‘Electoral reform’ for the Tories is voter identity

The Independent reports that yesterday’s Queen’s speech suggests that Johnson’s government will seek to make voter photographic identification mandatory.

This should, perhaps, be something that is completely unremarkable. After all, such ID has long been required in Northern Ireland, and in most European countries an identity card is required to be shown prior to voting.

But Northern Ireland has encountered specific fraud problems which needed to be countered – and I wonder now if they are still, in fact, needed. Mainland Europe has long been guided by the Roman and Napoleonic system where the individual needs to justify themselves to their government. The Anglo-Saxon approach (as the French would put it) has always been that the government needs to justify itself to its people.

That is, for me, the essential reason I am wary of ‘Europeanism’. (Though, I’d emphasise this is (or was) a wariness that many Europeans consider a progressive counterweight to their own traditions).

It is highly contrary – even ironic – that the government determined to separate us from the European concept wants to set up a state with a Napoleonic system of individual justification in order to be acknowledged as a member of your state of birth.

Of course the Conservative’s identity idea is not from mainland Europe, which they don’t understand at all. But, it is, for a US born Prime Minister, unsurprisingly, straight out of the US Republican’s playbook, which is decidedly worrying for an allegedly ‘one-nation’ Conservative government. Yet as long as such identification that is provided is, as in Northern Ireland, free, there is little realistically that can be done to oppose it – though I personally consider the changes, because indeed they are changes, could well be subject to human rights legal challenges. I cannot see how it could ever be argued that such identity justification improves human rights, only that it impedes them.

For there is of course no evidence of voter impersonation at all, whereas the identity of postal voters could be rather more dubious.

So we are leaving Europe but our own Napoleon is introducing Napoleonic systems just in case.

How very comforting…


  1. Richard Bond -

    Where does one obtain the “free” ID? When compulsory ID cards were mooted they were expensive. Private companies supplying legally valid proof of age cards charge, as does the Passport Office and the DVLA. My partner is disabled, she does not work and is unable to drive. We cannot afford to travel abroad, so have let our passports lapse.

    We will have to pay to vote, and there are many thousands, usually the people who can least afford it, in the same position. We are also the people who can least afford to challenge the validity of the legislation.

    Even if a challenge is made, the Supreme Court has confirmed in the strongest terms the supremacy of Parliament, so if Parliament votes it as overriding the Human Rights Act, what can be done?

    1. Peter May -

      I would hope that the Human Rights Act would, in fact, prevail. But as you suggest there is no certainty. Free ID is available in NI, so in fact so there is no coherent reason why the same free ID should not be available in GB. That unfortunately may not prevent the Tories charging for it in GB.

  2. christine bergin -

    Legally valid photo ID doesnt really affect postal votes and that must be the most vunerable area in our system. The big point of it is must be that it would be relatively easy to cry ‘fraud’ and disenfranchise those cosidered Undesirable, Our politicians have been taking lessons from USA apparenly,

    1. Peter May -

      Entirely agree re postal votes.

  3. Andrew (Andy) Crow -

    “….allegedly ‘one-nation’ Conservative government….”

    Nothing ‘allegedly’ about it.

    Boris Johnson will usher-in new One Nation Conservatism. The one nation will be lesser England.

    Brexit, initially an attempt to sort out Tory Party internal divisions, has become an increasingly overt pitch for English Nationalism.

    The Union Flag is cover for the St.George Cross. Because Little Englanders think the flag of union is their’s by right. It isn’t.

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