Labour MP Darren Jones praised for ‘refreshing’ response to voter ID question

Labour MP Darren Jones praised for ‘refreshing’ response to voter ID question

Related video: 'You're hurting the country,' Darren Jones tells Boris Johnson


“I don’t know” are arguably three words we don’t hear often from politicians caught off guard by an unanticipated interview question, and so when Labour MP Darren Jones gave such a response during an appearance on LBC’s Cross Question with Iain Dale on Tuesday, the shadow chief secretary to the Treasury has been praised for what social media users are calling “refreshing honesty”.

Jones, who headed up the Business and Trade Select Committee before being appointed to Labour’s shadow cabinet last year, was quizzed by Dale as to whether his party would repeal rules on voter ID if elected later this year - ahead of local, mayoral and police and crime commissioner elections taking place next Thursday.

In a candid reply, Jones responded: “I don’t know, actually, that’s a good question. I only see economic policy, so I don’t know what our position is on it.”

Impressed, Dale commented: “Well, it’s refreshing for you to say that, actually.”

Jones added: “I like to say ‘I don’t know’ when I don’t know. I get told off sometimes for doing it, but come back to me when we publish our manifesto, and I’ll let you know.”

While the programme went on, Jones texted party officials and later told Dale he had “got my lines” and was able to provide him with Labour’s stance on voter ID.

He said: “The question, ‘will Labour scrap voter ID’, we say: ‘we have seen multiple problems emerge with photo voter ID in the May elections – the last ones – and we have raised these issues time and time again with ministers.

“’Every legitimate voter should be able to vote in our democracy’ – I agree with that. ‘We are still waiting for the government’s review of the impact of voter ID in the May elections, we need to know when that’s coming.

“Ministers are required to hold a review into this discredited policy, and there must be no more dither and delay.”

Noting that Labour describe voter ID as a “discredited policy”, Dale pushed Jones on whether that does indeed mean abolition is on the table.

“I’ve got an ‘if pushed’ line … ‘We will have to wait for the results of the review, but is it clear that the Tories’ stringent voter ID has had damaging consequences for some voters who wish to vote and weren’t able to do so’,” he replied.

The honest response from Jones has since been branded "refreshing" by social media users:

Voter ID has even faced criticism from members of the Conservative Party, as Jacob Rees-Mogg claimed it was an attempt at “gerrymandering” which backfired against his party, in comments made back in May.

He told attendees at the National Conservativism conference: “Parties that try and gerrymander end up finding their clever scheme comes back to bite them – as dare I say we found by insisting on voter ID for elections.

“We found the people who didn’t have ID were elderly and they by and large voted Conservative, so we made it hard for our own voters and we upset a system that worked perfectly well.”

In June, interim analysis of the rollout of voter ID from the Electoral Commission found that around 14,000 people (0.25 per cent) who went to a polling station were not able to vote due to not being able to show valid ID.

70 per cent of those who were turned away had not brought any ID with them, while the remaining 30 per cent brought along a type of identification which was not accepted.

Craig Westwood, the independent body’s director of communications, has said the new requirement has “posed a barrier to some voters”, and is “likely to have a larger impact at higher turnout polls” – such as a general election.

“We have made recommendations to expand accessibility and support for voters, which should be introduced ahead of the next UK general election to ensure large numbers of people are not prevented from taking part,” he said.

In its response to the Electoral Commission’s report, the UK government said: “While the government is pleased with these and other positive findings in the report, we also recognise that there is always room to learn, building on solid foundations to strive consistently to improve registration and voting processes and experiences for electors and administrators alike.”

It added that it was “pleased” by the early indications from last year’s elections in May.

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