Want to vote in Tower Hamlets? Then prove who you say you are

Tower Hamlets is to be one of the first local authorities to trial a scheme to stop voting fraud by requiring voters to provide proof of identity.

Sir Eric Pickles

The voting ID pilot comes because of the corrupt electoral practise of Lutfur Rahman and the subsequent review of electoral fraud in the UK by Sir Eric Pickles, ‘Securing the Ballot’.

‘A Democracy that Works for Everyone: A Clear and Secure Democracy’ is the Government’s response to the numerous recommendations by Sir Eric and you can read it here (PDF).

The report makes numerous references to Tower Hamlets. No surprises there.

It is understood that the pilot scheme will take place in 2018 with a view to its full implementation for the 2020 general election – just in time for when Lutuf Rahman will be making his first bid to become an elected representative once more after his five-year ban from elected office ends.

Types of ID to be considered during the pilot are:

  • A bank card (or similar) with a signature, and the requirement to give a signature
  • Other photographic or non-photographic identification (e.g. bus pass)
  • A passport, driver’s licence, or other official photographic identification

The pilot will take place in 18 local authority areas that The Electoral Commission considers to be most at risk of allegations of electoral fraud. These areas are:

  • Birmingham
  • Blackburn with Darwen
  • Bradford
  • Kirklees
  • Luton
  • Oldham
  • Bristol
  • Burnley
  • Calderdale
  • Coventry
  • Derby
  • Hyndburn
  • Pendle
  • Peterborough
  • Slough
  • Tower Hamlets
  • Walsall
  • Woking

‘Postal vote harvesting’

Another highlight of the Government’s report is the admission that “Postal vote harvesting by political activists raises significant risks of ballot papers being fraudulently altered, the undue influence of postal voters, and the secrecy of the ballot being compromised.”

Election counts

The report highlights that while “the election count process is not generally a cause for concern … there have been instances where it has been felt that inappropriate behaviour has taken place at election counts, such as at Tower Hamlets 2014.”
“Inappropriate behaviour?” The understanding of Love Wapping and others who have been looking into what went on at the notorious count at the Troxy in 2014 is that the electoral process was hijacked by activists working for Lutfur Rahman and the six-day delay in returning a result was an intrinsic part of the operation. That’s a little more than inappropriate.

Systematic election fraud – but no criminal sanctions

On page 23 there is reference to the most significant failing by the authorities – the unwillingness of the Metropolitan Police Service to do its job.

“We agree that there are clearly lessons to be learnt from the lack of any criminal prosecutions following the Tower Hamlets election court judgment. Systematic election fraud clearly took place, but no criminal sanctions followed.”

Yeah, we know. Still working that one.

The root cause of the problems suffered by Tower Hamlets was the system of a directly-elected Mayor proposed and implemented by one Tony Blair. Designed to make Mayor’s directly accountable the result in our Borough was the complete opposite, a Mayor who controlled, distorted and corrupted the council administration for his own ends while refusing to even answer questions in Council.

On page 25 of the report you can find Recommendation 50.

“The Government should undertake a review of how democratic checks and balances can be increased in local government executive structures where power is concentrated. This is an interesting and potentially wide-ranging recommendation that clearly flows from the issues identified in Tower Hamlets and which serves as a warning as to how impropriety in the process of an election can lead to issues when those elected take positions of authority. [LW emphasis]

As Sir Eric recognises in his report, executive forms of governance can provide stronger governance and accountability. The Government agrees with Sir Eric’s recommendation that such governance must include robust and effective processes that openly and transparently hold those exercising executive responsibilities to account, and which prevent, discourage, and expose municipal corruption.

The Government is already legislating to provide stronger scrutiny arrangements for the new mayoral combined authorities. We accept that the example of Tower Hamlets illustrates that further checks and balances might be needed, in addition to the steps already taken by the Government to increase transparency and local accountability.

The Department for Communities and Local Government will further consider which of the proposals ought to be taken forward, across the range of areas outlined in this recommendation.”

LW Comment

Many people from abroad who come to live in the UK are astounded that there is currently no requirement to prove who you are when you vote. As Sir Eric said on BBC Radio 4 today you need to prove who you are when you pick up a parcel from the Post Office – so why not when you vote?

The usual Rahmanite apologists are taking the predicatable line that the requirement to vote is an attack on the poor, an attack on Labour voters, an attack on ethnic minorities or all of the above.

It is not. It is just common sense.

The requirement to prove identity will not prevent the likes of Lutfur Rahman or one of his proxies from taking control of Tower Hamlets again. His organisation is far too sophisticated for that.

But it will help.

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