Could Labour suffer after the judge’s stinging attack on minsters?
The judge in the postal vote-rigging trial has strongly attacked the government’s attitude to the problem accusing minsters of being not only complacent, but “in denial” about the failings of the system.
According to BBC Online Richard Mawrey QC was speaking as he ruled there had been “widespread fraud” in six Birmingham council seats won last year by Labour and his comments come as more voters than ever are preparing to vote by post in the general election.
In 2001, 3.9% voted by post but this time about 15% of voters have asked for postal ballots for the poll expected on 5 May. Birmingham was not part of the postal-only experiment undertaken in some areas at the last local elections. Both the pro-Kashmir People’s Justice Party (PJP) and the Liberal Democrats claimed local Labour activists used forgery and deception to collect votes – something the candidates denied.
Sitting as an election commissioner, Mr Mawrey said that the system gave an “open invitation” to fraud and was “hopelessly insecure”. He noted that it “is wide open to fraud and any would-be political fraudster knows that it’s wide open to fraud”.
The judge said he regretted the government had dismissed recent warnings about the system’s failings as “scaremongering”. He pointed to a government statement which said: “The systems already in place to deal with the allegations of electoral fraud are clearly working.” Mr Mawrey said: “Anybody who has sat through the case I have just tried and listened to evidence of electoral fraud that would disgrace a banana republic would find this statement surprising.
The fact that the accused were Labour and that Labour ministers are being attacked could make this a big General Election issue.
It will be interesting to see how this develops.