Wednesday, May 05, 2010

Vote early, vote often

The Times picks up the electoral fraud story, charting the goings-on in Tower Hamlets. A last-minute surge of electoral registrations in the borough means that 5,000 have gone through without any checks.

Of those, a dozen voters have been registered to the home of a Labour candidate, Khales Uddin Ahmed, running to be a councillor, rising from five to twelve in recent weeks. But a neighbour said that only three people live in the maisonette on a council estate in Bromley-by-Bow.

When challenged by a Times reporter, Ahmed, a restaurateur, locked himself behind his door and insisted that all the other occupants were out. "You are discriminating our family," he said. "I am not going to give you any information." He declined to say how many bedrooms he had.

Round the corner, in a house where a mother and daughter, both Labour councillors, live, three people have recently been added to the voting register, bringing the total to eight. Rania Khan said that the new names at the four-bedroom house were her husband and two nurses they had taken in as lodgers. "That's showing the need of the people of Tower Hamlets with the overcrowding situation," she said.

At a maisonette in Poplar, where a Labour councillor, her husband and four children live, three new adults have been recently added to the roll. When The Times asked to speak to the newcomers, Shiria Khatun, who is standing in the elections, slammed the door. Her husband shouted: "Get out from here, bloody bastard." Ms Khatun later said by telephone that the new residents were two nieces and a nephew who were sleeping on a sofa and the floor.

These are but a few of the cases where new names have been suddenly added to the voting register as living at addresses occupied by Labour candidates, in a borough which has a history of allegations of voting irregularities.

The council and the two parliamentary constituencies in the borough are up for grabs in tightly fought contests between Labour, the Conservatives and the Respect party. In one, Bethnal Green & Bow, George Galloway of the Respect Party held the seat but he is standing now in the adjacent constituency of Poplar & Limehouse, a new seat emerging from recent boundary changes.

Both constituencies have large immigrant communities, predominantly Bengali and Bangladeshi Islamists. They have imported some of the less desirable political practices of their sub-continent, which have found a ready home in two formerly safe Labour seats.

Scotland Yard has now started four criminal investigations into possible election irregularities, but these are by no means the only areas where there are concerns about vote rigging. Complaints have been made in Ealing, West London – another area with a high immigrant population. Forces in West Yorkshire, Cambridgeshire, Derbyshire, Cleveland and Gwent are also studying complaints and arrests have been made.

All of this, of course, is shutting the stable gate after the horse has bolted. The pathetically weak checks on voter registration have now allowed a situation where the counts in a number of constituencies will be suspect. These are matched by a pathetically weak Electoral Commission which is reduced to bleating that newly introduced checks are "working".

However, it is perhaps unfair to complain that this should be the case. Since our economy is rapidly being reduced to third-world status, and whole areas of the country are being turned into third-world ghettos, it is somewhat appropriate that we should have the voting system that goes with the more general mess. "Uniting the East End", proclaims one candidate. But uniting it for what purpose?