Government voter ID plans described as ‘total b*****ks’ by former Scottish Tory leader

‘The idea that this is some sort of legislative priority I think is for the birds,’ says Ruth Davidson

Ashley Cowburn
Political Correspondent
@ashcowburn
Thursday 13 May 2021 14:49
comments
Voter ID plans 'total b*****ks' says former Scot Tory leader

Government plans to introduce mandatory voter ID at polling stations in future elections have been described as “total b*****ks” by the former Scottish Conservative leader Ruth Davidson.

Her frank remarks come amid controversy over the proposals – included in the Queen’s Speech – with civil liberties groups and senior MPs on both sides of the Commons warning it could erect barriers to individuals voting, particularly from marginalised groups.

Speaking on ITV’s Peston programme, Ms Davidson, who recently stood down as an MSP at Holyrood and will soon join the House of Lords as a peer, said she “couldn’t believe it” when the policy came out, adding: “I honestly didn’t know what we were doing”.

“I think they [government] can’t cite any evidence of it because I don’t think there’s any evidence to cite,” she insisted.

Ms Davidson went on: “I think in terms of this particular part of the Queen’s Speech, I think it’s total b*****ks, and I think it’s trying to give a solution to a problem that doesn’t exist, and that makes it politics as performance.”

“I think that given where we are and the year we’ve had, we’ve got real problems to solve in this country, and the idea that this is some sort of legislative priority I think is for the birds.”

Following the interview on Wednesday evening, Ms Davison posted on her Twitter account: “Apols for the language. But there are bigger threats from agents outside our borders than from someone who forgets to take their drivers’ licence (if they have one) to a polling station.”

Her comments echo those of David Davis, the former Tory cabinet minister, who told The Independent the plans were an “illiberal solution in pursuit of a non-existent problem” that was putting barriers in the way of individual’s exercising their democratic rights.

Mr Davis also urged the government to abandon the proposals, adding: “It’s pointless, it’s a waste of time, it’s a waste of ministerial effort and as I say it’s an illiberal solution in pursuit of a non-existent problem. And it will be expensive… for nothing”.

Newly released research for the Cabinet Office suggested this week that around 98 per cent of voters held some form of photo identification, including documents which had expired.

But the UK-wide study said this figure fell to 96 per cent when considering if recognisable ID was held – suggesting around two million people were at risk of missing out.

According to data from the Electoral Commission, 595 cases of alleged voter fraud were investigated by police in 2019, with just four leading to a conviction and two individuals given a police caution.  The electoral watchdog concluded in the same year that the UK has “low levels of proven electoral fraud” and that there “remains no evidence of large-scale electoral fraud”.

The government has previously attempted to allay concerns over the issue, suggesting that people will be able to apply for a new free-of-charge “local electoral identity document” for those without passports or driving licences or other acceptable forms of ID.

Earlier this week, No 10 also defended the plans, claiming: “We think identification to vote is a reasonable approach to combat the inexcusable potential for voter fraud”.

Asked what evidence there was of a problem actually existing, the Downing Street spokesman said “there is a potential for fraud which is not acceptable”.

“Everyone wants to maintain the integrity of our democracy and this would bring us in line with not only Northern Ireland but countries such as Canada, many European countries including France, the Netherlands, Sweden – all require a form of identification to vote.”

Join our new commenting forum

Join thought-provoking conversations, follow other Independent readers and see their replies

View comments