Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Then and now

Back in June 2004, Cllr Hemming even-handedly laid accusations of dodgy electoral practice at the door of the PJP and the Labour Party.

Coun Hemming... put the spotlight on the Muslim-led People's Justice Party and the Labour Party, who he accuses of manipulating postal votes...

The People's Justice Party denied all of Coun Hemming's allegations. Amir Khan, a PJP candidate in Nechells ward, said he and his colleagues were simply attempting to ensure that people with a poor grasp of English understood the voting process. He added: "People don't know what the forms say. They are throwing them in the bin and think they can then turn up and vote at the polling station. It is a very awkward situation.

After the election, there was an electoral court which overturned Labour's wins in Aston and Bordesley Green, forcing re-runs in each. Needless to say, Cllr Hemming and his colleagues have made as much hay as possible about this, tarring everyone in the Labour Party with the same brush. He forgot his concerns about the PJP members and welcomed their votes them to the party with open arms - after helping them with the electoral petition.

Very early on Tuesday morning, West Midlands Police executed a warrant on a house in Bordesley Green and arrested two men - Lib Dem Cllr Zaker Choudry and Lib Dem candidate Mohammed Saeed (an ex-PJP member). Both men have since been released on police bail and no charges have been laid.

However, that hasn't stopped Aardvark going on the offensive, claiming that the raid was politically motivated and it is all a conspiracy anyway.
Superficially it appears that the police are intervening in the election itself. They arrested one of our candidates in the 2006 election. He, however, was found to have not committed any offence (the postal votes found with his wife were his, his wifes and their children).We know that some form of setup is going on because a postal vote was misdirected to the same Lib Dem Candidate's house. It is a bit like harrassing people with Pizzas and Taxis instead we have harrassment with postal votes.

What were the police to do? Delaying the raid until after the election would have been as political a decision as to do it before May 3. In any case, as the arrested councillor confirmed, the investigation is into allegations from 2006 and this year, so waiting until Friday would have been fairly pointless. Waiting until Tuesday may have been equally pointless, as postal votes have been counted daily since Monday.

He's followed that up with an interview on the Today programme, which was marred by him seeming rather distracted and using a poor-quality mobile phone. It seems the BBC have been shown documents revealing the scale of reduction in postal votes across the City. Nice to see that they are up to speed - this has been common knowledge for weeks. The City Council cancelled all postal votes earlier in the year - even those where the elector had requested a permanent vote - and asked electors to submit new requests. Surely this can't have been timed as an attempt to embarrass Labour by resurrecting the spectre of the 2004 problems?

This year, Labour activists have signed up to a tough code of conduct, which we break at our peril - the penalties for transgression have been made crystal clear. Simply put, campaigners are not allowed to encourage mass sign up of postal voters, we don't touch any postal ballots (apart from our own, if we have them) and we don't visit postal electors after the ballot papers get posted out (last Tuesday). Even though the Electoral Commission code of practice allows party workers to assist electors, we're banned from that. This year, there is a real determination that Labour should not only be clean, but be seen to be clean.

As we know that electoral malpractice is not solely a Labour problem, the other parties in the City were asked to join in with these tougher rules and to take a common stand against vote fraud.

So far as I know, the other parties have refused to make that commitment.


john said...

I never expected your people to follow your own code and they don't.

Whilst you keep the people disqualified from voting in the party Labour cannot have credibility on this issue.

The remaining issues will take some time to resolved. I am of the view that the Lib Dem campaign in Bordesley Green this year and last year did not involve any fraudulent votes.

What I am concerned with is that Lib Dems fight elections properly.

john said...
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