The former Commons leader said it was a deliberate attempt to ‘gerrymander’ elections in the Conservatives’ favour. Josiah Mortimer reports
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A Labour MP is calling for a parliamentary inquiry – and potentially a police investigation – after the admission from former Commons leader Jacob Rees-Mogg that mandatory voter ID was implemented by the Conservatives as a form of “gerrymandering” to deliberately skew the vote in their favour.
As Byline Times first reported on Monday, Rees Mogg, who was part of Boris Johnson’s Government that introduced plans to force voters to present photo ID at polling stations, told the National Conservatism Conference in London that the plans were a “clever scheme” by his party to swing voters in their favour. He added that the plans had “backfired” due to more older Conservative voters being less aware of the changes at the recent local elections.
“Parties that try and gerrymander end up finding their clever scheme comes back to bite them, as dare I say we found by insisting on voter ID for elections”, Rees Mogg said.
Rees Mogg previously defended the controversial policy, when he was Leader of the House, under Boris Johnson. He has attacked Labour for opposing the policy with the allegation they want to “scurry for votes around and about” – suggesting they backed fraud.
London Labour MP Dawn Butler believes that ministers who pushed through the policy willfully intending it to skew elections in their favour breached the Nolan Principles on conduct in public life – and may even have committed misconduct in public office.
Misconduct in conduct office is a criminal offence committed when “a public officer…wilfully neglects to perform his duty and/or wilfully misconducts himself; to such a degree as to amount to an abuse of the public’s trust in the office holder; without reasonable excuse or justification.”
In a key case in 2003, the courts defined ‘wilful’ as ‘deliberately doing something which is wrong, knowing it to be wrong or with reckless indifference as to whether it is wrong or not’.
It follows a new Omnisis poll for Byline Times which found that 15% of those living in areas with local elections earlier this month were either put off from voting, or unable to vote, as a result of the Tories’ voter-ID laws.
It’s estimated two million people in the UK lack the necessary identification documentation to be permitted to vote in the next general election.
Commenting, the SNP’s Cabinet Office spokesperson, Kirsty Blackman MP said: “Tory MP Rees-Mogg has admitted what we knew all along – that this scheme only exists as a ploy to gerrymander the next election in a desperate bid to cling to power.
“It’s no surprise that we have evidence that this draconian legislation has pushed people away from voting. Brazenly undermining democracy and shutting people out of the electoral process was exactly what the Tories designed these laws to do.
“The SNP will continue to oppose these Tory voter-ID laws for all elections, but with the Tories so intent on bending the rules, and Labour refusing to tear down bad Tory laws, it’s clear that only with the full powers of independence can we get rid of Tory governments and Westminster attacks on our democracy – for good.”
A spokesperson for the Electoral Commission told Byline Times: “The introduction of a voter ID requirement was debated and passed by the UK Parliament. Policy decisions are rightly a matter for parliament, and not the Electoral Commission.
“The Commission’s investigatory power only extends to political finance regulation.”
Separately, in a letter sent to Byline Times reader Becca Thompson, a figure from the Department for Housing, Levelling Up and Communities admitted: “There is no Government target for uptake of the Voter Authority Certificate.”
It suggests that the department had no plans for how to close the gap between the two million people who lack photo ID and the low numbers of people who signed up – just 85,000 before the deadline, or roughly 4% of the “missing millions.”
Letter in Full from Dawn Butler MP to the Parliamentary Standards Commissioner
Dear Daniel Greenberg CB,
I am writing to you as a Member of Parliament deeply troubled by the recent admissions made by former Minister Jacob Rees-Mogg regarding the introduction of mandatory voter ID, which have raised the prospect that ministers openly lied about the intentions of their voter identification policy in the Elections Act 2022.
During his recent speech at the National Conservatism Conference in London (15 May 2023), Mr. Rees-Mogg admitted that the proposal was a deliberate attempt to manipulate electoral outcomes in favour of the Conservative Party, a strategy he termed as “gerrymandering” – in other words, the deliberate bending of electoral rules or boundaries for partisan gain.
The remarks by Mr. Rees-Mogg highlight a troubling disregard for the principles of democratic fairness and equal representation. He acknowledged that the plan had an unintended consequence, as it particularly impacted elderly voters who typically support the Conservative Party, causing a “backfire” in the recent local elections.
During his tenure as Leader of the House, Mr. Rees-Mogg defended this controversial policy, suggesting that opposition was driven by “socialist” parties’ “lack of confidence” in their voters’ ability to comply with the new ID requirements.
He also claimed that Labour was opposed to voter identification “because it makes it harder for them to scurry for votes around and about” – maliciously implying that Labour supported electoral fraud. It appears the real fraud is in fact the government’s stated motive for the policy.
It is deeply concerning to see the blatant politicisation of a policy intended to ensure the fairness and security of our democratic process.
A recent report by Omnisis for Byline Times indicates that the new rules may have deterred up to two million potential voters in the May elections. Early data from several councils also point to the fact that hundreds of citizens were denied their right to vote due to the new requirements.
The justification provided for the policy, as a measure to combat voter fraud, was put forth by Chancellor Rishi Sunak, despite the fact that there is scant evidence of in-person voter fraud in the UK. Indeed, in the 2019 General Election, there was only one conviction for impersonation at polling stations.
In light of Mr. Rees-Mogg’s alarming admission and the potential impact of this policy on voters, I respectfully request that your office launch a formal investigation into whether the ministerial code was breached.
Ministers and former ministers such as Mr Rees-Mogg were clearly in breach of the Nolan Principles, namely 1.1. Selflessness: Holders of public office should act solely in terms of the public interest, and 1.6 Honesty: Holders of public office should be truthful.
If the allegations made by Mr. Rees-Mogg are true, they suggest a significant departure from the principles of fairness and integrity that underpin our democratic process.
I look forward to your timely attention to this matter and your commitment to uphold the principles of our democracy.
Dawn Butler MP
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