While the Ukraine crisis continues to take centre stage, the government is seeking to push through its Elections Bill which, if passed, could have serious repercussions for the integrity of our democratic processes, writes Cat Smith.

There is a pattern of behaviour from the Conservatives. A series of political decisions, laws passed and positions taken, which on their own might seem inconspicuous, but looking at the whole you will see a clear pattern.

As events in Ukraine develop too fast for me to pass any reasonable comment in this piece, it's raised the issue of the government's Elections Bill up the political agenda again. Thank goodness. For years I have been speaking out about the risks of this Bill, I hope now this is the utterly tragic war in Europe shines a light on the threat of interference in democracy across the world including here in Britain.

But, turning to that pattern of behaviour. Propped up by Liberal Democrat coalition partners after 2010 they changed the way voters register to vote, moving from household registration to individual registration. Triggering millions of voters to fall off the electoral roll. This was the moment the 'snap shot' was taken for redrawing parliamentary constituency boundaries – clearly inaccurate and biased in favour of the Conservatives. Just like their decision to move from having 650 MPs to 600. Calculated for electoral advantage.

Fast forward a few years and 650 MPs would better benefit them, so not-by-chance that's the number the boundary commissions have been asked to work towards.

By removing the Fixed Term Parliament Act we now have a situation that only the Prime Minister (almost always the leader of the largest political party) knows when the next UK general election will be. Why does this matter? Well, when spending limits kick in 12 months before a poll the other parties and any independent candidates are fighting with the hands tied behind their backs and blindfolded.

Then in the past few months Boris Johnson tried to change the rules to shield Owen Paterson from accountability. A prime minister who thinks the rules don't apply to him.

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Then, looking at the Elections Bill we see they are extending the first-past-the-post voting system to elections for mayors and police and crime commissioners. This comes after Labour's candidate Nik Johnson unseated the Conservative mayor of Cambridgeshire and Peterborough last May because of the current supplementary vote system's second preferences seems hardly a coincidence. They are picking the electoral system they think delivers more Conservative wins.

The rest of the bill is even worse. After the Electoral Commission fined the Conservative party for failing to accurately report donations, the government is now planning to strip the Commission of its independence – effectively allowing the political party in government to mark its own homework. The independence of the Commission is crucial – both real and perceived. In a world where democracy is under threat we should seek to strengthen it, not weaken it.

It will introduce mandatory photo ID for voters, which will exclude millions from our democracy, disproportionately young and those with disabilities. All of this upheaval is due to one single conviction of voter impersonation at the 2019 general election. Hardly a proportionate response, given you are more likely to be struck by lightning three times than have your vote stolen in this way.

And new spending rules will make it easier for foreign donors to pump money into our elections, even as it becomes harder for trades unions and charities here in the UK to have their voices heard.

Then the minister in charge of the bill was reshuffled and a new minister thrown in the deep end, struggling to explain very much about the bill and confessing to having not read important documents like the Russia report, which contain important warnings about defending our democracy.

If passed, this legislation will reverse decades of democratic progress in the UK. Meanwhile, it will be the Conservatives who benefit from reduced turnout, more first-past-the-post, and an Electoral Commission at their beck and call. The irony is, this has all been done in the guise of restoring integrity to our democracy. But the truth is that our democracy does not have an issue with integrity; it is the Conservative government that has the issue with integrity.

The government knows that if the British people were asked about how they wanted their elections to be carried out, they would not endorse the package that Boris Johnson is busy forcing upon them right now. This is why Conservative MPs voted down a proposal supported by MPs from across the political spectrum to call a citizens' assembly and ask the British people how they wanted to elect their representatives.

Without a mass movement calling for true democracy, the Conservatives can pretend that the people do not really care about this, the Elections Bill will pass, and the government will escape true accountability. Now is the time to call for an end to the cronyism and corruption, to call for a government that is accountable to its voters, and to demand a system that works for everyone.

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