Saturday, March 03, 2007
Another reason to warn the voters
Jane Kennedy (Liverpool, Wavertree) (Lab): I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman for giving way, because I know that many Members want to speak, but I invite him to consider the fact that we, as political parties, have a responsibility to ensure that voters are not misled. I invite him to consider what he would do if he discovered that after the electoral returning office had secured the signatures of postal voters as required, in the proper way, a prospective candidate for the local elections wrote to all postal voters, informing them that all current postal votes had been cancelled and that they should apply to him if they did not get a further application to register. If I told him that it was a Liberal Democrat prospective candidate for council, would he be surprised by the double standards that the Liberal Democrats apply?
Hon. Members: No.
Mr. Heald: The right hon. Lady has obviously struck a chord in the House. I noticed many hon. Members saying that they would not be at all surprised. Perhaps I would not be either. If I am really fair about this for a moment— [Interruption.] I think I should. The point that we are making is that if there are loopholes in the system and glaring omissions in security, there will always be people who are so desperate to be elected to whatever post that they will defraud the system. That is why we need the protections that we are talking about.
And special mention has to go to Simon Hughes for this brazen effort:
Jane Kennedy: We have discovered in Liverpool a quite deliberate attempt by a Liberal Democrat councillor, Councillor Graham Hulme, who held his ward last year by only 13 votes, to mislead postal voters into believing that their postal vote had been cancelled and that the best way to get it back was to contact him personally. It is deeply dishonourable, if not fraudulent, for a politician to behave in such a way, and those involved should hang their heads in shame.
Bridget Prentice: I agree with my right hon. Friend. I do not wish to be partisan during this debate because I believe absolutely and profoundly that everyone should be encouraged to vote, regardless of the party for which they are going to vote. However, the description that she has given the House suggests to me that such an activity is outwith the guidance to which the Electoral Commission, the police and the main political parties have agreed. I suggest that she might wish to direct the Electoral Commission and the returning officer to that candidate so that the matter can be dealt with appropriately.
Simon Hughes (North Southwark and Bermondsey) (LD): I am grateful to the hon. Gentleman. He has pursued this matter assiduously and has rightly said that it is foolish to make party political points— [ Interruption. ] No: Labour, Conservative, Liberal Democrat, Democratic Unionist and British National party members have been convicted of electoral fraud in this decade.Oh really?
"I really thought it was still the 1990's. Honest."