First, a huge thanks to the more than 80 individuals and organisations that took part in our consultation ‘COVID-19 & Democracy’. This week we have been reading through and organising all the brilliant responses. We will be using them to compile what will be a valuable report addressing the challenges to democracy that lockdown measures present and what can be done about them.
Parliament’s resumption this week was very welcome news. PMQs was a reminder of how important proper, public debate is to a democracy. We’d like to congratulate all House of Commons staff for managing the innovative return so well! Yet, as many of you mentioned in the consultation, the Welsh and Scottish Assemblies should be commended for having already implemented remote work weeks ago.
We must not forget, however, that our Parliaments and Assemblies are only a fraction of the picture.
On Tuesday The World Health Organisation’s David Nabarro told the BBC that we must learn to live with COVID-19. Chris Witty reiterated this at Wednesday’s press conference, explaining that some ‘disruptive’ lockdown measures are set to remain in place until at least the end of the year.
This means we must now prepare innovative ways to protect all the functions of our democracy and in particular elections.
The International Institute for Democracy & Electoral Assistance has been keeping a comprehensive list of COVID-19’s global impact on elections and it makes for sober reading. Even in America – a country that has never cancelled or suspended an election even in times of civil war – the current crisis has been upsetting old certainties.
Fair Vote UK will now be turning its attention towards this pressing issue. Suspending elections cannot be the solution and we intend for our report to make clear how this can be avoided so the foundation of our society – free and fair elections – can continue.