Playing fast and loose with your rights

April 26, 2022 11:45 AM
By Zoe Franklin

Ballot boxRecently local residents have contacted me about the deeply concerning decisions by the Conservative Government when it comes to our rights. Many of these are not well known but all have either been slipped through under the radar or pushed through Parliament with the full support of Guildford and Cranleigh's Conservative MP. In contrast, Liberal Democrat MPs have voted to stop these changes.

Robbing you of your right to protest - Part of a healthy democracy is about being able to peacefully protest if you don't agree with the Government or an organisation. When protest stops being peaceful there are already laws to protect people and property. However, the Government has decided to go one step further and allow a protest to be shut down before it even begins if there are any concerns about it (legitimate or otherwise). This has a huge implication for our right to peaceful protest and is deeply concerning for our democracy.

Taking away your citizenship - You or your loved ones can have their citizenship taken away without any notice being given 'if it isn't practical'. It is most likely to impact people in our communities who are from ethnic minorities and goes against accepted human rights laws and norms as well as basic fairness.

Making it more difficult to vote - The Elections Bill is currently being pushed through Parliament by the Conservatives requires all voters to now show ID before they can vote which will prevent many from being able to cast their vote. It will also stop the Electoral Commission from prosecuting politicians and campaigners who break the law.

The Bill has been condemned by opposition parties (including the Liberal Democrats), Open Democracy, Liberty and others who have branded it a 'power grab' that poses a serious threat to free and fair elections in the UK.

The Bill has even led the Electoral Commission to write an unprecedented letter to the Government in which it says:

"The introduction of a Strategy and Policy Statement - enabling the Government to guide the work of the Commission - is inconsistent with the role that an independent electoral commission plays in a healthy democratic system. If made law, these provisions will enable a government in the future to influence the Commission's operational functions and decision-making, which risks undermining confidence in the independence and impartiality of the Commission".

They have also highlighted that the Bill could 'open the floodgates on party funding' and pave the way for foreign interests interfering in our elections.

Yet the Government refuses to listen and continues to push through this discriminatory, anti-democratic Bill. A bill that the Liberal Democrats and I believe is the Conservatives rigging the system in their favour.

The Liberal Democrats have been fighting the Bill every step of its way through the House of Commons and the House of Lords. On Monday, when the Bill had its second reading in the House of Lords, Liberal Democrat Peers voted alongside others to remove the clauses from the Bill that would allow Government interference in the Electoral Commission.

The Liberal Democrats will continue to fight against this Bill and encourage anyone who cares about democracy in the UK, and having a system that is fair and not discriminatory, to write to their MP; talk to friends, family and colleagues about this; and share about this power grab on social media.

The Conservatives are chipping away at the framework and structure of our constitution in a very dangerous fashion. Many won't notice until it is too late. But we will miss it when it's been broken beyond repair.

Lords Election Bill vote - 25.4.22

Zöe Franklin
Parliamentary Candidate for Guildford, Cranleigh and our villages

26th April 2022