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Turned out nice again

05 May 2024 4 minute read
‘Turned out nice again’ by Sarah Morgan Jones

Ben Wildsmith

Whenever Boris Johnson appears to be ‘bumbling’ it’s wise to be suspicious. His mendacity is such that there’s always a better than evens chance he’s play acting for some personal outcome we’ll find out later.

You’ll remember his bizarre claim of spending leisure time making models of London buses.

It’s been suggested that this was a ploy to game Google results so that his most famous lie, £350 million per week to the NHS from Brexit, which was plastered across a bus, became obscured.

Why he contrived on Thursday to arrive at a voting station without the photo ID he’d mandated by law isn’t clear, but it got him noticed again and he rarely does anything at all without purpose. We’ll see.

This week’s elections for police commissioners, mayors, and English councillors were the first to require voter identification and the discussion around this reveals the threadbare nature of democracy in the UK.

Turnout, we’ve been assured, was only slightly down and supporters of the change have been keen to list the many forms of ID that are acceptable.

This line of thinking ignores the glaring reality that turnout in UK elections without ID was so low as to render their results undemocratic in any meaningful sense.


It is a mantra of conservatives that the state is too powerful. This idea is supposed to be the bedrock of their ideology.

The introduction of voter ID by a Tory government exposes this for the sham it is. The state is terrifyingly powerful. It can lock you up, take away your resources, decide whether to treat your illnesses, dictate what your children are taught, and send you to war.

The only scant response we have to its activities is the rare opportunity to vote, and even that is rendered meaningless for most of us in Westminster elections that are decided by the first-past-the-post system.

You would expect the Tories, self-proclaimed defenders of personal liberty, to be outraged by any move to place barriers between the individual and his or her access to democracy.

The truth, of course, is that they adhere to no such ideology. They are perfectly happy for the state to march over your liberty to protest, vote, or receive an education that might enlighten your political outlook.

Libertarian philosophy

Their ‘light-touch government’ applies only to touching their wealth. Any notion that this belief forms part of an overarching libertarian philosophy is for the birds.

The problem this policy purported to address, voter fraud, is virtually non-existent. Organising hundreds of imposters to vote in place of people who must be relied on not to turn up is impossible.

On the other hand, you can be confident that the majority of people who can’t put their hands on passports or driving licences come election day will be from the poorer section of society.

That such a law can be passed without violent resistance, speaks itself to the hopeless disengagement that most of the country feels from the mechanism of government.

The results of this week’s elections underscore the inevitability of an incoming Labour administration.

The triumphalism displayed by the party in Wales over police commissioner victories achieved with minute turnouts is dispiriting.


If Labour mistakes widespread disgust at Tory misrule for enthusiasm as regards its own uncertain offering it will be making a grave error.

The UK requires fundamental constitutional reform. It must devolve power properly across the nations as well as the regions of England.

Proportional representation should be immediate Labour policy if it poses as a progressive force.  Voter participation should be prioritised as an urgent concern.

Why, for instance, is election day not a Bank Holiday? If politics continues to be something that is done to people, rather than a process over which we feel ownership then the drift towards corporate governance will become irreversible.

Whether your priority is independence, the environment, equality, personal liberty, or economic change, your chances of achieving it via the ballot box are few and shrinking.

Politicians should quake in fear of a responsive electorate; their every decision should carry personal consequence.

The first question we should ask of Sir Keir Starmer when he assumes office is,

‘How do we get rid of you?’

Flags & Bones by Ben Wildsmith is available from Cambria Books

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19 days ago

Absolutely Ben, the longer I live the more apparent it becomes the brainwashing that has/ is happening is frightening. Democracy? Yeah righto !!!

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
19 days ago

I thought that was pure urinating in the face of every non-member of the Bullingdon Club…

Steve A Duggan
Steve A Duggan
19 days ago

I doubt very much how we vote at GEs will change come a Labour government, both Labour and the Tories benefit from FPTP too much. The only way we’ll eliminate this really bad voting system is as an independent country.

18 days ago
Reply to  Steve A Duggan

Exactly. The Libs to be fair managed to achieve a vote on the AV system but there was precious little momentum behind it. We live in a State built for an empire and turned against its citizens for the benefit of the rich. Only the total dissolution of the UK and its’ replacement with genuine democracies for the constituent nations will do.

adrian savill
adrian savill
19 days ago

Eto ethyrgl gwych

Fi yn unig
Fi yn unig
19 days ago

I’ve got questions for Starmer which precede ‘How do we get rid of you? Are you going to slam hard into reverse on day one of week one legislation which makes it harder to vote, boundary changes that favour Tories, the Rwanda human rights abuse and quash any notion that we will be leaving the ECHR? Will you then change the electoral system to include progressive self governing rights for countries to run themselves in Wales and Scotland without need for referenda and implement regional parliaments in England so making it impossible for another island wide Tory dictatorship ever to… Read more »

J9 1968
J9 1968
19 days ago

“That such a law can be passed without violent resistance, speaks itself to the hopeless disengagement that most of the country feels from the mechanism of government”.

That reads like a call for violent resistance put through the mincer of a double negative.

Ben Wildsmith
Ben Wildsmith
19 days ago
Reply to  J9 1968

Thank you.

19 days ago

This article remind me of why I am very uncomfortable with voter ID, because its saying that your right to vote as a citizen, is actually conditional, not automatic. It is conditional on being able to jump through a load of hoops and fill out a load of forms to navigate the bureaucracy correctly. One of the things I worry about the voter ID thing, at a general election it might cause problems, with people who are not allowed to vote being aggrieved, or the actual process of checking all the IDs, slowing things down at some polling stations to… Read more »

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