Political correctness to blame for Town Hall fraud says Pickles - the Bradford connection

Sir Eric Pickles
Sir Eric Pickles
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POLITICAL correctness has led the Government to turn a blind eye to town hall corruption, the first review into election fraud has found.

POLITICAL correctness has led the Government to turn a blind eye to town hall corruption, the first review into election fraud has found.

The author of the report, Tory former minister Sir Eric Pickles, criticised councils, the police and the election watchdog for failing to detect and prevent the spread of electoral corruption in the UK.

The report was commissioned by David Cameron in the wake of a High Court hearing last year when Lutfur Rahman, the former mayor of Tower Hamlets in east London, was found guilty of corrupt and illegal practices and forced to step down.

Sir Eric, who is from Keighley, near Bradford, and who was leader of Bradford Council in the 1980s, made more than 50 recommendations in his review, including forcing voters to present identification at polling stations and banning political activists from handling postal ballot papers.

His former council has been at the centre of several election fraud investigations. In 2010, five Bradford men, including two former city councillors, were jailed for their parts in a failed postal votes scam aimed at getting a Conservative Party candidate elected in the 2005 general election.

And in 2004, police were handed a detailed dossier alleging that dead people and others not even in the country “voted” in local elections.

The dossier, drawn up by Labour and Liberal Democrat politicians in just one ward in Bradford, cited evidence of voters registered as living in empty properties, and claimed that some people simply visiting Bradford from Pakistan were “falsely entered” on the city’s voting register in the Great Horton ward.

The Tower Hamlets case revealed that grants had been given to Bangladeshi or Muslim groups in return for support and council money had been used to pay a Bangladeshi language television station which provided supportive coverage.

The report said it saw evidence that pressure was “being put on vulnerable members of some ethnic minority communities, particularly women and young people, to vote according to the will of the elders, especially in communities of Pakistani and Bangladeshi background”.

It added: “There were concerns that influence and intimidation within households may not be reported, and that state institutions had turned a blind eye to such behaviour because of ‘politically correct’ over-sensitivities about ethnicity and religion.”

The review has been handed to Prime Minister Theresa May. Sir Eric said: “Last year’s court ruling in Tower Hamlets was a wake-up call that state bodies need to do far more to stamp out corruption and restore public confidence. It was local residents who lost out from the unscrupulous politicians who bullied them and wasted their money.

“There are sometimes challenging issues over divisive community politics, but this is no excuse for failing to enforce British law and protect the integrity of our democratic process.

“The law must be applied equally and fairly to everyone. Integration and good community relations are undermined by the failure to uphold the rule of law and ensure British fair play.”

Sir Eric’s report, commissioned by former prime minister David Cameron in the wake of the court hearing, featured strong criticism of the Metropolitan Police.

The “repeated inaction” by officers sent a worrying signal that the police were soft on tackling electoral fraud, it said. In a statement, the force said the claims are completely unfounded.