By Dave Jessop
Six Birmingham Labour councillors have been found guilty of corruption and a systematic attempt to rig the 2004 city council elections.
The Election Commissioner, Richard Mawrey QC, said he was in no doubt that there had been a city-wide campaign by the Birmingham Labour Party to use thousands of bogus postal votes to counter the adverse impact of the Iraq war on Muslim communities in inner city wards.
Mawrey found that Labour candidates and supporters had stolen, forged and fiddled postal votes on “an industrial scale” and were helped by the almost total absence of security checks on postal vote applications.
Referring to a government statement that there were no proposals to change the rules governing postal votes before the General Election, Mawrey told the elections court: “Anyone who has sat through the case I have just tried and listened to evidence of electoral fraud that would disgrace a banana republic would find this statement surprising”.
15 ways of fiddling postal votes had been used in Birmingham. Police were called at midnight to a warehouse in Aston shortly before polling day, and found Labour candidates surrounded by 275 postal votes spread out across a table.
The sheer scale and audacity of the Birmingham fraud may come as a surprise, but not the fact of its occurrence. It has long been an open secret in Birmingham politics that all the parties have manipulated and abused postal voting in inner city areas, taking advantage of high levels of illiteracy and deference towards “authority” figures.
The opportunity to abuse postal voting on an “industrial” scale arose five years ago when the government decided that the way to counter voter apathy was to remove the controls on postal voting and allow anyone wishing to vote by post to do so, with no checks on addresses or signatures.
The Birmingham scandal highlights the contempt with which most political parties (not just Labour) treat inner-city Asian voters, using fraud, small-scale “treating” (free meals, etc), dictats from “community leaders”, pronouncements from religious pulpits and just about any other means of obtaining votes, except actually discussing and arguing about politics.