Conservative manifesto: Missing pledges to improve our democracy

Author:
Darren Hughes, Chief Executive

Posted on the 13th June 2024

The launch of the Conservative manifesto yesterday was conspicuously light on democratic policy with little mention by way of reforms desperately needed to strengthen our democracy.  

Voter ID Policy

The Conservatives made only one proposal to alter Voter ID which is to introduce Veterans ID cards as a valid form of voter ID. An issue we highlighted after an Afghan veteran was prevented from voting in the 2024 local elections. However, this does not address any of the underlying issues with this damaging and disproportionate policy. Even though there is overwhelming evidence shows that it is hindering access to voting rather than improving it.  

In the 2023 local elections 14,000 voters were prevented from exercising their right to vote due to invalid ID. This is not to mention the fact that this number is likely smaller than the actual amount of people who could not vote because of Voter ID and so did not show up to their polling booth.  

We have long campaigned for the unnecessary barrier to voting that Voter ID is to be scrapped. If not, for on the day verification of voters to be allowed so as many people as possible have access to the right to vote.  

English Devolution

The Conservatives commitment to English devolution is to be commended. However, the commendable introduction of regional English mayors is undermined by the change to the voting system used for them and for Police & Crime Commissioners. By replacing the Alternative Vote used to elect them with First Past the Post they are operating under a reduced mandate; an unsettling decision given the large budgets that regional mayors are in charge of.  

We also welcome the commitment to the principle of decisions being made as close to the communities they serve as possible. However, there are no proposals for the democratic changes needed to put this into practice which is disappointing.  

First Past the Post and the voting age

By maintaining the status quo of committing to First Past the Post over a proportionally representative voting system, the Conservative manifesto is misguided and would continue to undermine any mandate a government may achieve.  

In keeping First Past the Post as our voting system the UK would continue to perpetuate a politics that places the focus of an incoming government on only a few ‘swing seats’ which change hands between parties at elections. This leaves huge swathes of seats across the country politically ignored and left behind.  

The missing pledge: House of Lords reform

Finally, there was a noticeable gap in policy pledges on the House of Lords. This is despite widespread, popular support for reform of the outdated and bloated Chamber. It is clear that the Lords, in its current form, is unsustainable. With around 800 members it is in the absurd situation of being the second largest legislative chamber in the world, second only to China’s National People’s Congress.  

For there to be no mention of reforming the Lords is disappointing given that it is essential in order to move the UK parliament into the 21st century and improve trust in our politics.

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