Lyn Brown

Member of Parliament for West Ham

A Fairer System is Needed - June 2012

For the first time in ages, following the content-light Queen’s Speech, Parliament had a second reading of a Bill to consider.  It changes the way we register to vote.


Not, you might think, a riveting topic for this column; but, given the dismally low turnout in the latest London Mayoral election, my mind turned to thoughts of how our democracy works.  It’s not perfect, but it’s better than any repressive regime.

In many parts of the world, people risk their lives and make huge sacrifices to achieve democracy in their countries.  I remember how humbled and awed I felt, sat in the shell of a Congolese school, surrounded by hungry mosquitoes and armed guards, as I counted ballots by candle and torch light.

When Great Britain first introduced votes-for-all, responsibility for registering voters went to the “Head of the Household.”  It may have seemed appropriate then, but it’s anachronistic now.

The Government’s new system makes each of us responsible for registering for our own vote.  I support the principle; it makes more sense.

To be worthwhile, we must be certain any new system makes it easier to vote, not harder.  It must take account of the way we live today.

A national survey found only 82.3% of electoral registers were complete.  More than six million eligible voters are missing from the lists, mainly because the registers cannot keep pace with population movement.

With this in mind, we must somehow ensure this ramshackle Government introduces a new system that is fairer to areas like Newham.  The vote is a Right, hard won.  It is to be cherished.  We must find ways to encourage everyone to register and to use their vote.

This Government is out-of-touch and becoming sleaze-ridden.  Enough of us need to be registered to vote, to vote them out.

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