Labour leader accused of wanting to rig general elections by letting migrants who live in UK and pay tax have a say
Sir Keir Starmer will hand the vote to millions of EU citizens if Labour wins the next general election, the Telegraph can reveal.
Under manifesto plans for the biggest expansion of the franchise in almost a century, Sir Keir will launch a “package of proposals” including votes for settled migrants and 16 and 17-year-olds.
The move could force the Conservatives out of London altogether and unseat Boris Johnson if he stands again for Parliament in 2029.
However, the Labour leader faces accusations of trying to “rig the outcome” of a future election and “laying the groundwork for a referendum to rejoin the EU”.
Under the proposals, migrants who live permanently in the UK and pay tax will be able to vote in general elections for the first time.
It is expected to affect around 3.4 million EU nationals in Britain, who have already fulfilled those requirements to achieve “settled status”. A further 2.6 million have already been granted “pre-settled” status and could be given voting rights in the future.
Labour would also expand the franchise to include 1.4 million 16 and 17-year-olds, increasing the size of the electorate by more than eight per cent in total.
Prof Sir John Curtice, the polling expert, said that migrants and young people were more likely to be Labour supporters.
Home Office data show migrants with settled status are heavily concentrated in large cities and the south of England.
“The presumption we all have, rightly or wrongly, is that they’re more likely to be opposed to Brexit, and therefore less likely to vote for the Conservative Party,” he said.
“London is already so overwhelmingly Labour – there are some Tory constituencies left, but not that many of them, and they are the ones that will be particularly on the line.”
He added that the policy “might help contribute to the downfall of Boris” in his west London constituency, which has a large migrant population, if he is still an MP after the next election.
An analysis by the Telegraph suggests senior Conservative MPs who may also be under threat include Bob Blackman, the executive secretary of the 1922 Committee, and Sir Iain Duncan Smith, the former party leader.
Labour’s plans to expand Britain’s electorate are expected to be announced in the party’s next manifesto, with detail being finalised among senior aides in the coming months.
Sir Keir called for “full voting rights for EU nationals” during his 2020 leadership campaign but there has been no policy announcement since then.
His other Brexit pledge to “defend free movement as we leave the EU” has since been abandoned, while the plan to introduce votes at 16 has been carried over from Jeremy Corbyn’s manifesto.
‘He doesn’t trust the British people’
A Labour spokesman said: “Keir fundamentally believes that if you work hard and contribute to this country, not only should you be able to get on, but it is fair and right that you should also have a say in decisions being made for your community.”
But a Conservative spokesman suggested the move was designed to lay the groundwork for a second referendum on Brexit, and accused Sir Keir of trying to “rig” the result of the election at the end of his potential first term as prime minister.
“Allowing foreigners to vote is Sir Keir Starmer’s admission that he doesn’t trust the British people,” the spokesman said. “He is laying the groundwork for a referendum to rejoin the EU, something he campaigned so passionately for. And now he wants to rig the outcome.”
Settled EU migrants already have the right to vote in some elections in the UK, including for the Scottish and Welsh parliaments, police and crime commissioners and local councils.
Sixteen and 17-year-olds were given the right to vote in local and devolved assembly elections in Scotland in 2016 and Wales in 2020.
Irish and Commonwealth citizens have the right to vote in general elections if they are residents in the UK and register to vote.
But an expansion of both EU eligibility and the voting age is thought to be the biggest increase in the size of the franchise since women were given equal voting rights to men in 1928.
Speaking at the Progressive Britain conference on Saturday, Sir Keir said he was prepared for the next election to get “dirty and nasty” after the party’s local elections success.
“We can’t complain. It isn’t pleasant, but we have to get on with it,” he said.
The Labour leader added that his reforms would go further than Sir Tony Blair’s decision to abandon Clause IV of the party’s constitution in 1995 and said he “[doesn’t] care” if his commitment to preserving Britain’s way of life and environment “sounds conservative”.
“With the levels of cynicism in our politics, the let-down, the drifting away, the disconnect, our collapse in Scotland, the loss of the Red Wall, this task is ongoing, difficult and enormous,” he said.
“It is, if you like, Clause IV on steroids. And the results last week show our work is beginning to pay off.”
Amid speculation about the prospect of a coalition deal with the Liberal Democrats, if Labour cannot secure a majority at the next election, Sir Keir rejected suggestions he would reform Britain’s electoral system to benefit smaller parties.
“We’re going to have priorities coming into government, clear priorities. They are going to be the missions and I’m afraid voting reform is not one of the priorities,” he said.
Source : Telegraph