In 2008, Eshaq Khan, a Conservative councillor from Slough, was jailed for postal voting fraud . In 2005, six Labour councillors of Asian origin from Birmingham were found guilty of the same offence. Cllr Peter Golds has written on this site that nothing is being done to stop “massive electoral fraud in Tower Hamlets”. Dominic Grieve has maintained an interest in integration and cohesion for longer than almost any other Conservative MP, and he will undoubtedly have had the integrity of the voting system in mind when he referred, during his interview with today’s Daily Telegraph, to the systemic corruption that blights some south Asian countries. (“It’s mainly the Pakistani community,” he said.)
The Attorney General was scarcely breaking new ground. Sayeeda Warsi has complained of fraud by Asian-origin voters during the last election. Judge Richard Mawrey has complained that Britain is tolerating levels of electoral corruption “that would disgrace a banana republic”. Joe Murphy, the political editor of the Evening Standard, tweeted as follows after London’s last mayoral election: “Let’s put Tower Hamlets in charge of count next time. They’ll get it done the day before.”
Cllr Golds’s seven recommendations to tackle the problem are as pertinent now as they were when he first advanced them: review postal votes on demand; make it illegal for anybody to collect ballot papers; institute Individual Voter Registration; introduce the production of I.D when voting; examine the powers and personnel of the Electoral Commission. ( It needs somebody like Judge Mawrey to help ensure that the police act on allegations. The Government is acting on individual voter registration, but not on Cllr Gold’s other six points. Now that he’s spoken to the Telegraph, Grieve should have a word with his colleagues.
The Attorney has dedicated much of his career in Parliament to making the Conservative case among ethnic minority voters. Only 16 per cent of them voted Tory in 2010, and raising the percentage is indispensable to its future success. So he will have been aware, while speaking to the Telegraph, of how its opponents will distort his remarks to try to set back the Party’s cause. (They have been given a helping hand on Twitter by Sajjad H Karim, the Conservative MEP.) Why, then, did he speak as he did?
The answer can only be that, to the Attorney, some things are more important than winning votes – in this case, preserving the incorruptibility of the electoral system, without which the winning and casting of votes becomes meaningless. His words also point towards another truth: namely, that we cannot have a polity in which, say, only politicians of Asian origin are permitted to criticise the faults of people of Asian origin, any more than we can have a polity in which only politicians who are not of Asian origin are permitted to criticise the faults of people who also are not of Asian origin – at least, not if we are to live in a country rather than a balkanised airstrip.