Top of my list of Conservative activists who merit an honour is Councillor Peter Golds, the leader of the Conservative Group on Tower Hamlets Council, who strives ceaselessly to uphold high standards of public service amidst deplorable circumstances. Some of the stories that he reports in his article on this site today give an insight into them. There is the man with an electoral register speaking to voters as they approach a polling station. There is the “very tall (six foot plus) figure wearing a full Islamic Burka and noticeable for large feet and distinct red trainers” who “entered the polling station and voted three times”. There is the “council officer…who speaking in Bengali, pointed out Ken Livingstone’s name to female voters and after they left the booth, checked the ballot to ensure that it was correct”. (Cllr Golds adds: “It took eight hours to get him marched off the premises”.)
A recent Electoral Commission report called for police patrols to combat vote-rigging in the following 16 towns: Blackburn with Darwen, Bradford, Burnley, Calderdale, Coventry, Derby, Hyndburn, Kirklees, Oldham, Pendle, Peterborough, Slough, Tower Hamlets, Walsall, and Woking. This list makes it clear that electoral fraud largely represents “importing cultural practices from one place to another”, as Tony Wright, the former Labour MP has put it – or which, to put it more plainly, are south Asian in origin. The police seem to be too frightened of local backlashes, or being labelled as racist, to do anything much about it.
Golds recommends six reforms: speeding up the introduction of Individual Voter Registration; requiring photographic proof of identity when an elector votes; ensuring the integrity and secrecy of the ballot within polling stations; ensuring that all voters can proceed to a polling station unhindered by intimidating touts and canvassers; abolishing postal voting on demand, returning the system to what it was previously; and requiring the police and prosecuting officials to act decisively, investigating all allegations and prosecuting corruption, rather than simply hoping that it will go away. The central one is proof of identity. The production of a polling card when voting would not in itself eliminate fraud, but it would certainly help to reduce it. This should be made a requirement of voting without delay. That our electoral system is compromised shames our standing as a liberal democracy.