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Post Gerrymandering in UK? How about Shirleymandering?
Created by John Eipper on 06/25/18 3:45 PM

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Gerrymandering in UK? How about Shirleymandering? (John Heelan, UK, 06/25/18 3:45 pm)

JE asked on June 24th: "Is Gerrymandering common outside the US?"

There was a famous case in Westminster (of all places) that became called the "Homes for Votes Scandal." 

Wikipedia reminds us that "following the election and fearing that they would eventually lose control unless there was a permanent change in the social composition of the borough, council leader Shirley Porter instituted a secret policy known as 'Building Stable Communities,' focusing on eight marginal wards where the Conservatives wished to gain votes at the 1990 local council elections... Eight wards were selected as 'key.' Secret documents showed that these were chosen for being the most marginal in the local election of 1986. Three: Bayswater, Maida Vale and Millbank had been narrowly won by Labour. St. James's, Victoria and Cavendish narrowly returned Conservatives. West End returned one non-Tory, an Independent. Hamilton Terrace saw its Conservative councillors electorally squeezed by the SDP.

"In these wards much of Westminster's council housing was slowly renovated and advertised for open-market sale, rather than re-letting when each unit became vacant. Much of this designated housing lay vacant for months or even years before sale. To prevent its occupation by squatters or drug dealers, these flats were fitted with security doors (installed and serviced by a major contractor at £50 per week per door).

"A second semi-secretive strategy was the removal of homeless voters and others who lived in hostels and were perceived less likely to vote Conservative, such as students and nurses, from Westminster. While this initially proved successful, other councils in London and the Home Counties soon became aware of homeless individuals and families from Westminster, many with complex mental health and addiction problems, making an unusual proportion of calls on services in their area. In public the Council claimed areas and the whole borough was subject to 'stress factors' in the economy leading to a fall in population, locally and overall in the City of Westminster.

"Based on the unfair political considerations, these eight wards took priority in high-visibility services for four years before the 1990 whole-council elections: from street cleaning, pavement repair to planting and environmental improvements.

"The City of Westminster Council Leader--Dame Shirley Porter (nee Cohen)--was fined heavily (see the case Porter v Magill) and escaped to Israel returning some 12 years later.

"The event became nicknamed 'Shirleymander.'" (See also "The Westminster cemeteries scandal," a British political scandal which began in January 1987 when Westminster City Council sold three cemeteries, three lodges, one flat, a crematorium and over 12 acres of prime development land in London for a total of 85 pence.)

Some people accuse the rescheduling of electoral boundaries for the next UK General Election as gerrymandering, as it appears to benefit Conservative candidates both on the island and constituencies on the near mainland.

JE comments:  There are numerous "-Gate" variants, for any type of scandal.  Now we have Shirleymandering in addition to Gerry.  Are there others?

Eighty-five pence for all that London property?  This makes Manhattan, at 24 bucks, seem exorbitant.

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  • Gerrymandering in Venezuela (José Ignacio Soler, Venezuela 06/27/18 4:55 AM)
    I never case to learn something new every day on the WAIS Forum. It is a source of inexhaustible ideas, historical facts, personal anecdotes, ideological debates, economic and political issues. Thanks to WAISers for the benefit.

    The latest thing I learned was the word "gerrymandering," new for me, a non-Anglophone by birth.  I was surprised and fascinated both by the meaning and its origin. First, I did not know there was a general concept to manipulate district boundaries to obtain political advantages in the electoral process, in countries where these practices are legally allowed. Second, I learned that the alleged origin of this word dates from 1812 and Massachusetts Governor Elbridge Gerry, who redistricted the state to benefit his Democratic party, and one of the resulting Boston districts resembled a salamander.

    Now to return to John E's question, "Is Gerrymandering common outside the US?"  Yes, at least it has been very common in Venezuelan elections for the last 20 years, during the Chávez and Maduro regimes. They have repeatedly used this corrupted practice to manipulate elections and to gain advantages through the results.

    JE comments:  Anyone who grew up in the US remembers the original political cartoon from the Gerry age.  The image was a staple of history and civics textbooks.  Ol' Elbridge would become Vice President briefly under James Madison.  He died in office in 1814.

    Many thanks, José Ignacio, for your kind appraisal of WAIS.  The Forum teaches me something every day, too.

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