. Thatcher’s Poll Tax Gerrymander | London Progressive Journal
A non-partisan journal of the left.

Thatcher’s Poll Tax Gerrymander

Sat 31st Oct 2015

A slightly edited excerpt from Section 7.10 of the book “Lucky bastards of the United Kingdom”

‘The 24th Amendment (1964) to the Constitution of the United States reads:

Section 1: The right of citizens of the United States to vote in any primary or other election for President or Vice-President, for electors for President or Vice-President, or for senators or representative in Congress, shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or any state by reason of failure to pay the poll tax or any other tax.
Section 2: The Congress shall have power to enforce this article through appropriate legislation.”

‘When I met Clementine for lunch, he was exultant.
“We have got a really good system with the poll tax!” he told me.
“A flat head count tax on all adults over 18, unrelated to their ability to pay, has never seemed fair,” I commented. “It is also not a good method of collecting tax.”
“Who said it was just a method of collecting tax? That’s not what it’s meant to do! It will raise some taxes, sure, but that isn’t its main purpose.”
“What is it meant to do, then?” I asked
“Don’t you know your history? What is the 24th Amendment to the Constitution of the United States? For the last two centuries, poll taxes have never been about tax collection. A poll tax is about denying poor people the vote. The tax is intended to chase the poorest voters off the electoral register, and since the poor mainly vote labour, that will create a few crucial percentage points in favour of the conservatives.”
“You’ll never get away with that!” I was appalled.
“Oh yes we will!! It will be the biggest and most successful gerrymandering ever done in this country. In the United States, it is illegal to deny the vote to those who have not paid their taxes. Fortunately this country does not have a written constitution, so there is nothing illegal about denying poor people the vote.” He chuckled at the cunning of it all.
“Aren’t we lucky bastards in the United Kingdom?” I asked ironically. “No written constitution, so the government can do as it likes!”
“Yes, we are lucky bastards,” Clementine said in a measured way.
“Even if you do get away with it, it won’t give you enough seats to matter!” I suggested. “It never surprises me that politicians behave badly, but I am always astonished they do so for such little advantage!”
“How many more seats does a 1% swing produce?” Clementine asked.
“One percent? Six seats?” I suggested.
“And you are the mathematician here,” Clementine mocked me. “In a first-past-the-post system, the share of seats in parliament, if I remember right, is proportional to the third power of the fraction of the vote. So a 1% swing might produce a 10% increased or decreased share of seats. The conservatives may win the next election, and nobody will understand why!” Clementine was clearly more interested in giving me an appreciation of his party’s cleverness, in the hope I might admire that, rather than a justification of its morality.
“Your party will never get away with it. The British press may not be much good, but they will see through this ruse. They will find out what you are doing,” I said hopefully.
“They’ll approve, the ones who understand it,” said Clementine. “And they wouldn’t oppose us anyway. All of the British press are our supporters! Their support is guaranteed, whatever we do.”
“Not all the newspapers support the conservatives!”
“All of the important ones do!” he cried.
“That’s another of your daft definitions. If I point out that say, the Guardian newspaper does not support the conservatives, or that the Independent is neutral, you will just say they are unimportant.”
“Don’t quibble — you know what I am saying is true. There are other advantages to this poll tax. The government wishes to control and reduce the incomes of local authorities, which are mainly left-wing anyway, but it isn’t politically acceptable to do that openly. The poll tax will be so difficult to collect from the poor that the tax will act as an effective cut in income to the poorest boroughs in Britain. It will force a reduction in local authority activities and incomes where there is most poverty. The poorer they are, the more they lose! The poll tax will force left-wing local authorities into prosecuting the poor non-payers within their electorates, alienating their supporters by doing that and eroding their own power bases. What a neat system!”
“It sounds like another twist in the hellish downward spiral of British society.”
“Now you know there’s no such thing as society,” Clementine joked with a smile.
“Isn’t gerrymandering illegal?” I asked.
“It isn’t if you don’t get caught. And we will go on and on and on about how the poll tax is a fairer method of raising taxes. It’s completely unworkable, of course, and the legislation will probably have to be repealed. But it will fix the next election for us, and it will be the devil’s job for anybody ever to get the electoral register up to date again.”
Clementine telephoned me about a week later to say that he had been joking.
“These things I said about the poll tax being a gerrymandering device — they were not true!” he said. “I was only joking! I was surprised you took it so seriously! The poll tax really is a tax-raising device!”
“I have checked what you told me,” I advised him. “Your previous assertion is more convincing than this subsequent denial!” He cursed to no purpose.
“Why does it matter?” I asked him. He did not answer, but said:
“You can bloody well believe what you like!”
“Tell you what — I’ll look at what the poll tax does, rather than what you now say it is for. I’ll base my beliefs on the evidence of the effects of the poll tax. Okay?” He grumbled for a minute or two, then appeared to accept that.’


Endquote. The Poll Tax Gerrymander gave the UK an unforecast by pollsters 4th Conservative victory and the undistinguished government of John Major.

The IER Act 2013 Coalition gerrymander has given the UK the extreme right wing Cameron Conservative Government after the 7 May 2015 General Election. See https://medium.com/@georgetaitedwards/a-gerrymandered-election-and-a-flawed-mandate-6164fb125950 and https://medium.com/@georgetaitedwards/what-if-david-cameron-is-a-gerrymandering-idiot-a2aa15377fe.

What the Coalition Government did is summed up in one sentence from the above reference: “The Coalition Government could not easily pass a legal act forbidding non-conservative voters the vote — that would make its intentions far too clear — so under Cameron’s leadership it did what was apparently considered as the “next best” thing — slicing away at the democratic foundations of the British state by using the 2013 IER to disenfranchise mainly non-Conservative voters — the poor, students, the black and middle east (BME) communities, women (who have borne the brunt of the financial cuts so far), relocating voters, tenants, and those dependent on benefits.”

© George Tait Edwards 2015

George Tait Edwards has written a book on this subject called ‘’How David Cameron Fixed The 2015 General Election And Much Else’’ which is available at:

Also see the soutce of the quoted book http://www.lulu.com/gb/en/shop/george-tait-edwards/lucky-bastards-of-the-20th-century/paperback/product-21958236.html

George Tait Edwards has written a book on this subject called ‘’How David Cameron Fixed The 2015 General Election And Much Else’’ which is available at:


You must be logged in to post comments on the site or you can use Facebook above.