Theresa May’s opinions on Britain’s democratic norms and values have, by and large, been ignored, due to the perception that her lack of a majority prevents her from doing anything about them. But, had she received the mandate she sought last June, she would have overseen an historic change to our democracy — stacking the cards in her party’s favour, and she still has enough power to push through significant changes to our democracy.
Theresa May’s attempts to “rig” our democracy first got the spotlight last week as her plans to change the composition of Parliament’s Committee of Selection were revealed. The plans would give the Conservatives a majority on Standing Committees despite failing to win over 50% of seats in Parliament in June’s election. But, it is not the first time she has tried to change democratic norms in her favour.
In her manifesto, last June, Theresa May promised to repeal the Fixed Terms Parliament Act (2011), the law that created five-year terms for Parliament and required the approval of 2/3 of MPs to call an early election. If May had been successful in her attempt to repeal this act, she would have been able to call an election whenever the political climate was favourable, without needing any bipartisan support from the Commons.
(Photograph by Flickr / Tim Green, Polling Station, Victoria Hall, Queensbury)
Another manifesto commitment was to force people to show ID before voting in future elections. The problem this promise was supposed to combat is practically non-existent, there were just 26 allegations of in-person voter fraud after the 2015 election. Yet, if this proposal were implemented it could have serious, negative consequences, potentially banning 7.5% of the electorate, or 3.5 million people, from voting. And, if similar laws in America are anything to go by, they would disproportionately affect poor people and ethnic minorities.
During the election campaign the Government tried to postpone the publication of its pollution strategy on the basis that election purdah forced its delay. Yet this claim was ripped apart by experts including, Colin Talbot, professor of government at Manchester University, who said, “Purdah rules normally only come into effect when parliament is dissolved, not as soon as an election is called. In this case it is quite clear they [the Government] have stretched the definition considerably.”
In recent developments, it has been revealed that the Conservatives are expected not to vote on any future, non-binding opposition day motion, rather than risk exposing their majority with the DUP as fragile and unstable. Moreover, the recent passage of the EU Withdrawal Bill through Parliament, showed that — despite not having a majority — the Government still has the power to force the most damaging parts of their agenda into law and, thus we must not become complacent and must present a strong opposition in the face of the erosion of our democratic norms and values.🔷
Goodbye democracy https://t.co/5Unjczpe4w— Robert Peston (@Peston) September 13, 2017