Socialist Worker

Respect is the only force fighting for clean politics in the local elections

Issue No. 1999

Respect activists in Tower Hamlets, east London, have uncovered evidence of systematic postal vote fraud going on in the borough. Police have been called in to investigate.

Some 19,000 postal vote applications were registered in Tower Hamlets, a sharp rise on previous years. But there are hundreds of cases of people’s votes going missing, or people being registered as postal voters without having requested it.

Sheikh Masud is a charity worker who lives in the Mile End East ward who has had his vote stolen. “I only found out I was on the postal voting list when I received a letter from the council accepting a registration from me and my wife,” he told Socialist Worker.

“I then discovered the vote had been registered to be sent to some other address to the one I live in, one I’ve never heard of. The same thing happened to my elderly father. I’m so angry – I’d never give consent to anyone to take my right to vote away.”

Masud contacted his local Respect candidate, Jackie Turner, and complained to the council.

Mysteriously, shortly after complaining, an unknown man appeared at his father’s door and handed over the postal ballot forms belonging to Masud and his father.

“If I’d found out who the guy was, I’d have given him a piece of my mind,” says Masud. “My wife’s vote is still missing.”

Respect activists have now collected 33 signed statements from people in Tower Hamlets who have had their votes stolen through a postal vote scam.

In a tower block in Limehouse ward 90 of the 93 residents were registered for postal votes, despite the fact that very few had applied for them.

The Respect campaign to clean up the Tower Hamlets election is winning wide support. Even voters opposed to Respect are admitting that Respect is the only party trying to uncover what’s going on.

George Galloway, Respect MP for Bethnal Green & Bow, has called on Tower Hamlets’ returning officer and chief executive Christine Gilbert to resign.

“We have complained repeatedly to the chief executive’s office about the likelihood of substantial fraud,” said Galloway. “In the most recent letter Ms Gilbert’s department stated ‘whilst there are a small number of votes that appear to be transferred to other addresses, there certainly is no evidence to support your claim that it is widespread’.

“This is mindboggling. The smell from this rotten borough is polluting the democratic process and still the people running it are holding their noses and closing their eyes. On 5 May we will start the clean-up.”

Gilbert has also come under fire for her handling of the election in St Katherine’s & Wapping ward. Three Respect candidates were excluded from the ballot paper on a technicality by Tower Hamlets electoral officials.

The three Respect candidates won a court case on Wednesday of last week. The judge ruled that the candidates were treated unfairly.

But his verdict was overturned on appeal. The Respect candidates now plan to appeal to the House of Lords.

Cases of postal vote rigging are being investigated in six other London boroughs. And on Friday of last week police in Birmingham arrested Mohammad Khan of Hob Moor Road, Bordesley Green, on suspicion of conspiracy to defraud.

He is a Liberal Democrat candidate in the local council elections.

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Sat 6 May 2006, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1999
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