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Sir George Young raises the Save General Election Night campaign at Business Questions

Picture 2 36 hours after Labour MP and blogger Tom Harris tabled the Save General Election Night early day motion, and the Shadow Leader of the Commons, Sir George Young, has raised the matter at his first Business Questions in his new role.

He asked Harriet Harman:

"May we have a debate on early-day motion 2033? The early-day motion refers to general election night — an event that I hope will take place as soon as possible. It has attracted 126 signatures in three days and is a burning issue in the blogosphere. The gruelling marathon of election night specials, along with the imperative of not delaying the count, is as intrinsic to our democratic process as voting itself and an even older tradition than a Dimbleby presenting the coverage. Will the Leader of the House provide time for a debate so that the House can ensure that that tradition is not lost and that as many counts as possible take place when the polls close?"

Alas the Leader of the Commons was far from supportive, and instead she passed the buck to the Electoral Commission:

"The right hon. Gentleman talked about the campaign to save general election night. There is an early-day motion on that, which hon. Members have signed, but the count is, first and foremost, a matter for the Electoral Commission."

But I'm afraid the Electoral Commission has already itself passed the buck as well, as this letter sent out by its Chief Executive, Peter Wardle, to Returning Officers last month demonstrates. Despite saying that he was writing to "make clear the Commission’s position on this issue", he failed to take a robust position either way, leaving it entirely to Returning Officers by saying: "It is entirely appropriate for you to decide to count on Friday if you think this is necessary to ensure an accurate result."

But the campaign continues and we must keep up the pressure on ministers, the Electoral Commission and - possibly most importantly - individual Returning Officers around the country. So: MPs, please sign the Early Day Motion; councillors, please table a motion on the issue at your next full council meeting; and everyone who hasn't done so already, please join the Facebook group!

Jonathan Isaby


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