This Bill is undemocratic and is an underhanded attempt by the Tories to rig our democracy in their favour. If passed, the legislation will reverse decades of democratic progress in the UK and undermine the rule of law.
Firstly the Bill proposes the introduction of a Voter ID, which is a total waste of taxpayers’ money, set to cost millions of pounds at every election while the Government can’t seem to find the money to give our nurses a pay rise or fund services to tackle actual crime.This Bill will overburden already-underfunded local authorities who are woefully under-resourced due to years of Tory cuts and over stretched to deliver elections effectively.
It is also completely unnecessary as voting is proven to be safe and secure in Britain. Ministers should be promoting confidence in our elections instead of spreading baseless scare stories which threaten our democracy. I am seriously concerned that voter ID will in fact make it harder for working class, older and Black, Asian and ethnic minority people to vote. Millions of people in the UK lack any form of photo ID, and the Government has presented a very limited list of applicable ID. A survey by the Department for Transport found that 76% of the white population hold a driving licence compared with 52% of the Black population.
This is absolutely unacceptable and would act as a significant backwards step towards achieving fully equal elections. It is disgraceful that the Government would even consider implementing a policy that would have such a damaging impact on the legitimacy of our elections and suppress votes.
Furthermore the Bill aims to scrap the ‘15 year rule’, which would allow expats living outside the UK to vote regardless of how long they lived in the UK or crucially, whether or not they have previously been on an electoral register during their time in the UK. This is a blatant attempt by the Government to open a loophole in our donation law, giving rich Conservative donors’ unlimited access to our democracy. In one fell swoop, expats will be granted more flexibility in registering to vote than people who live in this country. If the Conservatives were serious about improving democratic engagement, they would extend the franchise to 16 and 17-year-olds as well as concentrating efforts on registering the millions of adults in this country not currently on the electoral roll.
Likewise the Tory’s Bill will politicise the independent democratic watchdog– a historically unprecedented move. By dictating the agenda of the Electoral Commission, the Conservatives are attempting to remove scrutiny and proper accountability. This goes against the idea of a free and fair election, and instead will allow the Government to mark their own homework. The Bill is also an attack on free and fair campaigning which will see significant changes to the legitimate role of non-party activist such as trade unions and charities. The rules in this section of the bill reduce flexibility for voters using postal and proxy voting. These pointless changes will make the process of voting more complex and bureaucratic, thereby turning people off bothering to vote. Ministers should be directing their energy towards changes which make voting easier, not putting up yet more barriers.
It is strikingly evident that this Bill will achieve the direct opposite of its advertised aim of strengthening democracy, instead it works only for the benefit of the Tory party. A national crisis on this scale should have been the time for central government to work with and empower local communities to bring the country together. But instead, the government are passing legislation which will erode our democracy further, centralise power in their own hands and take votes and power away from working people. Once again highlighting the complete discontent between the Government and the people. While they prioritise reforming the election system for selfish ends, they have ignored the real priorities found within the NHS, our Schools and local communities.
This Bill is an attack on our democracy and a disgraceful attempt to fundamentally undermine our democratic system for personal gain. While there certainly are real problems with our elections such as low voter turnout, and the influence of big money. This Bill will work to exacerbate these problems rather than solve them.
I will continue to press the Government to reconsider this proposal and will vote against this Bill at all stages in its current form. Thank you again for contacting me.