Early parliamentary general election

Part of Early Parliamentary General Election Bill – in the House of Commons at 5:47 pm on 29th October 2019.

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Photo of Cat Smith Cat Smith Shadow Minister for Young People and Voter Engagement 5:47 pm, 29th October 2019

The Prime Minister came to office promising to deliver Brexit by 31 October, and he has failed. He has shown his utter incompetence, and he simply cannot be trusted. We have consistently said that we will support a general election once a no deal is absolutely off the table and when a date can be fixed in law. After lengthy denial by the Prime Minister, we have now reached that point, which is why the time is right for a Labour Government and real change.

The purpose of any general election is to allow the largest possible number of people to participate and have their say on the future of the country. Up to 9.5 million people in Great Britain are not correctly registered to vote. Young people are less likely to be registered, with almost a third of people aged 18 to 34 missing from the electoral roll. This means their views and interests are being under-represented.

The Government know they are less likely to do well in elections when lots of people are registered to vote, which is why they have done nothing to tackle this issue. The Prime Minister even tried to fix the date of the general election in October to make it harder for students to take part. Students must not be disfranchised by an election date that will not allow them to vote at their term-time address—the address at which they live for the majority of the year, and at which they rightly should be able to vote. Labour’s amendment to fix the date of the general election for 9 December is the best possible way of ensuring the next election is accessible.

We can do better than that, which is why we would have supported, had they been selected, the amendments to expand the franchise to 16 and 17-year-olds and to EU citizens with settled status. We recognise their contributions to our society, and they should have a right to vote on their future as well.

Whatever date the House decides the election will be held on, the Labour party is ready to get rid of this Tory Government, who have pushed our public services into crisis. We are ready to put forward our vision for a different kind of country: a country where people get the care they need, from a properly funded NHS; a country where everyone, regardless of their family background, gets the education they need to do well in life; a country where regions that have been held back get the investment they need and a chance to rebuild after a decade of neglect; a country where homelessness is a thing of the past, and everyone can access safe and affordable housing; and a country that is led by a Prime Minister that puts the control of Brexit back in the hands of people in a new referendum, with a real choice between a leave deal and remain.

Labour is the only party that can, and will, let the people decide on Brexit. This is a once-in-a-generation chance to rebuild and transform our country, which is why I urge this House to support this amendment, to ensure that this election is as accessible as possible.