The people of Batley and Spen must be relieved that the by-election circus has moved on and that they have a new local MP who can help to heal the rift of what was a bruising campaign. Every party and pundit will draw their own conclusions from the result which saw the local – and frankly best – candidate win, proving the old adage that all politics is local. Only time will tell how long Kim Leadbeater’s positive message of hope will prevail against the divisive politics of George Galloway and the transactional approach which in essence said unless you vote Conservative the area will not get the investment it needs.
Elections are the heartbeat of our democracy and no obstacle should be put in the way of raising turnout. Unfortunately, that is an ambition the Government does not share. Their Elections Bill risks having the opposite effect, with plans to insist voters have photo id before they can vote. Voter fraud is rare in Britain, very, very rare. In 2019 there were 59 million votes cast and just one conviction for voter impersonation – apparently the statistics show there is more chance of being struck by lightning twice. Don’t get me wrong, voter personation is wrong, but we already have laws to deter it which work. But three and a half million citizens do not have photo id, neither a driving licence or passport. They are predominantly young people and those from marginalised groups but also include older people who have served their country well but may be excluded from casting a vote. The Government should scrap this plan before it does more harm than good.