Campaigners rally against UK Government’s regressive Elections Bill

By Richard Wood

A coalition of pro-democracy protestors gathered at London’s Parliament Square on Saturday 5 February to rally against the UK Government’s regressive Elections Bill.

Organised by leading organisations in the democracy sector, including Make Votes Matter, Unlock Democracy and the Electoral Reform Society, the rally included speeches from across the political spectrum.

Unlock Democracy’s Tom Brake, Labour’s John McDonnell, the Lib Dem’s Hina Bokhari, Reform UK leader Richard Tice and Green co-leader Carla Denyer were just some of the leading figures who spoke at the rally. Campaigners from pro-reform groups such as the Liberal Democrats for Electoral Reform and the Labour Campaign for Electoral Reform were also in attendance to make their case against the controversial piece of legislation.

The rally was one of a number of pro-democracy events held across the country including a similar rally in Manchester later in the afternoon.

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The Elections Bill is a deeply damaging piece of legislation which passed in the House of Commons on the evening of Monday 17 January (and due to have its Second Reading in the House of Lords later in February).

The bill is set to introduce voter identification requirements, a “solution” to the near non-existent problem of voter fraud which will end up suppressing voters in the most marginalised groups across the country.

The bill also replaces the Supplementary Vote with the clapped-out and unfair First Past the Post electoral system. This unnecessary change will make elected mayors in England less representative and shows just how opposed this government is to any positive voting reform.

In addition to this, the Bill threatens the independence of the Electoral Commission and sets out measures to change spending rules for the worse.

UK politics needs better representation not less, and First Past the Post certainly needs to be ended not extended.

The Elections Bill will level down our democracy but there is hope. The Parliament Square rally shows the vibrancy of the campaign against this regressive bill. Together, we can push back and upgrade our democracy.

READ MORE: Elections Bill set to wrongly expand First Past the Post

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Elections Bill set to wrongly expand First Past the Post’s dominance in UK politics

By Richard Wood

The UK Government’s “Elections Bill” was voted through by MPs on the evening of Monday 17 January 2022.

Very little time was given to the Bill which will have some significant impacts on the nature of British democracy when it is likely given Royal Ascent.

The Bill, which will next go to the House of Lords, is symptomatic of the current government’s commitment to consolidating power and introducing regressive electoral reforms. Both the Elections Bill and the Dissolution and Calling of Parliament Bill will have major negative repercussions.

One of the main controversies of the Bill is the introduction of voter identification requirements which campaign groups have said will further marginalise those groups already less likely to vote. While there is a logic to requiring voters to verify their identity, the problem the bill claims to tackle is almost non-existent. The number of voter fraud cases in the UK stands at only a handful. What’s more, trials in England in 2019 led to the turning away of hundreds of voters, almost half of whom did not return to vote. Instead of addressing a non-existent problem, voter ID will create a whole set of new issues, namely voter suppression.

READ MORE: 12 reasons to support Proportional Representation

The Bill will also replace the Supplementary Vote with First Past the Post for mayoral elections in England. The Supplementary Vote is far from the best way to elect single-member positions like mayor or president (the best system would be the Alternative Vote) but it is superior to First Past the Post as it provides a broader, more representatie mandate to the winning candidate. Instead of replacing First Past the Post with Proportional Representation and preferential systems where necessary, the government is expanding a clapped-out system that fails to represent the people time and time again.

Democracy activists and campaign groups took a strong stance against the bill while opposition parties tabled a series of amendments to rip out the bill’s worst elements and improve it overall, but ultimately none were successful.

The Elections Bill puts Britain on the wrong track. The use of First Past the Post needs to be ended not extended.

Westminster is in desperate need of an upgrade. We need real democracy now.

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