What should a party do when it's down substantially in the polls and staring at the opposition benches in the face? What do you do when you think some of your core vote is slipping away to fringe parties?
Easy, start making plans to make sure the election works in your favour to the best of your ability by fiddling with the rules and creating situations where the voters you don't have can't vote, and the ones you've lost won't be able to vote for someone else and split your vote.
That is the rather obvious reality of what the Labour Party appear to be planning when you read today's Times. It seems there is a "working paper" drawn up by the Ministry of Justice for the Treasury about cutting the cost of democracy, and within it are proposals such as closing polling stations earlier; scrapping some polling stations altogether; increasing the deposit; and changing the free distribution of one leaflet for all candidates.
The Government, of course, says that this is just an ideas paper and isn't policy yet, oh no. However it doesn't take a genius to realise that someone political is bound to have commissioned it, and the proposals themselves are rather blatantly designed to stifle the non-Labour vote and silence opposition of the fringe candidates who threaten to split their core vote.
For example, there is an idea to reduce the number of polling stations. Traditionally you have polling stations in your ward, but these ideas suggest making them further away. In rural parts of constituencies with large towns this will make voting a hassle for many, and impossible for some. What sort of voters live in rural areas? Couldn't perhaps be non-Labour voters could it? What about the elderly and infirm?
There is another suggestion of changing the opening length of the polling station. Very handy for those of us who live outside London and commute. The scrapping of polling cards and replacing them with email - because everyone has email and a computer right? Everyone, even the 70 year-old widow living alone on a meager pension!
Then there is a rather nifty idea of increasing the deposit for candidates. An excellent way to reduce the number of candidates on the ballots to only those from well-funded organisation. Handy if you're seeing your vote leak like a bucket full of holes to the BNP in former Labour strongholds. The best way to tackle the BNP is to make it harder for them to stand then they won't split your vote right?
Frankly it is incredible that this "working paper" even exists. So much for living in a democracy. Isn't it ironic too that such ideas would come from a governing party of whom many of its activists complained vehemently about the US presidential election of 2001 because people were restricted from going to the polls and voting papers were confusing?
They really are a bunch of shits.
Update: Jack Straw has now made a statement killing this "working paper".