Tory tricks won’t save them from electoral disaster - Alex Cole-Hamilton

A hunted animal is at its most dangerous when it feels trapped, it will stop at nothing to escape the vice it finds itself in. The same is true of governments facing electoral annihilation.
Conservative prime minister Rishi Sunak (Photo: POOL/AFP via Getty Images)Conservative prime minister Rishi Sunak (Photo: POOL/AFP via Getty Images)
Conservative prime minister Rishi Sunak (Photo: POOL/AFP via Getty Images)

The last few months have seen the Conservative party lurch from one ruse to another in the hope that it might do something to arrest their downward momentum towards defeat at the coming General Election.

They’ve tried to ramp up animosity towards refugees and those on benefits, they’ve tried to trick people into believing they will cut tax while delivering the highest tax burden since the Second World War and they’ve asked you to believe that the fall in inflation has got something to do with them. They’ve tried economic parlour tricks and the unlikely resurrection of a fallen prime minister, but still the polls point stubbornly towards doom for the Tories.

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This is all the public facing stuff designed to win your vote, but what you may not yet have noticed is actually far more insidious. I’m talking about quiet, backroom efforts by the Conservative party to stack the decks and make changes to our election rules that will favour their electoral chances.

The first such change is redrawing the electoral boundaries. While the new map is drawn up by an independent body, the reason that the Conservatives have decided to press ahead with the changes is because on paper it should give them a handful of extra seats.

The second change is the requirement on all voters in a UK General Election to produce valid photographic ID before they will be handed a ballot. The operative word in that sentence is “valid”: student matriculation cards don’t count, but senior citizen bus passes do.

The point here is that the Tories have deliberately made it easier for what they see as their kind of voter to engage in the democratic process, but harder for voters from groups who don’t typically vote for them, such as young voters and those in more deprived communities who may not own a passport or a driver’s license.

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In recent months, they’ve also brought forward moves behind the scenes that will give them a further advantage. They’ve massively increased the national election spending limit for political parties. While the Tories may be lacking in popularity, they have never lacked for money and will likely expect to be able to outspend everyone else.

They’re also changing the rules on data protection. Until now, political parties are restricted in the same way as businesses in the phone numbers and personal data they can access, but they’re creating an exemption for politics. Again, using their deep pockets they will hope to be able to target voters like never before and more so than any other party – expect Conservative party robocalls coming to a phoneline near you.

They hope that all this will give them a head start when the election comes, but I have faith in the British people to see them for what they are. Too many voters have already made up their minds about this awful government. The impact of Trussonomics on their mortgage; the rage they feel about Partygate; the arrogance and ineptitude of successive Conservative prime ministers will negate any tricks the Tories pull to get them out of the trap they’re in.