Chris Rennard has been a member of the Liberal Democrat party for more than 40 years and was awarded a peerage in 1999. Chris Rennard has written his account of becoming involved with the Liberal Democrats with his book, “Winning Here”.
Lord Rennard in Parliament
As the noble Lords, Lord Hayward and Lord Kennedy, both said, it was 150 years ago that the Ballot Act 1872 first required parliamentary and local government elections in the UK to be conducted by secret ballot. Prior to that legislation, tenants feared eviction if they did not vote as their landlord would have wished; small retailers feared that they could not vote against the wishes of their bigger customers and risk losing business; and with no spending limits yet in place, candidates could bribe voters and check that they had voted as they had agreed.
The principle of the secret ballot had been a key aim of the Chartists, and it is an essential democratic principle—but it can be undermined, and the Ballot Secrecy Bill addresses concerns about polling stations. However, my major concern about ballot secrecy is not with polling stations but with postal votes. The system is too open to abuse.