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Pickles to lead Tower Hamlets electoral fraud review

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The role of councils in deterring, identifying and prosecuting electoral fraud will be examined by former communities secretary Sir Eric Pickles.

Sir Eric, who is now the government’s anti-corruption champion, is to produce a report which will include recommendations to make the electoral system more secure. It will be presented to prime minister David Cameron by the end of the year.

The review will consider the recommendations made by election commissioner Richard Mawrey QC following his judgment on the former Tower Hamlets LBC mayor Lutfur Rahman.

In April, Mr Rahman was removed from office after the High Court found him guilty of corruption during the 2014 elections. Writing in the Telegraph this morning, Sir Eric said police and council staff “failed” to tackle voter intimidation inside and outside the borough’s polling stations.

He said he did not believe electoral malpractice was limited to one borough though and added: “We still have a series of tick-box inspections of town hall returning officers that are as ineffectual and useless as those once practised by the now-abolished Audit Commission.”

In a statement, Sir Eric said the Tower Hamlets ruling was a “wake-up call”. His review will examine what steps are necessary to stop voter registration fraud and error, postal voting fraud, as well as intimidation and bribery.

“Financial and electoral sleaze go hand in hand – if a dodgy politician is willing to break election law, they will not hesitate to syphon off taxpayers’ money for their own ends,” said Sir Eric.

Although Sir Eric said the roll-out of individual electoral registration (IER) was a “significant advance” in making the electoral register more secure, he said he believed the system could still be improved.

John Penrose, constitutional reform minister, said: “We must spot new or growing weaknesses in our election system, and fix them before they turn into a problem like Tower Hamlets. Sir Eric’s work will provide the facts we need to do this properly and, with his years of experience with local government, he’s the perfect man for the job.”

As part of the review, opinions will be sought from councils, the Electoral Commission, and the police, among others. Feedback must be submitted by 8 October.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Eric Pickles claims that ‘institutionalised political correctness can lead to the state turning a blind eye to criminal conduct.’ He is absolutely correct. Unfortunately, it is his own ‘institutionalised political correctness’ which prevents him tackling election fraud.

    The UK does not have a robust ID system that first establishes an entitlement to register to vote and then requires production of that ID in order to cast a vote. Until the UK has a robust ID system, all the rest of Sir Eric’s proposed interventions are relatively worthless.

    It is divertingly disingenuous for Sir Eric, and politicians of all parties, to claim that they are intent on tackling election fraud - let alone health, housing and benefit fraud - when they reject the basic need to require a clear, personal, identified entitlement in the first place.

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