Government plans to make voters produce photographic identification at polling stations are “clearly discriminatory” and will disproportionately affect ethnic minorities, Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn has said.
The proposal was outlined in the Queen’s Speech, as the prime minister Boris Johnson set out his legislative agenda.
But Mr Corbyn called them “a blatant attempt by the Tories to suppress voters, deny people their democratic rights and rig the result of the next general election”.
Adding that the plans were “clearly discriminatory”, the Labour leader said: “The people that the Tories are trying to stop voting will be disproportionately from ethnic minority backgrounds, and they will disproportionately be working class voters of all ethnicities.”
He was speaking ahead of a visit to the Black Cultural Archives in Brixton, South London.
There, he will lay out fears that those from ethnic minority backgrounds will be worst hit by the proposed reforms.
The Labour leader said a government led by him would put people from such backgrounds “at the heart of our democracy” by commissioning a race and faith consultation to investigate racial inequality.
Labour also plans to introduce an equal pay audit to close the race pay gap and to start an inquiry into recruitment discrimination.
The party’s research suggests 3.5 million British citizens do not have access to any photo identification, with 11 million lacking either a passport or driving licence.
A Labour spokesperson said there was only one conviction of in-person voter fraud in 2017, after a total of 44 million votes were cast.
The party’s findings echo concerns raised by academics.
Toby James, head of politics at the University of East Anglia, told The Independent that vote fraud was exceptionally rare and that “the problems are elsewhere”.
He said: “There is no evidence, really, to justify the introduction of voter ID requirements. The problems are elsewhere. There’s a very significant risk that this is going to lead to people not being able to vote.”
But a a Cabinet Office spokesperson said that it was “a reasonable and proportionate way to protect our elections”.
They added: “It is something people already do in everyday life and voters in Northern Ireland have been doing it with ease for decades. Voter ID is one part of a body of work this government is delivering to give the public confidence that our elections are secure and fit for the 21st Century.”
Mr Corbyn will visit the Brixton archives to commemorate Black History Month.
He will attend the centre with Dawn Butler, the shadow equalities minister and the pair will discuss Labour’s plans to improve the teaching of black British history.
“Black history is British history, and it must not be limited to one month each year,” the Labour leader said. It is vital that we build on the successes of Black History Month and develop a more inclusive understanding of our shared history.”
Responding to Mr Corbyn’s comments, James Cleverly, the Conservative Party’s chairman, accused the Labour leader of “sowing the seeds of division”.
“If anything, tougher checks against electoral fraud will protect the democratic rights of all communities,” he said.
Additional reporting by agencies
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