Tuesday, February 14, 2006

What are they hiding?

The Post this morning headlined a story that Sir Albert Bore might be reported to the Standards Board of England by a Liberal Democrat councillor for attempting to intimidate and bully the acting chief executive of Birmingham City Council.

He allegedly did this by writing a letter. If that intimidates Stephen Hughes, then he ought to spend a few hours with some of the frontline staff who face real intimidation on a regular basis. Actually, if he thinks that's bullying, then he's in the wrong job.

All this stems from last year's Aston by-election, caused by allegations of electoral fraud surrounding the 2004 local elections. Six Labour councillors - three in Bordesley and three in Aston - were disqualified as a result, with one later winning an appeal against the decision.

A couple of things disturb me about the letter, as reported:
He warned that public confidence in the electoral system in Birmingham would be damaged if the High Court ruled the election court to reconsider the case against the five former councillors. There would also be costs to the council of at least £100,000 in organising fresh election court hearings.

Is the chief exec really suggesting that an appeal be dismissed because it is embarassing or too expensive? Nice to see that justice has a price in Birmingham.

Aside from that, this seems irrelevant to the new case, which is about allegations of fraud around the 2005 by-election in Aston. I'm aware of some of the evidence around the case and there is definitely cause for further investigation.

Finally, there's the misuse of the Standards Board for England as a threat in an attempt to silence a senior councillor. Perhaps John Hemming might have a comment - he's been vocal about the abuse of that process for political purposes and was the leading light in the 2004 electoral petition. But then, that was about the Labour party, not his own. Of course, if Ayoub Khan reckons that this threat will silence Sir Albert, then he's a bigger fool than Mike Whitless (which is a pretty high standard to start with).

I agree that repeated claims of fraud do nothing for public faith in our electoral system, but if we allow allegations to be swept under the carpet on the grounds of inconvenience, then we risk allowing rot to eat away at the entire democratic system.

If there is nothing to hide, then let the matter be tried through the proper process and let people see that justice be done.

No comments: