The Conservatives want to bring in a measure which could stop millions of people voting
The plan has been described as "like taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut"
The Conservatives launched their manifesto in Halifax yesterday – a traditional Labour stronghold, prompting this excellent tweet:
And it was a predictably
strong and stable sorry, staid and serious affair, with Theresa May announcing little in the way of eye-catching voter catnip, and more in the way of ‘actually things are going to get worse’. They have dropped the 2015 pledge not to raise income tax or National Insurance, while more elderly people will have to pay for their own social care in the home and lose universal benefits.
May said that it was the “responsibility of leaders to be straight with people about the challenges ahead”, while pretty much the only piece of ‘good’ news in there was an announcement to increase NHS spending each year to £8bn a year extra by 2022.
Of course, May’s whole schtick is to be ‘honest and uncompromising’ in contrast to Labour’s ‘Marxist’ spending and, predictably, it went down well with the majority of the mainstream press, although such is the Daily Mail’s slavish devotion to May that this just about sums up their current attitude:
However, one election pledge which is deeply worrying, whatever your political viewpoint, is a plan to force people to show ID, such as a passport or a driving licence, in order to vote.
The law would prevent around 3.5 million people – around 7.5 per cent of the electorate – from voting, according to the Electoral Commission.
The manifesto reads: "We will legislate to ensure that a form of identification must be presented before voting, to reform postal voting and to improve other aspects of the elections process to ensure that our elections are the most secure in the world. We will retain the traditional method of voting by pencil and paper, and tackle every aspect of electoral fraud."
Labour’s shadow minister for voter engagement Cat Smith said, back in December when the idea was first proposed: “The government should be doing all it can to encourage lawful voting and ensure a high turnout, not putting extra hurdles in the way. The plans for photo ID are like taking a sledgehammer to crack a nut, potentially denying a vote to millions.”
Similar voter ID laws have caused huge controversy in America with activists arguing that it disenfranchises people who are poor and is fundamentally racist, since poor people are more likely to be black or hispanic.
It is also a somewhat bizarre policy to have, since it is not believed that voter fraud – despite Trump’s claims otherwise in the States – is actually much of a problem at all. According to a government report published last year, there were just 26 allegations of fraud by people voting in person – out of 51.4 million votes cast.
Of course, seeing as poorer people are much more likely to vote Labour, this policy could potentially aid the Conservatives in future elections, although we’re certain their main focus is stopping electoral fraud, definitely not to gain an advantage. Definitely not.