Labour MP says electoral laws are 'not fit for purpose' for a general election

PUBLISHED: 19:38 29 October 2019 | UPDATED: 19:38 29 October 2019

Jess Phillips MP. Picture: UK Parliament

Jess Phillips MP. Picture: UK Parliament

UK Parliament

Labour MP Jess Phillips has warned that our electoral laws are 'not fit for purpose' as she explained why she did not back a general election in 2019.

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During a debate on the second reading of the Early Parliamentary General Election Bill, Jess Phillips told MPs she wanted to build consensus in the House of Commons.

She said: "A man was arrested and charged for trying to break into my office, calling me a fascist because I would not vote for the deal. I asked for him to be shown leniency in court, and I asked for us to be able to sit down and talk to each other because I do not believe that I cannot find something in common with this man who is the same age as me and grew up streets away from me. I believe we can find consensus, but I am not sure a general election campaign is where we will find it.

"An onslaught of money will come from who knows where to fund propaganda in our election: when our electoral laws in this country are currently not fit for purpose; when we are about to enter into a battle where foreign funding can flood into our system; where the prime minister's chief of staff, who led a campaign that has been found to have broken the law, is going to be in charge of some of that propaganda machine; and when the prime minister himself refuses to answer direct questions on exactly his role in the decision-making and when he found out."

"In the recent European Parliament election, a man stood on a platform, completely legitimately, when the thing that made him most famous was whether he would or would not rape me."

Phillips warned: "Our electoral laws are not fit for purpose. So what are we all going to do — all of us sitting here pretending that what we want is honesty and that we do not just want to win?

"What are we all going to do during the election campaign to make sure it is fair, to make sure it is legal and to make sure that it is not trying to say from the other side that people like me are a danger to the country or from my side that people like you are, so that people who hear that turn up and try to break into my office, scream in face and send me death threats?

The MP warned that a general election does not answer the questions facing politics right now.

She concluded: "What happens next is the question that nobody can answer. Until that is the case, the one-line bill is useless."

Her comments follow concerns from the Electoral Reform Society - which warned that foreign states using "dark ads" could post propaganda online to try to influence voters, and called for urgent action.

A spokesperson said: "It is scandalous that despite knowing about these issues for a long time, no action has been taken. Instead of dealing with potential foreign donors and unscrupulous influencers, the government are targeting ordinary people through undemocratic plans for mandatory voter ID.

"That's why we're calling for emergency legislation to close the loopholes and strengthen our democracy. The Queen's Speech promised action later in the year on online political ads - but these will not come into effect before a December election.

"There's not long to act - but act we must."

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