BY JANE COX
We all know it goes on. Vote rigging has been happening across the UK for many years and we seem no closer to getting to a point where it is banished from our democracy. That is sad for us as a country as so many other democracies still look to us as the beacon of democracy across the seas. Something needs to be done about vote-rigging and fast.
I remember, after Theresa May’s unwise 2017 General Election debacle, having a conversation with a friend at CCHQ. I told my friend about how Red Rebecca Dent-Coad’s election in Kensington came on the back of a slew of postal votes which surprised election officers as the names were new to them and certain addresses they knew as housing few were suddenly producing dozens of Labour-voting postal voters. There was a certainty that electoral fraud had occurred in Kensington. But my friend warned me, “we cannot do a thing as we’re as much at it as them”.
I then came to learn of the dead voters of Torbay and other Tory-voting areas. Maybe the parties are all as bad as each other I wondered? That should still be no excuse for this illegality to persist.
Then came the Peterborough byelection and news that confirmed electoral fraudster Tariq Mahmood was involved in proceedings. Labour’s victory by 683 votes, in one of Britain’s most keenly-fought by-elections of recent years, was almost immediately overshadowed by accusations of electoral fraud and voter harassment — centred on the Muslim community which is particularly active in Peterborough politics. Local newspapers produced highly damning evidence against the Peterborough Labour Party – described in one as “a rabble of now proven liars, anti-Semites, and ballot burglars”.
I was reminded of Sir Eric Pickles who in 2016 claimed that the integrity of democracy in Britain is at stake. Pickles claimed vote rigging in Muslim communities had gone unchallenged because “politically correct” police and other bodies were scared of causing offence. He claimed authorities had also turned a “blind eye” to bullying and religious intimidation among Asian communities at election times. Pickles blasted the Electoral Commission for making the problem worse by promoting the use of foreign languages at polling stations, saying at the time that it “leaves the door open to fraud”.
The Peterborough result was a sour one. It was beyond weird that a town would vote for Labour with Corbyn as leader and having just deselected its MP, the speeding points crook Fiona Onasanya. Concerns about vote-rigging in Peterborough were so widespread over the last 15 years that the city was singled out as one of eight areas in England selected for a pilot scheme to combat electoral fraud. At first, we all shrugged our shoulders at the result and put it down to blind Labour voters, who always voted Labour come what may. But then the incongruities started seeping out – about Mahmood and in tweets like the one below.
Peterborough Council has now referred five allegations of electoral fraud to police to investigate. A Cambridgeshire police spokeswoman said: “We are looking into five allegations relating to the by-election and whether any offences have been committed. These break down into bribery and corruption x1, postal votes x3 and breach of the privacy of votes x1.” The investigations are ongoing, apparently.
You watch. After a few weeks when the Peterborough vote rigging scandal – which no doubt is what it was – has died down, there will be a report on the BBC stating that no further action has been taken. Labour will reinforce its distancing of Tariq Mahmood and there will be no repeat of the byelection.
Much more needs to be done now. Maybe the incoming PM can address voter fraud and start by banning postal voting, except for those who genuinely can’t leave the house for medical reasons, and except for armed forces on assignment overseas. Voter ID for all votes at polling stations should be immediately introduced. Restricting voting rights to British citizens, and to other nationals who have been legally resident for at least a decade, would also be a wise move.
Jane Cox is a Property Developer from Christchurch, Dorset.