With Tory MPs and Boris Johnson recently arguing for higher thresholds for strike ballots, impervious to various counter claims about the very low turnouts in elections for police commissioners and MEPs, the TUC has very sensibly asked the government`s business department to bring forward plans for electronic voting. According to the Guardian, however, there has been "little progress" even though a year has passed since the request was made; there couldn`t be political motives behind this stalling, could there? If electronic voting was allowed for union ballots, the next obvious step would be to extend the principle further.
When electronic voting was suggested to Cameron as an idea for all elections, his response was along the lines that voting in a general election was too important to be left to the push of a button. If his point was that it was too risky, open to tampering or whatever, the TUC`s talks with the Electoral Reform Society show that electronic voting would be as safe, "if not more secure than postal voting". (Guardian,04/09/14)
However, voting security probably was not the prime minister`s main concern, as changes to our outmoded electoral system would undoubtedly increase voter participation, and that would not be in the interests of the Tory party, or its leader. An increased turnout in the general election would benefit the Labour party, and its leaders would do well to consider trumpeting such changes in the build-up to the election next May.
Whilst Tory policies are aimed at the people who, historically, are more likely to vote, like the wealthy, pensioners and middle class females, they tend to ignore, or at best treat with disdain or scant regard, the less well-off and the young. This would explain why old age pensions are still inflation linked, but public sector workers, rarely the most avid Tory supporters, endure year after year of pay freeze. The rich get a tax reduction, the low paid get falling real wages. The VAT exemption on public school fees can be compared with the scrapping of the Education Maintenance Allowance, whilst there is little doubt that only a few of those suffering from the detestable Bedroom Tax would have voted Tory anyway. Austerity policies from the Tories and their compliant, unprincipled allies, have been targetting those in the lower sections of wealth levels, but doing little to upset the lifestyle of the comfortably well-off. How many fair-minded people in this country do not think those taking home between £80,000-£149,000 a year, earnings around four to six times the national average, cannot afford to pay more income tax, or deserve taxpayers` help to pay for childcare? But they escape the wrath of Tory austerity measures because of their propensity to vote!
Labour, on the other hand, have the policies already in place which would undoubtedly help the less fortunate and impoverished, the young, the so-called Generation Rent who are forced to pay extortionate rents to profiteering landlords, and people generally who find the task of walking perhaps half a mile to a polling booth too much bother, so it seems strange that Labour`s policy makers have not come down more strongly in favour of electronic voting. The idea of extending the vote to 16 year olds has been mooted, but making the voting system more accessible to adults might be the policy with more electoral advantages.
The present Tory-dominated government may loudly claim to be the defender of democracy, when it comes to foreign policy,and also insist that schools promote so-called British values like "democracy", but its quite clear that it does not want to see it properly enacted in Britain, with the lower the turnout the better, as far as it is concerned. Having everyone involved in government creation has always been a problem for Tories, ever since the days of Peterloo and the later Chartist demands. Even relatively small-scale changes to the electoral system, like having polling booths in town centres, shopping precincts, supermarkets and university campuses, and voting spread over weekends, are too radical for Tories, but such changes, leading inevitably to electronic voting as a further option in the short-term, should be on Labour`s agenda. After all, what have they to lose by advocating such policies? The more "ordinary" people, from less privileged and well-off backgrounds, and the more 18-30 year olds, who can be persuaded to vote in general elections, the less chance there will be of having to endure five years of Tory governments, lacking fairness, justice and compassion.
Just as history shows us how the rich in the 19th century did not trust the working class to vote sensibly, and denied them the right to vote for as long as possible, so the Tories in the 21st century, for the same reasons, refuse to make voting as simple and as accessible as possible. Only a Labour government can rectify that situation, and Labour leaders should be adding electoral changes to their manifesto as soon as possible.