Fraud still hangs over how we vote

AS Ipswich, Waveney and Colchester prepare to go to the polls on Thursday, a hard hitting report has been published claiming the UK's voting system is vulnerable to large-scale fraud.

Graham Dines

AS Ipswich, Waveney and Colchester prepare to go to the polls on Thursday, a hard hitting report has been published claiming the UK's voting system is vulnerable to large-scale fraud.

The Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust claims that measures to improve choice for voters are actually hitting the integrity of the electoral process and calls for radical reforms to update the way we vote because it falls short of international standards.

It wants all voters to produce photographic ID, robust systems for monitoring postal and proxy votes and restrictions on campaign spending by parties at constituency level.

The report's author Stuart Wilks-Heeg says: “It's very concerning that ministers tend to focus on 'quick fixes' to solve declining turnout and ignore genuine concerns about how easy it can be to cheat the system.

“The evidence continues to mount up and shows how we are desperately in need of an electoral system that robustly befits the 21st century, without belying our 19th century democratic roots.”

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On the back of the report, the Liberal Democrats have called for a “complete reinvention” of British politics and to hammer the message home to the other party leaders, Nick Clegg says that if there's a hung parliament after the next election, he will only join a coalition government which puts his demands at the top of its agenda.

He wants politics to become more accountable, transparent, decentralised, and the big money donations outlawed. Most voters would agree.

However, it would have been better if Mr Clegg had acknowledged that the British are over-governed and it was time to remove at least one layer of democracy.

If ministers have their way, we will soon be electing members of the House of Lords. This is on top of chosing MPs, devolved parliamentarians, county, district, and parish councillors, and not forgetting everyone's favourite politicians, Members of the European Parliament.

Then there's the unelected bodies to which councillors scramble to be appointed to top up their pay and allowances - the regional assembly, police authority, fire & rescue authority, health board and a host of other nice little earners.

In Scotland, Wales, and urban areas of England in the north and midlands, two-tier local government has been scrapped and replaced with unitary councils. Suffolk and Norfolk are expected to follow suit in 2010, but Essex looks condemned to carrying on with a surfeit of councils for many years to come.

Anyway, Mr Clegg has now made it clear that the Liberal Democrats would join a coalition government in a hung Parliament only if there is a reform of party funding, decentralisation of power and increased accountability. Don't hold your breath Nick.

GORDON Brown's tax raid on the poor - abolishing the 10p starting rate for low earners - equals the stupidity of his decision 10 years ago to clobber the retirement savings of millions by scrapping tax breaks for the providers of pensions.

In his reign as Chancellor, he hit the less well off and the middle classes. As the Sunday Times revealed, the rich are getting richer under Labour. This government is the first Labour administration in history to take from the poor and give to the rich, truly a record of which to be proud.

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