Sayeeda Warsi has told The New Statesman that voter fraud cost the Tories at least three seats:
This is the first time a senior minister has made such a blunt and specific allegation about the impact of electoral fraud on the general election result. Can she reveal the names of those seats? “I think it would be wrong to start identifying them,” she says, but adds: “It is predominantly within the Asian community. I have to look back and say we didn’t do well in those communities, but was there something over and above that we could have done? Well, actually not, if there is going to be voter fraud.”
Why would it be ‘wrong to name them’? It’s a crime and if she has evidence she should produce it.
The accusations about fraud in areas with significant Asian (Pakistani and Bangladeshi) voters often surfaces up around the time of the general election, and there’s always anecdotal stuff available for those who follow local politics in Asian areas. The Independent carried a report back in May on similar claims of voter fraud in Tower Hamlets. And there was this in 2005:
According to petitions from supporters of rival parties, three of the councillors – Muhammad Afzal, Mohammed Islam and Mohammed Kazi – were found by the police in the middle of the night in a warehouse with hundreds of postal votes spread out on a table.
And earlier this month, Lutfur Rahman was removed as Labour’s candidate mired in accusations of both being an ‘Islamic extremist’ as well as engaging in ‘vote banking’.
Still, it’s not just low-level local Labour politicians who can be accused of fraud and using their local contacts to ensure votebanking:
I am in Blackburn on the trail of Jack Straw. Yesterday I spoke to several hundred local Muslims at a Blackburn fundraiser for CagePrisoners. I told them very directly that it was no good their salving their consciences by donating, if they then again gave their votes to the man who gave the green light to British cooperation with the extraordinary rendition policy, and who overruled the Foreign Office legal advisers to launch an illegal war in Iraq.
While I was doing that, Jack Straw was committing a lesser but still very important crime. He was “Treating”. Yesterday Straw fed 700 constituents with curry, nan, dessert, tea and coffee at Jan’s Conference Centre at an election rally in Blackburn .
The point I agree with Warsi on is that the Labour Party (and sometimes the Liberal Democrats) are better placed to take advantage of ‘Asian block voting’ by hook or by crook, although it isn’t only Labour politicians who have been accused of electoral fraud (a warrant is out for a Tory councillor found guilty of election fraud and thought to be hiding in Pakistan). Craig Murray, hardly a racist or an Islamophobe by any stretch of the imagination, noted his own experience of campaigning in Blackburn, home to a large Asian Muslim population where the local mosques have close ties to the former New Labour minister Jack Straw in particular:
Particularly among some patriarchal Asian communities, community leaders and heads of extended families can and do demand to see the postal ballot of those under their sway, before it is posted. Belated “safeguards”, like having to sign the accompanying form, do nothing to stop this domestic intimidation. It is widely recognised that one result of this postal ballot system has been the effective disenfranchisement of hundreds of thousands of Asian women. Just as bad, it has also disenfranchised lower-status men in many Asian communities.
I can understand Khalid Mahmood’s quick response to dismiss this as ‘Islamophobia’, and no doubt racists will use this a (stupid) example of ‘Islamisation’, but I think he has it the wrong way around: it’s really about the way liberal democracy tends to problematise and then treat minority groups.