Sunday, April 10, 2005
A young postman, quoted today in the Sunday Telegraph, is quite certain that postal voting leads to fraud. Within an hour of delivering the postal ballot papers, he is asked which streets he has delivered to. Houses are then visited and votes taken away.
Yet Mr Blair has said that postal voting is "no more prone to fraud than any other systems"
The postman, whose round is in a predominantly Asian area of Bradford near the university, says:
- "I guarantee that as soon as I deliver ballot papers for the general election, people will be taking them.
I will have them asking, 'What streets have you done?' Then they will go around to people they know. Many don't understand the forms, so they will tell people, 'Just give it to us. We will fill it in for you.' It will probably happen all over Bradford, in the Asian areas.
I have seen people with bags full of papers within an hour of doing my round. They all do it, every party. It will happen at the general election, at every election."
Meanwhile, the Sunday Times reveals that, after a government-commissioned study showed safeguards would reduce the turnout of key Labour voters such as the young and poor, the government ditched a bill to combat postal voting fraud. At a cabinet committee, held on April 20 last year and chaired by Peter Hain, a decision was taken that the safeguards were "clearly needed" to prevent electoral fraud in postal votes. But a bill to deliver safeguards was ditched.
- "One of the main proposals was that people should be required to apply for their postal vote on a signed form and that should be cross-checked against their signature on the ballot paper. This proposal had the backing of both the police and the Electoral Commission, the quango created to ensure fairness in elections.
Yesterday's marriage of Prince Charles and Camilla was watched avidly by a large proportion of French viewers on the second channel here. The commentary was friendly, knowledgeable and erudite. All the invitees and all the members of the royal family were recognised and named. There was no irony in the description of the spectacle. Mr Blair's entry into St George's chapel showed his lack of ease - but the royal couple themselves were touching in their calm dignity and evident mutual affection. Are we to lose all this? The House of Lords, itself one of our last strongholds for the safeguarding of democracy, is no longer considered part of the UK Parliament (see Booker's Notebook)
Mr Blair is fond of saying things like "we are delivering as promised, and will deliver much more if we win that third term." In this almost-republic, what Mr Blair is delivering is bananas.
Wednesday, April 06, 2005
Both are "antipluralist, authoritarian conservatives"
The ever-splendid Simon Jenkins www.timesonline.co.uk puts into the clearest terms what makes us tired old democrats despair of both main parties.
- Older voters must be incredulous that an election campaign is launched with Labour selling Britain’s car industry to the Chinese, forcing the NHS to seek help from private hospitals and tipping profits in private property speculation. In none of this can the Tories find fault. Nor have they quarrelled with Labour’s zest for military adventurism. The Thatcherite dispension holds both Mr Blair and Mr Howard in awe. Both are antipluralist, authoritarian conservatives. Both see political parties not as coalitions of interest but as election machines run on the juice of patronage."
No one thinks that the Lib Dems can win - but there just could be the light of a yellow dawn at the end of the tunnel. For, as Simon Jenkins points out, if in 90 Labour-Conservative marginals, half the Liberal Democrats could somehow be induced to vote Tory, the result would be a hung parliament.
- "in a hung parliament Charles Kennedy gets to choose who goes to Downing Street, and on what terms."
Read in full Simon Jenkins article "At election poker Lib Dems can make a killing by playing their cards right"
Tuesday, April 05, 2005
prepare for voting fraud on a massive scale
I had not realised that
- "Mr Mawrey himself was obstructed by the Labour Party at every turn. A lone star, he has had to pick his way through scenes that would have astonished a sheriff in a frontier town. ..Labour Party officials wanted to postpone Mawreys inquiry until after the general election; he faced them down. They withdrew their legal support from the accused councillors in the hope of delaying proceedings; he pressed on. Now he has caught their colleagues red-handed."
- "First, returning officers started to receive phone calls inquiring whether they would count envelopes that had been opened and resealed, containing votes which had been altered (answer yes). Next, bewildered people went to the polls to be told that they had already voted. And then opposition parties were amazed to discover that certain Muslim areas had swung towards Labour in the heat of the Iraq war. The vote-riggers had overplayed their hand..."
It really is an astonishing story - even for this government - who are still trying to have us believe that this was one tiny little isolated incident.
- In criminal courts recently there have been convictions for cheating in areas as diverse as Hackney, Guildford and Blackburn. The Electoral Reform Society predicts that many MPs may be challenged on the legitimacy of their victory, if next months election is close. If the general election were to be decided by a court rather than by the ballot box, that would be an astonishing indictment of British democracy....
Read in full
There are going to be huge increases in postal voting on 05-05-05 (will the three main parties' results have a similar elegant symmetry?)
The Government has broken its thin-lipped silence on yesterday's postal vote fraud verdict. They are understandably extremely miffed that the judge says they are in 'denial' about the problem.
Nick Raynsford, the Minister, has now announced that an additional £10 million will be spent on "preventing fraudulent postal voting". But that is easier said than done. How will postal votes be protected from fraud? The Electoral Commission's report of of August 2004 does not seem to have led to much progress in reassuring those who have been worried about this for a long time. There is very little time left now.
The Electoral Commission's report "Delivering Democracy? The Future of Postal Voting" urged that choice should remain, a new foundation model of voting for statutory elections and referendums should be developed and the law should explicitly require Returning Officers to conduct post-election audits of election stationery such as declarations of identity, security statements and postal vote applications. It also said that the Government should
- "..agree to introduce a system of individual electoral registration, which is the key building block on which safe and secure remote elections can be delivered. The Commission recommends that all-postal voting should not be pursued for use at UK statutory elections."
The Independent this morning quotes more of what the judge, Mr Richard Mawrey QC, said yesterday (see below)
- "Bordesley Green and Aston were not isolated incidents but part of a Birmingham-wide campaign by the Labour Party to try, by bogus postal votes, to counter the adverse effect of the Iraq war on its electoral fortunes."
- "There are no systems to deal realistically with fraud and there never have been. Until there are, fraud will continue unabated."
Complacency, denial and authoritarianism. Well at least one Labour MP has had enough. Steven Wilkinson MP has turned his back on his party and fled to the open arms of the Lib Dems.
He is not alone. We read that for every person who voted Conservative in 2001 but has now switched to the Liberal Democrats, there are no less than three who have made the equivalent switch from Labour. And my splendid brother, one of the few people I know who cheerfully admits to having been wrong about Iraq, says "I was wrong over Iraq.. I suppose I shall have to vote for Kennedy" (Who is described this evening by Jon Snow as "...bounding about like an excited labrador that's just found the Kennomeat under the stairs... we're off!")
Monday, April 04, 2005
"The system is wide open to fraud .. " Election Commissioner Richard Mawrey QC
Confidence in postal voting - if there was any outside the government - has just been finally shot to pieces by today's verdict in Birmingham.
Thousands of people did indeed have their votes stolen from them last June by Labour-supporting poll-riggers.
Three Labour councillors in the Aston ward of Birmingham were caught actually handling unsealed postal ballots in a deserted warehouse in the city during a late-night raid in June 2004. The votes were later counted towards that month's local elections. They were able to exploit "reforms" to postal voting introduced by the Government.
The judge said the system was "hopelessly insecure" and expressed regret that recent warnings about the failings had been dismissed by the government as "scaremongering".
Well, the government knows all about scaremongering, just as it has found it effective to dismiss the concerns of well-informed and worried people as "hysterical". It is going to be very unhappy about this verdict. It is going to go into something of a spin.
But how can even those Downing St spiders restore confidence before the general election? Judge Mawrey referred to
- "....evidence of electoral fraud that would disgrace a banana republic.."
As long ago as last year, on August 27, the Electoral Commission said
- "based on the evidence gathered in these pilots, and in particular the strength of public criticism of a single voting method all-postal voting should no longer be pursued for use at UK elections"
See the BBCreport of today's verdict
and the warmwell page on postal vote rigging
Sunday, April 03, 2005
Silence of the Sheep
A few hours ago, a french friend explained to me how fear is being used to undermine democracy and tolerance in France: "We are sheep. We all keep quiet because we are afraid - not afraid of all this phony nonsense about terrorism - but because we are scared of being out of step. We are scared of standing out of the crowd. The politicians know that. They are taking away more and more of our liberties. It doesn't sound much like the Land of the Marseillaise, n'est ce pas? - but it is all too true."
Fear is what allowed the still largely decent British to nod at the invasion of Iraq. But in this case it was the real article - artificially created. Fear is what has transmogrified the sturdy British bulldog into a sheep.
The degree of manipulation of information, and pretence at "legality", had even my own sensible brother arguing that since "Saddam" was evidently in possession of long range missiles that he intended to use on us, then we ought to take pre-emptive action.
Charles Clarke, Home Secretary/Witchfinder General, says he'll "blame the opposition if plans for ID cards have to be shelved" and that opposition to ID cards was "crazy". What? Crazy to object that vast amounts of personal information will be stored, (not on the card itself), but in a central register. The list of required information runs to more than fifty categories.
Discretion in the Home Office is to be the "safeguard". Home Office shepherds to guard us? One thinks of crooks with a long reach. Both Blunkett and Clarke have used fear of terrorism to get the sheep to acquiesce in the loss of their own free-range status. Intensively herded, tightly controlled, they are to "feel reassured".
Our attention scampers away from even contemplating Belmarsh and what it symbolises. The all-party Constitutional Affairs Select Committee has, at least and at last, asked for part of the situation there to be changed.
"...essential to bring some fairness into the special advocate system" says Alan Beith, the Chairman.
Well, yes, one could say that.
What is extraordinary is that it has not been said - shouted, bellowed - from the rooftops. Why has there been no outpouring of rage from the population? Civil liberties such as Habeas Corpus were won for us (more or less) at Runnymede and we should express fierce pride in what has been our civilised constitution for so many centuries.
As for the mad march of the giant turbines, the British flock of milk sheep, are not hardy, nor capable enough en-masse of raising their voices against the desecration - needless and unthinkable - of the last refuges of wild beauty. Afraid of the NIMBY label, they forget that "My back yard" in this context is what used to be called our "country" in both senses of the word.
Voices stay very quiet because they have been fed prozac; the notion that gigantic human-dwarfing wind turbines are a genuine "green alternative"- cuddly green giants.
Our ovine compatriots seem already to have learned to love Big Brother.
One brave, desolate voice, is that of Cameron McNeish, moved to tears, and not ashamed to lament. He writes: in the Sunday Herald
- "....Such wanton destruction, and all for a growing industry that is patently both inefficient and uneconomic, an industry that has been created by London-based politicians who care nothing for the Highlands of Scotland and for those who love its special wild qualities. .."
As Mr Mcneish concludes: "silence is not now an option"
I agree, but it's a bit hard to encourage the flock from within - all one can do is bleat on the internet.
How one longs for a few extra-large border collies.
How one longs too - as my friend agrees - for the old spirit of the Marseillaise - almost too politically incorrect to be sung any more - but what defiant energy was there! "Have they really got the crust to try to make slaves of us?" asks the anthem ("De vils despotes deviendraient les maîtres de nos destinées?")
- Aux armes, citoyens,
Formez vos bataillons,
Marchons, marchons !
Friday, April 01, 2005
'extensive, detailed and authoritative' said Blair in 2003 ..... "Dead wrong" said US report yesterday - but no one is to blame.
You may remember that in Albert and the Lion, the Lion ate Albert (whole) after the "fine little lad" had poked it in the ear, by means of his long Woolworths stick, because the lion's position "just didn't seem right to the child." The Zoo Manager, apprised of his lion's retaliative action, took out his purse straight away ...
- "How much will cover the matter?
Ma said, "How much do you usually pay?..."
In spite of the decent, voluntary and old-fashioned accountability shown by the zoo manager, Mother wasn't entirely happy about this solution and up she and Father went in front of "the magistrate chap" He, gave his opinion that "no one was really to blame" and hoped that Mrs Ramsbottom would have other sons to her name.
Not unlike Lord Hutton, Lord Butler and even the US Commission.
The Independent contrasts the language of Hutton and Butler reports with yesterday's US 618-page report on intelligence in the United States.
- US Commission - the intelligence community was "dead wrong in almost all of its pre-war judgements".
Butler " "validation of human intelligence sources after the war has thrown doubt on a high proportion of those sources and their reports"
US Commission - intelligence agencies "collected precious little intelligence for the analysts to analyse".
Butler - the intelligence underpinning claims that Saddam Hussein had stockpiles of chemical and biological weapons was "very thin"
Lord Hutton's report was derided as a whitewash
Washington report called the run-up to war "one of the most public - and most damaging - intelligence failures in recent American history"
No report blamed any politicians.
In passing, we note that Mr Charles Clarke, on the subject of Jonathan King, said on the radio today "it was unacceptable that he seemed not to accept that what he had done was wrong."
We still cannot find an up-to-date figure for the killed and wounded sons of Britain in Iraq.
The faces of Tony Blair and George Bush, the one irritated by all the continuing silly fuss about Iraq, and the other declaring that he's going to shake up the Intelligence Services, makes one long for a sharp Woolworths stick.