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Tuesday, 22 April 2014

Labour Party activist: ''I helped fill in postal ballots''

Police are investigating allegations of postal vote fraud by a London activist linked to one of Labour's highest-profile parliamentary candidates. The Met is examining an email in which Anisur Rahman, a Labour branch secretary in Tower Hamlets, admits "helping" a dozen voters fill in postal vote forms for the European elections.

Mr Rahman then told Rushanara Ali, who will become Britain's first Bangladeshi MP if she is elected in Bethnal Green and Bow, that he was encouraging other activists to do likewise "for the benefit of the party".

''Electoral Commission guidelines ban activists from helping voters to fill in ballot papers, to prevent vulnerable voters being duped into voting for the activist's preferred choice''

Tower Hamlets has been at the centre of previous controversies over "stolen" votes.

The actions of Mr Rahman, who admitted visiting the homes of several voters, came to light when an email he had sent to fellow Labour activists, including Ms Ali, was leaked to the Standard.

In the email, Mr Rahman, the Labour branch secretary of Bethnal Green South ward, writes: "About 12 people from my ward BGS and some from different ward called me to ask about postal voting system after getting ballot.

"I helped and I also visited few house [sic] to do it. I know it is a secret matter but if someone request, as a comrade we need to help for the benefit of the party.

"So I am requesting all ward coordinators, cllr's, branch secretaries to do such work in their own ward now."

Any activist, candidate or party official caught interfering with postal votes can receive up to a two-year prison term and/or an unlimited fine, and can be barred from standing in elected office for up to five years.

Across London, Labour's vote in June's European elections dropped by 3.5 per cent, resulting in the party losing one of its three MEPs representing the capital.

Tory councillor Peter Golds, who complained to the Met about Mr Rahman, said: "For the first time, we have clear evidence of electoral malpractice here.

"Such practice leads to fiddling of votes by party officials by abusing the trust of vulnerable voters, and is against the grain of secret ballots.

"How can we have a go at voting malpractice in Afghanistan and Iran when we are not giving voters a secret ballot here?"

Ms Ali said her agent, Labour constituency chairman Graham Taylor, had quickly emailed other activists to inform them that Mr Rahman's campaigning suggestions were illegal, though he added they were made "with the best intentions".

Ms Ali added: "Anything that does not follow the legislation or code of conduct is completely unacceptable.

"That is the spirit in which the chair of the party responded. I will take action if I see any irregularities or inappropriate behaviour by members or activists, because it's very important that people follow the procedures.

"Mr Rahman is a Labour activist. He is not a member of my staff. There are about 1,800 members now in the Labour party in Tower Hamlets.

"You can imagine I can't take responsibility for specific things they do, other than get the Labour party agent to instruct them on anything they might have done inappropriately.

"I don't buy into any political culture that doesn't respect the rule of law." Mr Rahman failed to respond to the Standard's calls.

But a Labour party spokesman said: "We take the procedures related to postal voting very seriously.

"Training is provided for members on the rules and everyone is expected to follow them at all times.

"Very shortly after this email was first sent a constituency party officer corrected the erroneous information and made the rules absolutely clear to all the members originally contacted."

A spokeswoman for Labour-led Tower Hamlets council said: "This is a matter for the police, not for the council, and the police will consider how they wish to deal with it."

Final thought.

It would seem that if members of the Labour Party are not interfering with children (Google Labour25) they are interfering with the electoral process.

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