Speech on voter registration by Jeevan Jones, Regional Young Labour Representative, to the Labour Party Annual Conference in Brighton on 30 September 2015.
I wanted to raise one of the most important elements of our country’s politics – voting.
Already turnout is low and that needs to change. We’ve seen people inspired to take part in our party’s internal elections, one of the largest in recent history, and that should be celebrated. We need to work hard to drive up turnout in general elections.
But you can only vote if you’re registered. And this Tory government is endangering people’s ability to vote, a fundamental element of our country’s democracy.
They’ve changed the system from household surveys to individual registration. While we can agree with the principle, in practice it is far from perfect.
To make it worse, the Tory government has decided to end the transition period a year early, to this December, against independent advice.
This means that as many as 1.9 million people may fall off the register. In the West Midlands, which I represent on the National Policy Forum, 151,000 people will lose their vote.
Birmingham alone loses 56,000 – over 7% of its electorate. Those impacted the most are the poor, those in rented accommodation, ethnic minorities, young people and students.
Conference, can you think what these people have in common?
Well I can.
They’re not high on the list of Tory voters.
In fact, I’d say these are the people who need to vote the most, I’d say these are the people who need a Labour government the most too.
And it’s no coincidence that after nearly 2 million voters from the most marginalised groups in our society have been taken off, the new register will decide changes to constituency boundaries.
Conference, it’s an outrage and we shouldn’t be afraid to call it out.
And we need to take action.
In the West Midlands we’re doing our part, working with Labour councillors in local government.
In Birmingham we’re telling students they can now use their student ID numbers if they don’t know their national insurance number. Sandwell have developed an app, designed for hard-to-reach communities. And across the whole region we’re encouraging everyone to take action on this vital issue.
We can’t build a Better Politics unless people in this country vote – and we shouldn’t let the Tories take away the ability from those who need it most."