A last-ditch bid to stop voters having to show ID at polling stations was defeated – despite fears it will disenfranchise people and be a ‘sledgehammer to crack a nut’
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Tory MPs tonight passed an elections crackdown branded an “assault on democracy”.
Voters will be forced from next year to show ID at polling stations under the Tory Elections Bill, which was set to pass its final Commons hurdle.
Conservatives killed off a last-gasp bid to remove the voter ID clauses, defeating it 327-234 ahead of a final vote on the Bill late in the night. Assuming that passes, it will now go to the Lords for further scrutiny.
Tory MPs also blocked a plea to lower the voting age to 16 (327-236) and to ban overseas voters from donating to UK political parties (322-322).
And Tory minister Kemi Badenoch threatened even more changes in future, saying: “This is not the end of looking at electoral integrity, I’m sure.”
Backers included nearly 100 Tory MPs who voted last month against showing Covid passes at nightclubs – supposedly to protect people’s civil liberties.
Pilots of the crackdown, which will cost £120m over a decade, showed 740 voters were denied a vote in just 10 areas.
Yet there were just 171 claims of in-person voter fraud from 2014 to 2019 – of which three led to a conviction.
Kyle Taylor, director of Fair Vote UK, said the Bill was an “assault on democracy” that will disenfranchise voters and “rig the system”.
He added: “Only last month 99 Conservative MPs voted against measures that would require people to show a Covid pass before going to a nightclub.
“Yet they have so far been content to back the Elections Bill that will take away that most fundamental right to vote from anyone who hasn’t the correct ID.
“They either don’t care about democracy or they are demonstrating breathtaking hypocrisy.”
“Partisan leaders who just simply can’t help themselves gerrymandering and seeking to tilt election outcomes by putting their thumbs on the scale.”
Labour MP Cat Smith added: “If a fascist or far-right party got into control and we have set up these structures which allow them to ride roughshod over democracy, can we honestly say we’ve done a good job?”
Labour MP Nick Smith branded the Bill a “sledgehammer to crack a nut”.
And Labour’s John McDonnell said: “It is part of a process of voter suppression. The party opposite is learning lessons from America.”
Ministers defied the cross-party Public Administration Committee, which had begged them only a month ago to “stop the passage” of the Bill.
Tory chairman William Wragg said last month: “We remain unconvinced that the scale of the problem justifies the solutions as they have been put forward.” Labour MP Valerie Vaz said it could lock out the Windrush generation.
But Tory MP Steve Baker said: “The idea that impersonation isn’t a problem certainly does not accord with my experience in Wycombe.” He said it is “precisely the problem” that “it isn’t being prosecuted”.
Communities minister Kemi Badenoch said voter ID has been “tested through extensive pilots.
“The fact is most people do have photographic ID and those who do not have a voter ID will be provided one free of charge”.