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Sunday, September 05, 2021

The Tory power grab

Controversy about the Tories Elections Bill continues to grow with the Observer reporting on an open letter from charities including Save the Children, independent campaign groups such as Greenpeace, and the trades union movement accusing the government of trying to rig future elections by stifling opposition and deterring participation.

The bill, which will confer new powers on Cabinet Office minister Michael Gove over the hitherto independent Electoral Commission, which oversees elections and regulates political finance:

The government says the bill has been drawn up to ensure “that UK elections remain secure, fair, modern, inclusive and transparent”. But its many critics says it amounts to a “power grab”, while doing nothing to stop big money donations.

One of the most controversial measures in the bill is that voters must show photo IDs before getting a ballot paper in a polling station at parliamentary and local elections in England – a move ministers say will improve the integrity of elections and prevent votes from being stolen. It proposes a broad range of photo IDs, such as passports or driving licences, will be allowed, as well as a free voter card available to those without any other form of ID.

Opponents insist, however, that cases of stealing another’s vote are rare and point out that huge numbers people who are less well off and less inclined to back the Conservatives do not have photo ID and will be put off, or prevented from, voting. The Electoral Reform Society, which opposes the voter ID move, has pointed out that “in the UK and US, the richer you are the more likely you are to have ID. Many citizens who can’t afford to go on foreign holidays don’t have passports, and those that can’t drive don’t have driving licences.”

In their joint letter, co-ordinated and backed by the civil society organisation Best for Britain, they say the bill will not only allow Gove to set the EC’s strategic priorities but will also allow him to unilaterally define campaigning and to ban campaigners and donors. It will also increase administrative burdens and potential risk for smaller organisations including charities, ahead of elections.

The letter, also signed by the TUC general secretary, Frances O’Grady, states: “The bill bestows unprecedented and unchecked power to government over elections. At a stroke, the minister could ban whole sections of civil society, including unions and charities, from engaging in elections either by campaigning or donating.”

It adds: “Giving control of the Electoral Commission to ministers opens it to abuse by the government, turning it into a tool which they could use disproportionately against opposition campaigners while ensuring their own side receives less scrutiny.

“It could also be used to deter organised opposition before an election is even announced, with ministers able to instruct the Commission to retroactively criminalise groups and individuals for action undertaken up to one year before an election that the minister for the Cabinet Office defines as ‘campaigning’.

“For example, activities undertaken before an election is announced are currently not considered electoral activity by the commission, but a minister could change that guidance so a group demonstrating for higher wages for NHS workers could be criminalised if a snap election is called six months later.”

We should not forget either, the report by Business Insider back in July, which revealed that this new law will make it much easier for British elections to be funded by tax exiles and non-domiciled Brits.

The bill would allow UK citizens who have lived abroad for more than 15 years to join the electoral register, giving them a lifetime right to both vote in and fund elections in the UK. Under the new rules, overseas voters would not have had to previously appear on any electoral register in the UK in order to vote or donate to political parties:

Since 2009, legislation has sat inactive on the UK's statute books that would forbid donations from non-domiciled UK citizens.

However, the law has never been brought into force, as the non-domiciled tax status of individuals is confidential and so cannot be verified by regulators or political parties, the Times reported in 2019.

British citizens living abroad can already make donations through UK registered companies that are ultimately owned offshore - and anyone can donate through shadowy unincorporated associations without checks. However, overseas voters currently have to re-register on an annual basis.

The governing Conservative Party accepted more than £1 million from UK citizens living in tax havens ahead of the 2017 general election through existing methods, the Times reported. The new law will remove these barriers.

This is blatant gerrymandering by the Tories and needs to be opposed.
To get round the problem of people with no ID we should encourage postal voting.One small way to get round this gerrymandering and inform the public of them being robbed by a Conservative ?? govnt.
The one area where there is evidence of electoral fraud is in postal voting, rather than in personation at the polling booth. The encouragement of postal voting would tend to increase the risk of fraudulent results.
> The bill would allow UK citizens who have lived abroad for more than 15 years to join the electoral register
A move that was of course resisted before the second EU referendum and the general election of December 2019.

Sorry you didn't like my previous comment, but it is your right and no complaints on that score.

However, I believe it is vital we understand why we got into this mess and a lot of it was because too many of us preferred to hope something would turn up while the party and its future chances were being destroyed from the inside, rather than face up to an unpleasant truth.

Now a much more unpleasant truth is having to be faced, but with our party totally unable to do anything about it, except talk a lot about how horrid it is and how we have the solution.

Quite simply we are in a very bad place, but just as with the Democrats will find over Afghanistan, there is nothing that can be done to put right past mistakes except build again, from the bottom up and maybe in thirty years’ time we may just get one more chance to make the same mistake again. In the meantime all we can do is try to make sure people understand and learn the lesson that Liberal Democracy has to be fought for, and not just participated in.

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