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Protests held against government’s Elections Bill

PROTESTS were mounted in London and Manchester on Saturday against the government’s Elections Bill, which opponents say could disenfranchise millions of working-class voters.

The Make Votes Matter group is campaigning nationwide against the Bill, which was launched in July last year and is due to go to before the House of Lords on February 23.

Campaigners warn that under the proposed new system, oversight of elections will be given to a Tory-controlled committee which will govern the independent Electoral Commission.

The campaigners also warn that the introduction of compulsory photographic identification will affect 2.1 million people who do not possess a driving licence or other photographic identification.

A disproportionate number without photographic ID are from younger, lower-income and marginalised groups, they say.

The legislation will also restrict spending at election time by organisations such as charities and trade unions.

Lancaster and Fleetwood Labour MP Cat Smith has spoken out against the Bill at every stage of its progress through Parliament.

She said that the Bill is an attempt to “rig elections in favour of the Tory Party and make it more likely that we will have a permanent Tory government.”

She said: “It is all about what is best for the Conservative Party. So many aspects of the Bill are objectionable.

“At the moment expat voters overseas can vote in elections up to 15 years of living abroad.

“The 15-year limit will end, meaning they can stay on the electoral roll – but also they can continue contributing to the Conservative Party.

“Poorer people are least likely to have identification.”

The Bill also introduces first-past-the-post elections for regional mayors.

“That would have given the Tories two more mayors in the last elections,” Ms Smith said.

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