manifesto can remain simple and thus focused on the key demands.
One person one vote – that’s what democracy looks like. Corporations should not be given votes. The City of London Corporation claims that it gives representation to the 340,000 workers whose employment is in the square mile. That is an obvious lie because they do not have individual votes. Instead votes are given to companies according to their size and the allocation of the votes is left up to the company. The result is that elections in the City are skewed in favour of the corporations. In many wards, they hold the majority of the votes – that is not what democracy looks like.
Voters do not need to own property
Democracy does not place property restrictions on who can vote. Historically, the UK had these restrictions but they have been abolished. Their abolition and the grant of votes to women at the same age as men marks the beginning of our modern democracy.
Therefore, the homeless can vote. This principle is legally uncontroversial. The fact is that many homeless people do not vote because they have not registered to vote. Any homeless person can register to vote.
Freedom of movement
We have the right to move around freely. We also have the right to live anywhere we please. Practically speaking most of us wish to live in a home but we are free to be homeless wherever we want.
2nd place to live
We can have more than one home. The thieving Tory bastards have often have more than one home. Sometimes several. We too can have more than one place of residence. Our second place of residence need not be somewhere we own. It can be anywhere we call home. We can name any street, alleyway, park, green, or even a kerbstone as our second home.
Reclaim the City streets
I propose that we declare various City streets to be our 2nd homes. Obviously we’ll have to live there, a little bit. Thousands of us have shown that we’re perfectly capable of sleeping rough in the City. I was homeless myself between January and March 1998 and slept rough some of that time. It was grim. More recently I have spent quite a bit of time living in St Paul’s Churchyard in the encampment known as Occupy London Stock Exchange. That was easier. I’m prepared to spend some more nights on the City streets to make this plan work and I bet there are thousands of people who feel the same way. We don’t need to live on any one of these streets permanently – we just need to spend a bit of time there, just like the thieving Tory bastards may hardly ever visit their 2nd, 3rd, 4th or nth homes but can declare themselves to live there.
In view of the likely obstacles we’ll face from the City when we declare our home to be whichever street corner takes our fancy, we’ll have to spend a bit of time there and we’ll need to gather evidence to show that we have actually lived there. Here’s what you can do to gather the evidence necessary to establish that you live somewhere:
- work out what your new address is – this need not be an existing address. You are establishing it. Let’s say you live here – you might give your new address as ‘on the pavement immediately beside the Eastern Column at the entrance to Vinters Place, Upper Thames Street, etc.’
- have some post sent to your new address – if you don’t permanently reside at your new address you could inform Royal Mail that you will collect it in person because it is notoriously difficult to have post sent to homeless people who don’t have the benefit of the conventional letterbox
- register at the nearest GP with your new address
- register at the nearest dentist with your new address (if you can find one which takes on NHS patients – good luck with that)
- inform local religious figures that you consider the new address to be your home
- every time you visit your new home (night or day), buy a copy of The Times for that day (Judges love The Times) and photograph yourself in your new address holding the copy of the paper. Make sure that the photograph shows your surroundings so that you are identifiably in your new address. It’s hard to be sure how many times you will need to do this but I would have thought at least a monthly visit to your new home would suffice to establish that you are treating it as your home. Take some home comforts with you, e.g. a fold up chair, a sleeping bag, a table to put your feet up on etc.,
How to vote in the City of London Corporation elections
The lists of voters in the City are called Ward Lists because there are 25 wards in the City. No updates to the 2011-12 ward Lists can now be made. The next canvass for the Ward will take place between August and December 2011. To register to vote on the Ward Lists you need to complete a registration form during that autumn canvass period. The Provisional Ward Lists will be published from 30 November 2011 to 16 December 2011 and the final revised Ward Lists 2012/13 will be in force from 16 February 2012 until 15 February 2013.
The City of London Corporation website states:
“All residents who are citizens of Britain, the Republic of Ireland, the Commonwealth or other European Union member states, aged 16 or over (and will become 18 in the lifetime of the register, i.e. between 16 February one year and 15 February the following year) and who are residing in the property on the qualifying date (1 September each year) are entitled to be registered.”
This clearly implies that you have to live in a property. The registration form for the Ward Lists also implies that you have to live in a property. It is impossible to obtain a blank form, without your property address preprinted. However, since there is no requirement to own the property you live in, the pavement you choose as your second home can be the property you live in. Most likely it is owned by the City itself!
The City of London Corporation’s website says that you can register for a Ward List if you are also registered elsewhere so long as “you consider yourself to be resident at both addresses. You may vote at local council election for both addresses…”.
Receiving the registration form
Unsurprisingly, the City controls the distribution of its voter registration forms. They need to know where you live before they will send you a form. That may be fair enough but it does exclude homeless people without a postal address. If a homeless person resides on a street corner they may not be able to receive post there. However, as explained above you can make arrangements with the post office to collect your post, so that ought not to stop you from receiving the form
If the City decides yours is an invalid registration claim, it might just ignore you. It might threaten to prosecute you because it is an offence to give false information. It is important that you don’t give false information! Remember, you have decided to set up a second home in the City and spend a bit of time there. So long as you do this, you are not giving false information.
If you are sure that you have given true information and ought to be allowed to register on the Ward Lists but the City still refuses to recognise you, that is when you can turn to the law yourself. Please contact me if you have had your registration turned down. We can use the law too! I’ve got form for recruiting free lawyers to challenge City decisions and only two days after first posting this idea, others have contacted me to say that they too are interested. (Already there is a film maker on board.) In other words, it is early days and we will find the means to challenge the City if it refuses to accept homeless voters. I cannot see the High Court denying homeless people the right to vote in City elections.
Curiously, the City of London Corporation accepts homeless voter registration for the Register of Electors to all other elections which its residents are entitled to vote in – Parliamentary, European Parliamentary and Greater London Authority elections for the Mayor and London Assembly, and in any Referenda. All it asks is that you declare a local connection. You can download a form to make the declaration of the local connection. This registration does not entitle you to vote in the City elections. This discrimination may be open to legal challenge of itself – this is something which I will investigate. I’ll publish my research on the matter later on.
Given the timetable laid down by the City for voter registration, we’ve got a bit of time on our hands to organise this plan. I’ll be visiting the City again soon to conduct my own personal tour of all the streets. To seize control of the City we’ll need voters registered in all the wards – we need to win the elections right across the City. I’ll be walking around the City streets investigating where I want to set up my second home. Feel free to join me. I’m very very busy for the rest of this month and a little bit into the next so
I’ll be conducting Scrapper Duncan’s City Streets Tour on 6th February 2012, starting at Noon on the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral. I’ll spend the afternoon walking all the streets of the City and I’ll have ward maps with me, showing the boundaries of the wards, so that we can work out where we might set up our second homes.
[Update on 23rd January 2012: having been invited into one or two groups of activists who wanted to make this idea happen, I have now abandoned the idea. A mass voter registration scheme of this sort would be relatively easy for a political party to carry out but next to impossible for the activists of Occupy London - they lack the organisational capacity to carry forward a plan which will take years to fruition.]
Ward elections to elect the City’s 100 Common Councilmen are held every four years, with the most recent being held on 16 March 2009. Therefore, the next elections will be in 2013.
Existing Voter Numbers in the City
Since the last election, the City of London Corporation has held a review of the Wards. It is bent on concentrating the residential votes to four Wards. I’ve not had time this morning to discover the numbers of voters in each Ward as of now – I’ll come back to that. However, here are the figures at the time of the last election in 2009. These numbers do not reveal what proportions of the electorate in each Ward are corporate votes and what are human votes. Uncontested elections result in the candidates gaining office in default.
|ALDERSGATE||1423 (527 votes cast)|
|BASSISHAW||370 (171 votes cast)|
|BILLINGSGATE||359 (132 votes cast)|
|BREAD STREET||252 (104 votes cast)|
|BROAD STREET||575 (201 votes cast)|
|CASTLE BAYNARD||1664 (214 votes cast)|
|CHEAP||440 (169 votes cast)|
|COLEMAN STREET||784 (226 votes cast)|
|CRIPPLEGATE||2626 (793 votes cast)|
|FARRINGDON WITHIN||1497 (388 votes cast)|
|FARRINGDON WITHOUT||4349 (590 votes cast)|
|LIME STREET||350 (uncontested)|
|PORTSOKEN||852 (385 votes cast)|
|QUEEN HITHE||366 (uncontested)|
|TOWER||815 (229 votes cast|
Even allowing for all the corporate votes cast, these results reveal a miserable turnout of 18.5% of the electorate. The electorate in 2009 (corporate and human voters) had 22,340 votes. I propose that we recruit what the total possible votes is in each ward, to double the number of eligible votes per ward. It might seem like an ambitious number but remember 35,000 people joined in with Occupy London’s Facebook page, there are hundreds of thousands of people in Trades Unions and various lobbying groups who are no friends of the City can also muster large numbers. Whilst the cause is urgent, we’ve got a certain amount of time. Even assuming that we can’t recruit 22,340 people to become homeless in the City, we’ll be able to muster substantial numbers and are likely to be able to tip the City elections in favour of the simple manifesto above.
Incidentally, the City of London Corporation website claims that candidates tend to be independents. In fact, the Labour Party does stand candidates but doesn’t get them elected. Can’t think why.
Proportions of elected members to votes – corporate and human
The City of London Corporation points to there being a proportionality between the number of ‘voters’ in each Ward and the number of members of the Common Council which that Ward can elect. Although a review of Wards has just been completed, there’s no telling when the next one will be. Therefore, whilst theoretically we could all just register for St Paul’s Churchyard, we can’t guarantee that the Ward it sits in would have any increase in the number of members of the Common Council by the next election. Consequently it seems sensible to go with the plan above.
Keep everybody informed
We need to keep track of how many people are registering as homeless voters for the City of London Corporation elections, so that we can publicise figures about the City’s anticipated refusal of our voter registration attempts. To do that, we’ll need to keep everybody of informed of what we have all done. I’m investigating how to set up a website which will record who has tried to register where. It’s all very well and good using Facebook but that doesn’t collect statistics in any useful way. We need to know our strength of numbers, especially if we can win legal backing for our registrations – we need to know which wards we are strong in and which we are weak in. I will investigate how to set up such a website and report back.
This is personal
I’d like to point out that I am not trying to be in charge of everything here. That said, one lesson we have learnt from Occupy London is the need for some personal responsibility, to make action happen. I don’t own the idea of mass voter registration but I can be responsible for my own contribution. For me, the pernicious effects of the behaviour of the City of London Corporation make this a personal matter. I am personally involved and I am kickstarting the idea.
Everybody can join in
If you are interested in joining in, please watch this blog and come to my walking tour of the Ward on 6th February 2012, starting at Noon from the steps of St Paul’s Cathedral. That gives us plenty of time to organise our affairs so that we can move into the City boundaries. Some time this week, I’ll post a new page on this blog which explains the basic plan as it has developed. Please post your thoughts as comments on this post.