Monday 17 June 2024

Genuine Proof of Person


My government doesn’t trust me at my word.

Before 2023, all I had to do to vote was take my polling card to the polling station, have one of the election officials check my name off against their list of registered voters and then I would vote. Now I have to show photo ID to vote, but not any photo ID, only one of the nineteen legally approved photo IDs. Why the change in the law? There’s been no voter fraud scandal.

There has been no large-scale electoral fraud in Britain, and since 2019 eleven people have received convictions for it and four people have received policecautions. This is hardly an epidemic of it, 11 convictions out of 46,000,000 voters in the UK. But since 2019, 18 members of parliament have been suspended from parliament for offences that include: misusing campaignfunds, harassment, comparing Covid vaccinations to the holocaust, antisemitism,domestic violence, sexual offenses, sexual assault and a rape arrest. All of these are serious offences. In the same time period, an additional 10 MPs resigned before they could be suspended. This is 28 MPs breaking the rules, out of 650 MPs, since 2019, a little under three times the number of people convicted of electoral fraud. Also, since 2rd June, Robert Largan, the Conservative candidate for High Peak in Derbyshire, has been under investigation by the police for election fraud. So why do we need to show ID when we vote? On the evidence, we need to tighten up regulations on MPs’ behavior.

There have already been some high profile cases of people being turned away from polling stations for not having the required ID. Boris Johnson was turned away,in May, when he tried to vote in the local elections because he didn’t have therequired photo ID. This was Boris Johnson and the chance that it was a publicity stunt is high, he hasn’t featured in newspaper headlines for quite some time, and he returned with the required ID. Adam Diver, a former British soldier, was turned away from his polling station when he tried to usehis military ID to vote, a government issued ID. This is because the government has set a very narrow, and very bias, list of approved photo ID, we can only use one of nineteen different forms of ID.

This list of approved voter ID is neither fair or equal.

Of the 19 forms of ID 10 are available to adults, 8 forms are available to the over 65s only, and only one form of ID is specific to young people, but the breakdown of these approved IDs is even more worrying. Of 10 forms of ID available without age restrictions, not all of them are available to everyone. Of them:

1 is a Ministry of Defense Form (but not military ID),

1 is the Blue Badge disabled parking permit,

1 is an immigration document,

1 is the EU citizen’s ID,

1 is available to Scottish citizens only,

1 is available to Welsh citizens only.

This leaves only four forms of approved ID available to general voters, one form of approved ID is specific to young people, while 8 different approved IDs are only available to the over 65s. This law was passed by the Conservative Party and is obviously bias towards the age group who traditionally vote for them, the elderly. This is gerrymandering of the worst sort, rigging election regulations against your political opponents.

This isn’t only my opinion. Jacob Rees-Mogg, a minister in Boris Johnson’s government and the one responsible for rallying MPs to vote for this law, said, "Parties that try and gerrymander end up finding that their clever scheme comes back to bite them, as dare I say we found by insisting on voter ID for elections.” He actually admitted that this law was intended to disenfranchise the voters who didn’t vote for the Conservatives. This is unacceptable, a law that is intended to discriminate against a section of our society. Our government should be governing for all of the country, not just the section of the country who they think will vote for them.

This law first impacted the May 2023 local elections. A report from then found that 14,000 people were turned away from polling stations because they didn’t have the right ID, about 0.25% of total voters. The report also found 4% of people who did not vote said it was because of not having the required voter ID. But it also found that the number of people turned away from polling stations for not having the right photo ID was probably much higher because almost 40% of polling stations used “greeters”, who told voters what ID was needed before they entered the polling station. That 14,000 was only the number turned away inside the polling station, if they didn’t enter there, because they didn’t have the right ID, then they weren’t counted as being turned away. In reality, it was probably a much larger number of people who didn’t vote because of the need for voter ID. A poll earlier this year found that 14% of voters were still unaware of the need for voter ID.

But there are big holes in this voter ID requirement. You don’t need any photo ID to use postal voting. All you need is your address, your National Insurance number and the date of the election you want to cast your postal vote in. You don’t need to provide any photo ID, let alone one off a small, approved list. You can also apply for an official voter photo ID, to be used just to cast your vote, called a Voter Authority Certificate’. To obtain one of these you’ll need a recent, digital photo of yourself, your National Insurance number and your address, nothing more, certainly not photo ID. This gives the lie to the claim that voter ID is to stop voter fraud. Here are two ways to vote were you don’t need any one of the 19 required photo IDs. But this law was never about voter fraud, it was about gerrymandering, about reducing the ability to vote for people who won’t vote for the Conservative Party.

We are well over due voter reform in this country. When the new government comes into office, they need to repeal this dishonest law, The Elections Act 2022.


Friday 7 June 2024

My Vote Doesn’t Count


In this coming General Election, there is no point in me casting my vote because it will not change anything. I don’t mean that all politicians are the same, and all those simplistic arguments against voting. I mean that because I live in a safe Labour constituency, it doesn’t matter which party I vote for, my constituency will return a Labour MP (Member of Parliament).

In the 2019 election, my local MP kept her seat with a 32,000 majority. She received 70.1% of the constituency votes. The next candidate only got 16.3% of the vote. It doesn’t matter who I vote for, my local constituency will always return a Labour MP.

A “safe” constituency is where an MP/political party are guaranteed to be re-elected at whatever election, even if the old MP is retiring (such as is happening in my local constituency) the same political party is guaranteed to hold the seat. And this has been going on for decades. 192 parliamentary seats haven’tchanged hands since 1945 or earlier (30% of MPs), while 65 seatshaven’t changed hands since 1918 or earlier (10% of MPs). This means that nearly 14million voters are living in constituencies that have not changed parties sincethe Second World War, and nearly 5 million voters haven’t seen their constituency change parties since the end of the First World War. How is this fair?

This has happened because we have the First Past The Post electoral system. Each voter gets one vote with which they elect their local MP. The candidate that gets the most votes, even if it is only by one vote, wins the seat. The voter only votes for their local MP, they don’t vote for the party they want to govern. In reality, most voters vote for the party they want to govern, but their votes don’t go towards that party because their vote is only for the local MP. Because of the nature of First Past The Post, the number of MPs elected to parliament does not reflect the percentage of the national votes their party received.

The 2019 election:

the Conservatives won 43.6% of the nationalvote but won 52.6% of the seats in Parliament,

Labour won 32.1% of the national vote, 12.5% less than the Conservatives, but they won 31.1% of the seats in Parliament, 21.5% less than the Conservatives,

the Libdems won 11.5% of the national vote but won only 1.7% of the seats in Parliament,

the Greens won 2.7% of the national vote but won only 0.2% of the seats in Parliament,

and The Brexit Party won 2% of the nationalvote but won 0% of the seats in Parliament.

How is any of this fair?

First Past The Post doesn’t mean that the candidate who won the majority of the votes wins the seat. The more candidates standing in a constituency means that the winning candidate doesn’t have to win the majority of votes, just more than the candidate who came second. In the 2015 general election, Claire Hanna won the seat of SouthBelfast with just 24.5% of the total votes – the lowest winning proportion in UK history. In the 2019 Election, Michelle Gildernew won the Fermanagh & South Tyrone seat by only 57 votes, out of a constituency of 72,848, a 0.07% majority. Again, how is many of this fair?

How can we say we have elected our government when the electoral system often, effectively, does not allow our vote to count?

Having so many safe seats also makes our politicians, in these seats, lazy, they don’t have to work to get re-elected. In the last two General Elections, my local MP barely telephoned in her campaign. She scarcely appeared in our constituency, only taking part in a few high profile hustings. She certainly didn’t do much door-to-door campaigning. The only door-to-door campaigning we received were election leaflets pushed through our front door. We didn’t even see many local activists. Why should they bother? She was guaranteed to be re-elected. And in-between elections, she has been a rare presence in our constituency, but again why does she need to bother? There’s no question she won’t be re-elected, or that the Labour candidate won’t be. This only makes for poor political representation for local communities, when they live in a safe seat, no matter which political party. When I lived in West London, in a marginal constituency, my MP actively campaigned during elections and she was seen very visibly in the local area between elections. She had to work to ensure she was re-elected.

Britain is the only country in Europe still using First Past The Post. 40 out of the 43 other European countries use some form of proportionalrepresentation to elect their governments. Why are we still clinging onto First Past The Post?

Proportional Representation or Single Transferable Vote systems will help remove safe seats and make our votes count more, it will also make politicians have to work for our votes. They would not be able to rely on being an MP in a safe seat. It would also mean that our government will better reflect the votes cast for them nationally. No longer will a political party win 43.6% of the national vote but win 52.6% of the parliamentary seats. It would also mean that there would be a higher chance of a hung parliament, were no one party has an overall majority of seats and could not form a government on their own. But this would mean that political parties would have to form coalitions and political packs, they would have to work closer with other parties, they would have to work harder. It would mean that small, fringe parties would also get parliamentary seats, though only a small number. If we’d had some form of proportional representation at the 2019 election, then The Brexit Party could have won 2% of the parliamentary seats and The Greens could have won 2.7% of MPs. This would still force all our political parties to work at their politics and work more closely together. With a coalition government, would we have had the chaos of this government, were we’ve had three different Prime Ministers in one parliament, and only one of them being elected by the British people?

Some form of Proportional Representation is the only way forward for our electoral system, otherwise millions of people will carry on seeing their votes just not count, the make-up of our parliament will not reflect the national votes cast and far too many MPs will see their re-elections green-light, without them needing to work for it.

Of course, all that said, I have no say on the make-up of the upper chamber of our government, the House of Lords. All their members have been appointed by different governments, and appointed for life. How is this fair?

This country is well overdue electoral and parliamentary reform, but when will it happen?


Tuesday 4 June 2024

Nine Book Reviews


Summer is here and the television is full of football and politics, with the election approaching. If you want a break from all of this, why not try reading a book? Here are nine of my recent book reviews that could give you some ideas.


Showtime 2020: The Collected Works of Newham Writers

The strength here is this collection’s variety.


Sex in Cyberspace (Men WhoPay For Sex) by Sarah Earle and Keith Sharp

They say prostitution is the oldest profession, therefore those men who visit prostitutes must be the oldest Customer Demographic, but what do we know about them?


Johnny Come Home by Jake Arnott

Against the backdrop of 1972 London, four lost souls collide.


Taken at the Flood by Agatha Christie

At the height of the Second World War, millionaire Gordon Cloade’s home is bombed, killing all the inhabitants except for his new bride Rosaleen and her brother David.


Goodbye to Berlin by Christopher Isherwood

It is 1930s Berlin and “Christopher Isherwood” is enjoying the notorious nightlife and culture of the city.


The People V. O.J. Simpson by Jeffrey Toobin

A mountain of evidence pointed to OJ Simpson as the killer of his ex-wife and her friend but he was found not guilty of their murders. How did this happen?


The Use of Reason by Colm Tóibín

A small time Dublin thief suddenly finds himself out of his depth. Used to stealing cash and jewel he now finds that the paintings he stole are a Rembrandt, a Gainborough and two Guardis.


Injury Time by Beryl Bainbridge

This is a fine example of Bainbridge’s dark but accurate view of life. Life wasn’t always better in flares.


Sleep No More by P.D. James

This was the second collection of short stories published posthumously after PD James’s death. Not known for her short story, this collection gives a very different view of James’s writing.


Happy reading