Posted by: Lister | April 29, 2007

Allegations of vote fraud

Keith Wakefield, the leader of the Labour group on Leeds city council, told party canvassers to help voters, many of whom were elderly, to complete their postal ballots. Student activists, including an undercover reporter, were then told by another councillor to take away the postal voting forms, hide them as they left people’s homes and only post them later if they were for Labour.

The councillor, Graham Hyde, admitted, in a secretly tape-recorded meeting, that he thought the instructions to collect the postal votes were “illegal”. Hyde, a parliamentary aide to a former Labour whip, warned the student activists that after collecting votes: “Don’t get caught with any on you. We are not supposed to collect them.” He even joked about flushing postal ballots down the lavatory if they were for the Liberal Democrats.

[…] Police say they will study a dossier of the newspaper’s evidence. Martin Hamilton, of the Leeds Liberal Democrats, said: “I want the police to follow this up urgently.”

Evidence gathered by undercover journo:

THE ASSEMBLED student volunteers in the car park of a boarded-up pub in Gipton, Leeds, were hoping to do their small bit to avert Labour’s predicted electoral meltdown.

[…] one of the politicians addressing the group of students was Graham Hyde, a Labour councillor who works as a parliamentary aide to the local MP George Mudie, a former whip and staunch Brown supporter.

Keith Wakefield, the Labour group’s leader, was also present in the car park, underlining the importance of the Gipton and Harehills ward to the party. He had emerged from his car with a young woman whom he believed to be a mature student at Leeds University. She was, in fact, an undercover Sunday Times reporter investigating electoral fraud, which experts now believe has become endemic in Britain’s cities.

The secret tape recordings she made last week would appear to confirm many people’s fears that senior Labour figures are carrying out sharp practices which could have a decisive effect on the outcome of this week’s local elections.

[…] In the car park the students were told to trawl the surrounding streets collecting postal ballot forms from voters and, if necessary, to help residents to complete their ballots. Hyde warned: “Put the postal vote form out of sight…Don’t get caught with any on you. We are not supposed to collect them.”

He appeared well aware of the ramifications of what he was suggesting. One of the students conspiratorially told the group he believed that what they were doing was “illegal”. Hyde responded: “Yes it is. But we’ve done 25% already, so…”

The Sunday Times is supplying a dossier to the police and the council’s returning officer containing transcripts of the tape recordings as well as interviews with voters. Any canvasser who solicits a postal ballot paper from a voter or helps them to fill out the ballot paper would be breaking an electoral code of conduct agreed by all the parties and may have broken electoral law.

[…] Last year Labour’s activities in the ward were the subject of complaints from rival candidates. One said: “Local Labour voters were going door to door, pressuring people to fill in their votes and then delivering sacks up to the polling station.

“At the count, the ballot boxes were opened first and the Liberal Democrats had a commanding lead. Then the postal votes were opened and they were almost all Labour. everyone present had suspicions that something was afoot.”

[…] [Partial transcript of meeting at the end]

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