The Oldham by election

The result in Oldham came as a surprise to Blairite Labour MPs and to many commentators. The Labour party vote surged as a percentage of the total, to an impressive 62%. UKIP, in second place at the General election, rose considerably less and ended further behind in percentage terms than in May. The Conservative vote was squeezed by the rise of the first and second placed candidates. As Labour was on more than 62% of the vote their victory did not rest on the disposition of the other party votes. The others came nowhere.

It is an interesting result against the news background of the last few weeks. High levels of migration have been prominent, and more recently the terrorist attacks in France and the debate and vote to bomb Syria have dominated the headlines. Blairite Labour will point out that Labour had a local candidate who was well known and popular, who campaigned on local issues. However, the electors of Oldham like the rest of us would mainly have seen, heard and read about the big national and international events, and would have been aware of the big split in Labour over bombing Syria. Clearly Mr Corbyn was not as unpopular as many pretend, and his opposition to the Syrian bombing did not annoy many voters in Oldham.

Mr Farage was asked to comment on the results yesterday morning. He alleged voting irregularities in the postal ballot. We need to see what evidence UKIP has. At lunch time we were told no official complaint has yet been made, but presumably one with proper evidence will follow. As the BBC pointed out, even in the extreme and ridiculous case that all postal votes were false and had to be cancelled Labour would still have won.They should also have said no voting fraud is acceptable whether it succeeded or failed.

The government has attempted to tackle the possibility of voting abuse by moving to a system of individual voter registration. Every Returning Officer department of each principal Council has to compile a register of voters based on an individual establishing their identity and residence to the satisfaction of the authorities. They are open published lists, so neighbours, political parties and others interested can always check and challenge if there are irregularities.

It is not electoral fraud for an individual to be advised by a parent or spouse or other relative in their household on how to vote, and the state cannot make individual voters come to their own decisions if they do not wish to. The state can and must ensure that every adult has their own voter registration, and has the chance to vote in person in a secret ballot at the polling station, or in private with their own postal vote form if they choose. It is clearly an electoral offence for another person to vote on someone’s behalf without their authorisation, to impersonate another, to print and fill in false additional ballot papers or to pre-empt and fill in a postal ballot form of someone they live with.

All campaigning members of political parties should know the rules, and have to say to anyone who asks for help filling in a postal ballot that they cannot do so for obvious reasons.

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108 Comments

  1. stred
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 5:40 am | Permalink

    Oldham is prime tax credit land. Low wage , big families. Gideon ballsed up completely when he and his officials got his sums wrong. Although the opposition came mainly from his own party, in terms of logic, the Labour party was able to take credit for his complete reversal and postponing of the problem. They can keep their credits for a low wage economy and high birth rate and are grateful to the Marx brothers.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted December 5, 2015 at 7:55 am | Permalink

      Some truth in that. Plus there are all Osborne’s absurd tax grabs that will push rents up by 10%+ and decrease supply for them.

  2. Lifelogic
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 5:55 am | Permalink

    It is not surprising that Labour did well. It was always a safe Labour seat. At the general election there was a serious threat of a Labour government dog being wagged by an SNP tail. No one sensible (especially in England) wanted to see this outcome.

    This was the reason the lefty Cameron scraped home, as I predicted at the time. A bounce back was therefore very likely at this bye election.

    Of course had the Tories put a proper Tory agenda to the country they would have done even better. The county was (and is) crying out for far less EU, far less tax, far simpler taxes, cheaper energy, fewer regulations, fewer pointless wars, properly run public services and far more selective immigration.

    I suspect there is indeed huge voting fraud in the postal ballot system and it should be investigated. Just analysing the statistics should show any fraud fairly clearly. I would probably ban postal votes other than where there is a very clear medical need.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted December 5, 2015 at 7:59 am | Permalink

      The risk of a few people being unable to vote is not a great concern as they will largely balance each other out. Whereas the postal voting system & related fraud can introduce a large bias to the system.

      So of course does the bonkers agendas of the state funded BBC.

    • Mark B
      Posted December 5, 2015 at 10:07 am | Permalink

      LL

      You cannot have ‘less EU’. You are either IN or OUT !! If you are in, you are subject to the EU, save any opt-outs.

  3. CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 7:17 am | Permalink

    Effectively ditching the focus of UKIP; namely, Mr Farage’s seeming omnipotence in the eyes of voters has cost their Party much. The top contenders for his job were greedy for his relative power and shot themselves in the foot by weakening him and simultaneously themselves… A set of Limps. UKIP is now finished as a political Party.

    Fear is afoot. The 13% Asian section of population in Oldham probably fears a Cameron instigated attack on them ( though not his intention ) by his vilification of ISIS which non-Muslims associate with an arrogant uptick in Muslim standing in Britain. So they have voted/retreated into the laager that is Corbyn’s Labour Party affording them at least temporary protection from Templar Cameron who knows not what he does.

    The traditional Labour vote amongst long-standing resident British in Oldham has solidified as Corbyn is whole-heartedly against domestic and external warfare and division. They also have retreated into the laager.

    However, such a good result for Labour could not have been achieved if say Mr Benn were leader. He is a Cameron by any other name. A cuckoo, albeit a good whistler, in Labour’s nest.

    The contenders for Corbyn’s throne will beat him eventually and thankfully seal their own fate to the same dustbin as UKIP. The Conservative Party is rather better at being conservatives than cheapjack Labour affected imitations.

    • Graham
      Posted December 5, 2015 at 10:01 am | Permalink

      None of those navel gazing things I’m sure by ‘traditional’ voters.

      Donkey plus red rosette = Labour safe seat

      • CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
        Posted December 5, 2015 at 4:27 pm | Permalink

        A few years ago, maybe now too, it was said there are constituencies in England where people have elected a Tory MP for the past 100 years. Ingrained inability to think is cross-party as was evidenced in the Syria debate where only JR and a handful of MPs stood outside the loonie-bin.

    • libertarian
      Posted December 5, 2015 at 11:26 am | Permalink

      Christopher Houston

      What a poorly analysed post. Jim Mcmahon IS a Blairite, he voted for Liz Kendall in Labour leadership and tags himself as one of 4.5% he is to the RIGHT of Mr Benn.

      Farage IS the problem that UKIP has, he has failed personally to get elected in 7 different constituences. UKIP need to move Farage aside to running the party in the EU and let someone else lead the party in UK if they wish to stay in the game. Personally I think UKIP are part of the problem and not the solution

      • CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
        Posted December 5, 2015 at 4:22 pm | Permalink

        libertarian
        Oh do read.

        • libertarian
          Posted December 5, 2015 at 8:06 pm | Permalink

          Christopher Houston

          I did read….. wibble

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted December 5, 2015 at 7:13 pm | Permalink

        One essential reason why Nigel Farage has repeatedly failed to get elected to Westminster is simply because he has had the determination and the energy to repeatedly stand for election as the candidate for a party which has been trying to work its way up from nothing, and I give him credit for that. Many UKIP candidates do it just once, some two or three times, and then that is enough for them, he has kept at it again and again. And I hope he has more sense than to take advice from people who actually want to see UKIP fail, whether because they don’t like their favoured party being faced with new competition or because they want to keep us in the EU.

      • Ken Moore
        Posted December 5, 2015 at 8:02 pm | Permalink

        Allegedly community ‘elders’ went around harvesting Labour votes from individuals that in many cases couldn’t speak English.
        Why hasn’t the system been fixed after the corruption in tower hamlets was exposed that would ‘disgrace a banana republic’.
        If it was UKIP who had such a ‘block vote’ it would be all over the BBC

      • Richard1
        Posted December 5, 2015 at 8:27 pm | Permalink

        I agree with this. Did anyone listen to Any Questions today? UKIP fielded a comically inarticulate woman, who, amazingly is an elected MEP. Anyone on the eurosceptic right should take all opportunities to vote Conservative, UKIP are a joke. Beneath Farage and perhaps one or two others such as Diane James, even their leading figures are unable to string two words, let alone two thoughts, together.

        • Denis Cooper
          Posted December 6, 2015 at 10:54 am | Permalink

          Seeing that I want us out of the EU of course I’m not going to vote for a party whose leaders are determined to keep us in the EU at all costs, by hook or by crook. Yes, it’s a pity that UKIP is rather shambolic, and in general more so than the old parties, but at least there is no doubt about its absolute commitment to getting us out of the EU. That objective is written into UKIP’s party constitution, which can only be changed with the approval of its members, who would never agree to that fundamental objective, the raison d’etre of the party, being omitted. Perhaps you could tell us what the Tory party constitution has to say about the EU, if anything?

        • Denis Cooper
          Posted December 6, 2015 at 5:29 pm | Permalink

          I’ve just listened to that and she was fine. It would be good to get you on it, and have you subjected to hostile cross-questioning about some of the statements made by Cameron, and see how you do.

          • Richard1
            Posted December 6, 2015 at 8:58 pm | Permalink

            Don’t be absurd. It is the week of the Paris jamboree and George Monbiot – one of the most vocal (and articulate) advocates of global warming alarmism – was on. What did she expect would come up? she was incapable of stringing two words together, and made a laughing stock of herself – and of UKIP. Sure it’s tough, the audience would have been packed with an echo choir for Monbiot and Dimbelby would have wanted to trip her up by calling her first. I think it’s the weakest performance I’ve ever heard on the programme.

          • Denis Cooper
            Posted December 8, 2015 at 7:59 am | Permalink

            Try not to be so unreasonably partisan.

      • Anonymous
        Posted December 6, 2015 at 12:31 am | Permalink

        Libertarian – Wherever Farage stands the press and party machinery go into overdrive against him.

        He has increased the voter base for UKIP impressively and got us the EU referendum.

        He alleges postal vote fraud and we all suspect it. He also alleges BBC bias and we all suspect it.

        Why do people become so coy when someone has the balls to stand up and say such things ?

    • Timaction
      Posted December 5, 2015 at 11:29 am | Permalink

      You did see that UKIP came second and increased their vote albeit the percentage dropped as Labour gained more votes. The Tories had a significant drop in the vote.
      Like other people I don’t know the detail behind the allegations of postal fraud but it seems to me that there are anomalies in many parts of Britain where these are abused. I’m sure the facts will emerge in due course.
      Of course UKIP is not finished, although I share your view on stupidity by some in the higher echelons following the election was an own goal.

      • CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
        Posted December 5, 2015 at 4:04 pm | Permalink

        TIMEACTION
        Yes I did notice UKIP lost, again

        • Timaction
          Posted December 5, 2015 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

          Yes. In a safe Labour seat. The reports are starting to emerge of some ballet boxes being 99% Labour postal votes. Other reports of numerous postal votes being delivered to Polling station on Polling day. Why?
          We shall see. I have no doubt Labour would have won regardless, however all is not right in our democracy, especially as the new MP will only be enacting most of our laws that are made in the EU without our consent.

        • Denis Cooper
          Posted December 5, 2015 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

          And did you also notice that the Tories also lost, again?

          And did you notice that their share of votes halved?

          If they carry on with that trend then next time they will be joining the LibDems and Greens in losing their deposit, a painful experience as numerous UKIP candidates from the past can testify.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted December 5, 2015 at 12:30 pm | Permalink

      “UKIP is now finished as a political Party.”

      I’ve seen that kind of claim repeated for more years than I care to remember, and yet somehow UKIP is still there in a ramshackle kind of way, and moreover it has just increased its share of the votes in a by-election.

      Let me repeat that: UKIP has just increased its share of the votes in a by-election, its share of the votes did not collapse but rose from 20.6% to 23.3%, and that kind of result would not usually be taken as an indication that the party concerned was “finished”, whether it was UKIP or any other party.

      On the other hand, it could be asked whether a party which previously attracted 19.0% of the votes cast in a constituency but has just attracted less than half of that, 9.3%, has much of a future in that constituency and others like it.

      • CHRISTOPHER HOUSTON
        Posted December 5, 2015 at 4:08 pm | Permalink

        Denis Cooper
        “UKIP is now finished as a political party”…”I’ve seen that claim repeated for more years…” Yes an oft repeated popular universal truth. Take heed! The parrot is dead, deceased, past away, gone to valhalla, caput!

      • libertarian
        Posted December 5, 2015 at 5:28 pm | Permalink

        Er for those UKIPers who think these results mean anything

        Election 2001 N Griffin B N P 6,552

        Election 2015 J Bickley UKIP 6,487

        Dennis Cooper, let me tell you getting 23.3% of the vote is of NO VALUE, remind me what became of Griffin and his party after getting a BETTER result than UKIP?

        • Denis Cooper
          Posted December 5, 2015 at 7:37 pm | Permalink

          So for the sake of a nasty little smear you are willing to make a false comparison between a past general election result with a 58% turnout and a recent by-election result with a 40% turnout. That says more about you than about UKIP, I think.

          The simple fact is that in this by-election UKIP increased its share of the votes, albeit slightly, while the Tory party share of the votes was halved; I find it difficult to see how any impartial observer could conclude from this that UKIP is finished while the Tories are not.

        • Richard1
          Posted December 5, 2015 at 8:31 pm | Permalink

          Anyone thinking of voting UKIP at any point & who missed it live should listen to a repeat of today’s Any Questions and listen to the UKIP representative’s inarticulate ramblings. They have no hope at all of achieving any electoral breakthrough- look at the quality of their people and candidates! Votes for UKIP are wasted.

          • Anonymous
            Posted December 6, 2015 at 12:44 am | Permalink

            Richard 1 – The highly articulate Hilary Benn will be proven to be a fool too.

        • Anonymous
          Posted December 6, 2015 at 12:43 am | Permalink

          Libertarian

          Don’t dare compare UKIP to the BNP. If we wanted BNP we would have voted BNP.

          The economy is yet to go tits up and there will be terror strikes thanks to Mr Cameron, Benn, Osborne et al’s lax border policies. Four years on this tightrope walk to go without effing it up.

          Yet again. No courtesy, thanks nor respect to those UKIP voters who, frustratedly, lent their votes to the Tory party to keep the Miliband/Sturgeon beastie out of government.

          Instead they are used as a stick by the Tories to beat Nigel Farage with.

          Moral of the story ? Never trust a Tory. Bear this lesson in mind for 2020.

  4. Mike Stallard
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    “It is not electoral fraud for an individual to be advised by a parent or spouse or other relative in their household on how to vote, and the state cannot make individual voters come to their own decisions if they do not wish to. ”

    There has been considerable electoral fraud in the recent past. Anyone who has Asians in their family (as I have myself) will know the enormous power which the paterfamilias holds. In the past, of course, it was the Master who wielded this power and in the Eatanswill Election in “Mr Pickwick”, we can see just how this power was used. In no way is it anything like what the suffragettes were demanding. In now way do we need politicians like Lutfur Rahman here in this country.

    Question: Why has postal voting suddenly become so very popular? 7,000 postal votes, if you please, at Oldham. Postal voting is not an option. It is a privilege. It has been very much abused in the past. It must be stopped.

    • Dame Rita Webb
      Posted December 5, 2015 at 8:20 am | Permalink

      25% of the votes cast came in through the postal ballot and thats nothing out of the ordinary? Or am I missing something? Is it that quite a few Oldham voters are away on military service? Or is it the middle of the holiday season? Enquiring minds might like to google up Helen Pidd’s coverage of the election. She is the northern editor “The Guardian” and will give you a more realist analysis than JRs.

      • Richard
        Posted December 7, 2015 at 10:42 am | Permalink

        (Off the top of my head)

        The voter turnout dropped 40%, while the postal vote turnout increased 15%.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted December 5, 2015 at 10:18 am | Permalink

      I agree. It would be far better to have no postal voting at all than the current system which is so open to fraud. Those few that did lose out would largely balance out anyway in voting intentions.

      There is much to be said for making voter make the effort of going to the pole booth.

    • JoeSoap
      Posted December 5, 2015 at 11:30 am | Permalink

      Yes it’s difficult to believe that 25% of voters in Oldham are abroad on holiday or important international business in December. A closer look into reasons for postal voter applications needed.
      Also some kind of English and written cultural test should apply bfore voting rights are given to anybody who has entered the country without attending school here.

    • Dame Rita Webb
      Posted December 5, 2015 at 6:05 pm | Permalink

      In all fairness this sort of voting behavior is not unique to Asians and Labour themselves. The Lib Dems have also had some of their local governent candidates help the police with their enquiries too. I remember listening to an interesting interview with the former Labour MP Peter Kilfoyle on how bent politics were in Liverpool in the 1950s. Remember prior the 1964 election the Conservatives had six MPs in the city. So nobody is immune to trying it on.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted December 6, 2015 at 11:09 am | Permalink

      I submitted a reply here, but for some reason it has simply evaporated. It is not even there awaiting moderation, it has disappeared as though it never existed. Reading my copy of the comment I cannot see what is so objectionable about referring to the Secret Ballot Act 1872, nor about agreeing with you that “In no way is it anything like what the suffragettes were demanding”, and referring to two articles in yesterday’s Independent, for goodness sake, about the way Muslim women are treated by sharia courts in this country, nor about well attested events in Pakistan where a woman was shot dead for daring to exercise her right to vote and a girl was shot in the head for wanting girls to be able to go to school. This is reality and it helps nobody to pretend that it doesn’t exist.

      Reply Have not seen that one. Any long submission with external quotes may well take time as I am very busy and do not have immediate time to read external links

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted December 7, 2015 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

        Must have been a technical glitch.

  5. Cheshire Girl
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 7:21 am | Permalink

    ‘Labour may still have won’, but would they have won by such a large majority? In my opinion, postal votes should be tightened up and be what they say ie: votes sent through the Royal Mail. At some elections there have been postal votes taken to the Polling Stations by individuals I hear.
    We probably cant stop it, but I strongly disapprove of people being ‘advised’ on how to vote. Advice can so easily turn into coercion!

    • Lifelogic
      Posted December 5, 2015 at 10:22 am | Permalink

      Indeed many simply do not care and just pass their vote on to someone else – in effect giving other more than one vote. It needs action.

    • Lifelogic
      Posted December 5, 2015 at 11:18 am | Permalink

      More likely just sign here dear and I will deal with it all!

  6. petermartin2001
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 8:18 am | Permalink

    The result in Oldham was a surprise. We’ll have to wait and see just what the effect of any irregularities in postal voting was. My suspicion is that this is just ‘sour grapes’ by UKIP.

    If the Oldham by-election had occurred prior to the May election I would have expected the result to have been much closer, as it was in the Heywood and Middleton by-election last year. But then, there was a reason for normally Labour supporters to vote UKIP. They would have wanted to pressure the Labour leadership into offering an EU manifesto in the May election. There’s no need now. The election was lost and we’re on track for that referendum anyway.

    So, as I’ve said in previous posts, the Labour Party may not be so split at the PLP level on the issue of the EU but it is amongst the membership. I’d say there was a majority of normally Labour voters in the Northern constituencies who would be thinking of voting to leave.

    The task is to get those votes to eventualise on the day. So let’s not make the Leave case all about right wing issues.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted December 5, 2015 at 6:14 pm | Permalink

      The result was only a surprise to many because the media had been hyping up the chances of a very close result and possibly even a narrow UKIP win, and on what basis? Sources in the Labour party pretending that it was looking very bad on the ground and they were really concerned? I don’t know; I don’t even know if such sources really existed, let alone whether any such sources were being truthful or deliberately misleading the media. I do know that in some quarters the result was immediately interpreted as a disaster for UKIP, which actually saw its share of the votes increase albeit only by a few percent, while the halving of the Tories’ share of the votes was being studiously ignored, so it’s all a bit fishy.

  7. DBarry
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 8:24 am | Permalink

    “As the BBC pointed out, even in the extreme and ridiculous case that all postal votes were false and had to be cancelled Labour would still have won.”

    Nigel Farage has also pointed this out. He’s not claiming that postal voting deprived UKIP of victory. Some commentators like to give the impression that this is a huge revelation and that Farage is under a big illusion. He is not.

    • Chris
      Posted December 6, 2015 at 10:26 pm | Permalink

      Well said, DB.

  8. The Prangwizard
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 8:29 am | Permalink

    Dodging the real issue again, that of intimidation and threat. We will never get to the bottom of this without an acknowledgement that this is a problem and must be investigated and tackled.

  9. Iain Gill
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 8:34 am | Permalink

    There almost certainly was fraud.

    There was a lot of voting (legally) by foreign citizens who most people believe should not be able to vote here

    The way some parts of the labour electorate are persuaded to vote does not conform to “British values”.

  10. agricola
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 8:49 am | Permalink

    Postal Voting should be confined to those who are out of the country and registered as such, plus those who are physically incapable of getting themselves to a voting station. Voting from outside the country is in fact very difficult, because there is not enough time between the declaration of candidates and the vote to get the papers out and back. Declaring candidates one month in advance of the vote would remove this disenfranchisement of those who live overseas and are entitled to vote.

    The ultimate answer is to vote by proxy if you can find someone you can trust.

    There is currently, and has been for some time, a cloud of suspicion that our previously honest voting system has been degraded by postal voting by anyone who chooses that method. Confining postal voting as I suggest would largely remove this threat to the honesty of results.

    If there is a suspicion of malpractice in Oldham it should be investigated, and if found to exist, prosecutions should ensue. It may well have made no difference to the result, but if found to exist it should be dealt with and the whole system of postal voting changed to remove the possibility in future.

  11. Anonymous
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 9:02 am | Permalink

    UKIP and Tory alike are up against cultural voting. Be it through postal voting fraud or loyalty to family roots rather than Britain’s.

    If we keep importing Labour supporters then Labour support we will get.

  12. JJE
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 9:10 am | Permalink

    I saw comments made by a Russian international election observer on the conduct of the Scottish referendum vote that made me realise we are much too complacent in the way we run our elections.
    Having learnt his trade in a hard school he identified multiple weaknesses that meant the Scottish vote failed to meet international standards of probity, such as a weak or non existent chain of custody for ballot boxes, poor standards of voter identity checks, lack of measures to prevent multiple voting, and potential for voter intimidation.
    And that’s all on top of the postal votes scandal.

    It’s time we meet the standards we urge on others.

  13. MikeP
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 9:14 am | Permalink

    I’m also convinced that postal voting has become much more of a norm than is right and proper and is certainly open to abuse. By requiring us to make a bit of effort to visit a polling station to cast our vote has ensured in the past that elections are taken seriously and voters’ views are personal and not open to fraud (more or less). But Farage also mentioned that one complete box of votes (whether from a polling station or postal wasn’t clear) were 99% for Labour which he viewed as unprecedented, he said you just don’t see that sort of distribution. Well I don’t know, maybe he’s right maybe not, but the Electoral Commission ought to be on hand to weigh up these issues on the night or very soon afterwards, they shouldn’t need an official complaint over and above those sort of allegations and the huge volume of postal votes.
    Ironically, if we were to move to online voting, we’d probably see even more abuse if the spam mails, online scams and viruses we see are anything to go by.

  14. Antisthenes
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    Perhaps Corbyn is not the electoral liability that we hoped he is and one day we might see this dangerous Marxist/Leninist in no 10. Two problems with writing him off is that there are many more than his core supporters who share is far left views if the Oldham result is anything to go by. Also the ethnic vote in the UK and other Western countries is increasingly having an impact on voting result and as most of those from ethnic communities are politically left leaning it increases his chance of becoming PM considerably.

    One swallow does not make a summer and let us hope that Oldham is just that a one off event and other factors not Corbyn’s ideology were the reason the Labour vote was unexpectedly so high. If not and Corbyn makes it to no 10 then we should all be very concerned as the country will change to one that we will not recognise as havering the same security, traditions, culture, economic stability and laws as we have today. Civil liberties will take on whole new meaning as Momentum police our society to ensure political purity and that we all toe the party line.

  15. alan Wheatley
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 9:16 am | Permalink

    One bad feature of postal voting is that the vote is cast before poling day, sometimes well before polling day. So for those voting early the campaign has no impact, and the Syria vote, for instance, was not relevant to their decision.

    If we accept that elections should be preceded by campaigns, then voting before the polling day is inherently a bad thing.

    Postal voting is a least-worse alternative to cater for those who want to vote but can’t get to a polling station. It seems to me the emphasis should be on “can’t”.

    But in this day and age “remote voting” does not have to be limited to the post. I would have thought it would be simple enough to enable votes to be cast ON THE DAY via electronic media.

    And we might ask, would not electronic remote voting be a sensible option for most of us, and more likely to increase turn out than the freely available postal vote option was intended to achieve.

  16. Denis Cooper
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 9:32 am | Permalink

    Off-topic, JR, I wonder what you think about this article in the FT today:

    http://www.ft.com/cms/s/0/4ada3ce0-9aaa-11e5-be4f-0abd1978acaa.html#axzz3tR1nuMWd

    “UK call for ‘multi-currency’ EU triggers ECB alarm”

    and in particular this sentence:

    “British ministers are confident that the ECB’s concerns can be addressed, possibly with a treaty clause making clear that every EU member apart from Britain and Denmark is still expected to join the euro.”

    How does that proposal which the FT attributes to British ministers square with the idea that for British purposes it would be good enough to get formal recognition of the EU as a ‘multi-currency’ union, because that would be equivalent to relieving the non-euro countries of their present treaty obligation to join the euro?

    Are you personally comfortable with the prospect of the UK being left as perhaps the only EU member state out of 30 or 40 which had not yet adopted its currency, and how long do you think that anomalous position would be seen as tenable by the governments of the EU member states, including the British government?

  17. fedupsoutherner
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 9:34 am | Permalink

    with things as they are at the moment regarding the talk about immigration and new policies to tackle illegal immigration I am not at all surprised at the outcome of the vote. All these big areas where there are high numbers of immigrants and many British on tax credits will want to have a Labour government who promises them even more money for half a days work. Farage is right when he says postal voting is open to fraud. None the less, Labour would still have won with much of it to do with the above. The SNP is in a similar position in Scotland. They promise the earth to those on benefits and tell everyone utopia is around the corner with them in charge and with Labour in tatters they have no competition. Scotland has only one party at the moment.

  18. Richard1
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 9:47 am | Permalink

    It is extraordinary listening to far leftists like Ms Abbott and Messrs McDonnell and Livingstone. They keep on about Corbyn’s support in ‘the Party’, how this is so ‘democratic’ and Labour MPs had better watch out and make sure they obey the ‘Party’. It is entirely reminiscent of the militant tendency in the 1980s what would have happened to the Labour Party then had the militant tendency succeeded. it is also reminiscent of the language of other ‘party’- led dictatorships in Europe in the C20th, which I won’t mention for fear of censorship.

    It is of course the opposite of democracy. In our democracy MPs represent their constituents – including those who didn’t vote for and don’t support them. The idea that MPs should be delegates with mandates from a group of hard left fanatics who now make up the bulk of Labour Party membership is profoundly anti-democratic. Fortunately, despite undoubted widespread electoral fraud through postal votes, as Nigel Farage rightly points out, Labour will never win a general election whilst they are dominated by these extremists.

  19. NickW
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 9:51 am | Permalink

    On reflection, the Oldham result is not surprising.

    The media treatment of the problems in Syria and the Parliamentary debate concerning military action have been a shameful disgrace, whipping up jingoism and blood lust and completely failing to inform.

    An example; The Telegraph, was running an online poll during the debate, and the question was NOT, “Should we bomb Isis?”, it was “Should we bomb Syria?”

    If the media misinforms our Muslim communities to the extent that that they believe that the British are randomly bombing Middle Eastern Countries, ignoring their Sovereignty, and killing civilians and children without restraint, it is hardly surprising that Corbyn’s stance was so electorally popular.

    Our media is not fit for purpose, it is a shameful and utter disgrace which is very clearly no longer trusted by the electorate.

    The hounding of Corbyn stands a good chance of achieving the same result as the hounding and vilification of UKIP leading up to the European Elections.

  20. Leslie Singleton
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 9:53 am | Permalink

    Dear John–I think what you have written today on postal votes is totally wrong–Apart from the secret ballot issues there was no doubt at all that Blair was just trying and I believe succeeding in increasing his immigrant vote. Influence is one thing, privacy when marking one’s cross is another. 100% of the vote from a particular community is obviously as Nigel says “bent”.

  21. Martin
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 9:57 am | Permalink

    Everybody seems to be ignoring the Benn effect. Labour thanks to Mr Benn had a very good positive press/media on Thursday morning/polling day. Were I the Labour candidate I would be thanking Mr Benn.

  22. Mark B
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 10:02 am | Permalink

    Good morning.

    It was neither a win for Labour (whatever the flavour) or Mr. Corbyn. It was a win for the status quo. Tribal voting is the kiss of death to any democracy.

    As for postal voting, I think it needs to be looked at again. It should only be open to those that have real need of it. If you cannot be bothered to get down and vote in person, that is your problem.

    I would finish by asking the good people of Oldham, what has decades, and a few Labour governments achieved for them ? If Labour or whoever cannot deliver on their promises and create the right environment for business and employment to flourish, then what is the point of giving them a second change. Best vote for someone else in the hope of getting a better deal. If everyone did that, I’d doubt we would be in the mess we are in.

  23. A.Sedgwick
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 10:12 am | Permalink

    Postal voting apart from members of the Armed Forces should be banned. In 1970 I didn’t vote because I was away from my permanent address – tough.

    Recently we had our kitchen sink replaced and discovered the old mixer tap was brass. I thought must be worth a fiver, took it to a scrap yard expecting a cash transaction. No I had to provide photo ID with address, payment was by cheque to my name. Contrast that with a polling fraudster turing up at a polling station – Joe Bloggs, 14 Acacia Avenue – no I don’t have a registration card – doesn’t matter sir, here is the voting slip, the booths are over there. You couldn’t make it up.

  24. JoolsB
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 10:28 am | Permalink

    It’s obvious that postal voting is an open invitation to fraud which is the very reason Labour introduced it in the first place. The biggest disappointment but no surprise is that that other socialist ‘heir to Blair’ and his party have done bugger all about it. To any sensible person, it stands to reason that only the genuinely infirm should get a postal vote. If able bodied persons cannot be bothered to get to the polling station once every couple of years, then they should lose their right to vote.

  25. barryjones
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 10:31 am | Permalink

    The polls and pundits have been way out in their predictions in recent elections. That may well be because of massive electoral fraud. If there was any will to stop it it could be ended tomorrow.

  26. Gary
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 10:37 am | Permalink

    Corbyn is going to be a political earthquake. The Westminster clique of neocons, good ole boys and warmongers are so out of touch that they just can’t see it. People are sick to death of business as usual, the corporate-govt-media of insiders, fascist stitch up. Corbyn will be an economic disaster, but the current setup is a pending economic disaster in any case. People want anything but the status quo. At least Corby is honest, has principles, even if you don’t agree with them, is not a warmonger and is decent. That alone puts him out of sight of the Westminster cesspit. Watch them smear Corbyn, laugh at him (nervous laughter), mock him, and in the end get politically thrashed by him.

  27. Gary
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 10:42 am | Permalink

    love that the labour Blairite wing of principle free, political chancers were sent skulking away. They will be back fawning over Corbyn, to save their skins. Because they don’t have any morals or integrity. Corbyn should dump them.

    • Edward2
      Posted December 5, 2015 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

      Still managed 3 election victories.
      But don’t allow the will of the popular vote to cloud your opinion of Labour under Blair Gary.

  28. Bert Young
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 11:01 am | Permalink

    The Oldham result was an anti Cameron demonstration – heavily weighted by the decision to bomb Syria . By-elections have always been an expression of current discontent and ,traditionally , been anti-government .

    Whether postal voting is easily flawed is something I am open to persuasion on ; if the evidence that UKIP brings forward has any validity , then the election should be held again . I don’t believe that it now means the end of UKIP ; if the results are true it’s the end of the Conservatives ! . Seriously , By-elections have to be disregarded as a true sign of how the country would respond in a General Election ; by and large the extreme left of the Labour Party who have taken control will be ousted .

    Today the news is more about Brexit and the ever increasing threat of immigration . As the most densely populated country in Europe we have more reason than anyone to resist its threat ; those who believe that we can go along with whatever edict comes from Brussels on this matter is living in cloud cuckoo land . Immigration will dominate the political scene for many more years to come .

  29. ian wragg
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    John, yesterday I had a very interesting conversation with a gentleman who came in to my wifes shop.
    I asked him about the insignia on his baseball cap and he told me it was (from a foreign country ed). I asked if he was on holiday. he told me he came in 2010 after his wife was diagnosed with cancer. he said treatment was not available there. he said his wife was 4th generation (foreign ed) but his Grandfather was Scottish.
    His wife was treated locally but sadly died 2 years ago. He was enthused by the fact he had been granted indefinite leave to remain and had a nice 1 bedroom council flat nearby.
    He said his council tax was paid and he drew pension credits of £750 every 4 weeks.
    he said Britain is a great country and we can see why.
    Please ask your colleagues how someone born and living for 67 years (abroad ed) can qualify for all these benefits without contributing a single penny.

  30. Iain Gill
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 11:11 am | Permalink

    How many of the roughly 500 British who are now back in the UK having been out in Syria fighting for isys are on the electoral roll in Oldham?

  31. oldtimer
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 11:18 am | Permalink

    Closer observers than me have commented that the Labour candidate and winner is well known locally and is/was a very effective Mayor. This sounds a good reason for his success.

    I think that the Conservative party is taking a win the next 2020 election too much for granted. Labour is still very strong in the north, as Conservatives are in the south. With the SNP dominant in Scotland, it is almost as if politics in the UK has become Balkanised. Although Labour is currently split, the Conservative party can look forward to the EU referendum as a divisive issue within the party.

  32. Kenneth
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 11:42 am | Permalink

    If there was any fraud then those responsible should be prosecuted. However, if it was good organisational work by the Labour Party with the help of Labour Councillors and other supporters then they should be applauded even if some, like me, do not like the result.

    As has been written here, there is noting wrong with one person trying to persuade another person to vote in particular way. Surely that is what this blog (at least partly) is about.

    • Dame Rita Webb
      Posted December 5, 2015 at 5:55 pm | Permalink

      The coverage in “The Guardian” made it no secret that Labour saw the Asian vote as a key part of its support and built a well organised machine to gather it in. However you may remember during the general election that Labour’s pollsters found that they scored negatively, as being seen as the party of the welfare claiment and the immigrant. So Nige is being a lot more clever than you think. Its not sour grapes by bringing this up. Instead he is trying to maintain the perception that if you do not live in the inner city Labour does not have your best interests at heart. Mr McMahon is already being talked of as being of leadership material. If he has was that clever he would have chosen to have surrounded himself with a different set of supporters. during his victory speech.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted December 5, 2015 at 5:56 pm | Permalink

      As long as that second person can then choose to disregard the threats and/or bribes and vote as they really want to vote, which means that the first person must have no way of knowing how they have voted. Once voting papers are allowed out of polling stations there is no way to ensure that votes can be kept secret.

  33. Ex-expat Colin
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 11:52 am | Permalink

    I hope Peter Lilley and Graham String will do something about this:

    BBC Trust Condemns BBC For Failure To Censor Climate Programme

    http://www.thegwpf.com/bbc-trust-condemns-bbc-for-failure-to-censor-climate-programme

    And Alan Johnson was wrong on BBC This Week about the 97% scientist belief thing. Goto to the HoC library he told Piers Corbyn to find out. WTF?

  34. Tom William
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 12:02 pm | Permalink

    Although the analogy is not accurate, MPs have to appear in person (or have a pair) to vote in the House of Commons. If they have to do it and can not, for example, securely vote online why should the electorate be able to vote without going to a polling station?

    I agree that a medical certificate for a postal vote should be possible for long term illness/disability but if you have other reasons for wanting a postal or proxy vote – tough.
    Other countries have such rules.

  35. James Matthews
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

    Postal voting is open to several kinds of abuse. There is really no hardship for the overwhelming majority in turning up at a polling station once in a while, indeed it helps to affirm the importance of the process. Postal votes should be available only to those who produce evidence of physically infirmity or temporary absence.

    ” The state can and must ensure that every adult has their own voter registration, and has the chance to vote in person in a secret ballot at the polling station”

    The state should also ensure that those who register to vote are actually eligible to vote (i.e., legally in the country and fulfilling the appropriate nationality and age criteria). There seems to be very little interest in checking.

    Narrowing the nationality and residence criteria wouldn’t come amiss either. Voting should be confined to those who have long term roots in the country or who have demonstrated a long-term commitment to its future. It should not (for example) be automatically available to citizens of the “New” Commonwealth or the Irish Republic.

    Our (continuing) laissez-faire attitude towards the franchise was acceptable when inward movement of people (Ireland excepted) was fairly limited and within a relatively homogenous culture in which respect for process was widely accepted. Times have changed.

  36. forthurst
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 1:01 pm | Permalink

    The use of postal voting by those who are physically able to attend a polling station is in direct conflict with the objective of the Ballot Act !872 whose purpose was to ensure that individuals could cast their votes independently of external influence. That is not to suggest that in this case it would have made much difference as there may be large numbers of adults in such constituencies who can neither speak, read nor write English to have formed any independent opinion; however an election cannot be presumed to have been fairly conducted if the opportunities for abuse are not properly addressed for which, in particular, the withdrawal of the right to a postal vote from those without an obvious physical need should be mandatory.

    In truth, democracy in this country has been on a downward path for years; we have no means of influencing who makes our laws as they are all made in Brussels or, on the hoof by Merkel, and Benn’s speech in parliament, having made a rather better case in the Independent, a fortnight previously, for not bombing Syria, was an attempt at a coup to ensure that once again the British people were deprived of any choice other than a Blairite government, whilst, as in the USA, offering the pretence that there were two parties which offered the people entirely different prospectuses, ie simply more theatre to excite the masses like the tevee drivel which now graces the telegraph front page.

  37. lojolondon
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    John, there is no doubt that postal voting is a magnet for fraud, Gordon Brown admitted it in 2008. For some reason he made a decision not to end postal votes before the election that he lost. However, I find it appalling that absolutely no action has been taken by the last and current governments.
    Here is an article I discovered from 2010 which specifically mentions Oldham in relation to postal vote fraud :
    http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/election/article-1271457/General-Election-2010-Postal-vote-fraud-amid-fears-bogus-voters-swing-election.html

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted December 5, 2015 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

      Action has now been taken, as JR mentions; it wasn’t done in time for the general election, and so this by-election actually affords the first opportunity to explore whether the action has been good enough. But that is only about fraud, or at least some of the fraud, it doesn’t deal with the problem of the ballot no longer being a secret ballot in some cases, eg where the head of a household is deciding how all family members will vote and is able to check that they do so.

      • Anonymous
        Posted December 6, 2015 at 12:58 am | Permalink

        While we’re at it could we sort out crash-for-cash fraud too ?

  38. yosarion
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 1:23 pm | Permalink

    The BBC said this week the population of Oldham was 250000 and that it has two MPs, been there a couple of times, can’t remember it being that big?

  39. ian
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 1:31 pm | Permalink

    Mr corbyn has no need to fiddle or to commit fraud, he just tell it as it is.
    He does not need the media or anything else and with voters coming into the country for him everyday with Scotland, wales and the unions behind him, he looking a clear winner.
    Con party brides to the votes looking like a good turn off as I can see by reading your blog hear of ex con party voters.
    Corbyn is not for the EU, he just says that because he would not have anything to do with that nest of vipers.
    He is his own man and does not need to be told what to do like some I could name.
    His brother is against climate change movement.
    When I go out and listen to the young people, all you hear is corbyn, corbyn, corbyn.

  40. Denis Cooper
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 2:35 pm | Permalink

    Nigel Farage tends to shoot from the hip.

    Often he is just saying what needs to be said but other politicians are reluctant to say, and even if what he says is only partially true and he may be wrong on some details it must be better to have part of the truth out in the open rather than none at all.

    However in this case I think he is probably wide of the mark about the impact of electoral fraud associated with postal voting in this election. He really should not have gone public with such a broad claim based just on some anecdotal evidence of electoral irregularities, which may or may not amount to fraud.

    And he should recognise that much of what has been said in the past about postal ballot fraud may not have applied to this by-election, which as I understand has actually been the very first parliamentary election to be run on an electoral roll compiled by individual rather than household registration.

    Having said that, now that they have been put to the test in a constituency which was previously highlighted as a hotspot for electoral fraud I would like to see some positive confirmation that the government’s reforms have been effective.

    • Chris
      Posted December 5, 2015 at 11:12 pm | Permalink

      Harry Phibbs on Conshome article states that Oldham was the last election on the old system. See longer excerpt and link in my comment below.
      ” “The Oldham by-election was the last hurrah for the “head of the household” based electoral register. That is welcome. The new arrangements will make fraud harder. However more should be done….”

      Is he incorrect? I do not know.

      • Denis Cooper
        Posted December 6, 2015 at 1:19 am | Permalink

        I happened to read that earlier, and so I went back to check what I’d seen quoted in the Telegraph to make sure that I’d got it right:

        http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/general-election-2015/parliamentary-constituencies/oldham-west-and-royton/12031040/oldham-west-royton-by-election-results.html

        Carolyn Wilkins, Acting Returning Officer, was quoted as saying:

        “This was the first election held in the country under Individual Electoral Registration (IER) … ”

        It is also explained in detail on the Oldham council website:

        http://www.oldham.gov.uk/info/200038/elections/867/register_to_vote

        “Individual Electoral Registration (IER)

        The way you register to vote has changed.

        Each member of your household must now register individually.

        To register you will need to provide your National Insurance number and date of birth as evidence of identity.

        You can register to vote online or update your details on the electoral register:

        Register to vote (GOV.UK website)

        What happens after you register?

        Oldham Council’s electoral register has been compared with records held by the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP).

        If your details match you will not be asked to provide any further information, you will receive a letter confirming your status on the register and your name will be included on the new register published on 1 December 2014.

        During the autumn of 2014, properties where no electors are registered or where there are ‘un-matched’ electors on the register will receive a ‘Household Enquiry Form’ or an ‘Invitation to Register’ for each existing elector.

        This will allow us to make sure that everyone who is entitled to register is included on the register from December 2014.”

        Incidentally I work out from the figures here:

        https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oldham_West_and_Royton_(UK_Parliament_constituency)

        that the total (UK parliamentary) electorate has dropped from 72378 in May to 68749 now, so about 5% of the previous registered electors have been removed.

        In the absence of further information there is no way of saying how many were ineligible or even fictitious electors, and how many were genuine and eligible electors who have not made sure they are still listed.

        • Chris
          Posted December 6, 2015 at 5:11 pm | Permalink

          Many thanks for this, Denis. I hope you have told Harry Phibbs!

          • Denis Cooper
            Posted December 6, 2015 at 5:39 pm | Permalink

            No, I haven’t; as somebody who is resolutely for the sovereignty of Parliament I’m persona non grata on that site.

          • Chris
            Posted December 6, 2015 at 10:37 pm | Permalink

            They got rid of the majority of commenters who actually had relevant and rigorous comment to make, together with links to back up their comments. I think the truth was not always appreciated! However, it has not done Conshome any good, It is a rather sterile website now, often with only a few comments on each article. There is a string of posts about Cameron and his “contribution” and readers/commenters seem to have given those a wide berth.

          • Chris
            Posted December 6, 2015 at 10:40 pm | Permalink

            My comment above (starting They got rid of… ) was a reply to Denis and his comment about Conservative Home.

        • Richard
          Posted December 7, 2015 at 11:06 am | Permalink

          Does Individual Electoral Registration not just mean that the ‘head’ of the household has to fill in multiple separate forms rather than include everyone on a single form?

          If this is the case I can’t see it making a huge amount of difference.

  41. ian
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 2:41 pm | Permalink

    Well done MR Gary you puts the case for MR Corbyn well on this site.
    As a non voter myself I wish him well like all the rest.

  42. Bob
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

    Labour dumbed down education in Britain, encouraged a huge amount of emigration from the third world and introduced on demand postal voting for a reason.

    Oldham is a Labour success story.

  43. Original Richard
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 10:06 pm | Permalink

    “The state can and must ensure that every adult has their own voter registration, and has the chance to vote in person……….or in private with their own postal vote form if they choose.”

    Many people strongly suspect that in some households this is not the case and, even if such situations never exist, then for the sake of demonstrating that we have an open and fair democracy it needs to be shown that coercion or fraud cannot possibly exist through the restriction of postal voting to only a few exceptional cases.

    The postal voting results make it clear why the Labour Party do not wish to abolish postal voting but what is the reason why the Conservative Party also are not interested ? Is it because they think it will help them win the coming EU referendum ?

    It is a mystery to me that whilst UK feminism wishes to tackle the lack of women in Parliament or in the boardroom or tech jobs, or the pay gap, it never has anything to say about such issues as the enslavement of women, FGM, polygamy or forced marriages.

    Neither has it anything to say about Sharia law which locks women into marital captivity and deprives them of their fair share of assets upon divorce from or the death of their spouse.

    Plus the possibility of disenfranchisement through postal voting.

    Reply Postal voting is a helpful method of voting for busy people, used legally by many voters. There is as yet no evidence of postal vote abuse in Oldham, and Mr Farage talked of a possible rigged ballot box, not postal votes.

    • Original Richard
      Posted December 6, 2015 at 5:48 pm | Permalink

      Mr. Redwood, Many thanks for your reply.

      I understand the benefits of postal voting for busy people having used it many years ago myself when I once found that I missed the opportunity of voting because I left home before 07:00hrs in the morning and did not return until after 10:00hrs.

      If the government is so worried that busy people are unable to find the time to vote why then do they not allow voters to vote over a 24 hour period or over the weekend as many countries do ? In fact, I find the current day and times very resrictive and hence undemocratic.

      I did not mention Oldham above as I have no idea if postal voting fraud applied in this case. But we do know that postal voting has been shown to be fraudulent in the past and hence anyone would think that the government would be taking steps to ensure that such fraud is made impossible even if we do believe it does not exist.

      I think it is also very obvious that postal voting may not allow a vote to be cast in private and this is today possibly the most important reason for its use to be restricted to specific and exceptional circumstances.

      Not that visiting the polling station is without its possibilities for fraud as I am always amazed that my polling station never asks me for any proof of identity or even asks me to show my polling card. Is it not about time that ID was required in order to vote ?

      Reply The PV is addressed to the named individual so it could only be abused with that individual’s consent as it needs the voter’s signature and details to be filled in before returning. No-one else in the household should open the incoming PV without the permission of the recipient. If other family members do abuse trust and steal the PV of their relative they would probably also manipulate the family member when going to the polling station instead.

      • Original Richard
        Posted December 6, 2015 at 5:49 pm | Permalink

        Sorry, I meant of course 07:00hrs to 22:00hrs

      • Original Richard
        Posted December 7, 2015 at 9:55 am | Permalink

        Mr. Redwood, Many thanks again for your reply.

        “If other family members do abuse trust and steal the PV of their relative they would probably also manipulate the family member when going to the polling station instead. ”

        If the polling station is properly run then I don’t think it is anywhere near as easy to manipulate a family member voting in an enclosed booth as it is if a PV is completed at home.

  44. Bob
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 10:17 pm | Permalink
  45. Chris
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 11:01 pm | Permalink

    See Electoral Commission Report and recommendations, specifically mentioning Oldham:
    http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/164609/Electoral-fraud-review-final-report.pdf

    Electoral fraud vulnerabilities in specific areas
    While the data reported by the police shows that every UK police force 3.1has investigated cases of alleged or suspected electoral fraud in the last three years, it is clear that there are some areas where cases are more frequently reported and therefore investigated.
    These areas are generally limited to individual wards within a number of 3.2local authority areas. We have identified the following 16 local authority areas (out of just over 400 across the UK as a whole) where there appears to be a greater risk of cases of alleged electoral fraud being reported:
    • Birmingham
    • Blackburn with Darwen
    • Bradford
    • Burnley
    • Calderdale
    • Coventry
    • Derby
    • Hyndburn
    • Kirklees
    • Oldham
    • Pendle
    • Peterborough
    • Slough
    • Tower Hamlets
    • Walsall
    • Woking
    These areas are often characterised by being densely populated with a 3.3transient population, a high number of multiple occupancy houses and a previous history of allegations of electoral fraud.
    These areas are also often home to communities with a diverse range of 3.4nationalities and ethnic backgrounds. We have heard some strongly held views, based in particular on reported first-hand experience by some campaigners and elected representatives, that electoral fraud is more likely to be committed by or in support of candidates standing for election in areas which are largely or predominately populated by some South Asian communities, specifically those with roots in parts of Pakistan or Bangladesh.
    These concerns reflect issues also highlighted by a small number of 3.5previous studies of political and electoral participation, which have suggested that extended family and community networks could be mobilised to secure
    17
    the support of large numbers of electors in some areas, effectively constituting a ‘block vote’ – although this would not necessarily involve electoral fraud.8
    Some people who have raised concerns about the risk of electoral fraud 3.6within specific South Asian communities have also argued that the wider availability of postal voting in Great Britain since 2001 has increased the risk of electoral fraud associated with this approach, as the greater safeguards of secrecy provided by polling stations are removed. We have also heard concerns and allegations about the intimidation of electors outside polling stations in specific areas.
    Evidence from police data and prosecutions shows that people accused 3.7of electoral fraud and people convicted of fraud come from a range of backgrounds including white British, South Asian and other European backgrounds. It would be a mistake to suggest that electoral fraud only takes place within specific South Asian communities.
    We are, however, concerned about the extent to which electoral fraud 3.8affects or originates from within specific communities. The evidence and views we have heard raise significant questions about whether individuals within these communities are able effectively to exercise their right to vote, and whether they are able to participate in elections on the same basis as other electors across the UK. All electors should be free to cast their votes in the way they wish. It is not acceptable to explain or excuse electoral fraud on the basis of actual or perceived differences in cultural approaches to democratic participation.
    Further work on electoral fraud vulnerabilities in specific communities
    We have begun further work to identify relevant evidence in order to help 3.9address concerns about the vulnerability of some South Asian communities, specifically those with roots in parts of Pakistan or Bangladesh, to electoral fraud.

  46. Chris
    Posted December 5, 2015 at 11:10 pm | Permalink

    See also article by Harry Phibbs on Conservative Home:

    http://www.conservativehome.com/thetorydiary/2015/12/individual-electoral-registration-will-remove-an-unfair-advantage-for-the-labour-party.html

    Individual Electoral Registration will remove an unfair advantage for the Labour Party.

    “The Oldham by-election was the last hurrah for the “head of the household” based electoral register. That is welcome. The new arrangements will make fraud harder. However more should be done. Most other countries require some form of ID. Not only western countries but developing nations regard at least some safeguard against voting more than once as fundamental. Countries including Bangladesh, India, Mexico and Peru have used the requirement to dip your forefinger in purple ink.

    “Vote early, vote often,” is not acceptable, whether in Belfast or Bow.
    We should probably also revert to the previous arrangement where applying for a postal vote could be done for a particular reason for a particular election. It has got out of control and abuse is widespread. The individual electoral registration arrangements will help significantly, but not solve the problem altogether….”

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted December 6, 2015 at 1:31 am | Permalink

      39 comments, and nobody has pointed out that he’s wrong about Oldham being the the last hurrah for the “head of the household” based electoral register …

      • Chris
        Posted December 6, 2015 at 10:44 pm | Permalink

        As I stated above in an earlier reply to you, some of the more rigorously analytical commenters seem to have been removed from the site. What will inevitably happen is that inaccurate articles will slip through and may well not get corrected as those individuals, such as yourself, with in depth knowledge of many of the issues covered on that site, don’t get the chance to comment.

  47. ChrisS
    Posted December 6, 2015 at 12:26 am | Permalink

    The last two Governments were panicking over the fall in turnout and went for more postal voting. I think this has been a big mistake and we should return to allow a postal vote only if you are away from home on the date of the election.

    Every polling station is open from 7am to 10pm so there is no excuse for not voting if you are at home on the day. If you are disabled, most parties are happy to take supporters to the polling station.

    Clearly there was a lot wrong with the Oldham vote and this election looks like it is following a pattern set at consecutive General Elections.

    Something has to be done to protect the integrity of the democratic process and the safest way is for most voters to attend the polling station themselves and to severely limit postal voting.

    • Chris
      Posted December 6, 2015 at 5:12 pm | Permalink

      Agreed, ChrisS.

  48. Monty
    Posted December 6, 2015 at 3:29 am | Permalink

    “…have to say to anyone who asks for help filling in a postal ballot that they cannot do so…”

    Doesn’t work on local “community leaders” though does it?

  49. Monty
    Posted December 6, 2015 at 3:35 am | Permalink

    End postal voting for the public please. Reserve it only for British govt employees posted overseas.
    And while we are at it, how about photographic ID for voters, presentation of polling cards, and police supervision of ballot boxes?

  50. Chris
    Posted December 6, 2015 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

    Very thoughtful and clear article by Paul Nuttall about the Oldham by election and postal voting problems. (‘Postal voting has given us “rotten wards” ‘). Well worth a read, whatever Party you support.

    • Denis Cooper
      Posted December 7, 2015 at 8:50 am | Permalink

      It’s on Breitbart, easily found through google.

      I agree with what he has said but with the caveat that he should acknowledge that the system of registration has now changed, so some of the criticisms made under the old system may no longer be relevant and have to be treated with caution.

      There are really several questions here: whether some of the grosser instances of fraud in the past would no longer be possible, but whether the changes go far enough in preventing all fraud, as well as whether the inherent lack of secrecy of postal ballots will still expose some voters to what the Electoral Commission describes as the electoral offence of “Undue influence”, which technically may not be classed as “fraud”:

      http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/149729/List-of-electoral-offences.pdf

      “A person is guilty of undue influence if they directly or indirectly make use of or threaten to make use of force, violence or restraint, or inflict or threaten to inflict injury, damage or harm in order to induce or compel that person to vote or refrain from voting.”

  51. Lindsay McDougall
    Posted December 7, 2015 at 4:28 am | Permalink

    Islam is an authoritarian religion and culture. There is no democratic teaching in the Koran or the Hadith, which date from 7th century Arabia. Nor did the Ottoman Empire introduce democracy.

    In this context, it would not have been surprising if the Imams of Oldhan West had told their male believers how to vote and the men had told their women how to vote. In the home, a man can look over his wife’s shoulder at the ballot paper, whereas this is not possible in a polling station. Even if there is no actual fraud, the situation is disquieting.

    There has since 1997 been a systematic effort by Labour to increase its vote share:
    – by admitting many Islamic immigrants (85% of them vote Labour)
    – by extending the franchise to 16 and 17 year old
    – by encouraging and facilitating more postal voting
    – by keeping people in dependency

    All of these issues could be looked at by the Electoral Commission. Meanwhile, there is no obligation on the Conservative Party to agree with these Labour strategems. We can and should fight our corner – it isn’t only UKIP that suffers.

  • About John Redwood


    John Redwood won a free place at Kent College, Canterbury, and graduated from Magdalen College Oxford. He is a Distinguished fellow of All Souls, Oxford. A businessman by background, he has set up an investment management business, was both executive and non executive chairman of a quoted industrial PLC, and chaired a manufacturing company with factories in Birmingham, Chicago, India and China. He is the MP for Wokingham, first elected in 1987.

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