Elections bill is a dangerous assault on democracy – The Guardian
The Conservative government is attempting to rig elections in the party’s favour with the proposed changes, say readers
Last modified on Thu 9 Sep 2021 17.25 BST
The elections bill has been slipped into parliament while the nation is obsessed with care funding and the increase in national insurance contributions (Tory MPs call it reform, but the elections bill looks more like a heist, 8 September). Apart from a few Guardian articles, it has been virtually ignored by the media, the Labour party, the BBC and the rightwing press.
Yet an assault on democracy is much more important. Removing the independence of the Electoral Commission is a huge change to our constitution. Putting Michael Gove in charge of the rules for elections is mind-boggling. Introducing mandatory voter ID is unnecessary as there is no problem to fix. Changes to campaigning are aimed at constraining the Labour party and freeing up Conservative donors.
The bill should be rejected in its entirety, but this is unlikely to happen in the sheep-like Conservative-majority Commons. It might be fiddled with by the Lords, but the bill needs to be rejected.
Now is the time for the Queen to stand up for the democracy that she heads and to let the government know that she will not allow this bill to come into force.
When studying history in the 1960s, I was taught how our proud record of electoral reform created a liberal democracy that was the envy of the world. Even Benjamin Disraeli, a Conservative premier, introduced a radical reform bill extending the right to vote. Now, his successors want to turn back the clock. Through gerrymandering, they plan to restore “old corruption” that prevailed before 1832.
Once this bill has passed, the government will fear it is insufficient to prevent the opposition prevailing at the next election and is likely to introduce more repressive voter measures borrowed from the American Republicans and the past. How long before the Tories bring back the modern equivalents of Old Sarum? Voter suppression and rotten boroughs appear to be the future for our electoral system. Is it any surprise that the EU excluded this country from the Lugano convention, as it cannot be trusted to respect the rule of law?
Not surprisingly, there seems to be little protest about the anti-democratic proposals in the elections bill. Our government seems to be following the example of the US Republicans in doing everything it can to alter the checks and balances of the electoral process so that the result will be even more of a one-party state than it is already. I have heard nothing from Labour on this issue. Are there no Tory MPs who will put principle and moral right before self-interest? Or Labour members who will make themselves heard loud and clear from the rooftops?
Back in 1812, Elbridge Gerry, the then governor of Massachusetts, started it all off by redrawing district boundaries in his favour. “Gerry’s salamander” soon became “gerrymander”. Well, first the boundary commission unintentionally managed to gerrymander many of our parliamentary constituencies, which benefits the Tories, and now the Tories are seeking to gerrymander the electorate there as well.
North Hykeham, Lincolnshire
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