A trial has, predictably, sent Labour into meltdown. But not only is their response disingenuous—it's deeply misguidedby Charlotte Gill / March 8, 2018 / Leave a comment
Corbyn’s Labour is worried about voter rights. But introducing voter ID could make democracy more secure. Photo: PA In order to strengthen the voting identification process, the Tories are introducing checks in five areas in a trial that could be extended nationwide, should it work successfully. This move seems largely about the risk of students double-voting, as they are allowed to register for elections both at home at university. Suspicions about their activities has not arisen out of nowhere; last year, the Electoral Commission received over 1,000 complaints and letters from 38 MPs, many of which cited these concerns. Given that the youth vote is increasing—with two million more applying to vote at the snap election—it is not unreasonable for the Tories to tighten up in this area. Surprise surprise, Labour has gone into meltdown. The fact is, voting has always been an alarmingly relaxed and unvetted affair in this country. On my journeys to the ballot box, I am always rather disappointed that when I tell the officials “I am Charlotte Gill” and no one replies: “really?” The most extreme check is being asked for an address, which at worst means that someone who stole another person’s post could pretend to be them. Our process seems all the more lax given that we are asked to prove our identity in numerous parts of life; if most of us can manage bringing a driving license out clubbing on a Saturday night, clobbered, I’m sure we can do it sober too. Thanks to technology, identify theft is easier than ever—so it’s about time we formalised democracy. In an age where Russian interference in the US election has worried the West, it should be in everyone’s interests that elections are as accurate as possible. Double standards Labour has brought up some profoundly stupid arguments against the Tories’ initiative, arguing that ID checks are an affront to democracy. In a simpering video, MP Cat Smith suggests that identification would make it “harder to vote,” and online pro-Corbyn media outlet the Canarysaid that the Tories are “changing electoral law to stop Corbyn becoming Prime Minister.” Right… Jeremy Corbyn himself has also spoken out against the Tories’ plan, attempting to take the moral high ground despite having convicted electoral fraudster Marsha-Jane Thompson as a campaign manager. The double standards of Labour know no bounds. The situation gets all the more hypocritical when you consider Labour actually uses ID measures itself. David Lammy’s Tottenham Labour website, for instance, stipulates that local government candidates are subject to a “two-level check,” including a named photo ID, as well as proof of address. Clearly, the party does care about identification for internal matters, but not if it might stifle its political intentions once applied at a broader level. When party members say that ID checks will make it harder to vote, what they really seem to be saying is “it’ll make it harder for us to win”. How voter ID could work in practice The only reasonable argument I have seen Labour cite against ID requirements is that they could make it hard for marginalised groups to exercise their rights. It is true that IDs can be fiddly to obtain, particularly for the elderly, and expensive; the online price for a driving license is £34 and a passport is £75.50, with postal being worse. The answer to this accessibility problem is not “no ID,” though. It should simply mean that a bigger sample of ID can be used by the population. In India, for instance, the government allows for up to fifteen types of identification to be used. Other countries offer their citizens ID cards automatically—which is something the Tories could pursue in the future. Labour’s uproar over voter IDs really does beg the question, what is it so worried about if voters have to prove who they are? Frankly, Labour’s stances on voting have always reeked of desperation. The push for votes at 16 has never been a compliment to the intelligence of youth, but about exploiting the least-informed members of society. And this campaign around voting fraud? It stinks. If democracy is made more secure, what is there for a decent party to fear?