Can ministers “draw a line” under the Birmingham voting fraud case?
Could another Andrew Gilligan Today programme piece, broadcast almost exactly two years before the famous “dodgy dossier” interview, come to haunt ministers in the run up to May 5th.
For it was the controversial reporter who did the first serious expose of the then new more relaxed postal voting arrangements only days before the last General Election. Then Gilligan filed a major report on the “Today” programme on how easy it was to get round the postal voting regulations.
The focus was the Torbay seat in Devon where Gilligan checked death notices in local papers and then arranged for postal voting forms in the names of deceased voters to be filed using the addresses of colleagues on the programme. This process produced seven postal vote forms which could have been used to vote in the seat where the Lib Dems were defending a majority of just 12.
It was a good scoop but hardly anybody followed the story up and by election day it was mostly forgotten.
Could the Gilligan template be the model for other journalistic investigations this time? After all it’s just another version of driving a white van through the security cordon at Windsor castle with a box marked BOMB inside.
We were very struck with a posting here by Paul who observed “….it now seems increasingly possible to me that, before the election, one or more newspapers might well manage to find evidence of fraud being committed in a GE constituency and run it as a major story before the election. I would not be surprised if one or more editors have secreted undercover journalists to try and discover just that. The question is what effect finding such evidence will have. If, as is possible, the winning party win a majority despite losing the popular vote, then in my humble opinion the brown stuff will hit the fan if any [hypothetical] allegations involve the governing party. Imagine a situation where the opposition parties decide to block each and every government bill in the lords until a new general election is held, with postal ballots banned, amid wholseale media hysteria and public demonstrations. In the [hypothetical] situation I suggest above, it could happen, after all how could a Government claim legitmacy as the elected house in a situation like this?
To this another poster, Charles, commented “…People understand fairness far more instinctively than they understand fiscal policy. â€˜Labour will steal your voteâ€™ is not an attack Labour should write off”
The one thing that has really struck me about the campaign so far is the attitude of parts of the media to the Government. As one commentator noted – “journalists have stopped giving minister the benefit of the doubt”