Tuesday, 27 May 2014

Return of the Rotten Borough?

Firstly a note: from The History Learning Site which reminds us:

Rotten boroughs were one of the curiosities of the British electoral system. Rotten boroughs were a product of a system that did not want change, where fathers passed on constituencies (and the power as a MP that went with this) to their sons as if they were property (which many saw them as), where some rotten boroughs were so bizarre that they beggared belief and where the very few who voted could not vote for whom they wanted to due to the lack of a secret ballot or challenging candidate.

Once again on Tower Hamlets:

Just when you thought the elections were all over, a recount is taking place tonight in Tower Hamlets, a Council that has attracted much attention in recent years since George Galloway and his "Respect" party opened the doors to unfettered communalism. George and his acolytes are long gone, carpetbagging to Bradford and leaving more failure and division in their wake.

The Mayor of Tower Hamlets is the controversial (to say the very least) Lutfur Rahman who is currently facing an investigation into his allocation of funding across the borough.

The Electoral Commission have issued a statement which states in part:

There have also been concerns expressed about voter intimidation, although the police have so far received no criminal allegations relating to activity at polling stations in the borough from either campaigners or voters.

An Electoral Commission spokesperson said: “Everyone should be able to vote free from intimidation and be confident that their vote is safe.

“It is also important that elections produce results voters can have confidence in and that candidates know the outcome as soon as possible. Clearly there have been issues at the Tower Hamlets count and we need to make sure we understand what happened, and the reasons for it, before reaching any conclusions.

“As part of our review we will be talking to the Returning Officer and Regional Returning Officer. We will be looking closely at what happened during the count, as well as the planning that took place beforehand.

Meanwhile the The Spectator reports the observations of a disgruntled Tory councillor:

‘There were arguments, threats, and chaos at the counting tables. Tower Hamlets First supporters were challenging vote after vote, forcing supporters of other candidates away from the tables. They often made their points ( excuse the pun) with pencils and pens, against ballot papers. The supreme ruler smiled, whilst checking town hall staff were not stopping his supporters from doing exactly what they wanted.

‘Former Cllr Mohammed Shahid Ali (defeated Mile End) was bawling in Bangla down a mobile phone at a counting table. He was asked by a (female) officer to stop and he shouted that she ( emphasise she) had no right to tell him to stop doing anything and that she (emphasise she) should go away. I drew this to the attention of the returning officer and Shahid Ali then needed to be restrained from attacking me.

‘Tower Hamlets has interesting rules on the media at counts. Mainstream journalists can only be on the counting floor if they are escorted by a member of the town hall staff at all times.

‘The special media, that supports the supreme ruler, is excluded from this, so , far example everywhere I went I was stalked by a weird old trot who kept taking flash photographs of me in my face and then grinning. He declined to say what organ he reported for.

‘He was not afraid of expressing his views as he shouted the short version of “see you next Tuesday”, during one of the declarations.

The Independent tells us that:

Defeated Labour mayoral challenger John Biggs told the Independent the campaign in the area had been “asymmetric warfare” fought in a “culture of intimidation” and that the major parties had faced challengers who were “not particularly democratic”.

"I’m sure many members of the public will be making accusations to the Electoral Commission over crowds outside polling stations, the conduct of people within the polluting stations, allegations that people turned up to vote only to be told they’d already voted and continued rumours of irregularities around postal votes.

“It saddens me to hear the place I love described as a Rotten Borough… Tower Hamlets First is overwhelming an ethically based party and the passion for the political in the Bangladeshi community is impressive, but I guess people are being led in a direction which is making them very inward looking.”

Whatever the truth of all this the saga of Tower Hamlets is far from over.

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