Rushing the elections bill through the Commons is nothing short of a scandal

Andy McDonald

Our democracy was dealt a heavy blow last night, as the elections bill was rammed through the House of Commons in just a few short hours. To rush such a constitutionally important bill was nothing short of a scandal.

I wasn’t called to speak in the oversubscribed and tightly timetabled debate on this dreadful attack on our democracy, which came on the same day as the IPPR published their State of North report. In their report 12 months ago, the IPPR set out four tests to define “levelling up”, the last of which was “An empowered North: Better democratic participation, representation, and trust in local and national decision-making.”

All their tests are perfectly desirable and laudable, but the elections bill, quite deliberately and cynically, trashed the very concept of improving democratic participation in the North of England and everywhere else for that matter. And this appalling legislation shows just how hollow the slogans of “levelling up” and “take back control” really are under the Tories.

It’s abundantly clear what “take back control” was really about, and it wasn’t empowering the people. It was and is the exact opposite. It was about the take back more control for themselves – and if that disenfranchises large swathes of the electorate, then so be it. If it weakens trades unions and any critical voices, and if it gives Tory ex-pat donors even greater say in the country they don’t want to live in, then all to the good as far as they’re concerned.

The elections bill is about gerrymandering and rigging the pack. It’s about bringing into law restrictions that directly inhibit and reduce the capability of the Labour party in elections. In short: it’s a direct attack on our very democracy.

With its voter ID provisions, it’s also about denying millions of people the vote, as well as hampering the ability of trades unions to campaign. Not content with all that, it puts the Electoral Commission itself firmly into their grip.

I have lived through some dodgy Tory governments in my time, but this one – and its leader – has plumbed new depths. They have no shame and will stop at nothing to preserve themselves in power. Because let’s get it clear, that is what this bill about. Nothing else. It’s not just crooked and underhand – it puts party ahead of nation and way ahead of any motivation to cherish, protect or improve our democracy. We all know what’s going on here.

But I say to the Tory MPs who trooped through the lobbies last night to support this tawdry antidemocratic bill, they took the “next steps” as described by Pope Francis – having already sown fear in the hearts of the people, “then offering to defend them from the object of their fear in exchange for denying them the power to determine their own future”. He was speaking of the steps to dictatorship. We have been warned.

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