It was good to see East Devon roundly rejecting the Conservatives in the elections last week, with their leader losing his seat.
Martin Shaw www.exmouthjournal.co.uk
The Liberal Democrats did well, benefiting from the excellent work that Richard Foord has done in his first ten months as an MP. Most of the Independents who have been central to EDDC’s new start since 2020 were also returned, and with Labour and the Greens both winning seats, the stage is set for the continuation of the Democratic Alliance administration – with a stronger mandate.
The Tories deserved to lose, not only because of the mess they have made of the country, but also because of their attempt to block voters from exercising their democratic rights. We don’t know yet how many were turned away from local polling stations for not having the right ID, and the numbers may prove low. However others who didn’t have the right ID will just have decided to stay at home. No wonder the turnout seems to have been lower than usual.
This, for the Tories, was the point of the scheme. The list of acceptable ID was rigged against young people, because the whole idea is to deter people who are likely to vote against the Tories from voting. There have have been virtually no cases of people fraudulently attempting to vote in the UK, so it was a made-up problem. The scheme is deliberate ‘voter suppression’ as they call it in the US, where the idea was copied from.
Photo ID seems likely to have deterred some older people as well. One of my neighbours, a conscientious voter of over 90 years old, thought he wasn’t going to be able to vote because he’d returned his passport and driving licence. Fortunately his daughter reminded him that he had a postal vote and didn’t need ID for that – but if he’d been on his own, he probably would have lost his vote because of the confusion the scheme has created.
Even John Hart, Tory leader of Devon County Council, agrees that the Photo ID requirement is unnecessary. But not one Conservative candidate in East Devon was prepared to call out the Photo ID scandal.
What we really need are schemes to encourage people to vote. Thousands of people in East Devon, and millions nationally, are not even on the electoral register. We need automatic voter registration when people turn 18, when they get their national insurance number. That way every adult would get a polling card reminding them of each election. This, of course, is the last thing that Rishi Sunak’s Tory government is going to introduce. But why isn’t Keir Starmer putting it forward?
Another thing that would help is Proportional Representation. For a hundred years until Richard Foord’s election, non-Tory voters in East Devon wasted their votes in general elections (as Conservative voters did in safe Labour areas). Most of the time, everyone assumed that the result of the election was a foregone conclusion. No wonder many didn’t bother to vote.
It’s time to bring in a fair voting system in which everyone’s vote counts and all parties are represented proportionally to their support among voters, so that the government reflects what the majority of people want. The current far-right
Conservative government was elected with only 43 per cent of votes – 57 per cent voted for the other parties.
Fair votes is more democratic, guards against extremism, and involves people in the political system. Keir Starmer may end up being a good prime minister who improves people’s living standards and restores the NHS. But if he continues to set himself against Proportional Representation, he will be letting down the people of East Devon.