Oliver Dowden boasts that Tories ‘stop the boats’ while Labour ‘rig the votes’ as Deputy PM swipes at Keir Starmer’s plan to widen the electorate to include millions of EU nationals and 16 and 17-year-olds
- ‘While the Conservatives will stop the boats, Labour will rig the votes,’ he says
During a combative session of Prime Minister’s Questions, as he stood in for Rishi Sunak, Mr Dowden became the latest senior Tory to condemn the Labour leader’s proposals.
Sir Keir has been accused of attempting to ‘gerrymander’ future general elections by pursuing plans to hand a vote in UK parliamentary contests to millions of ‘settled’ EU nationals.
Labour have also said they are open to giving a vote in general elections to 16 and 17-year-olds, in what could be the biggest expansion of the voting franchise in almost a century.
Sir Keir this week said it ‘feels wrong’ that EU citizens who might have lived in Britain for many years can’t currently vote on who their MPs are.
But he has faced claims he is ‘laying the groundwork for a referendum to rejoin the EU’ with his plans to widen the electorate for general elections.
Oliver Dowden took aim at Sir Keir Starmer’s plan to widen the electorate by declaring: ‘While the Conservatives will stop the boats, Labour will rig the votes.’
The Labour leader has been accused of attempting to ‘gerrymander’ future general elections by pursuing plans to hand a vote in UK parliamentary contests to millions of EU nationals
Mr Dowden entered the row during PMQs this afternoon as he answered a question from fellow Conservative MP Sir Desmond Swayne.
The Tory backbencher suggested extending the voting franchise to all settled EU citizens would see ‘a population of voters equal to the number in Wales’ added to the electorate.
Mr Dowden used his answer to highlight the PM’s bid to bring in new asylum laws in an effort to ease the Channel migrant crisis.
The Deputy PM said: ‘It’s actually quite interesting that this week while we’re pushing ahead with legislation to break the smuggling gangs, what’s Labour’s big idea?
‘Give foreign nationals in a say in our elections. So there we have it. While the Conservatives will stop the boats, Labour will rig the votes.’
Earlier during PMQs, as he faced questions from Labour deputy leader Angela Rayner, Mr Dowden had jibed that she and Sir Keir are the ‘Holly and Phil of British politics’.
He compared the allegedly frosty relations between Sir Keir and Ms Rayner to the apparent tensions between ITV’s This Morning pairing Holly Willoughby and Phillip Schofield.
Mr Dowden is the latest senior Tory to accuse Labour of seeking to ‘rig’ votes.
Conservative Party chairman Greg Hands has claimed Sir Keir is attempting to ‘rig the electorate to rejoin the EU’.
And Levelling Up Secretary Michael Gove said Labour’s plans would ‘downgrade the ultimate privilege of British citizenship – the right to vote in a general election’.
All EU citizens who meet certain residency requirements have been allowed to vote in local elections in England.
But changes in the Elections Act 2022 will mean EU citizens who arrived from 2021 onwards will not necessarily have the same automatic rights.
EU citizens can vote in elections for the Scottish and Welsh parliaments.
Earlier this week, Sir Keir told LBC: ‘If someone has been here say 10, 20, 30 years, contributing to this economy, part of our community, they ought to be able to vote.
‘You go to doors sometimes in a general election and you’re met with someone who says ‘look, I’m an EU citizen, I’ve been living here 30 years, I’m married to a Brit, my kids were raised and brought up here, they’re now working in the UK… but I can’t vote’.
‘I think that feels wrong and something ought to be done about it.’
The Labour leader has said the party has ‘no settled policy’ on possibly widening the electorate, but was ‘looking at’ proposals.