This week the government confirmed plans to introduce into the Commons its proposals for how we vote in elections.
And these changes could end up being hugely damaging. Because in my view they’re designed to stop people voting.
The main proposal is to make people show photographic ID when they vote, such as a passport or driving licence. It turns on its head the centuries old practice where people can just turn up to vote and don’t need to prove who they are.
The government think it will stop voter fraud. But here’s the thing: there really isn’t any voter fraud in Great Britain. Out of the many millions of votes cast in 2019, there was one conviction for fraud, and fewer than ten cases actually went to trial.
So why are they doing it? I reckon it’s because the Conservative government has made a political calculation that most people who vote for them will have a form of photographic identity. But most people who don’t have a form of identity will be more likely to vote for another party.
This is the kind of thing that Donald Trump and his supporters were up to in the USA, and there’s a name for it: voter suppression: stopping people from registering to vote or actually voting, making it as hard as possible to vote, in order to minimise your opposition and enhance your chances of winning.
The government trialled this in a few English council elections in 2018 and 2019, and over 1100 people were refused the right to vote because they did not have photo ID. What the studies could not tell was how many folks did not get as far as the polling station in order to be turned away, just not bothering because they knew they would be refused.
The government’s own figures show that two million people may not have the correct ID. They say there will be a scheme, which will cost £40 million, to give people a proof of ID card. But how many people will get this card at all, or at least in time to vote, when they lead such busy hectic lives?
Supporters of photographic voter ID point to Northern Ireland where this rule has been in operation for a few years. But that was in response to a specific problem of fraud. And it has affected turnout in elections there.
Photographic voter ID requirements are anti-democratic, dangerous and sinister. It’s about stopping people voting, plain and simple. It’s solving a problem that doesn’t exist. Most of all it is anti-British, and I fear it is coming to Chester soon