Your story (Socialist Worker, 16 April) on the scandals surrounding postal voting points to a very serious issue.
Claims of widespread fraud in postal voting reached a peak in the sensational case of two wards in Birmingham, where six Labour councillors were brought before the election court and found guilty after protracted hearings.
There have been numerous claims by politicians that this was an exceptional case “involving only two wards in one city”. But the evidence is far more disturbing than that.
Firstly, the judge Richard Mawrey QC gave as his opinion that the postal voting system adopted was “an open invitation to fraud”. He heard evidence of thousands of postal ballots being diverted to a “safe house” where they were allegedly completed on an industrial scale.
A survey by the Guardian showed that in Birmingham’s 11 parliamentary constituencies, more than 53,000 people had, at the end of March, already requested postal votes, compared with 16,000 at the 2001 general election.
There have been numbers of other allegations of fraud without quite so much dramatic evidence. The Guardian itself has reported that police have begun an investigation in Woking.
The police are also investigating alleged postal voting fraud in Cheshire, Derbyshire, Greater Manchester and West Yorkshire. “In Reading police concluded an investigation which found that there was fraud, but no evidence to bring charges against individuals,” it wrote.
The Sunday Times reported on 3 April that, “It is not just Labour politicians who are accused of attempting to rig the vote. In Bradford allegations have been made against campaigners for the Liberal Democrats and the Tories.”
There has been an explosion in requests for postal votes. For this reason, the Birmingham judgment is of importance far outside the immediate area it focused on.
That is why we have made the judgment available by publishing it as a pamphlet.
Ken Coates, Former Labour MEP
Fraud at the Elections: the final and definitive judgment of election commissioner Richard Mawrey QC is available from Spokesman Books, Russell House, Bulwell Lane, Nottingham NG6 0BT (£5.50 post included).
Asbo used against peace protester
Socialist Worker has previously warned that Anti-Social Behaviour Orders (Asbos) will be used against ever wider groups of people. How right that is. The ministry of defence police agency and North Yorkshire police have applied for an Asbo against peace protester Lindis Percy.
Her “crime” is to have repeatedly taken part in peaceful protests at the Menwith Hill US missile listening station.
The Asbo application accuses Lindis of “alarming the community”. Millions of us are far more alarmed by the presence of this base, which makes us all a target.
It is intolerable that protesters are being prevented from highlighting their concerns over this facility.
This is another step towards the suppression of protest. The decision on the Asbo will be given on 17 May at Harrogate magistrates court and I hope that as many people as possible will be able to give Lindis their support.
The website of the campaign for the accountability of US bases has full details of the case and how you can support Lindis. Please go to www.caab.org.uk for more information.
Angela Drummond, York
Longbridge betrayed by Labour
Isn't it strange that when New Labour wants to embark on a bit of imperialist warmongering it can discover a special contingency slush fund with unlimited resources running into billions of pounds?
But when it comes to protecting the jobs of 50,000 car and components workers across the country, it comes up with less than peanuts!
What was Tony Blair doing while the Phoenix Four were draining MG Rover resources into their very deep pockets? Jetting backwards and forwards round the globe trying to persuade elected leaders to follow his example, ignore the wishes of their people and join the US imperialist assault on the oil-rich Middle East.
Part of the media’s attempts to explain the decline of Austin Rover will almost certainly include attacks on Longbridge’s “militant” shop stewards and their former convenor, Derek Robinson, who was sacked in 1979-80.
The Socialist Workers Party stewards at the time had some serious disagreements with Derek Robinson and Jack Adams. But the reason Robinson was victimised was because he led the union combine committee’s campaign against the “downsizing” of British Leyland and the loss of 25,000 jobs in Liverpool and elsewhere.
This insistence on preserving volume car production brought him into conflict with (Sir) Michael Edwardes, (Sir) Ian MacGregor, (Lady) Margaret Thatcher and his own union leader, (Sir) Terry Duffy.
The Tory governments that followed (including Blair’s) have happily presided over the decline of the manufacturing industry that had provided a basis for strong union organisation and resistance. The Longbridge and other workers who fought to save their jobs five years ago have been betrayed by their management and New Labour.
They deserve better. Working people and their families deserves better. Vote for a socialist alternative and some Respect for a change.
John Murphy, former Longbridge shop steward
What Labour will look like after the election
Those who want us to vote Labour at this election should consider what a new Labour government would look like. It would have even fewer strong opposition figures to Blairism than now.
Good MPs who have now retired include Tam Dalyell, Alice Mahon, Harry Barnes and Brian Sedgemore.
I didn’t agree with everything these people did, but at least they were not Blair’s poodles and had an independent way of thinking at key moments.
Also it is perfectly possible that if Labour’s majority falls a bit then those who lose out could include non-Blairites such as Bob Marshall-Andrews, David Drew, Harold Best and John Cryer.
There is a nightmare prospect of a Blair-Brown government with very little opposition from inside Labour.
It is therefore doubly important for Respect and the Scottish Socialist Party (SSP) to do well in the election.
A big vote for Respect and the SSP will have far more of a brake on Blair than any internal pressure from Labour MPs.
Also, any success for left of Labour forces might encourage and inspire at least a few more of the incoming Labour MPs to stand up and be counted.
Don’t just watch Labour move rightwards, get involved in Respect’s campaign and do something about it!
Margaret Cameron, Birmingham
lnquiries that will hide the full truth
Many people will have missed the scandalous law pushed through by Labour just before the election was called.
The Inquiries Act means that in future ministers can issue notices stopping certain evidence from being given in public and restricting publication “in the public interest”.
Geraldine Finucane, widow of the murdered Northern Ireland human rights solicitor Patrick Finucane, has written to all senior judges in England, Wales and Scotland, asking them to refuse to sit on any inquiry into her husband’s death under this new legislation.
Canadian judge Peter Cory was appointed by the British and Irish governments to investigate allegations of collusion in Patrick Finucane’s murder.
He concluded in 2003 that there was “strong evidence that collusive acts were committed” by the army, the Royal Ulster Constabulary and the security service, and that a public inquiry was needed.
A British government official told the UN commission for human rights last week that a public inquiry would be held into the murder, but that most witnesses would give evidence in private. This disgraceful attempt to hide the truth must be opposed.
Jean Curtice, South London
It’s great to go canvassing
I went out canvassing in Newham, east London, recently for Respect candidates Lindsey German and Abdul Khaliq Mian. Four of us walked through East Ham on the way to canvassing and were continually stopped by people who wanted Respect material.
A woman of 91 who had voted Labour all her life and had been on many demos told us that she was going to vote for Respect.
We did not meet one person who told us that they were going to vote Labour. But many people remain undecided or don’t want to vote at all.
A couple of hours canvassing will make you realise the impact that Stop the War and Respect are beginning to have.
Nick Catlin, Walthamstow
Filtrona strike stubbed out
I contacted you at the end of 2004 to get your support for the Filtrona workers in Switzerland who were on strike.
After more than a month on strike the workers forced Group Bunzl, owner of Filtrona International, to pledge 2.5 million Swiss francs in case of closure.
Filtrona Switzerland has announced today to the workers that the plant will be shut at the end of June.
A Filtrona worker called me today to tell me the news and asked me to thank all the people who gave their support. He also asked me to tell you this—never give up!
Cecile Pasche, Member of Movement for Socialism, Switzerland
I refuse to be in Israeli army
I am a conscientious objector from Israel. I refused to undergo military service because of my political convictions, and am to be imprisoned for that for up to five years.
I fled the country and arrived in Britain about three years ago and claimed asylum on the day of my arrival.
My claim has been refused because the adjudicator argued that Israeli military actions are not condemned by the international community.
I was receiving subsistence support of £38 a week before the court refusal, but this was taken away in December 2004. I am also banned from working.
I am appealing to the European court of human rights in Strasbourg.
Sergiy Konovchuk, Bromley
Don’t be put off the protest
I will be at the demo in Edinburgh on 2 July, but if the press and media have their way, others here won’t be.
They keep running scare stories about violent protesters and keep forgetting that the violence in Genoa was caused by the police.
I write letters all the time, but either they do not print them or they want to censor them. Socialist Worker and Scottish Socialist Voice are the only papers backing the protests.
Adrian Cannon, Edinburgh
Not fit to tie his laces
The latest bit of cashing in on the movement against the war in Iraq is a company advertising trainers using Brian Haw’s Parliament Square peace protest as its backdrop. Their slogan is “Live life with balance”.
Maybe they should spend their profits on fighting the Terrorism Act that aims to cleanse the square of opposition to the government.
Helen Salmon, South London
Good reason to protest
Chinese protests against Japanese school textbooks have often been presented as mindless. But suppose a book was published in Germany claiming that Nazi actions during the Second World War were justified as a defence against Jews and communists.
There would understandably be uproar across Europe.
John Butler, Kidderminster