Electoral Commission chief grilled by Police & Crime Committee

The London Assembly Police and Crime Committee met at City Hall today to examine policing arrangements for the Tower Hamlets mayoral and local elections.

Claire Bassett, Electoral Commission Chief Executive

The Electoral Commission’s recent decision to allow Lutfur Rahman’s comeback vehicle, the ‘Aspire Party’ to be recognised was also scrutinised – so it was not a good day for the Commission.

Those appearing before the committee were:

  • Will Tuckley, Chief Executive of Tower Hamlets
  • Claire Bassett, Chief Executive of the Electoral Commission
  • Chief Superintendent Sue Williams QPM, Borough Commander, Tower Hamlets, MPS
  • Detective Superintendent Stuart Ryan, MPS

You can watch the webcast of the meeting here.

For Tower Hamlets residents highlights of the meeting will be the questioning of Claire Bassett, Electoral Commission Chief Executive by Andrew Dismore (Barnet and Camden) which you can watch at 0:54:45 and London Assembly Member Tony Arbour (Hounslow, Kingston upon Thames and Richmond upon Thames) which you can watch at 1:03:35.

Andrew Dismore (Barnet and Camden)

Andrew Dismore’s questioning focussed on the decision by the Electoral Commission to allow the name ‘Aspire’ to be used by Lutfur Rahman’s new political party.

London Assembly Member Tony Arbour (Hounslow, Kingston upon Thames and Richmond upon Thames)

Tony Arbour’s questions were about the decision to allow the use of the familiar Tower Hamlets First house logo by the new ‘Aspire’ party.

Research issues

In essence Mr. Dismore was not convinced that the Electoral Commission had done enough research into the possible confusion by voters between Aspire the political party and numerous other organisations already known by the Aspire name.

Claire Bassett did not have full details of the research her staff had undertaken and promised to provide the committee with written answers.

Identical logos? Really?

Possible confusion of voters was also key to Tony Arbour’s questioning.

He made the extremely good point that as some first generation members of the Bangladeshi community did not have English as their mother tongue the decision by the Electoral Commission to allow Aspire to use a political logo identical to that of Tower Hamlets First (and Tower Hamlets Together) was bound to cause confusion.

Again Claire Bassett did not seem to be able to give a clear answer to this question.

Here are the different logos:

Any voters have any issues with the similarity of the logos above?

Ms. Bassett did indicate that the decision to allow Aspire to use the same logo as Tower Hamlets First, Tower Hamlets Together and the current Tower Hamlets Independent Group could be revisited.

One option might be to not allow Rahman’s team use the house logo on their electoral literature.


An extra window maybe?

It is not known if an option for Aspire might be to use a house logo with an extra window added. That would make all the difference.

Assured performance by Sue Williams

As ever our very own Borough Commander Sue Williams QPM gave an assured performance and explained in detail the policing arrangements for the elections. You can watch some of the Commander’s contribution at 0:25:50.

Some 600 police officers will be on duty on 3rd May and, in addition to each officer having been given specific training in electoral issues, each officer will be making full use of body worn video cameras.

Much more on this soon.

LW Comment

Another underwhelming performance by the Electoral Commission.

If the person in charge of an organisation is summoned before the London Assembly Police and Crime Committee to be questioned about a subject as sensitive as the Tower Hamlets mayoral and local elections it is reasonable to assume they have mastered the subject inside and out.

In addition it would be the sensible for the person in charge to bring along the staff members who undertook the work that would be scrutinised so questions could be answered then and there.

Neither of these basic preparations seemed to have been undertaken by the Electoral Commission’s Chief Executive.

Which explains a lot.

The Electoral Commission has failed Tower Hamlets for years. This does not look likely to change.

Meanwhile someone is laughing all the way to the ballot box.


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