Bell Ribeiro-Addy

Bell Ribeiro-Addy, Labour Candidate for Clapham & Brixton Hill
From Clapham & Brixton Hill, For Clapham & Brixton Hill

Please note: Parliament has now been dissolved until after the General Election, meaning I am no longer an MP.

If Democracy is to Work for Everyone, it Must Include Everyone – In My View Column for the South London Press

Apr 14, 2023 | Articles

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Bell out on the doorstep with Helen Hayes MP in Crawley on polling day.

England’s upcoming local elections will be the first in which voters are required to show photographic ID to cast a ballot. Nearly two million people are at risk of losing their voice as a consequence of this change. The latest figures reveal that just 50,000 people have applied for the Government’s free form of photo ID so far. Introducing mandatory voter ID was always a shameless effort to try and buy an advantage at the next election at a cost of £180 million to the public. All the signs so far suggest it is working exactly as the Tories intended.

The principle of universal suffrage is a baseline of any democratic system. Sadly, we now have a Government which is undermining this principle, picking and choosing whose voices are heard. All the evidence suggested that bringing in compulsory photo ID for elections would pose substantial barriers to lower income voters, people of colour, trans people and the young in particular. The government’s final list of acceptable IDs notably excludes several forms of ID freely available to young people.

If democracy is going to work for everyone, it has to include everyone. We should be working to expand participation among under-represented groups in our political system and exploring ways to increase turnout: whether it’s extending the vote to younger people, automatic voter registration, or same day voting. Voter suppression from governments is always a sign of fear and weakness. It shows a lack of confidence that their policies can win over a genuine majority of the country. One excuse the Government parrots is the idea of “countering fraud”. Just one person was cautioned for electoral fraud last year. The idea that one case of voter personation is a bigger issue than millions being deprived of a voice is a joke.

People have confidence in the integrity of our electoral system. They don’t have confidence in the integrity of this Government. That’s the real reason we’re seeing this attack on the right to vote. Just last week, we saw a Tory MP caught in a Times sting offering to do a gambling company’s bidding. This is symptomatic of a party which draws its funding from Russian businesspeople, property developers, private healthcare companies, fossil fuel producers and gambling lobbyists then makes policies that benefits these firms at everyone else’s expense.

In democracies, politicians do not choose their voters, voters choose their politicians. The people we vote for should want us to vote.

This article was first published in South London Press on 14th April 2023.