Labour face allegations of breaking postal voting rules

The Sunday Times has a got a story about Labour breaking the rules on postal voting:

All three main parties, meanwhile, have signed up to the Electoral Commission’s code of conduct [on postal voting] … Today we report that the Labour party in Leeds has driven an articulated lorry through this code in a desperate attempt to gain power on the city council. An undercover reporter posing as a student activist was part of a team told by the leader of the Labour group on the council, Keith Wakefield, and a fellow Labour politician, to collect postal votes in two key wards, and if necessary “help” voters fill in the forms. The other councillor, Graham Hyde, who worked in the Commons for George Mudie, the former Labour deputy chief whip, warned the canvassers not to get caught with any postal voting forms on them. Every aspect of the code, in other words, was breached. As David Crompton, assistant chief constable of West Yorkshire, put it when told of Labour’s actions: “This is extremely sharp practice and a clear breach of the guidelines. We will now be looking at this carefully to determine whether a crime has been committed.”

From what is online about the story, it looks like the Sunday Times has done a pretty good job at distinguishing between breaches of the (voluntary) code of conduct and breaches of the law. Credit to them for that. The media doesn’t have a great track record at getting these sorts of details right in election law reporting.

They have a very solid looking case that Labour in Leeds has systematically broken the code, though it’s less clear at this stage if the law was also breached. But even if the law has not been broken, will Labour take disciplinary action against widespread breaches of the code it has signed up to? (In the Liberal Democrats the code can be grounds for expelling someone).


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