Gwynne column: 'Use your vote'

In his final Reporter column before Parliament dissolves, Denton MP Andrew Gwynne encourages residents to vote in the upcoming General Election.

An election is coming. Before long, you’ll see campaigners and candidates traipsing through the winter rain, snow, wind and hail to ask for your votes. 

I’m sure you can guess which way I hope you all vote, but the most important thing is that you vote. 

Whether it was the protesters at Peterloo or the suffragettes and suffragists, people have laid down their lives for the right of ordinary working men and women to vote and I think we owe them the few minutes it takes to cast a vote. 

Voting is one of the most important ways that we have of getting our voices heard so it’s important that as many different people vote as possible. That is why I’m so appalled at the proposal that the Tories put forward in the Queen’s Speech to make it much harder for many people to vote. 

They’ve learned from their right-wing friends in America and are looking to manipulate people’s concerns about voter fraud to find a way of making it harder for certain types of people to vote. 

They plan to do this by requiring people to show photographic ID, despite the fact that 3.5 million people in the UK (7.5 per cent of the electorate) don’t have one and 11 million (24 per cent of the electorate) don’t have passports or driving licences. These people are disproportionately working class. Research has also shown that they are more likely to vote Labour - I wonder why the Tories find the policy so attractive… 

Of course, electoral fraud is an incredibly serious crime and all allegations should be fully investigated.  However, in 2017 there out of over 44 million votes cast, there was just one conviction of polling station fraud. 

In other words, this is extremely rare. In comparison, more than 800 people were turned away and told that they couldn’t vote in 8 voter ID test areas during this year’s local elections – at a general election like the one coming up, that would translate to thousands and thousands of people unable to vote. All to stop a crime committed by just person at the last general election. 

I’m sure you all know someone - perhaps an elderly relative  - who doesn’t have photographic ID. 

Should that stop them from voting? Of course it shouldn’t. We should be finding ways of getting more people to vote, not putting up barriers to stop people from exercising their democratic rights.

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