The Elections Bill gained Royal Assent on Thursday 28 April. It is a bad piece of legislation for many reasons, but notably because it increases government control over how our elections are run. Even Tory MPs cannot stomach it – with former Tory minister and Conservative leadership candidate David Davis MP describing the voter ID aspects as “illiberal” and “downright discriminatory”.
The Liberal Democrats strongly opposed the Bill and believe the independence and integrity of our elections is vital to the functioning of our democracy. Politicians should not be interfering in how our elections are run – the independence of the Electoral Commission is key to maintaining a system that is fair for all parties and candidates.
The newly passed legislation allows:
- the government to issue a “statement of purpose” determining the Electoral Commission’s priorities. Literally the government will be able to direct the Electoral Commission;
- the relevant minister to attend meetings of the Speaker’s Committee, the statutory body responsible for holding the Electoral Commission to account to check that the statement of purpose is being adhered to. This will increase the political pressure on the Electoral Commission to follow the Government’s directions; and
- the minister for the Cabinet Office will be able to unilaterally define what campaigning is and which groups can or cannot engage in the democratic process. The list of third-party campaigners the minister will be able to unilaterally edit includes trade unions and conditions for inclusion could be placed upon campaign groups the Government does not like.
Meanwhile, bizarrely, the legislation expressly removes the ability of the Electoral Commission to bring criminal prosecutions against those who break electoral law relating to political parties and campaigns. This would stop the Electoral Commission from taking politicians to court over secret donations and illegal campaigning, placing new curbs on the regulator’s ability to hold people and political parties to account. As we know from the No.10 Covid-19 lockdown parties, this Conservative government does not care about the rules nor like being held to account. This legislation appears to continue that theme.
What can I do about it?
Well on Thursday 5th May you have the opportunity to give this illiberal Conservative Government a bloody nose. Vote Liberal Democrat to elect local champions to Bromley council who will get things done in your community and send a message to the Government that you will no longer be ignored, no longer be taken for granted and that they should not be messing around with our elections.