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The Government’s Elections Bill, and the threat to true democracy

 

After last week’s local elections, and the subsequent mass coverage of the telling results, one item that doesn’t seem to have been made apparent to everyone who cares about democracy is that these are the final elections where English voters will be able to turn up at polling stations and not have to show some form of officially sanctioned ID to actually vote. This will not, as yet, apply to the devolved countries of Wales, Scotland and Norther Ireland, but you can almost guarantee that they will fall in line once pressure is applied from Westminster.

 

Strangely (or not, if you understand that the majority of UK news sources don’t appear to be independent any more), the passing of the Government’s Elections Bill has not received any mass publicity, yet it is the most major change in the unwritten, uncodified democratic constitution in centuries, and instigated by a Conservative Party who continue to build on their isolationist policies. However, more worrying, is that opposition parties have as yet shown no opposition to the changes. There has always been a tradition of openness and trust in the electorate over the centuries, but this has now ended in preference, by Government, of the police state ‘show me your papers’ approach that was once despised by all in the so-called free world. Anyone remember Boris Johnson, when talking of British ID cards stating “I loathe the idea on principle. I never want to be commanded, by any emanation of the British state, to produce evidence of my identity… I will take that card out of my wallet and physically eat it.” Hopefully he will soon be choking on his chosen lunch.

 

Already, this ill-thought-out process will disenfranchise around two million people do not own the ‘right’ form of ID under the new law and will cost the taxpayer between £65 million and £180 million over the next decade, in a time of exploding costs of living. And, as to what seems the usual victims of such changes, low-income, older voters and some black, Asian and ethnic minority communities will be those hardest hit. And even the now growing young persons voting demographic will possibly find their what has been an accepted right will be hit, with the accepted forms of ID including passports, driving licences, Oyster 60+ cards, Older Person’s Bus Passes and Senior/60+ Smart Passes but not young persons’ railcards. And even with the first two versions of acceptable ID, passports and driving licences, it may not have escaped even the Governments notice that there are currently excessive delays at the DVLA and Passport Office. In fact, Johnson himself has taken both to task in recent weeks, yet he and his government are now expecting these agencies to take on extra work, with no funding, to satisfy the undoubted rush for documentation to ensure a vote. This will also filter down to local councils, who will be required to provide a ‘free’ (someone always pays, and, yes, you guessed it, once more it will be you via heightened local taxes) ID scheme under the new law.

 

What happens to those who don’t drive or go on holiday? No requirement for either a passport or driving licence, so be prepared for a visit to your local council offices to have your photo taken and then have your application for a ‘free’ ID countersigned by someone responsible, maybe at an additional cost to yourself. All this just to have what you already have for free. It’s almost like ‘they’ don’t want you to vote. In fact, when the House of Lords attempted to expand the list of acceptable forms of ID to forms such as debit/credit and union cards in the Elections Bill, the Conservative government opposed any changes.

 

Having done my own duty, and visited a polling station to put in my vote (for my local, successful Plaid Cymru candidate) it was noticeable that as opposed to past years, there was a definite dearth of people even attending the polling station in person. Another thought comes to mind surrounding the Bill. The requirement to show ID will only apply to those physically voting in polling stations, which will obviously encourage the use of postal voting. Strangely enough, 67% of those aged 70+ who used postal voting in the 2019 General Election voted Conservative according to YouGov. It’s almost as if the government are trying to influence voting levels by removing access to those who oppose them. Not that I’m suggesting that this is a tactic they would use, of course…..

 

The Elections Bill appears not to be about stopping people from voting twice – but stopping them from voting even once. Is democracy dying in plain sight?

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