Our series on implementing the Conservative Manifesto continues.
Throughout the last Parliament, Peter Golds took regularly to this site to describe in detail the tale of electoral fraud in Tower Hamlets and scandalous police apathy in response – see here, here, and here, for example – and making recommendations.
ConservativeHome called repeatedly for a crackdown – see here, here, and here, stressing the importance of voters providing ID at polling stations. The Coalition brought individual voter registration into Great Britain – it was already in place in Northern Ireland – but otherwise Cllr Golds’s recommendations for reform weren’t followed up.
The institutional obstacles to action have been threefold: the Electoral Commission, the police, and the Liberal Democrats. The Electoral Commission has been focused on increasing turnout rather than tackling corruption, the police are infested with political correctness…and the Liberal Democrats blocked change.
The Conservative Manifesto signalled clearly that the Party leadership has been frustrated by the glacial progress in tackling corruption. It said that “we will continue to make our arrangements fair and effective by ensuring the Electoral Commission puts greater priority on tackling fraud and considers insisting on proof of ID to vote”.
Now the Liberal Democrats are gone, and Cllr Golds makes his case again on this site today, recommending the following five point programme –
- A review of postal voting on demand.
- Prosecutions for falsified electoral registration.
- An end to the mobbing of polling stations.
- An end to interference with voting inside polling stations themselves.
- A requirement to produce a form of ID when receiving a ballot paper.
This plan to clean up the voting system requires three main players to pull their fingers out – the Electoral Commission, the police and, ultimately, Parliament.
Number Ten has grasped that they won’t if left to their own devices: the words of the Manifesto are a clear vote of no confidence in the Commission’s handling of these matters. Which helps to explain why Eric Pickles has been made the Government’s “anti-corruption Tsar”. No-one could be better qualified for the job.
The former Communities Secretary acted on corruption in Tower Hamlets and sent Commissioners in. His new post apparently won’t be focused on electoral fraud alone – but this will be an important part of it. Now that he has been appointed his new role must also be properly staffed and resourced.
Police Commissioners and authorities should make tackling election corruption a priority. For example, Boris should be on the Met’s case in London during the remainder of his term. Government sources believe that the GLA’s Police and Crime Committee could do far more. Pickles will undoubtedly be on the case.
He will also want to encourage “Don’t Stand for Electoral Fraud” – the new initiative to help tackle fraud from Crimestoppers, the crime-fighting charity set up by Lord Ashcroft. Here’s our proprietor’s recent article about it in this site.
A rough timetable looms into view. First, Pickles should report and make recommendations. Then Parliament should legislate if necessary – Golds says today that this may be needed to halt mobbing. And since why proof of identity is already required at the polls in Northern Ireland, there’s no reason why it shouldn’t be so in the rest of Britain.