Thursday, 1 May 2008

I had no idea!

Election fraud driven by immigrants practising "village politics" of the Indian sub-continent could be a crucial factor in deciding the future control of Birmingham City Council, a major report warns today.

Family loyalties, the dominance of men and the existence of the "biraderi" clan system among British Asians provides perfect conditions for widespread rigging of postal votes and other electoral malpractice in Britain’s major cities, according to the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust. In a 94-page report called Purity of Elections in the UK – Causes for Concern, the trust argues that the UK’s election system is close to breaking point and at risk of fraud, as the countdown to May’s local elections gets under way.

The study says the turning point in recognising Britain has a problem with election fraud came in 2005 when a court found six Birmingham Labour Party members in Aston and Bordesley Green, all Asian men, guilty of tampering with thousands of postal ballots.

The incident, which Elections Commissioner Richard Mawrey QC said would "disgrace a banana republic", forced the Government to tighten regulations surrounding postal voting, but the reforms were nowhere near tough enough according to the authors of today’s report.

They say: "The Birmingham election court of 2005 demonstrates that the control of a major city council or the outcome of a parliamentary contest could be influenced by the scale of fraud that was rendered possible by postal voting."

The study says numerous convictions for electoral fraud since 2000, when postal votes first became freely available on demand, resulted from incidents in inner-city wards where a large concentration of voters originate from the Indian sub-continent.

It adds: "Significantly, these convictions have emerged alongside anecdotal evidence of more widespread, and long-run, practices associated with Pakistani, Kashmiri and Bangladeshi traditions of biraderi (brotherhood) clans influencing voting behaviour.

"It is widely suggested that extended family and kinship networks, frequently with their origins in settlement patterns in Pakistan and Bangladesh, are mobilised to secure the support of up to several hundred electors, effectively constituting a block vote."

So, are our fearless elected representatives from the three main parties taking action to challenge this pattern of behaviour? Are they distancing themselves from those engaging in such activities? Not a bit of it! On the contrary, we are told that "all of the main political parties have sought at times to gain advantage by allying themselves to a Muslim candidate claiming to be able to guarantee a minimum number of votes arising from their support within a wider clan". This is something that is also evident from the fact that, while the overwhelming majority of vote-rigging cases involve Pakistani or Bangladeshi Muslims, the party affiliations of those involved seem to be pretty evenly divided between Labour, the Tories, and the Lib Dems. More evidence that for all three parties the primary, or perhaps the sole aim, is to get power, while such things as democracy and public service come, at best, a poor second in the reckoning.

Still, it is nice to see the Joseph Rowntree Reform Trust, a strongly left-wing organisation, which last year donated £2million to the Lib Dems, coming out and acknowledging that certain sections of the community do indeed have a disproportionate tendency to engage in vote-rigging, and that the advent of postal voting on demand has played into the hands of anyone who should wish to subvert the democratic process in this manner. If we're lucky, this might herald a new era of straight talking about the former issue, and the solving of the latter problem by the simple expedient of abolishing the on demand postal vote. But since all three major parties have, for short-term gain, bought into the long-term corruption of the democratic process, I don't hold out much hope that this new era will eventuate.

Hat-tip: English Rose

1 comment:

muzzylogic said...

More evidence that for all three parties the primary, or perhaps the sole aim, is to get power, while such things as democracy and public service come, at best, a poor second in the reckoning.

It's not the sole aim: as Blair shows (and Heath before him), politics can be very good for your bank balance if you follow your orders correctly.