Voter ID in elections ‘a challenge to local democracy’ – Paul Arnott

Paul Arnott, leader, East Devon District Council

Here in East Devon, many of us are fortunate to live in or near happy valleys. The Axe, Otter, Sid, Exe et al have dominated our topography since the Ice Age. Last Sunday, the BBC’s own Yorkshire-set Happy Valley series came to a universally acclaimed end.

For those still to catch up, I will steer well away from any spoilers and will only make two comments about side issues which interested me. Sarah Lancashire was of course brilliant, but it was James Norton whose career was revived. Three years back he was a shoo-in as the next Bond. Then he was directed to deliver a plank of wood performance in McMafia and serious doubts arose. Happy Valley proved beyond doubt that he can act, and that he has that glint of savagery 007 always needs.

My second comment is about the Knežević brothers, a brilliantly played family of criminals who weaved in and out of the plot. Because series 3 revealed that having become wealthy in drugs and money laundering they were now planning to have a go as local councillors.

At last, I thought, to the groans of my wife and one daughter back for a few days, a drama with local councillors at the centre of it. Author Sally Wainwright clearly shared their perspective, though, because she took this plotline no further. As someone who works on and off in television, I see the problem. Imagine pitching a new drama series. “Ok, so it’s about two people having an illicit affair.” One can imagine a drama commissioner’s ears pricking up as you start the pitch. “And they’re both local councillors!” I suspect the meeting would be over within five minutes.

However, as you’d expect, I believe that local councillors play a key role in the pyramid of democracy, but sadly I have to report a challenge put in democracy’s way deliberately by the government. On the basis of no evidence at all, condemned across the board, they are insisting on introducing Voter Identification at the District and Town/Parish elections in May.

It’s more populist nonsense from the people who brought you three prime ministers in about five months, the first two now blaming everyone but themselves for their downfalls. Liz Truss named ‘the financial markets’ only this weekend, as if their existence came as a surprise to her, with Boris Johnson giving his latest iffy spin to the adoring Nadine Dorries on the fourth-rate TV station, GB News.

Therefore, on 4th May in East Devon we have the first local council elections ever held demanding that voters bring with them a form of photographic identity such as a passport or a driving licence. Needless to say, many millions possess neither.

This right-wing brainwave claims to wish to make elections safer, yet every expert organisation, such as the Electoral Reform Society, has confirmed that the phenomenon of someone impersonating someone else to cast a vote in person is more or less non-existent.

In reality, fraud through the postal vote system has always been much more of a threat. That’s where resources are needed, not making the lovely people who work at polling stations from 7am till 10pm on election days have to perform the role of amateur passport controllers. The government doesn’t care, because those who have neither a driving licence or a passport are much more likely not to vote Tory.

If you are one such person who does not have photo ID, and there will be hundreds, perhaps thousands in East Devon, you can either apply for a postal vote or, to vote in person, register for a Voter Authority Certificate through East Devon District Council. We have created a special link on our website which is Please spread the word. Thank you.