The December 2019 election has proved, yet again, that our so-called democracy is a sham. In fact, our new parliament is the exact opposite of what we voted for. The Tories have around 56% of the seats in the Commons after a similar proportion voted against them. Yes, the Tories had a 43.6% share of the national vote, meaning that over 56% voted for other parties, yet they occupy the very same seats that under Proportional Representation would be allocated to other parties.
If we must accept our decrepit ‘first past the post’ system, there are blatant faults in it. After reports of thousands of people attending Jeremy Corbyn’s rallies while Boris Johnson was hiding in a fridge or avoiding public scrutiny, followed by record queues at polling stations on election day, the results are most surprising. One explanation may be the increased proportion of postal votes, according to a survey by Lord Ashcroft.
On 20 December 2019, Steve Baker MP wrote: “My constituents would be shocked if they knew the extent of corrupt election practices and voter fraud. If we fail to understand the magnitude of this, then we are a politically bankrupt nation.” The lack of transparency and our unwillingness to change our “bankrupt” system leaves four reasons why our system is broken:
- lies and misinformation during campaigning, perpetuated by a media that should be holding those in power to account
- a postal voting system that is open to abuse
- an archaic polling system where people can be denied a legitimate vote
- a system where politicians make their own rules
After contacting the Electoral Commission with nine specific questions concerning potential loopholes and cheating, their response is that none of the points are under investigation and evidence is yet to be collected. Most concerning: the Electoral Commission does “not have the power to change the law. That can only be done by Government and Parliament.” Other than perhaps in journalism (after the Government failed to implement Leveson) where else does the poacher act as gamekeeper?
“There are no investigations open into the issues you raised… We are currently collecting evidence for our post-poll report, which will consider any issues that arose during the election. This will be published later this year.”Electoral Commission
Before the December 19 election, the Electoral Commission had demanded a change to election rules and penalties. Yet, after accepting the need for such legislation, the government conveniently failed to implement these changes. Perhaps more seriously, the government failed to share the report on interference by Russia in UK politics. After suppressing this report under a pretence, Johnson has now finally agreed to share it only after a new committee has been set up by an agreement with the leader of the opposition. Thus engineering more delay until later this year. Apparently ‘getting Brexit done’ was more important than a fit democracy.
“Your email raises some valid points and we at the Commission do believe that electoral law is outdated and in need of urgent reform… We do not have the power to change the law; that can only be done by Government and Parliament.”Electoral Commission
Five of the questions raised with the Electoral Commission concerned Postal Votes: from their administration by a private company, Idox, with previous links to the Tory Party, and some votes being disregarded because of incorrect area administration. Also, an offence being committed, where a cabinet minister and the BBC’s political editor had an indication of postal results before all votes were counted.
The remaining questions concerned an antiquated system, resulting in people turning up at Polling Stations and being denied a vote in spite of having proof of identity, by being told they had already voted. Currently, there is no requirement to produce the individual voting card that we each receive before the election, yet the Government now intends to introduce voter ID. Apparently, we will then go into a booth and write in pencil, instead of producing the card we already get before recording our vote in ink.
The aftermath of an election campaign featuring fake Websites and orchestrated disinformation in both social and mainstream media is dubious voting results and an unrepresentative body in Parliament. So how can we rescue democracy? The starting point would be to stop the players making up the rules – perhaps by having a clearly-written constitution produced by a Citizens Assembly under qualified expert guidance. Instead of an unfit system legislated by the very people who may abuse it.
Main Image: Boris Johnson at the Hague, 2018. | OCPW