PMQs: Rishi Sunak focuses on local elections ahead of coronation
Elderly voters were left in tears after being turned away at local election polling stations because they did not have the correct ID.
New rules requiring people to show a valid form of photo ID caused chaos at many polls as many people either got tangled up in a red-tape nightmare.
Problems began shortly after polls opened on Thursday morning.
Lib Dem MP Layla Moran said: “We’ve had reports by our tellers of people being turned away at polling stations for lack of correct ID.
“That’s just in my constituency so far. Across the country, I’m worried this will be significant numbers and far more than the exactly 0 people found guilty of fraud last year.”
Furious voters took to social media to complain about the new voter ID rules.
Alison, who was in East Hampshire, said she saw an elderly lady turned away from voting because she didn’t have the correct ID.
“She was left in tears as she walked back home,” she wrote.
It is the first ballot where voters have had to show photo identification to exercise their democratic right.
Cllr Kevin Bentley, chairman of the Local Government Association’s people and places board said councils had worked “incredibly hard” to deliver new voter ID requirements – the biggest change to in-person voting in 150 years.
Some 8,141 council seats are up for grabs in 230 councils across England, in what will be Rishi Sunak’s first big electoral test.
The elections are also viewed as one of the last big opportunities to gauge public support before a national election expected next year.
Mr Sunak said on Wednesday evening that the results would be “hard for us” and the Conservatives would lose some seats as a result of events over the past year.
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The Conservatives face a fight on two fronts: with the main opposition Labour Party – who lead by about 15 points in national polling – seeking to reclaim seats in the so-called Red Wall areas in north and central England, and the Liberal Democrats attempting to make gains in the south.
Tory chairman Greg Hands said his party could lose about 1,000 seats, while Labour leader Sir Keir Starmer said the Conservatives should be making gains because of their previous poor performance.
The last time most of these seats in England were contested was in 2019 when the Conservatives fared poorly, losing over 1,000 seats as smaller parties like the Liberal Democrats and the Greens made gains.
Then-Prime Minister Theresa May announced her resignation later that month.
Anthony Wells, head of European Political and Social Research at YouGov, said that looking at the vote share might be a more useful indicator than which seats change hands.
“Labour are unlikely to get a lead that is as large as national polls, because the Lib Dems and Greens and smaller parties inevitably do better at local elections than they do at national elections,” he said.
“But if (Labour) want to be on course to win the next election, they should be hoping to get a lead in national vote share of 10 points or so.”
It may only be possible to assess what the results mean for the main political parties by Friday afternoon because many councils are not counting the ballots overnight.
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