Many of you have written to me about the Elections Bill, which had its second reading yesterday. I voted against this Bill. Unfortunately the government was able to push it through this stage, but I will continue to oppose such deeply troubling attempts to distort democracy for the Tories’ benefit.
By requiring photo ID to vote, this plan will lock millions of people out of democracy – in particular the elderly, low income and Black, Asian and ethnic minority voters. The Conservatives are reversing decades of democratic progress with this sinister policy.
It’s not just Labour saying this. This plan breaches UK human rights law, according to the cross-party Joint Committee on Human Rights.
An estimated 7.5% of the electorate – or 3.5 million people – do not have photo ID. Consider, for example, the cost of a passport (£85) or a driving licence (£43) and you will see why people on lower incomes are less likely to hold these forms of ID.
Voter ID is also a complete waste of taxpayers’ money. The policy is set to cost millions of pounds at every election, even though voter fraud is virtually non-existent in the UK.
Statistics show that voting is safe and secure in Britain. There have only been a handful of cases of voter impersonation over the last decade, compared to hundreds of millions of votes cast across multiple local, European and general elections.
Experience shows this is a terrible idea. The Republicans in the US have long been pushing similar policies, in an attempt to disenfranchise groups that generally vote Democrat. Just last year, US democracy suffered after Trump’s constant – and false – complaints of voter fraud. And in the UK, the Windrush scandal shows that when you force people to show ID to ensure their basic rights, many unjustly lose those rights.
I am heartened that so many people in Bristol West have written to me about this. People have fought and died for the right to vote. Attempts to undermine this should not be taken lightly.
As this Bill goes through the next stages, Labour and I will continue to fight the Tories’ attempts to undermine our democratic rights.