Police with ballot boxes

The British government have announced plans to introduce compulsory voter ID in an effort to tackle fraud. It’s a start but it’s barely scratching the surface.

Voter fraud at polling stations is unbelievably easy to perpetrate and the fact that nothing has been done to tackle it until now is frankly astonishing. You can literally walk into any polling station anywhere in the country with the name and address of a registered voter and vote on their behalf without their knowledge.

Requiring ID to vote in person will deter casual fraud but it won’t stop even a vaguely competent fraudster. Utility bills or other types of ID can be easily forged to give legitimacy to fraudulent entries on the electoral register. ID cards can be purchased online that simply require copies of documents that can easily be forged and the endorsement of someone off the usual list of people who can countersign passport photos – doctors, teachers, councillors, etc. Just the kind of people who will actively campaign for the party that benefits from most vote fraud.

Fraud at polling stations is a problem but it’s certainly not the only problem or even the biggest problem. Postal vote fraud and multiple voting is where most of the fraud occurs.

There are several common types of postal vote fraud. Stealing ballot papers was something that was bragged about in the most recent election, especially in student accommodation at universities where students had already broken up for Christmas. Some people even bragged of paying for blank postal votes at universities.

One of the long-running and very common frauds with postal votes is “community leaders” either collecting blank ballot papers or forcing voters to vote a certain way and taking the completed ballot paper from them. A variation on this is campaigners and candidates visiting care homes to do the same.

Multiple voting is common amongst students where they can quite legitimately register to vote both at their family home and their university. This is to allow them to choose one or the other depending on where they are at the time and which constituency they feel an affinity with. They are only allowed to vote in one constituency or the other but it is common for students to vote by post in their home constituency and in person at their university address.

The only way to prevent postal vote fraud is to limit who is able to request a postal vote in the first place. Postal voting on demand needs to be repealed and become the exception again.

Voters in care homes, sheltered accommodation and student digs who are especially vulnerable to intimidation, coercion and theft of their ballots should not be able to vote by post. Election officials from the local authority should visit such buildings with sealed ballot boxes and officiate over votes being cast to ensure it is being done freely and by the correct person.

Finally, the system of local authorities each maintaining their own electoral register needs to be replaced with a single, national electoral register. This would go some way to preventing voters registering in more than one constituency when they are not entitled to. And, in fact, nobody should be entitled to vote in more than one constituency. Students should be required to pick a home and be restricted to voting at that home.

The above changes – removing the right to postal voting on demand, establishing mini polling stations for groups of at-risk voters, creating a single electoral register covering the whole country and only allowing one entry on the register per person – combined with a requirement to show ID at polling stations should wipe out the majority of voter fraud. Sophisticated fraudsters will always find ways round the system but for most people it will prove to be too much hassle and too big a risk for too little reward.

Whatever is done needs to be done soon and it needs to be comprehensive. Just fiddling with bits of a very broken and corrupt system to be seen to be doing something isn’t good enough. Boris needs to be bold if he is going to tackle voter fraud.

On Thursday I voted Conservative in a general election for the first time, something I always said I would never do.

As a naïve teenager in 1997 I voted Labour and helped Tony Blair achieve his historic landslide victory. Yesterday I helped Boris Johnson achieve a different historic landslide victory of his own.

I joined the Conservatives a year ago on the strength of the local party and despite Theresa May and her treasonous behaviour. The local elections this year saw Labour take a lot of seats off the Conservatives in a campaign that consisted entirely of making promises to save the local A&E from closure that they had no way of keeping. They tried the same again with the general election but voters saw through it this time and rejected their politics of fear.

My own constituency of Telford went from a marginal seat with a precarious 740 vote majority for the Conservative MP, Lucy Allen, to being a Tory safe seat with a healthy majority of 10,941. All over England and Wales, traditional Labour voting constituencies turned blue. Seats that would normally vote Labour if they pinned a red rosette on a donkey returned Conservative MPs and the so-called “red wall” of Labour safe seats across the Midlands and north of England turned out to be more of a red curtain.

With the huge majority the Conservatives have we will now be leaving the EU at last. Boris’ deal is terrible but once we leave there’s no going back and our relationship with the EU can be changed in future.

Not everyone is happy with the result of course. The far left Socialist Worker’s Party had an anti-democracy protest planned in advance. Violent masked thugs took to the streets in London last night, attacking police and demanding the result of the election be ignored.

Senedd Ceiling

The great and good of Wales are tackling the most important issue facing the Welsh with a letter urging the Welsh government to rename the Welsh Assembly to the Senedd.

The Welsh government are already planning a rebrand of the Welsh Assembly by giving it two official names: Senedd Cymru and Welsh Parliament. But having an official English name alongside the Welsh is apparently a problem as it will lead to the Welsh name and therefore the entire Welsh language falling into disuse.

Now, I’m all for preserving the Welsh language and even encouraging its use in Wales. I was born in Shrewsbury, just 10 miles from the Welsh border and have never lived more than 30 miles from Wales. Most family holidays as a child were in Wales and I am fairly proficient in road sign Welsh as most people in the western half of Shropshire generally are. It’s not unusual to hear Welsh accents in places like Shrewsbury and Oswestry or even Welsh being spoken in public. Almost a third of the population of Wales speak some Welsh and just shy of a fifth of the population are able to read and write Welsh as well as speak it. The language is not going to die out because the Welsh government has an official English name as well as Welsh.

When the time comes, maybe we’ll have the same debate in England about the naming of the Thæt Angelmot? Or should it be ᚦᚬᛏ•ᛅᚾᚴᛁᛚᛘᚬᛏ?

Braveheart

Scottish nationalists are up in arms because Boris Johnson said that the Scottish Parliament has no role in approving Brexit.

The SNP think the Scottish Parliament should have a veto over Brexit because of a convention that says that British bills affecting devolved matters should be approved by the Scottish Parliament.

There are three primary reasons why the SNP are wrong.

  1. It’s a convention not an obligation. There’s no law that says it has to happen. At a time when parliamentary conventions that have been around for centuries are torn up in the name of overturning democracy, the SNP really can’t complain when their own side’s tactics are used against them.
  2. The convention exists to seek the consent of the Scottish Parliament when the British government legislates in their place. Brexit is taking powers from the EU and giving them to the Scottish Parliament. The Scottish Parliament can’t legislate on these things currently as they are EU competencies.
  3. Devolution is power shared, not power given away. The British government retains the right to legislate on all matters, devolved or not.

Boris is right: the Scottish Parliament has no role to play on Brexit and no amount of huffing and puffing by Scottish nationalists will change that.

Oliver Cromwell Dissolving Parliament

The new Parliament of Great Britain sat for the first time on 23rd October 1707. It replaced the English and Scottish parliaments on 1st May that year but didn’t sit for nearly 6 months. It sat for just 11 months before it was dissolved and elections held for the first time.

The Act of Union 1707 was the beginning of the end for England. The union of Great Britain started with England bailing out Scotland and it has continued thus for over three centuries. The Scots have been over-represented throughout the life of the British parliament in terms of numbers and influence.

The Scots never gave up their national identity or bought into the idea of being British. The English happily adopted this new fabricated identity as it was little more than a rebranded Englishness. The Scots adopted English laws and sent MPs and peers to what had been the English parliament. They saw little difference to how it had been before the rebrand.

Fast forward 312 years and England barely exists. English and British are used interchangeably far too often, we have no self-government, MPs elected in other countries make our laws, we have no national anthem and the very idea of Englishness is something dirty that should be eradicated at all costs to British politicians.

But there is still a glimmer of hope. The English identity is still strong and in fact more people than ever describe themselves as English or more English than British when asked. Unfair funding that steals from the English to bribe the Scots, Welsh and Northern Irish makes people angry. The disgraceful way that the British parliament has been blocking Brexit that was overwhelmingly supported in England means millions hold the British political class in utter contempt. Having the Scottish and Welsh First Ministers insulting English voters for voting for Brexit and demanding that their views be given precedence over ours is increasing support for booting the Scots out of the union – something opinion polls show that the majority of English people would already be quite happy with.

We will see the end of the British union in the coming years, I am quite confident of this. The current system is unsustainable, built on privilege for the few at the expense of the many. Such is the narrow minded obsession with placating the rebellious Scots amongst the British political class that they have failed to recognise just how unimportant the union is becoming to the English. It is the English that will bring the British union to its long overdue conclusion, not the Scots and it will come to the complete (and satisfying) surprise of the British when it does.

Jo Swinson with EU Flag

Sorry snowflakes, it’s not going to happen. The Lib Dems might be riding high in the polls thanks to their pledge to overturn the democratic vote to leave the EU but they’re not going to win an election.

But just imagine if they did (well, it is nearly Hallowe’en).

Jo Swinson, is the British MP for East Dunbartonshire in Scotland. Like Gordon Brown a decade ago she has no democratic mandate over about three quarters of what goes on in Westminster as her constituents give that mandate to Members of the Scottish Parliament. She has no moral or democratic right to be British Prime Minister.

If the convention of English Pauses for English Clauses was upheld we would see the ridiculous and unsustainable situation where the British Prime Minister spent three quarters of her time in the House of Commons unable to vote on legislation because as an MP elected in Scotland she would be barred from voting on something that was devolved to the Scottish Parliament in her own constituency.

There is no way that Jo Swinson – or any other MP elected in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland – could be British Prime Minister now that the constitutional fudges to paper over the gaping cracks in the union are embedded. They don’t stop MPs elected in Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland from interfering in legislation that should be the responsibility of an English Parliament because MPs from all four member states of the UK get to vote on an English-only bill at the end but they stop the routine interference in English business that MPs elected outside of England seem to think they have a right to.

An MP elected in Scotland as British Prime Minister would be nothing more than a figurehead with the real power and influence being wielded by an MP elected in England who was able to vote on all parliamentary business. The only way someone like Jo Swinson could legitimately and effectively be British Prime Minister would be to create an English Parliament with at least the same powers as the Scottish Parliament and to devolve those same powers to the Welsh and Northern Irish Assemblies. Only when a British MP elected in any of the member states of the UK has the same mandate at Westminster as any other could a British Prime Minister elected somewhere other than in England be tolerated.