Hundreds of thousands of British citizens were left unable to vote around the world and across the UK after registering to vote by post.
Ex-pats from all over the world have complained that they did not receive their ballot papers in time to vote in the general election.
Speaking in the Independent, Brian Cave, 82, an expat in south-eastern France, has been compiling a dossier of evidence of the problem which he plans to send to the Electoral Commission. He said reports have come in that standard UK postage was used on ballot papers that arrived too late to be sent back by the close of voting at 10pm last night.
“I have received complaints from people about the non-reception of voting papers from as far apart as California, Massachusetts, Norway, France and Spain,” said Mr Cave, who runs a blog supporting the rights of Britons overseas.
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A parliamentary candidate has been missed off some ballot papers in Darlington – but voters have been urged to keep voting.
The Ukip candidate David Hodgson has been missed off ballot papers delivered to the Whessoe polling district.
The council says 89 people who have voted so far are affected. The correct ballot papers have now been issued.
Ada Burns, Darlington Council chief executive, said:
“We have taken advice from the Electoral Commission and are confident that the election can go ahead as normal.
“The turnout so far has been excellent and the message is to keep voting.”
Ukip candidate David Hodgson, a lecturer, said:
“I learnt it myself ten minutes ago that my name has been missed off the papers – I don’t know if it’s across all of the wards because the info I got is very short at the moment.
“It’s shocking – absolutely terrible and inexcusable. I understand the Ukip office has been informed and will be lodging a protest.
“I don’t know what happenened but surely some law has been breached. I’ve not got a clue what happens now but I’m guessing the only way to resolve it is for it to be re-run.
“I’m working at the moment and it’s knocked me sick but I cant walk out on my class.”
Labour candidate Jenny Chapman said he had been briefed about the problem.
“I’m furious and I understand completely how Mr Hodgson feels,” she added.
Darlington Borough Council leader Bill Dixon said he was unaware of any problems.
He said the postal votes went out several weeks ago without any issues, and these ballot papers were printed at the same time as those for people voting in person.
A spokeswoman for Darlington Borough Council said voting in the general and local elections was continuing as normal but that the name of one candidate, David Hodgson (UKIP) had been missed off ballot papers issued to one polling station in the borough.
“Approximately 89 ballot papers (0.1% of the total number of ballot papers printed) had been issued, but as soon as the issue was identified, corrected ballot papers were issued to the polling station concerned,” she said.
Due to doubts that all 89 would be contactable the council has chosen the second option. If the 89 votes are critical to the result at the end of the polling a petition challenging the outcome could be mounted and considered by a court of law.
Source – Northern Echo, 07 May 2015
As the election looms ever closer another political row has broken out – with the Middlesbrough Labour Party now reported to both the police and the Electoral Commission.
Three Labour councillor candidates – including the leader of Middlesbrough Labour Party Charlie Rooney – have been reported for the alleged publishing of a false statement about Independent mayoral candidate Andy Preston.
Mr Preston has been reported to the police and Electoral Commission regarding putting his parents’ Middlesbrough address on his nomination form.
The latest complaints regard Labour councillor candidates for Longlands and Beechwood Charlie Rooney, Jacinta Skipp and Theresa Higgins and a political leaflet that has been circulated across the Saltersgill area of Middlesbrough.
In it, they state that Mr Preston owns a piece of land on Saltersgill Avenue – the former Gospel Hall site – that they describe as “disgraceful”, suggesting that this shows he treats communities with “utter disdain” and claim that Labour candidate Dave Budd is the best man to be the town’s mayor.
Mr Preston said he has not owned the land since last year.
Cllr Rooney said they have issued a retraction leaflet clarifying Mr Preston no longer owns the land but did so at the time of the complaints to Middlesbrough Council.
The police complaint refers to Electoral Commission guidance stating that “It is an illegal practice to make or publish a false statement of fact about the personal character or conduct of a candidate in order to affect the return of a candidate at an election.”
Under the Representation of the People Act 1983, there are criminal penalties in place for those convicted of making or publishing false statements about election candidates.
Mr Preston said:
“This is getting ridiculous. The smear campaign against me has gone beyond stupid now and I’m getting really angry.
“This is just the latest grubby little instalment of the ongoing campaign to undermine me.
“My genuine advice to all the other candidates is to take a deep breath, come up with some decent ideas for the town and start talking to voters. Basically, they should stop slagging me off and focus on their own campaigns.”
Regarding the police complaint, Mr Preston added:
“A quick internet search would have revealed that I am not the owner of the land, nor have I been for some time.
“The statement that I own the land was not only false but deliberately designed to cost me votes and impact the outcome of the mayoral election – perhaps it already has.
“At a time when I have faced ridiculous and puerile allegations about minor paperwork anomalies, it’s important that this rather more serious matter should be looked into by the police.”
A spokeswoman for Cleveland Police said:
“We received an allegation of electoral malpractice. Any information provided to us will be assessed to see what, if any, offence has been committed.”
A spokeswoman for the Electoral Commission said it was a criminal matter and would have advised the complainant to report it to the police.
A Labour Party spokesperson said:
“Mr Preston has complained about comments made concerning the state of land on Saltersgill Avenue.
“We have put out a leaflet in the area affected by these repeated blights, providing residents with clear and accurate information.
“We all want a better environment and that means everyone taking responsibility for it. This means businesses, the council and individuals taking responsibility for the properties and land they own and carrying out proper maintenance and not letting the area be spoiled for everyone else.”
Source – Middlesbrough Evening Gazette, 27 Apr 2015
A hustings debate in the North East erupted into a full scale row between organisers and supporters of a party which said it had been unfairly excluded from the event.
It took place at Tyne Metropolitan College in Wallsend on Tuesday night in which candidates from the Labour, Conservative, Lib Dem, Green and UKIP parties for the North Tyneside constituency had been invited to share a stage.
However Tim Wall, who is the Trade Union and Socialist Coalition candidate, was not.
Before the debate started TUSC supporters entered the hall to take organisers to task for the omission in an exchange that was filmed.
On it, Mr Wall is seen sitting in one of the seats reserved for those who had been invited, introducing himself to the slightly bemused audience and telling them: “I have a democratic right to take part.”
However, chairman of TyneMet College board of governors, Bill Midgley, is seen firmly telling him: “No you have not.”
Mr Midgley said before the event advice had been from the Association of Colleges (AoC) and they were told they should invite candidates from the three main parties as well as UKIP and the Greens as they all have MPs in parliament.
He added they were also following Electoral Commission guidelines which said it was a requirement that all candidates standing for a constituency should take part unless there was a practical or objective reason not to do.
Mr Midgley said their objective reason had been that they were following AoC guidelines, which said only parties with sitting MPs should attend.
He said that the National Front candidate for the constituency also had not been invited, a link which infuriated the TUSC supporters.
“How dare they tar us with the same brush as a race hate party when we have fought so hard against racism,” said Mr Wall after the event.
Eventually the debate went ahead, without Mr Wall taking part.
However he now says he could take the matter up with the Electoral Commission.
“We feel we were undemocratically excluded from the event.
“TUSC candidates have been invited to take part in hustings events at colleges across the country but not here. It seems to me they are all over the place.”
Mr Wall said that while a new party, formed five years ago, the TUSC was “the biggest of the small parties” as it had candidates standing in 135 constituencies and 600 in the local elections.
Mr Wall said:
“It’s unfathomable what they did. Isn’t this organisation supposed to be educating young people, presumably giving them the idea that democracy is a good thing? Instead they are deciding who they can and can’t listen to.”
Speaking after the event Mr Midgley accused the TUSC of trying to “hijack” the meeting and was adamant they had done nothing wrong and was insistent they had abided by AoC and Electoral Commission guidelines.
“We made it quite clear to them why we had invited the five candidates,” he said.
Ann Marie Crozier, Deputy Principal of the college, said it was TUSC’s prerogative to take the matter up with the Electorial Commission it they wanted to.
However she added: “We’re confident we followed the national guidelines to the letter.”
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 23 Apr 2015
Who decides the result of the next General Election?
Unless something changes, it’s largely going to be older and better-off people.
Because those are the people who are most likely to vote.
And it’s a problem that MPs themselves have warned could lead to a crisis in our system of government.
But the problem doesn’t begin on election day, which will be May 7 this year.
It starts earlier than that, when people register to vote – or fail to do so.
An estimated 7.5 million people who are entitled to vote at an election in this country are not correctly registered.
This means they are registered wrongly, for example because they have moved house and haven’t updated their details, or simply haven’t registered at all.
Politicians have to listen to people who vote. But one way or another, they are also aware of who votes and who stays at home.
As a result, some sections society risk having less influence than others over decisions made by the Government.
Studies also show that young people are less likely to be registered to vote at elections than older people.
A study in 2011 found that only 55% of people aged 17 to 18, and only 56% of people aged 19 to 24, were registered to vote.
By contrast, 82.3% of the eligible population as a whole was registered – and 94% of people aged over 65.
It means older people have more influence over who wins the election.
People on lower incomes are also less likely to be registered.
A report by the Electoral Commission, an official watchdog, last year found that 79.6% of people in semi-skilled or unskilled jobs, or people dependent on benefits, were registered to vote – compared to 87% of professionals, such as doctors and lawyers, or senior managers.
The Electoral Commission also found that some black and ethnic minority groups are significantly less likely to be registered to vote compared to those identifying as white British.
It all means that some people’s views matter more than others in our system of government. And politicians know there’s a problem.
A report by a committee of MPs, the Commons Political and Constitutional Reform Committee, last year warned:
“Low levels of registration and turnout among students and young people are serious problem now and could get worse.
“If a generation of young people choose not to vote, and then continue not to participate at elections as they grow older, there will be severe and long-lasting effects for turnout at UK elections, with consequent implications for the health of democracy in the UK.”
But if it’s a problem for MPs, it’s a bigger problem for people who go unrepresented in Parliament.
Politics and the work of government affects all our lives. And this election could decide some big issues – how we improve the NHS, how we ensure future generations don’t inherit massive debts, how we provide jobs and training for young people and much more.
Comedian Russell Brand caused a stir when he suggested last year that people shouldn’t vote. But the problem with that idea is that if you don’t vote then people still get elected. It just means they are chosen by somebody else.
This election is set to be the most unpredictable in decades. Nobody knows who is going to win.
And there are more credible parties to choose from than before – with the Greens and UKIP running major campaigns, alongside the Conservatives, Labour and the Liberal Democrats. Other local candidates could also have an impact in some seats.
The good news is that it’s now easier than ever before to register to vote.
People can register online for the first time, at www.gov.uk/register-to-vote . It only takes five minutes and it helps to ensure that your voice is heard.
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 21 Feb 2015
Thousands of the region’s teenagers risk losing their right to vote in the general election after a Government blunder, MPs are warning.
Local authorities are failing to register “attainers” – 17-year-olds who could be adults by May 7 – after errors in letters drafted by the Cabinet Office, they say
Now figures reveal an extraordinary 80 per cent fall in attainers on the books of just one council, County Durham.
If the slump – of just over 3,000, in just one year – is replicated across the region, it would mean that close to 20,000 first-time voters could lost their vote.
The controversy was raised in a recent Commons debate by Kevan Jones, the North Durham MP, who described the situation as a “scandal”.
In North Durham constituency, there were 647 attainers on the register in February last year, but that number has plummeted to just 126 one year later – after the mistake.
The pattern is repeated in Bishop Auckland (a fall from 662 attainers to 118), Durham City (from 625 to 177), Easington (from 641 to 95), North West Durham (from 689 to 156) and in Sedgefield (from 513 to 97).
Mr Jones said:
“We could put the fall down to a drop in the birth rate in 1997 – clearly there was a lack of passion in North Durham – but that is obviously not the case.”
And he said:
“That must be done, otherwise many 17-year-olds who will turn 18 before May 7 will assume that they will get a vote, but will not get it.”
Under the old system, where the head of the household registered all voters, a section of the form asked for the names of any 17-year-olds to be added.
But the sentence is missing from letters sent out under the new system – of individual electoral registration (IER) – which is being introduced to combat fraud.
In reply, the deputy Commons leader Tom Brake, promised to write to Mr Jones, but stopped short of agreeing to instruct – and fund – town halls, to correct the problem.
Meanwhile, Bishop Auckland MP Helen Goodman criticised a separate barrier in the way of young people attempting to register – the requirement to provide a national insurance number.
She told ministers:
“A letter with a young person’s national insurance number arrives before they are 16 and we are suggesting that two years later teenagers will know where that letter is and have kept it in a safe place. I cannot think of anything more naïve.”
Source – Northern Echo, 16 Feb 2015
Tens of thousands of potential voters in the North East have dropped off the electoral register in what has been described as a “crisis of democratic engagement” in the UK.
In a series of worrying figures, one blackspot has been revealed as Newcastle where 18,000 have dropped off the register.
Worst affected is the Ouseburn ward in Newcastle East, home to many students, where there has been a 55% drop off of registered voters totalling 9,982, in the last year alone.
At the 2010 general election, Labour MP Nick Brown won Newcastle East with a 4,453 majority.
Other areas highlighted include Gateshead with a 12,962 drop off, Sunderland with 5,776 and Derwentside in Durham with 3,280.
They are among approximately 7.5 million people nationwide who are missing from national registers.
Labour leader Ed Miliband said: “This is not just a scandal, it is a disaster for our democracy.”
With the May 2015 general election fast approaching, efforts are being stepped up to get as many enrolled as possible before the April 20 deadline.
Independent campaign group Bite The Ballot highlighted the situation by designating last Thursday as National Voter Registration Day in a bid to get 250,000 to register.
> Last Thursday, eh ? Did you know that ? No, nor me.
I wonder how many of those missing voters it actually reached ?
Meanwhile the Electoral Commission has arranged for a reminder to appear on the Facebook page of every UK user of the social network.
It follows the Commission’s discovery – through polling by YouGov – that four in 10 people, and more than half (53%) of 18 to 24-year-olds, remain unaware that they can register to vote online.
Almost one million people have dropped off the electoral register since the implementation of Individual Electoral Registration (IER) last summer, mostly students, first time voters and those living in private rented accommodation and those from newer immigrant communities.
As a result of IER, rather than one person in a household registering everyone or a university signing up all its students in halls, each individual is now responsible for registering themselves. In addition, they have to supply a National Insurance number.
A Commons committee used the focus to renew its demands that government consider radical reforms to boost engagement and election turnout, including online voting, weekend elections, polling-day registration and a “none of the above” option.
> A “none of the above” option would be good. I’d go further and link the number of none of the above votes nationally to MP’s pay. The more there are, the less the MPs get.
At the 2010 general election, 16 million eligible voters – 34.9% of the electorate did not take part – more than voted for any one party.
Graham Allen MP, chairman of the Commons political and constitutional reform committee, said:
“This is not an acceptable state of affairs for a modern democracy.
“If we do not take urgent action to make elections more accessible to the public and convince them that it is worth voting we will be facing a crisis of democratic engagement.”
A Cabinet Office spokesman said:
“Over one million 16-24-year-olds have registered since the new system was introduced, and everyone else is being contacted directly and encouraged to use the new convenient online registration system. We’re also providing over £14 million of funding to support the costs of activities at a local and national level to maximise the number of people on the register.”
How to register
If you are 16 or over you can register through the Government website, www.gov.uk/register-to-vote .
You’ll need your National Insurance number, and the registration process takes around five minutes. It can also be done by post.
The process is also explained on the Bite the Ballot website on www.bitetheballot.co.uk/nvrd/
Source – Newcastle Evening Chronicle, 07 Feb 2015
More than 230,000 people across the region are at risk of losing their right to vote, under a radical elections shake-up.
They are on course to drop off electoral rolls because of moves to require residents to register individually, rather than allowing one person to sign up an entire household.
Before the switch – to combat electoral fraud – election chiefs have sought to “match” voters from existing databases, automatically transferring names they can verify.
But, in County Durham alone, 45,989 people – or 11 per cent of the adult population – could not be matched and are currently missing from the new register.
There are also huge numbers to be found in Darlington (8,506, 11 per cent), Middlesbrough (11,026, 11 per cent), Richmondshire (3,996, 11 per cent) and – in particular – Newcastle (36,678, 18 per cent) and York (36,283, 23 per cent).
Areas with a high density of young adults, private renters and students have the most alarming gaps in their new rolls.
Missing voters have already been chased up with letters, asking them to provide additional information – their National Insurance number and date of birth – so they can be registered.
But Labour has warned the change is being rushed, calling for “block registration” of students and people in residential homes, to ensure they stay on lists.
Stephen Twigg, the party’s constitutional affairs spokesman, said:
“There is real concern about a large number of people falling off the register.
Warning 7.5m names were already missing, Mr Twigg added:
“If an unintended consequence of IER is that the situation gets even worse, all of us should be very concerned.”
But David Collingwood, Durham’s electoral services manager, played down talk of problems, saying:
“New enquiry forms for further information will be followed up with personal visits if necessary.
“We are confident this process will see the majority successfully switched to the new system and be eligible to vote.”
Jenny Watson, its chairwoman, added:
“There’s still more work to do. Every electoral registration officer has detailed plans in place to reach those residents they were not able to transfer automatically.”
IER – described as the biggest change to the electoral registration system in almost 100 years – has been deliberately delayed until after next year’s general election.
But Mr Twigg said rolling over existing lists would not capture people who have moved house – or turned 18 – since the last registers were compiled.
Source – Northern Echo, 31 Oct 2014
George Osborne urged super-rich Tory backers at a lavish black-tie gala to fund a campaign in a vital North-East constituency.
The knife-edge Stockton South seat – where Conservative James Wharton has a wafer-thin majority of 332 – took centre-stage at the dinner in Knightsbridge, central London.
Mr Wharton introduced the Chancellor at the event, organised by the secretive United & Cecil club, believed to have raised at least £130,000 for party coffers.
In return, Mr Osborne is reported to have told the guests: “Does anyone realise the significance of the number 332?”.
After explaining 332 was the size of Mr Wharton’s majority, the Chancellor is said to have urged guests to recognise it could only be defended with their financial support.
One source at the dinner, costing £250-per-head, said: “He said we need money to save James and others like him.”
The United & Cecil club is controversial because critics see it as a vehicle for getting around rules to ensure donations to Westminster candidates are transparent.
The Electoral Commission requires the identity of any donor giving more than £1,500 directly to a political party to be declared.
However, donors funnelling money through “unincorporated associations” – such as the United & Cecil club – need only be identified if they give more than £7,500 in any calendar year.
One calculation is that the United & Cecil club has donated around £300,000 to the individual Tory associations since 2010 – mostly in key seats, such as Stockton South.
However, the Conservatives hit back by arguing Labour is bankrolled by the trades unions and that all donations through its clubs comply with the rules.
The Northern Echo asked Mr Wharton to comment on the attention given to his constituency at the gala dinner, but he declined to do so.
Tory sources have previously suggested the Stockton South MP – a “fantastic campaigner on the doorstep” – is not on its 40-strong list of candidates in ultra-marginal seats who will receive extra help.
David Cameron attended his birthday celebrations earlier this year and invited him to Chequers last month.
Other guests included representatives from the global PR firm DDA Consulting, the wealth management company Killik & Co and the property firm Mayfair Estates.
One Tory MP present, Andrew Bridgen, said: “We can’t go to Len McCluskey for another million. This is how we do it.”
Source – Northern Echo, 17 Oct 2014
An organisation registered at a stables in the Home Counties, with a former tobacco lobbyist for an honorary secretary, is a key weapon in the Conservative Party’s battle to win the next election.
The United & Cecil Club is playing an increasingly crucial role in funding election bids in the most tightly contested constituencies. The club has been used to raise funds for the Conservatives for years and these funds are now being deployed strategically as the party targets United & Cecil Club ahead of the 2015 election.
Since the last election, the organisation has given £282,250 to Conservative candidates – nearly double the amount it has given to Conservative central campaign headquarters. In the first quarter of this year alone, the U&C club has given almost as much to candidates as it did in the whole of last year. Most of the cash is targeted at key swing seats.
Despite its increasingly important role, little is known about the U&C club. Donations to the club tend to be small and so there is no obligation to identify the donors. Only the identities of individuals making donations of more than £7,500 are published by the Election Commission under disclosure rules.
In disclosures made and published by the Electoral Commission the U&C club is registered at an an address in Iver, a village in Buckinghamshire. However, in the parliamentary register, the U&C lists its address as a riding school in Berkshire.
The stables are run by Tim Lord. Lord, a former chief executive of the Tobacco Manufacturers Association, confirmed to the Bureau that he is honorary secretary of the U&C club.
When asked to supply further details about the U&C club, Lord declined to elaborate. “We are a club, we have our objective and we comply with the law,” he said.
Christopher Fenwick, a member of the wealthy retail family which has an estimated fortune of £500m, was until recently a former deputy chairman of the organisation, Lord confirmed.
Fenwick hosted a table at last week’s Conservative fundraiser at the Hurlingham club, which was focused on the 40 seats to hold and the 40 seats to gain. Last year he sponsored two tables where the table plan showed his guests included U&C chairman, Brooks Newmark MP and Anne-Marie Trevelyn, a Tory hopeful who is bidding to win the Lib Dem marginal seat of Berwick-upon-Tweed.
The Tories have been criticised in the past for taking money from organisations which lack clarity about the identity of their donors. The Midlands Industrial Council, an organisation based in a small Lincolnshire village, was for years used to channel money to the party from wealthy businessmen who wanted to keep their donations private.
“The Tories have learned the language of modern government,” said Tamasin Cave of Spinwatch who leads the Alliance for Lobbying Transparency coalition. “They talk about transparency and fairness but the reality is they are continuing with an antiquated way of doing things, like secret donor clubs.”
A Tory spokesman said: “All donations to the Conservative party are properly and transparently declared to the Electoral Commission, published by them, and comply fully with Electoral Commission rules.”
Analysis by the Bureau reveals that hundreds of thousands of pounds have already been donated to Tory candidates ahead of next year’s election, one that polsters suggest may produce the tightest result in living memory.
With Labour having to rely largely on the unions for funding, the Bureau’s analysis shows that leading Tory hopefuls are powering ahead in the sums raised.
Political funding and the way this money is raised has been thrown into sharp relief following the Tories’ annual fundraising dinner, held last week at the exclusive Hurlingham Club in south west London.
The event proved a huge money-spinner with oligarchs, Middle Eastern businessmen and City financiers vying to bid huge sums at an auction that raised, according to those there, £500,000 for David Cameron’s party.
At this year’s dinner a Russian banker – the wife of a former Kremlin deputy finance minister – paid £160,000 to play tennis with David Cameron and Boris Johnson. A bottle of champagne signed by Margaret Thatcher went for £45,000 with a pot of honey fetching £20,000.
Source – Bureau Of Investigative Journalism, 05 July 2014