Brendan O’Neill

Sadiq Khan’s selective concern about ‘voter suppression’

Sadiq Khan's selective concern about ‘voter suppression’
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Sadiq Khan has got some front. He is complaining about the government’s voter ID plans, claiming it will lead to ‘voter suppression’. And yet he is engaged in the most explicit and awful act of voter suppression in the living memory of this country — the elitist effort to suppress the votes of the 17.4m people who backed Brexit.

Sometimes you wonder if the Remain-leaning elites can even hear themselves. These people have spent almost three years agitating against the largest democratic vote in UK history. Some of them want the vote to be revoked entirely (the ‘Liberal’ ‘Democrats’) while others, like Sadiq, want a second referendum to override the first.

If either wing of this anti-Brexit lobby were to get its way, the result would be the same: millions of votes would be declared null and void. The votes cast by the 17.4m people who want to leave the European Union would be erased from the public record. Our vote, and our voice, would be suppressed.

So to see these Brexit-bashers wring their hands over ‘voter suppression’ is more than many of us can stomach. They’re all at it. Today’s Queen’s Speech confirms that the government will require all voters to show ID, whether a driving license or a passport, before they can cast their vote. It says this is about tackling voter fraud. Actually, says Sadiq Khan, ‘This is voter suppression. It will hit poorer and minority communities, just as it does in the US.’

Diane Abbott says it is ‘straightforward voter suppression on the model of the American right’. Laura Pidcock calls it voter suppression, too.

The Mirror accuses Boris Johnson of introducing voter ID rules in order to ‘rig the next election’. The Guardian reports on Tory plans to ‘suppress voters’ rights’.

Most hilariously of all, the Lib Dems are having a pop too. Their Brexit spokesman Tom Brake says it is an undemocratic measure that will take away rights from ‘vulnerable voters’ in particular.

The shamelessness of it all! The Lib Dems are openly engaged in voter suppression. Their searingly anti-democratic policy of revoking Brexit would destroy the votes of 17.4m people and threaten to make the right to vote virtually meaningless. After all, if we know our votes can be overridden if they displease the elites, why should we bother voting at all?

Khan, Abbott, the Corbynista army, the Guardian and others who are now crying ‘voter suppression!’ at the Tories are hell-bent on suppressing my vote and millions of other votes.

Many of the votes for Brexit — millions of them — were cast by working-class people, of course. For the politicos engaged in a massive effort to void the votes of millions of working-class people now to accuse Boris of suppressing working-class voters’ rights suggests that what they lack in self-awareness they more than make up for with brass neck. 

As it happens, there are problems with the idea that people should have to show ID before voting. Voter fraud is not a huge problem, and the evidence does suggest that voter ID schemes impact mostly on poorer people. So we should talk about this. But it should be genuine democrats who take a lead in this discussion. The vote suppressors of the anti-Brexit lobby don’t have a leg to stand on when it comes to defending the voting rights of poor people, working people and people in general.