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During his manifesto speech a Silverstone on June 11, Rishi Sunak claimed that if Labour wins the election, “they’ll change the rules so they’re in power for a very long time.”

The claim was seemingly based on Labour’s plan to extend the right to vote to 16-year-olds. The party’s manifesto states: “We will increase the engagement of young people in our vibrant democracy by giving 16 and 17-year-olds the right to vote in all elections.”

But according to the prime minister, Labour’s move to allow those old enough to work, pay tax, and serve in the armed forces the right to vote, would “make it harder to remove them from power.”

Sunak’s remarks were branded hypocritical, given the changes the Tories have made to the electoral system during their last 14 years in power. Adam Bienkov, Political Editor at Byline Times, wrote: “In reality, Sunak’s own government has made itself a whole series of “rule changes” to our electoral system, all of which appear designated to keep his party in power for longer.”

Voter ID

Among the changes implemented by the Tories has been the introduction of Voter ID. All voters are now required to show ID before they can cast their vote in the ballot box. The Tories’ reasoning for the law is to help combat voter fraud. Evidence however shows that voter fraud remains virtually non-existent. Between 2022 and 2023, there were no proven instances of ‘personation’ at polling stations. Critics of voter ID say that it creates barriers to voting, with the most vulnerable being less likely to own ID and therefore vote, of which the Tories would be likely to benefit from. Jacob Rees-Mogg even admitted as much, saying the move was a deliberate attempt to “gerrymander” elections on behalf of the Conservative Party.

Overseas voting barriers reduced

Britons living overseas are now able to vote in UK elections, thanks to a stealthily rolled out move by Rishi Sunak’s government.

In 2001, Labour introduced a 15-year limit on voting rights for expats. Abolishing that limit has been a long-standing Tory manifesto commitment. Doing so with the 2023 Elections Act has more than doubled the number of eligible overseas voters from 1.4 million to 3.5 million. Under the changes, Britons living abroad can have their identity confirmed by a UK voter in Britain. The changes have also made it easier for voters overseas to donate to political parties.

Increase in election spending limit

In November, the Tories were accused of ‘sneaking out’ a plan to increase the election spending cap.

Under the new rules, which were pushed through via a statutory instrument, the national election spending cap on political parties has risen by 80 percent, to about £35m.

The Electoral Commission warned the move risks damaging public trust in the political finance system.

Tories accused of interfering with Elections watchdog

Concerns have also been raised that the Conservatives have been able to interfere with the Elections Commission, the UK’s official election watchdog. Under the changes, ministers are able to alter the Commission’s strategy and priorities, providing a greater focus on voter fraud, and less attention on electoral malpractice and interference.

Former Labour MP Cat Smith said: “Voters rely on the EC to safeguard democracy itself – not to allow one party to set all the rules. 

“While one party might be in government today, there will have to be an election. Another party could write the next statement…

“The structures we make should be able to withstand changes of party. This structure comes straight out of a Republican party playbook, politicising the Electoral Commission.” 

Gabrielle Pickard-Whitehead is a contributing editor to Left Foot Forward

The post Sunak accused of hypocrisy for claims Labour will change voting rules so they stay in power for very long time appeared first on Left Foot Forward: Leading the UK’s progressive debate.

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