“Crooked” Hillary’s Crooked Predecessors
Gerry Dorrian recalls a rigged election
Donald Trump has caused consternation with his claim that he may not accept the result of the US presidential election if it doesn’t go his way. Is this his characteristic hyperbole – or is he aware that a question mark already hangs over the democratic legitimacy of a recent national election elsewhere – here in the UK?
Our story starts in February 2001, when the Representation of the People Act 2000 came into force and, crucially for our purposes, effectively brought in postal voting by demand. Previously, somebody who wanted to vote by post had to identify themself individually to the constituency registration officer and give a reason why they wished to do so. After the Representation of the People Act, political party officials could bulk-order postal-voting forms on behalf of constituents. A House of Commons Library investigation, Postal Voting and Electoral Fraud, would date the rise of such fraud from this change.
In June 2004 the Tory MP Sir Alan Duncan, then Shadow Minister for Constitutional Affairs, reported to the House of Commons on “public concern over reported instances of fraud, corruption and electoral malpractice” relating to postal voting. The concern was predominantly over local elections in Birmingham earlier that same month, amid a toxic battle between Labour and the Liberal Democrats. According to the Daily Telegraph, on the night before the election police had raided a warehouse to find councillors and supporters “sitting at a table surrounded by postal ballots”.
This does not in itself indicate wrongdoing. However, Judge Richard Mawrey QC made his judgement on the incident, which saw the councillors accused of manufacturing 2,500 votes to ensure they won the election, in April 2005, a month before that year’s general election and his shocking conclusions on “evidence of electoral fraud that would disgrace a banana republic” rang alarm bells all over the nation:
To assert that ‘the systems already in place to deal with the allegations of electoral fraud are clearly working’ indicates a state not simply of complacency but of denial.
The systems to deal with fraud are not working well. They are not working badly. The fact is that there are no systems to deal realistically with fraud and there never have been. Until there are, fraud will continue unabated.
The 2005 general election produced the mandate under which Gordon Brown, who succeeded Tony Blair as Prime Minister after the latter’s resignation, signed up the country to the Lisbon Treaty, which was a version of the EU constitution modified minimally in an attempt to disguise its federalist agenda. The voting statistics for this election, again from House of Commons Library, showed that Labour’s majority over the Conservatives (in terms of raw votes) was one fifth the size of the postal vote.
That this did not cause a national scandal shows the extent to which the electorate was distracted, with good cause, by the war in Iraq. But it did not go un-noticed. In the Rowntree Trust’s Purity of Elections in the UK: Causes for Concern, Stuart Wilks-Heeg wrote:
In a letter to the Electoral Commission in 2005, Chief Superintendent Dave Murray of Thames Valley Police suggested that “the application procedure to allow individuals to have a postal vote in Local, European and National elections is superficial, cursory and flawed” (Thames Valley Police, 2005). Writing in the Times on 21 January 2007, the academic Michael Pinto-Duschinksy (2007) suggested that it was clear that “there are problems of electoral malpractice in a considerable number of British cities”. Speaking on Newsnight on BBC 2 on 31October 2007, the former Chair of the Committee on Standards in Public Life, Sir Alistair Graham suggested that the Committee had been “deeply shocked about the denial not only in the (Electoral) Commission, but also in the then Department for Constitutional Affairs, about the scale of postal vote fraud and the fact that nobody was monitoring what the scale of that fraud was”.
The puzzling thing is, if the vote was rigged, why did they bother? Under Tony Blair’s premiership the three main political parties at the time became closer than they had ever been before. So close, indeed, that one might refer to them as a political cartel, a super-party with Labour, Conservative and Liberal Democrat wings which only asserted their separateness when an election was on the horizon. It’s entirely possible that a Michael Howard-led Conservative government might have signed us up to the Lisbon Treaty, so taken up with the European integration project were all mainstream parties at the time.
Each individual’s vote is the tangible sign of that person’s equal worth to all of his or her fellow citizens. Electoral fraud makes a nonsense of equality, bypassing the democratic process to prioritise the will of cabals who then exercise enclosure upon our rights, our freedoms and even our national identities, and see democracy as inconvenient to their ambitions. It is therefore alarming that Jeremy Corbyn – who is instilling panic across the political spectrum – has admitted into his inner circle somebody who has been convicted of electoral fraud: according to the Daily Mail, Marsha-Jane Thompson was found guilty in 2006 of having “submitted electoral registration forms for more than 100 different addresses which appeared to contain discrepancies” in the London borough of Newham.
Again, all this does not mean that the 2005 election was rigged, but I believe there are compelling grounds for an independent investigation into its democratic legitimacy and into the status of any laws passed by the 2005 and subsequent governments if democratic succession is found to have been violated.
Given the interest in British politics in America due to the juxtaposition of our EU referendum with their presidential election, I have to wonder if Trump is aware of the problematic nature of the 2005 general election result. Or, in the light of an enigmatic reference to the States’ “fragile democratic institutions” left hanging in Building on Success, an essay by Vice President Joe Biden in this year’s September/October issue of Foreign Affairs, are his references to electoral rigging aimed homewards?
Whatever the answers, as the political temperature shoots past boiling point on both sides of the Atlantic, it’s worth remembering that we all have an obligation to watch out for democratic fraud. Regardless of the direction it comes from, it steals something precious from us that is not easily restored.
GERRY DORRIAN writes from Cambridge