Numerous people have written to me about the government’s attempts to undermine democracy. This sinister pattern includes attempts to ban protest, attack the media, undercut the judiciary, rig elections and illegally shut down Parliament to avoid scrutiny.
Yesterday was a big day for the democratic processes of the UK. Labour MPs and peers voted on two different pieces of legislation with far-reaching consequences on democracy.
Labour pushes back on Policing Bill
First, the government tried to push its Police Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill through the Lords last night. Labour peers managed to win significant victories that will help preserve democracy.
Labour voted against this legislation in the Commons. Among other reasons, it would criminalise protest while failing to address the very real problems in our justice system. I’ve written more about this here. It then went on to the House of Lords.
Last night Labour peers won 14 votes on aspects of the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill. This will force the government to think again about their priorities. One possible change is shifting the focus much more towards protecting women and girls from the current epidemic of violence.
Labour peers voted to make misogyny a hate crime. In another vote, Labour forced a review of ‘spiking’, in response to increasing worries that women are being drugged on nights out. Both these measures were supported by peers of all main parties.
Labour peers also successfully voted against several draconian measures that would restrict protest, including restrictions on noisy protests and measures that would allow police officers to search protesters but also other people in the area.
This is not the final word. The results of these votes will mean the amended parts of the legislation come back to the Commons for another series of votes, in a process called ‘ping pong’. However, the government will NOT be able to reintroduce in this Bill the amendments they introduced and were defeated in the Lords. They may choose to bring these in as another, separate Bill, but that does not seem likely this session.
Tories undercutting our democracy with the Elections Bill
The other series of votes were on the Elections Bill as it goes through the Commons. This Bill is a Trump-like attempt to rig public votes in favour of the Conservative Party. If made law, the legislation will reverse decades of democratic progress in the UK.
Among other things, this legislation will require voters to provide photo ID when they vote, something which would disproportionately exclude Labour voters. This is a total waste of taxpayers’ money, set to cost millions of pounds at every election.
In fact, voting is remarkably safe and secure in Britain, with cases of voter fraud almost negligible, as I’ve previously argued.
Other aspects of this Bill would undermine the independence of the Electoral Commission, change Mayoral voting systems in Tories’ favour and allow foreign money to pollute our politics.
I voted against this Bill, but the Tories managed to vote it through – it will now go to the Lords for further debate, scrutiny, challenge and amendment.
With both these Bills, the Tories are desperately trying to cling onto power by silencing dissent and restricting participation. I will always fight against these efforts.