Monthly column: Tories’ Elections Bill is voter suppression

Mohammad Yasin MP Image: Mohammad Yasin/Facebook

While the Government pours its energies into reputation management to save the Prime Minster, and the country is distracted and amazed at the scandals emerging from Downing Street, a monumental power grab, in the name of the Elections Bill was rammed through the Commons last week.

Huge changes to our constitution were rushed through in a blatant attempt to rig the next General Election in favour of the Tories, including forcing voters to produce IDs before getting a ballot paper in a polling station.

The Electoral Reform Society has argued that the government’s elections bill would drive a “bulldozer through our democracy” and could disenfranchise more than two million people across the country.

Voting is safe and secure in Britain. Ministers should be promoting confidence in our elections instead of spreading baseless scare stories which threaten our democracy.

Just 88 allegations of in-person voter fraud were made between 2015 and 2019, during which time a total of 153 million votes were cast, including at three separate general elections.
In 2019, there was one conviction and one caution relating to in-person fraud. And in 2017, there was a single allegation of impersonation that led to a conviction.

Voter ID is a total waste of taxpayers’ money, set to cost local authorities 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.

Make no mistake, this is about the disenfranchisement of voters traditionally less likely to support the Conservative party.

It doesn’t matter how the government tries to dress it up, these cynical plans, straight out of the Trump playbook, will have a discriminatory impact on certain groups who are less likely to hold any form of authorised photo ID, including people with disabilities, older and Black, Asian and ethnic minority people, unemployed people and low wage workers who may not have a need, or are able to afford a passport or driver’s licence.

It’s voter suppression.

The Bill also threatens the integrity of our democracy by allowing foreign political donations to flood our system. This is all about changing the rules to benefit the Conservative Party with overseas donors able to legally donate to bankroll their campaigns from their offshore tax havens or luxury second homes.

The Bill also undermines the ability of civil society organisations, charities, and trade unions – who do a great deal in this country to clean up the Government’s social vandalism, from engaging in our democracy.

The independence of the Electoral Commission is also undermined by the proposed laws which remove their powers to bring prosecutions against those who break electoral law relating to parties and campaigners.

Without an independent Electoral Commission, no one will prevent the Conservatives from pushing ahead their web of conflicts of interests, secret loans and cover-ups.

There is no evidence to justify this heavy-handed, authoritarian plan when we know the real threats to political integrity are foreign interference, unregulated lobbying and dodgy donations.

The Lords did a fantastic job last week defeating the Government on 14 amendments to the highly controversial Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill.

It’s hard to believe I even have to say this, but I will continue to work with all my Labour colleagues to fight for our long-held fundamental rights to peacefully protest and to vote freely without restriction.

This is a monthly guest column provided by
Bedford & Kempston Labour MP, Mohammad Yasin.
It is published unedited and does not reflect the
views of the Bedford Independent.

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