There are exotic parts of the world where you expect to hear about vote rigging taking place in the name of the ruling party against smaller parties who represent the interests of locals. And you’ll get western election monitors and even good old ex presidents popping along, and at the end of the whole process declaring them to have been ‘free and fair’ elections, (or not).
But I would never have imagined that Brum would become one of those places.
Last June, Birmingham held local council elections in what had been a finely balanced council with the People’s Justice Party (PJP) holding that balance of power in the Labour led council. [The PJP really need to get themselves a website!]. A lot of people exercised their democratic right in those elections but not everybody was allowed to vote. At least 40 people were turned away at one polling station and the reason they were given was that their vote had been already cast via a postal ballot – needless to say (but I say it anyway) these 40 people from the Small Heath / Bordesley Green area of the city had known nothing about these postal ballots. This was surely a major contributor in sparking off riots in the area between rival party supporters. (Try to remember that this was going on in Birmingham and just last summer!!)
Later on, in the counting hall three boxes of ballots mysteriously appeared and when a PJP election official checked the contents they all seemed to be votes for one party – Labour. Despite this the returning officer decided to include these votes in the final count anyway.
The allegations began to fly and eventually led to a Special Election Court being convened to hear the case against the three Labour councillors at the heart of the alleged vote-rigging. But it’s possible that all of this is just a case of sour grapes on the part of the PJP and the Liberal Democrats against Labour, particularly as there are General Elections looming. It’s possible but I somehow doubt it and so to, it would appear, do the Labour Party as they are distancing themselves from the three councillors at a rate of knots that would put Steve Fosset to shame. (After all it’s not like Labour to ally themselves with dodgy people now is it?!?).
If the case is proved for the prosecution it could have far-reaching consequences for postal voting at the General Election.
Where’s Jimmy Carter when you need him hey??
[UPDATE: 05/04/05 – It’s official — the Labour councillors ARE crooks]