JACOB Rees-Mogg has suggested the UK Government’s recent introduction of voter ID was, as critics alleged, an attempt to “gerrymander” elections.
However the former cabinet minister said the scheme, brought in despite almost no evidence of voter impersonation, had backfired on the Tories by affecting its elderly supporters.
Opponents of compulsory ID argued it was effectively “voter suppression”, and would lock millions without the required documents out of the system.
The suspicion was that those least likely to vote Tory, including the young and the poor, would be affected most.
The scheme started at the recent local elections in England, with people required to show photo ID, such as a passport, driving licence or blue badge.
Mr Rees-Mogg said it had made it harder for elderly Conservatives to vote and “upset a system that worked perfectly well”.
Speaking at the National Conservatism conference in Westminster, he said: “Parties that try and gerrymander end up finding their clever scheme comes back to bite them, as dare I say we found by insisting on voter ID for elections.
“We found the people who didn’t have ID were elderly and they by and large voted Conservative, so we made it hard for our own voters and we upset a system that worked perfectly well.”
The UK Labour Party is currently considering plans to allow EU citizens to vote in general elections should they form the next government, and reduce the voting age to 16.
The voting age is already 16 for Holyrood and Scottish council elections, but remains 18 for general elections.
The UK Government has consistently denied voter ID was an attempt at “gerrymandering”, but was intended to prevent voter fraud and ensure confidence in the UK’s elections.
Following the council elections on May 4, the Electoral Commission acknowledged that some people had been unable to vote due to a lack of ID, but it remains unclear how many were turned
away and whether they were predominantly older or younger voters.
The Electoral Commission has said it will publish an initial analysis on the impact of voter ID in June ahead of a full report in September.
Mr Mogg, whose speech was interrupted by a protester warning about “fascism”, also attacked Rishi Sunak’s recent U-turn on scrapping EU law as “pathetically under-ambitious”.
The Prime Minister promised a “bonfire” of around 4,000 EU laws as a Brexit dividend, but this was cut to 600 as officials didn’t have time to sift out the laws it would be best to keep.
The UK Government originally said all the laws would lapse by the end of 2023 under its Retained EU Law (Revocation and Reform) Bill, but that was watered down last week.
Mr Mogg, an ardent supporter of Brexit, said: “Rishi Sunak made a specific promise to scrap thousands of EU laws. He’s broken that promise.
“This is very unfortunate as one of his virtues is his trustworthiness and the surrender to the blob [the Whitehall machine] risks exposing the Government to ridicule.”
The North East Somerset MP said the Government “needs to be more ambitious”, but added it was still essential to support it because “the alternative is far worse”.
SNP Cabinet Office spokesperson Kirsty Blackman MP said: “Tory MP Rees-Mogg has admitted what we knew all along - that this scheme only exists as a ploy to gerrymander the next election in a desperate bid to cling to power.
"It’s no surprise that we have evidence that this draconian legislation has pushed people away from voting. Brazenly undermining democracy and shutting people out of the electoral process was exactly what the Tories designed these laws to do."