Lessons from the Oldham West and Royton by-election

During a period of chaos in the Labour Party (still continuing), the Labour candidate pulled off a victory which was totally surprising to pollsters, the principal challenger party UKIP, and Labour officials. Why were they surprised and how did Labour do it?

Jim McMahon, the Labour candidate, now MP, well-known locally as Leader of Oldham Council, secured 62% of the votes cast on a low turnout of 40% of the electorate. At the General Election last May (which Labour lost massively), the Labour candidate Michael Meacher, ex-Cabinet Minister, who had held the seat for 38 years, and was thus very well known, secured 55% of the votes on a turnout of 60%. This is about average for a metropolitan constituency like Oldham. In May 2010 Meacher got 45% in the General Election which Labour lost owing to the high vote for the Liberal Democrats.

For a party to take a massive number of votes from a governing party candidate by-election is not at all unusual. But for an incumbent opposition party (Labour), now in bitter disarray nationally, to actually increase its share of the vote over the three previous elections, when Labour generally was losing support, is probably unprecedented.

Something clearly has happened in this constituency. Clues to this something are (a) the massive number of postal votes (7,400) amounting to over a quarter of all votes counted, (b) the reported presence at the polling station of people who apparently spoke little or no English and seemed “not to know what to do”. This observation has to be related directly to the very large percentage of mainly Pakistani-origin people (25%) in the constituency, many of whose women-folk have never learned English.

Origins of the Postal Vote in the United Kingdom

This is in the Representation of the People Act 1918 and was brought in to allow servicemen and others prevented “by reason of their occupation” from voting at a polling station. Temporary arrangements were made for the armed forces still overseas to vote either by post or by proxy, i.e. formally nominating a trusted agent to vote for them according to their stated preference.

Similar provisions were made in 1945. The Representation of the People Act 1985 made provisions for the availability of postal and proxy votes to be made permanent for defined categories of people, including those on holiday. In 2000 the Labour government brought in a new Representation of the People Act in which all categories were abolished and postal/proxy votes became available “on demand” without giving a reason, except in Northern Ireland (which had a long history of vote-rigging) where reasons still have to be given[1]. The Labour government didn’t care about Northern Ireland’s exemption from the new Act because Labour doesn’t stand there. In England, Scotland, and Wales their attitude is quite different, calculating, as we have just seen in Oldham, that the slacker the electoral voting rules, the more Labour would benefit.

Vote-rigging in mainland Britain (courtesy of our correspondent “Aged Albion”)[2]

This website has reported the four gravest cases to reach the High Court over the last 10 years. All four have been tried before the Election Commissioner, Judge Richard Mawrey: all have related to constituencies with high proportions of Pakistani or Bangladeshi names. Three of the four cases, Birmingham (2005), Slough (2009), Woking (2013) involved “vote-rigging on an industrial scale” allowed by the “postal votes on demand” legislation in the Labour government’s Representation of the People Act 2000. Candidates who profited from this fraud were removed from office and the elections were rerun. The fourth case involved the election of the Tower Hamlets (London) mayor, Lutfur Rahman, Bangladeshi-born, whose election was declared “null and void” and with one of his aides, Alibor Choudhury, was found guilty of corrupt and illegal practices under the Representation of the People Act 1983. Rahman was also banned from standing for election again and ordered to pay £250,000 costs.

Implications of these cases for the Oldham By-election result

A 27% proportion of postal votes, many arriving actually on the morning of the count, resulting in the election of a Labour candidate with the biggest ever proportion of the votes cast in the constituency; reports of non-English speaking people milling around the polling station; and a result way beyond any of the contestants’ expectations, are all consistent with Judge Mawrey’s observation in the Woking case: “all the classic indicators of electoral fraud are present”. It is clearly up to the electors and contestants at Oldham to bring any such evidence to the attention of the Electoral Commission, as well as the police. Here we may observe that police in Oldham and neighbouring Rochdale were extraordinarily reluctant to pursue Pakistani gangs exploiting under-age English girls for sex over periods of ten years or more. The same reluctance over many years was evident in the Rotherham cases which eventually led to some at least of the perpetrators receiving stiff prison sentences.

However it is very clear that so fearful are the authorities generally, not just the police, of being accused of racism when educational, social services, or criminal matters are concerned, that wherever ethnic minorities are involved in a noticeably disproportionate way, they have now to be pushed into doing their duty in a timely and non-discriminatory way, as has been the rule in British society for a very long time. If there were electoral fraud in Oldham on December 3rd, it would, on past High Court evidence in Birmingham, Slough, Woking, and Tower Hamlets, be likely to be found among the Postal Votes, personation at the Polling Station, and undue influence exerted on voters[3]. Certainly the checks of identities of voters or their proxies matching the 7,400 forms on which names were scrawled, would take more time than the returning officer would have on polling day.

Changes to Postal Vote Law

An immediate change of the law is needed:
1 Postal Vote applications must be accompanied by a passport-sized photo of the applicant, together with his/her signature on a domestic bill or similar, and matched to a photo and signature when they apply to be on the electoral roll (as in Northern Ireland). This electoral roll signature would, like the passport, need to be updated every 10 years if a Postal Vote is to be granted.

2 Postal Vote applications to be valid for five years only.

3 Only natural-born and naturalised British citizens resident in Britain to be allowed on to the electoral roll which is drawn up each year in October.

All people who desire Britain to vote to leave the European Union should press these changes on the Electoral Commission.

End Notes

[1] France abolished postal votes 40 years ago because of fears about vote-rigging. Switzerland has retained postal voting on demand.

[2] Postal Vote Fraud still being ignored by government and politicians alike Ageing Albion, 12th November 2013.

[3] In Tower Hamlets, 113 imams were said to have signed a letter telling muslims it was their “godly duty” to vote for Lutfur Rahman.


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2 Responses to “Lessons from the Oldham West and Royton by-election”

  1. Ageing Albion says:

    I could not agree more with this post.

    Two crimes have been perpetuated against the British people for over a decade now. The first is the repeated, large scale electoral fraud. Left unchecked the result would be the effective return of rotten boroughs, or more accurately the importation of the politics associated with parts of the Indian subcontinent: chaotic and corrupt.

    It is a safe bet too that electoral fraud will not end at the ballot box: someone elected by fraudulent means can be expected to maintain their ways in office. The story of Lutfur Rahman’s ways in Tower Hamlets was set out in detail over several years by Andrew Gilligan, one of a very few journalists in Britain prepared to risk career ruin by exposing corruption among ethnic minorities.

    The second crime against the British public has been the reaction of the authorities. Earlier posts have highlighted such things as the public servant Lin Homer’s career which carried on totally unaffected by her failure to stop electoral fraud (she barely acknowledged it) when in a responsible position in 2005 as Chief Executive of Birmingham Council and Returning Officer, now (2015) Chief Executive of Her Majesty’s Revenue and Customs. Then there is the Electoral Commission. It took seven years from the 2005 judgment before it undertook an inquiry into electoral fraud in the UK. Judge Mawrey’s conclusions on its efforts are extraordinarily damning. Readers are invited to review its efforts (found on its website eg http://www.electoralcommission.org.uk/find-information-by-subject/electoral-fraud/preventing-and-reporting-electoral-fraud) and judge whether it acted firmly, fairly and without regard to political correctness given the information provided by the High Court judgments referred to in the post above.

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  2. Ageing Albion says:

    The announcement of Lin Homer’s dame-hood shows the contemptible attitude which the political class adopted to the vote rigging scandal. That disgrace alone should have been career-ending; the fact it was not shows what democracy means to the present generation – that is, nothing. http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/uknews/honours-list/12074940/HMRC-boss-given-Damehood-despite-abysmal-customer-service.html

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