Emily Thornberry Labour MP for Islington South and Finsbury
Thank you for your email about the Elections Bill.
The most important principle in a democracy is that every citizen has the right to vote and that the state ensures that everyone has the right to a say. The Elections Bill is the opposite of that. It is deeply undemocratic.
Many of my constituents are rightly concerned about this proposed piece of legislation, notably because it seeks to introduce voter ID and change the powers of the Electoral Commission.
Voter ID is a discriminatory policy that will do nothing to encourage the 9 million people who are already missing from our Electoral Register to register to vote. If anything, the government should be tackling that disenfranchisement by making it easier to vote, not harder.
This policy will particularly affect working class people, older people and people from minority ethnic backgrounds, as well as other groups of people in our society who surveys have shown are proportionately less likely than average to carry photographic ID.
It is especially grotesque that the government have imitated the Trump Republicans in the United States by dressing up this discriminatory policy as a necessary response to voter fraud, despite being unable to provide any evidence that voter fraud is a serious issue for our country.
I agree with my colleague, Cat Smith, Labour’s Shadow Minister for Democracy, when she said that “the Conservatives’ discriminatory voter ID plans threaten to reverse decades of democratic progress” and that “these plans come straight out of Trump’s playbook”.
You can be assured that Labour will continue strongly to oppose this policy.
In relation to the Electoral Commission, I find it quite extraordinary that the government intends to end the Commission’s power to prosecute politicians accused of corrupt practices, and it is especially concerning given the culture of crony contracts we have witnessed during the pandemic!
Removing the power to prosecute from the Electoral Commission would, as many people have pointed out, undermine our democratic system, but I’m afraid that is exactly what this Bill seeks to do. If the government’s Voter ID proposals are designed to keep them in power, these other changes are designed to give them impunity for what they do with that power.
There are a number of other concerns people have raised about other elements of the Bill, such as the proposals to scrap the ‘supplementary vote’ option in local mayoral and Police and Crime Commissioner elections, and again, the question we must ask is whether these proposals are strengthening our current democratic processes, or weakening them.
The Elections Bill has been sent to a Public Bill Committee and it is expected to report to the House by 3rd November. When it does, my Labour colleagues and I will continue to point out where and how this proposed legislation fails our democracy, and your continuing campaigning on the issue will be an invaluable support in that regard.
Thank you again for your email. If you have any other issues you would like to raise with me, you are welcome to get in touch.
The Rt Hon. Emily Thornberry MP
Islington South and Finsbury
Shadow Secretary of State for International Trade