Cllr Peter Golds is Leader of the Conservative Group on Tower Hamlets Council
In most democracies, the suggestion that a “head of household” can register any number of voters simply by signing a form and then said voters can then go to a polling station and be handed a ballot paper for an election, without producing any basic ID, would seem ridiculous.
This is however, precisely, the system operating in most of the UK.
Government changes to registration are welcome and long overdue. After all, when we register for a doctor or indeed join a library we have to identify ourselves – why is this not so in order to register and vote?
Sadly it is no surprise that the Labour Party are now doing a “u-turn” on this very sensible proposal. It is disappointing that they are being supported by the Liberal Democrats who now seem to want reform of the voting system but not the voting register. Upon his election Jeremy Corbyn suggested that having a credible electoral register is “gerrymandering.”
As a long time student of Marxism he is following on from the proposal by Bertolt Brecht in 1953 that:
“the people had forfeited the government’s confidence, and could only win it back by redoubled labour. Wouldn’t it be simpler in that case if the government dissolved the people and elected another?”
The problem was that Brecht was being ironic, following on from anti-communist riots in Berlin. Irony is not a charge of which anyone has yet to seen fit to accuse the Labour Party leader.
Improving the electoral register was a news item on the Sunday Politics programme recently, not least because it would appear that there may be a 23 per cent reduction in the Hackney electoral register.
Diane Abbott MP was interviewed and whilst not prepared to suggest gerrymandering, thereby showing her first public split with Jeremy Corbyn, she did refer to the young, students, and those in private rented properties who might be removed from the electoral register. She did suggest that there are many names on her constituency register who are no longer resident.
Before Abbott, the BBC interviewed Katie Ghose from the Electoral Reform Society, whose comments bore a strong resemblance to Abbott’s.
The BBC did not inform viewers that Katie Ghose failed, in the run up to the recent election, to secure the Labour nomination for at least four constituencies: Brighton Kemptown, Stoke on Trent North, Grimsby and York Central. As Guido Fawkes said earlier this year:
“Aspiring carpet-bagger Kate “Ghastly“ Ghose just popped up on Sky News with her Electoral Reform Society boss hat on, having her usual pop at anyone but Labour.”
She did not inform viewers then, or indeed yesterday, that she is a dedicated Labour activist and “nomination seeker.” One remains aware that when introducing a representative of any organisation to the right of the Daily Mirror, the BBC always make sure that the phrase “right of centre” is appended to the name of the person or organisation. Why do they never say Labour Party activist or left of centre?
One must assume that Katie Ghose and Diane Abbott just think similarly.
Returning to the franchise, I am in possession of a letter being sent to potential new members of the Labour Party.
Just read this:
“…before we get started though, we just need a few more details from you to notify your local Labour Party that you’ll be joining. These extra checks are unfortunately needed because in the past some members have been recruited in irregular ways to your local Labour Party.
“Therefore we need you to please send us a copy of two additional forms of identification (ID) to confirm your name and your address. Examples of acceptable ID include:
“Household bills eg, gas, electricity, council tax etc. received within the last six months
“Passport, Driving Licence, Student ID etc.”
So there you have it.
To join the Labour Party requires two items of ID.
To go and cast a vote means that somebody – anybody – can add your name to the electoral register and you, or somebody using your name, can arrive at a polling station and be handed a ballot paper for an election or referendum.
I was wrong when I suggested that there was irony in Bertolt Brecht calling on the government to dissolve the people and elect another. Labour are determined to stop that in their party whilst allowing it within the wider electorate.