362.1 Elections Bill, 2021 | Scoins.net | DJS

362.1 Elections Bill, 2021


I've read much of the comment made in response to the articles listed below as [1-5]. Many comments miss the issue, conflate it with other issues, are just plain wrong, or so politically incensed by anything and everything that their comments are nonsensical. Among the remainder it is clear that some regard the loss of independence of the Electoral Commission as the bigger problem; that the result could too easily be that the party in power could make the rules be whatever suits them at the time and therefore this is an even larger power grab than at first thought. Others see the big problem to be retrospective illegality of campaigning, such that union action in the 12 months prior to an election could be declared illegal acts after the event – which, with the predicted scrapping of the Fixed Parliaments Act could easily put many unions at risk, such as all of us having a general strike in protest, such that there is then an election and that strike is then illegal - this is a nonsense that stinks. 

The face issue is that the Elections Bill purports to solve a problem that does not exist. It does nothing about improving the arrangements for votes at care homes, which one would think would improve Tory vote counts, and has nothing to do with personation, claiming to be another voter, which has trivial case numbers, like three. I've covered this elsewhere, and [5].

Another piece in the guardian today turns the question around somewhat, asking how the Tories would be reacting if it were Labour proposing this change. [2]

Two changes move election funding strongly from Lab to Con. Allowing long-term ex-pats to vote and donate describes the stereotypical Tory supporter and I have no doubt that where these votes are cast can also be manipulated to good effect. Conversely, new spending rules for non-party campaigners, describes the union support of the Labour party

Another provision in the bill would put further restrictions on the already heavily regulated area of campaigning by non-party groups such as trade unions, something that would be likely to disproportionately affect Labour given the party’s historic union links. It would mean that if Labour was campaigning jointly with a union or unions, any expenditure would have to be declared by all groups involved, both reducing the total amount available and creating significant red tape, according to an analysis by the Trade Union and Labour Party Liaison Organisation (Tulo). While non-party groups are allowed to spend up to £390,000 in an election, Tulo said, under the new rules, if the limit was shared between all 12 of Labour’s affiliated unions and the party, it would restrict each to just £30,000. This could potentially cost the Labour campaign millions of pounds – although it is rare for individual unions to reach the spending limit.   [5]

It is true that other nations have voter ID; it is true that this forcing people to have ID— would bring us into line with other nations. It might be that there are intended consequences such as having a strong subsequent effect on migration by making it much more difficult to exist without 'proper paper'. I would support all of this if the proposed ID was paid for by the state, since at the moment a passport (£75) and a driving licence (£40) might easily pass beyond what a disadvantaged person can afford, who also has no ability/reason/finance to drive or to travel abroad. The Bill promises a free, local voter card [8] but one has to wonder if this is state ID by the back door. I do not disagree that we can make a case for having ID, nor for the later step of demanding that one carry it at all times; this is not what the Bill purports to deal with, so it can (too) easily be described as underhand. In so doing, that further undermines trust in the Tory party, our voting system, government and the nation state in general.  It acts as a disincentive to vote (many references are made to the voter suppression by the Republican party recently, seen as closely parallel).  I don't see anyone much pointing out that this was a 2019 manifesto pledge, noticed in [7]. I saw that back then as a good reason to avoid voting blue, something I have done rarely.

DJS 20210910

I'll let you work out who would be sensitive about having ID; only a few are in any sense 'bad' people. Except apparently, for the Tory grandees, for whom all not-elite are obviously bad people.

This Bill had its second reading on 20120907 and has gone to Committee for reporting on 20211103. One could write to the committee (written evidence).

What happens when the level of voting drops to, say, under 50%? Where is there any incentive to any political party to do something about that? Why is there not a rule that says there is a quorum vote of say 60% (I'd prefer two-thirds, but we usually have just over 65% turnout), without which the election for a constituency must be held again?

The lowest turnout in a general election was recorded in 1918 at 57.2%, due to the end of the First World War. Between 1922 and 1997 turnout remained above 71%. At the 2001 general election the turnout was 59.4%; in 2005 it was 61.4%; in 2010 it was 65.1%; and in 2015 it was 66.1%.  UK.gov  Also see Commons Library. Low turnouts are around 50%, Hull had a 49% turnout in the 2019 election. 2019 again, 44% of constituencies had lower than two-thirds turnout; in 2017 that was 32%.

Edit 20211214 [9] discovered. Cross-party committee says to slow down and think hard(er) on this. I think the actions tie in with the issues in the US over the 'fixing' of the electors (the people who form the electoral colleges), who historically vote for the president in line with votes cast, but are not required to do so. “Introducing a compulsory voter ID requirement risks upsetting the balance of our current electoral system, making it more difficult to vote and removing an element of the trust inherent in the current system.” Wragg [committee Chair] added: “We feel that the elections bill proposals lack a sufficient evidence base, timely consultation, and transparency, all of which should be addressed before it makes any further progress. We cannot risk any reduction of trust in UK elections, which is why the majority of the committee is calling for the bill to be paused to give time for more work to be done to ensure the measures are fit for purpose.”

[0]   https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=guardian+elections+bill+2021+    should show whatever is currently on file at the Gruaniad. Their original summary of the Bill is at https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/sep/07/what-does-the-uk-elections-bill-set-out

[1]  https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/sep/03/election-fraud-democracy-elections-bill-angela-rayner  

I've copied some of this piece: 

The government argues that its plans to bring in voter ID would combat voter fraud, but the truth is that widespread voter fraud just doesn’t exist. For all UK elections in 2019 – including a relatively high turnout general election, in which 32m votes were cast – there was just one conviction for voter “personation”. 

The bill also seeks to disincentivise trade unions, charities, civil society groups and campaigners from fighting for the same demands as political parties by introducing complex rules around financing “joint campaigns”. This will have a chilling effect on organisations being able to raise awareness and take action on social injustices.

Even the government watchdog, the Electoral Commission, which upholds electoral law and safeguards the integrity and transparency of political parties’ finances, has come under attack. The elections bill seeks to completely undermine the commission’s role and end any semblance of independence ...

 Now the independent watchdog will be dictated to by the very ministers it is supposed to be regulating, too. And as if that wasn’t enough, the bill will also carve a loophole into existing political donation laws to allow donors who have lived overseas for decades to bankroll campaigns. There is no possible motivation for changing this law other than to enable super-rich Tory donors to funnel cash into the Conservative party from the beach in an offshore tax haven. This bill is an attack on our democracy. 

I note that, if the Bill becomes law, then it is Angela Rayner who would take Micheal Gove's job (at the moment, she is the shadow for the Duchy of Lancaster, his current job). That Duchy post puts Gove i/c of whatever the election rules will be (convenient to the party in power just before an election). Thus Rayner is perhaps arguing that she doesn't want that job. Good for her, but I'd like to see/hear of immediate party commitment to repeal this if enacted (which, given the 80=seat majority, is very likely). 

Better still, from my own point of view, I want to have all the non-Con parties combing to a pact that we will have electoral reform, to stand just one opponent in each constituency (e.g., the second at the 2019 election) so that every non-Tory vote is a vote for some form of PR.   'I want never gets', but this is what I want.

[2] https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2021/sep/08/tory-mps-reform-elections-bill-heist

[3]  https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/sep/09/elections-bill-is-a-dangerous-assault-on-democracy This is the best of the letters received from readers.

[4]  https://www.theguardian.com/uk-news/2021/sep/07/what-does-the-uk-elections-bill-set-out

Mandatory voter ID, allowing long-term ex-pats to vote and donate, new spending rules for non-party campaigners, powers over the Electoral Commission, new rules for postal and proxy votes, a new punishment for intimidatory behaviour, and plans for digital imprints (admitting who wrote/published/paid for a campaign leaflet)

[5]  https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/sep/07/election-bill-could-cut-millions-from-labour-campaign-spending-say-unions-party-finances

[6]  https://www.google.co.uk/search?q=elections+bill+2021+uk&newwindow=1&ei=NTw7YfykNNKfgQa0hryQCQ&oq=elections+bill+2021&gs_lcp=Cgdnd3Mtd2l6EAEYATILCAAQgAQQsQMQgwEyBQgAEIAEMgUIABCABDIGCAAQBxAeMgYIABAHEB46BwgAEEcQsAM6BQghEKABOggIIRAWEB0QHkoECEEYAFCm9AdY1tYKYOfkCmgBcAJ4AIABWYgB4wSSAQIxMJgBAKABAcgBCMABAQ&sclient=gws-wiz

[7]  https://www.redpepper.org.uk/elections-bill-voter-suppression-voter-id/

[8]   https://assets.publishing.service.gov.uk/government/uploads/system/uploads/attachment_data/file/999226/BILL_SUMMARY_-_GOV.UK_Accessible.pdf     Read this summary for yourself; it is only four pages.

See also the Queen's speech, where I spotted this one coming.

If you're bothered about FPTP vs PR, you might find this of interest. If you look at PR, make sure you also look at the several possible ways in which this can be done; some are really flawed and in my view several make it very possible to have someone elected almost permanently; I see that as a potentially Bad Thing, though I'd agree that Angela Merkel's twenty years was a very good thing.

[9] https://www.theguardian.com/politics/2021/dec/13/mps-call-for-halt-to-uk-elections-bill-as-voter-id-could-hit-turnout Date indicates this written and referenced mid-December

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