Friday, January 15, 2010

Burstow to Brown: go to police with your election rigging claims

Nick Brown, Labour's Chief Whip, made unfounded allegations of electoral fraud against Newcastle City Council's ruling Liberal Democrats earlier this week. He claimed he could not trust the Lib Dem council with ballot boxes and papers to be left overnight so that counting could take place in the day after polling day.

His groundless comments have caused a storm of protest. Now, Lib Dem chief whip Paul Burstow has written to Brown demanding he raise the matter with the police rather than the press.

Paul wrote, " are accusing the ruling group on the council of vote rigging because the count is being held on the Friday."

He then went on to write, "I believe that unless you have evidence, this is an unfounded attack on the integrity and independence of the officials responsible for running and overseeing the electoral process. You will know very well that these officials are not affiliated to any party.

"If you have evidence of any conspiracy to rig the election you should be passing it to the police not issuing press releases condemning officials who are in no position to defend themselves. I hope you will take this opportunity to apologise to the officials concerned and withdraw your remarks."

In reply Brown simply reiterated his allegations were about the Lib Dems, not officials.

So everyone, no withdrawal of his claims, no evidence to back them, no specific allegations, just a vile smear from the man who is at the heart of the Labour party. Watch out folks, I think we can see the desperate tactics Labour will use in the coming general election.

Meanwhile, my colleague, Clare Mills, who works in Alan Beith's office, pointed out to me this morning that Friday counts in Berwick are the norm. There have been no problems with fraud, vote rigging or any other misdemeanours.

And here in Gateshead, we have Friday counts for local elections now. The process goes smoothly. Officers behave with the greatest integrity - and so do both the parties on the council, Lib Dems and Labour. Maybe Mr Brown should venture across the Tyne to speak to his Labour colleagues who, on this issue at least, have a saner view of the world.


Anonymous said...

Take a look around some time, you'll discover Friday counts are unpopular. He's right about the reasoning, while we're on the subject - time to do something about postal votes too.

How is it a good idea to leave the slips and the boxes in a building hundreds of people have access to overnight, without someone manning them constantly? In N. Ireland the police take charge of them. We could do that here... or we could just count them on the night.

I can see why he might not trust the Lib Dems, if you'd care to cast your mind back and a week and remember the crude and far more vile comments a certain Lib Dem councillor was saying about people on all sides of the House of Commons... Can't say I trust people like that.

Pot. Kettle.

Hywel said...

Ballot boxes are sealed overnight and candidates and agents can afix their own seals if they wish.

In all honesty if the returning officers staff are going to tamper with the ballot there are many opportunities to do so without holding the ballot boxes overnight.

Jonathan Wallace said...

To the anonymous Labour hack, Greg Stone was caught because he was making anonymous comments, just like you. Pot calling kettle I think.

Any whilst we are on the subject of locking away ballot papers, what about the huge number of postal votes that are returned and have to be stored in for much longer than a single night. Are you really trying to say the entire election system is in such a dangerous condition that people can't be safe in returning their postal vote in the massively expanded postal voting system Labour have brought in? Pan calling kettle yet again.

And you say Friday counts are unpopular. You present that as if it were an established fact. Unpopular with who? You, the anonymous commentator perhaps. But ordinary members of the public are not exactly rioting because the election vote is happening in Friday daylight hours rather than Friday early hours.

And many staff involved in the count prefer the overnight break rather than the 20 hours or more shift they will do when the count is in the evening.

Anonymous said...

I vote green. Or don't bother.

While we're on the subject though, there's nothing wrong with making anonymous comments. Making deeply offensive ones, while you're running for Parliament probably isn't wise though. I have neither offended anyone, nor am I running for Parliament.

You on the other hand, like to jump to conclusions and make false accusations.

Yes, I don't particularly trust the postal vote system. Glenrothes proves there are problems there. I already mentioned that, by the way.

As for Friday counts being unpopular, check the numerous Facebook groups, the Conservatives campaign, and the comments posted on blogs about this. Ordinary members of the public aren't exactly rioting about all sorts of things, it doesn't mean they don't care. I kinda like watching it on TV too.

My sympathies go out to the staff involved in the counts, but it's once every 4 or 5 years for a Westminster election. We seemed to manage fine before.

Don't you want comments and debate on your blog, or only from people who share your opinion? Politics probably isn't the right career in that case.

I'm local, I read the Journal, I have an opinion, and I shared it with you. Disable comments if you want to talk at people, it's your blog...

Anonymous said...

I was talking to a Liberal Democrat councillor some months ago, who was expressing some concern about Labour vote rigging in local elections in Gateshead.

I took what was said at face value and did not challenge the remarks. This councillor clearly believed what they were saying.

I don't necessarily agree with Nick Brown but I do think that his intervention has flagged that vote rigging is possible.

kevin scott said...

Interesting comments.

Nick Brown is clearly desperate after boundary changes make his seat slightly less than the impregnable he is accustomed to!

Friday counts in Gateshead make it possible for me to attend counts in Sunderland and elsewhere on Thursday night, so long may it continue.

As for problems with the actual process: well, I remember one count in Gateshead where one of the counters was making hostile remarks about the number of votes my candidate (I was his agent, incidentally) was getting, so, understandably, I was concerned about the integrity of the vote. Subsequently reported, but gently fobbed off (though it hasn't happened again, at least, while I have been watching!)

At the last general election, a ballot box from Blaydon was emptied onto a Tyne Bridge counting table. I spotted the UKIP logo on the ballot papers (no UKIP candidate in TB, you see) and asked (as a candidate this time) for the whole count to be suspended while a check was made of the other tables. Gently fobbed off again, while senior Labour councillors stood around, watched the charade and did nothing.

I honestly think Labour don't care if the vote is accurate, providing they win, which puts Nick Brown's remarks in context, I think!!

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