NATIONAL Voter Registration Day is here, a drive to get as many people on the electoral register as possible in time for the General Election. The cut-off is April 20.
Such an occasion, gives us an excuse to turn the clock back 20 years to recall Camden Council’s own headline-grabbing attempts to get more people on the roll.
Back in 1995, the Town Hall was widely mocked across the pages of the Daily Mail, and, to be fair, other newspapers as well for suggesting that it would be possible to register homeless people if they could list a regular park bench that they slept on.
“Labour-run Camden in North-West London yesterday admitted it was prepared to register people for voting if they ‘live in the open air and have a degree of permanence’,” the DM gleefully reported, a perfect chance to once more brand Camden as a a ‘loony left council’.
It went on: “The authority’s deputy electoral registration officer Barrie Lane said homeless people occupying a ‘park bench or the steps of a church’ would qualify as voters… Lawyer Judith Barnes, leader of Camden’s Conservative opposition, said: ‘My majority is 36. It won’t take many homeless to swing that away from the Tories.’
The paper went on to vox-pop homeless people and beggars around Camden Town, finding one who was “looking surprisingly healthy” and who had told them: “I came here after my boyfriend died from exposure and drink while we were sleeping in the park. Of course I can’t stay in the daytime, so I wonder how the council will deliver the ballot forms to me?”