Dead Men Left

Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Rampant electoral fraud and Labour disintegration

Good report in the Indy a few days bac, mercifully not yet hidden away from freeloaders:

...a specially-convened election court in Birmingham has heard shocking allegations that, here in Bordesley Green and also in Aston, another inner-city ward, last year's council elections were rigged - on a grand scale.

The court has heard that the elections were subverted by threats, intimidation and the wholesale theft of postal votes, with thousands of others being diverted to "safe houses" where the ballots were allegedly filled in on an "industrial scale". Bags full of voting papers are alleged to have changed hands in the streets; a postman is said to have been threatened with death. Two days before the poll, it's alleged, police found Labour candidates for Aston and supporters in a warehouse at midnight, with nearly 300 unsealed postal votes on a table.

The former Liberal Democrat councillor Ayoub Khan - who lost his Aston seat in those elections - claims some votes were up for auction. "I knocked on one door," says Khan, a 31-year-old trainee barrister, "and the householder said to me, 'I've been offered £10 for my vote, but I'm looking for £15...'" Khan also told a court he'd received "numerous death threats" during the election campaign. He says these have continued since he helped to mount a legal challenge to the Aston result. "People have phoned me at all hours, from withheld numbers. They play a recording: it'll say things like, 'We're watching you; we're going to shoot your kneecaps off.'"

I remember hearing hair-raising reports from Birmingham back in June. The Peace and Justice Party, with the support of Respect in the city, has understandably been raising a stink. Despite holding all the elements of a good story, it's failed to catch more press attention; though given the all-encompassing Westminster bias of the British media, this probably isn't too surprising. (There is also a niggling suspicion that disenfranchised Asians aren't considered worth bothering with until the riots break out.)

More chunks of Labour's crumbling fortresses can be found in my home town, Wigan, where the Community Action Party has come eaten away at one of the most solid Labour boroughs in the country. There's an interview with their leader, Cllr Peter Franzen, complete with the obligatory Wigan Pier joke, here. It's noticeable that support for the BNP across the borough has declined sharply since the CAP was launched and, to his credit, Franzen states that:

The bottom line is that every councillor has the right to vote with their conscience but, by persuasion, we would hope to reach agreement. Only if someone started spouting racist or anti-asylum seeker rubbish would I seek to get them expelled."

He also hints, elsewhere, that the CAP were victims of postal ballot irregularities (Leigh Observer, 18 June 2004 - not online)

"People are sick of the bullying and the lies of this Labour Government and Labour Council.

"They have used every tactic in the book to try to hang on, including this absolutely disgraceful postal ballot shambles and if not for that we probably would have taken over the council."

It's a little hard to place this lot - in fact, they make a virtue out of it. ("Populism," says the Gramscian, applying a strict definition to an over-used word.) Labour's great hope is that this, the PJP, and Respect will remain as minor local difficulties.