THF Councillors: Response from Electoral Commission

This is the response received by Love Wapping  from the Electoral Commission in answer to the questions we asked regarding the status of the 17 ‘Tower Hamlets’ First Councillors.


Bob Posner,

Director of Party and Election Finance.

Many thanks for your letter. 

To clarify, the Commission is not part of government. We are an independent body funded by and directly reporting to parliament.

The Commission understands the concerns on this issue and I note that you have read the Commission’s statement issued after the judgment was announced. You may have also now seen that the Commission has since issued a statement informing of its decision yesterday to remove ‘Tower Hamlets First’ from the register of political parties. A party not on the register cannot appear on ballot papers at elections. You can read this statement here.

However, neither the Commission’s decision nor the Court’s judgement affect the legal status as councillors at Tower Hamlets of any existing elected representatives that were not already part of the election petition (which as you know is the name of a legal action to challenge an election result). The Commission has no powers to bring an election petition. The law requires that such challenges must instead be brought by voters or candidates. The time period for submitting an election petition to challenge the election of the 17 Tower Hamlets First councillors has passed.

You refer in your letter to extracts from the judgement by Mr Mawrey QC in the Tower Hamlets case, but omitted to include his conclusion on where the issue you raise and of concern can be addressed. That was and is not the Commission, because we do not currently have such legal remit. Rather, Mr Mawrey said:

638 With a sense of relief, therefore, that particular problem [the 17 elected Tower Hamlets First councillors] can be avoided by the Court, though it will probably be sitting on the desk of the new Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government when he or she takes office after 7 May 2015. [LW emphasis]

The Commission some time ago called for a review of electoral law to bring aspects of it into the 21st century. There was much support for this and the UK Law Commissions are now undertaking this considerable task. Election petitions play an important role in ensuring the legitimacy of elections and securing public confidence in the electoral process.  Earlier this year, well before the ‘Tower Hamlets case’ was heard we had already responded to the Law Commission’s review of electoral law (which you can read here) in which we said the UK’s current system for challenging elections is perhaps the most out of date part of electoral law and the area that requires the greatest amount of reform. We strongly support the Law Commissions’ review of this area, which we expect will produce a more modern and efficient system, including looking at the financial burden on those bringing a petition.

You will I am sure have seen the action yesterday of the Secretary of State for Communities to appoint further Commissioners with oversight of the running of Tower Hamlets Council (which you can read here) and with a wide ranging remit over the functions of the Council. I trust this gives you and others comfort that the affairs of the Council will be properly undertaken, albeit it does not address all of the matters you raise.

I trust this reply is of assistance. The Commission will continue to closely monitor and consider electoral matters relating to Tower Hamlets, taking appropriate actions where it is able and always seeking improvements in what can be done to ensure the legitimacy of elections and securing public confidence in the electoral process.

Yours sincerely,

Bob Posner,

Director of Party and Election Finance.

So there you have it – all down to whoever the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government is on 7th May.

Stay tuned.

One thought on “THF Councillors: Response from Electoral Commission

  1. Let’s hope it still Eric Pickles
    He had the guts to sort it and send them in.

    Could not see a Labour Government doing it.
    Tower Hamlets Labour party to close to it all. Have a lot to answer for in his matter

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