Community news and investigative journalism for Wapping E1W and Tower Hamlets London

Four Tower Hamlets election candidates differ from the other 254. Why?

By on April 14, 2018 in Elections 2018, Investigations

This week LW published a list of all the 258 candidates who want to be our representatives on Tower Hamlets council.

Four of the Tower Hamlets local election candidates differ from the other 254. Did you spot the odd ones out? If not then read on (the photo below is a hint).

A typical Tower Hamlets residence.

The reason our Computing and Tabulation Team published the list is because we think that you (the voters) should know as much about them (the wannabe councillors) as possible. Seems fair, right?

And with the recent electoral history of the borough we think essential.

“Why is this lying bastard lying to me?”

Having spent the last four years researching and analysing numerous weird stories about politicians in this borough we now work on the simple principle of never believing anything we are told is true. Challenge everything. Even the most basic facts.

A more colourful way of expressing this principle are the words of The Times foreign correspondent Louis Heren:”“When a politician tells you something in confidence, always ask yourself why is this lying bastard lying to me?“” (Jeremy Paxman made this quote famous more recently).

In 2018 journalists find that truth – or at least a pointer towards the truth – can often be found in data.

Candidate residency requirements

A fundamental requirement for any candidate is that they have to either live or work in the borough – in addition to be registered to vote in Tower Hamlets of course. So requirements are:

  • A registered local government elector
  • Occupying as owner or tenant any land or other premises in the local authority area
  • Your main or only place of work is in the local authority area
  • Live in the local authority area

You can see the full requirements here Local elections in England and Wales Guidance for candidates and agents (PDF) on the Electoral Commission site.

It is also why we have submitted a similar Freedom of Information request(FOI 11383693) to the council asking the same thing about the 2014 elections.

Taken on trust

A month or so ago the Wapping Mole heard from two impeccable sources that the Council takes it on trust that candidates running for election do really meet the residency requirements.

Seriously. Trusting wannabe politicians. In this borough. Whatever next?

So it seems that a candidate could just say they live in the borough and provide an address that they have a connection to. Job done.

Is this claim verified by the Returning Officer? How?

Are any checks done along the lines of actively proving that each candidate actually lives in the borough? Household bills? Checking if their children go to school in the borough and not Newham or somewhere? Would that work?

It seems that our impeccable sources were correct. Candidates statements that they do meet residency requirements are taken on trust.

We know ‘cos we asked the council and the answer is that if a candidate’s paperwork is filled in correctly (that is, that there is an answer to every question), then the Returning Officer must accept the form.

Essentially, the Returning Officer’s hands are tied and the nominations are taken at face value. (Our emphasis) Seriously.

There is case law on this (R –v- An Election Court, ex parte Sheppard), relating to a 1974 local government election in the London Borough of Brent.

The Returning Officer accepted a nomination paper from a candidate that was correct in form [i.e. all the right words were there] and the candidate was subsequently elected. However, the home address given on the nomination paper was challenged following the election as not being correct.

The election court decided the election was invalid on the grounds that the true home address had not been supplied as required by law. The Court of Appeal found that the Returning Officer’s decision to declare the nomination as valid was correct – the Returning Officer is only concerned with form and not content – and the rules allow for the validity of an election to be challenged after the event.

We also checked with our own Legal Expert who confirmed that the address has to be the home address of the candidate. The nomination paper does not state ‘address’, it specifies ‘home address’ and for that purpose it must be the actual home address of the candidate.

LW does not have the resources to check every one of the stated home addresses of all 258 councillor candidates so we did something much simpler.

We just looked at the post codes.

And found that four of the 258 councillor candidates have stated their home address as not being in the borough:

Candidate Name Ward Candidate Address Political Party
MIAH Syed Ansar Lansbury 285 Westrow Drive,
Barking, Essex, IG11
9BX
People`s Alliance of Tower Hamlets (PATH)
BRIGGS Jack Norman Flanagan Limehouse 46 The Limes Avenue,
N11 1RH
Liberal Democrat
MIAH Ahbab Stepney Green 16 Northfield Gardens,
Dagenham, RM9 5XL
People`s Alliance of Tower Hamlets (PATH)
O`CONNELL Adam Limehouse 72 Castlemead,
Camberwell Road,
London, SE5 0EB
People`s Alliance of Tower Hamlets (PATH)

People’s Alliance of Tower Hamlets (PATH) candidates Adam O’Connell, Syed Ansar Miah and Ahbab Miah live in Barking, Dagenham and Camberwell while Lib Dem candidate Jack Briggs lives in New Southgate.

Update 17 April 2018

Jack Briggs has been in touch to confirm he does live in Limehouse.

We do not know the truth of where these four candidates actually live because we do not have the resources to find out.

Ground truth

We do know that it is a little surprising that the Will Tuckley, Returning Officer for Tower Hamlets in his spare time when he is not CEO, would allow the official Statement of Persons Nominated and Notice of Poll document (PDF) to be published with four such glaring discrepancies.

It might be that these four candidates do indeed qualify to stand for election by some other means. Fair enough. But then the question is why is this not made clear on the official documentation which is published as being the ground truth of the entire election process?

To be fair our now extensive experience of minutely examining Council documentation has shown us that much of the laws and regulations concerning elections is Dickensian in nature and badly needs updating.

But that is no excuse. Local electors need to be able to trust what they are told, especially in this years elections.

A more important question is this:

If cursory examination shows that four candidates do not live in the borough what would rigorous examination of the other 254 candidates reveal?

LW Comment

Bottom line is that nothing can be taken on trust when it comes to elections in Tower Hamlets. Not a single thing.

On 3rd May the MPS will mount an unprecedented operation to ensure the ballot is free and fair, 600 police officers will be on duty at polling stations across Tower Hamlets to prevent fraud and intimidation.

Our police force is to be applauded for this. Let us all hope their efforts are not in vain because candidate’s paperwork is not fit for purpose.

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There Are 2 Brilliant Comments

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  1. watching says:

    In terms of electoral law these people have done nothing wrong! It would be very surprising if they did not live at the addresses stated, given that, all things being equal, it is going to be disadvantageous to them not to live in the borough. The – legal – problems kick in if people claim to live at an address in which they do not live. You are entitled to inspect – and copy- the full nomination papers which should contain the information which qualifies them to stand. It will be that they a) their principal place of work for ‘most of the last 12 months’ is in Tower Hamlets or b) they own or rent property (including commercial property, bizarrely), in the borough. You can only inspect the nomination papers up until Polling Day however so be quick!! The RO has to accept the nominations papers at face value – so any complaint will need to be made to the police, for fraud. Obviously questions could be put to PATH as to why they are standing candidates who live outside the borough.

    • Mark Baynes says:

      Thanks for your comment and yes there is no allegation or insinuation that any of these candidates has done anything wrong. The point we are making is that there seem to be no checks on where candidates really live as it is all taken on trust. We have highlighted four addresses which are outside the borough although we have already been informed by Jack Briggs that he lives on a boat in Limehouse Marina (story on this tomorrow hopefully) but we have had no communications from anyone regarding the three Aspire candidates. It is highly likely that they have done nothing wrong and their qualification to be a candidate is from another property or business as you say.

      But it is clearly daft for this list to be published when it is not easy to work these things out. Yes people can go and inspect the nomination papers but I would be surprised if anyone would – and why should they? This information should all be in the public domain and accurate.

      Considering the recent history of the borough it is surreal that case law still says that it is only after the election result that a challenge can be made. What? It’s nuts.

      Our system of administering our elections is in many ways just as it was a hundred years ago and it needs overhauling.

      And we have just highlighted four blindingly obvious issues. What other discrepancies are there which are not so easy to find? We understand that the RO has been extremely rigorous in demanding to see proof of identification for candidates such as birth certificates but we have not the slightest doubt that somewhere in that list of 258 candidates there is some form of deception going on. This is Tower Hamlets after all.

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