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Promoting Democracy and Human Rights

Part of Points of Order – in the House of Commons at 5:49 pm on 13th October 2008.

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Photo of Bruce George Bruce George Labour, Walsall South 5:49 pm, 13th October 2008

I am delighted with the subject of the debate. There are many hon. Members here who directly participate in the promotion of democracy throughout the world as Members of Parliament. We are in a Chamber—not this one, exactly—that fought hard and resisted for a long time the process of democracy, denying ordinary working people and women the right to vote. The franchise was pathetically small, but because of external pressures—the Birmingham Political Union of 1832, the Chartists and the suffragettes—as well as other pressures from within our political system and, in many ways, from within our legislature, we evolved, painfully slowly, into a formidable democracy.

Complacency then set in, and there was a rude awakening a few years ago when we realised that not everybody who could vote was imbued with the tradition, which had been laid down for over a century, of one person, one vote. Instead, there was one person, multiple voting. John Hemming knows a great deal about that, as do others from Birmingham.

I am delighted that the action taken by the Government, the Electoral Commission and the wonderful judge of great literary competence who produced the report on Birmingham has helped to recreate the culture of elections whereby international standards, as well as British standards, are adhered to.