Wasting parliamentary time

The incidence of vote fraud in the UK is vanishingly small.

This post Brexit government seems remarkably keen to solve microscopic and even non existent problems. The incidence of vote fraud in the UK is vanishingly small. Very effective UK legislation to tackle vote fraud is already in place. QED Vote fraud does not need new legislation.

However imposing “voter ID” is highly likely to have undesirable, oppressive and discriminatory effects and our UK government and our MP know this. Because making it harder to vote suppresses the vote in groups which find things hard anyway.

But there would be no harm in raising voter awareness of vote fraud. Vote fraud can and has been effectively detected and prosecuted: here in Peterborough and elsewhere. In fact, anybody taking part in the electoral process can spot vote fraud and report it (as long as they know what to look out for). Moreover it is already a statutory responsibility of the police to protect our democratic systems. If you witness vote fraud while it is actually happening, call the police on 999. If you’ve seen it in the past, report it online. It is a crime, like any other. If our MP is aware of instances which have not been detected, reported and prosecuted, perhaps he could explain what advice he gave those who witnessed a crime and what the police did with all those reports?

If my MP believes that the incidence of what he believes is a problem is statistically higher than extremely rare in the UK or if a vote fraud has ever been shown to have influenced the result of an election, perhaps he or our new Police and Crime Commissioner could produce the evidence? Evidence of crime can overturn an election result in the UK, which is exactly as it should be. But while not having enough evidence to substantiate your case can be expensive when an accusation goes to court (as happened after Peterborough’s own 2019 by election) wasting his constituents’ time is not chargeable to our MP and even more unfortunately (given the urgency of what needs doing in parliament) no offence of wasting parliamentary time has yet been put on the statute book. Perhaps it should be?

Help Stop Vote Fraud! and when to ring which number

Vote Fraud Hotline
Make a note of the phone number. Call 999 if you see an offence being committed.

Vote Fraud, Vote Rigging, and other Electoral Offences: The council says: 

“Electoral fraud

Electoral fraud is an illegal interference with the process of an election.

What is it?

Acts of fraud tend to involve affecting vote counts to bring about a desired election outcome, whether by increasing the vote share of the favoured candidate, depressing the vote share of the rival candidates, or both. There are many different types of electoral fraud including:

  • Vote buying
  • Intimidation
  • Ballot stuffing
  • Misrecording of votes
  • Misuse of postal or proxy votes
  • Destruction or invalidation of ballot papers

What can I do?

There are simple steps you can take in order to prevent yourself falling prey to electoral fraud:

  • Keep polling cards and postal ballots safe at home , not allowing others to handle them at any time
  • If you arrive at the polling station and someone has voted in your name, notify the Presiding Officer. They will provide you with a tendered ballot allowing you to vote
  • When filling in postal ballots, do so alone. Do not allow anyone else to see you choice or cast it on your behalf
  • Put postal ballots into the envelope and seal it yourself
  • Under no circumstances give your postal ballot to anyone else before the envelope is sealed
  • If anyone tries to help you against your will or force you to give them your postal vote, contact the police

Fraud hotline

If you are suspicious or worried about anything to do with voting and elections you can report it to our Election fraud hotline on 01733 452249 or to Police 101. If you believe an offence is taking place immediately you can call 999.”  from: http://www.peterborough.gov.uk/council_and_democracy/elections/electoral_fraud.aspx

Please help ensure Peterborough voters are free to vote the way they want and have their intentions truly represented in the electoral process.  Help spread the word: download and print electoral fraud poster 1 (sorry it isn’t beautiful, please send in your or a fresh or newer version!)


What “NOT VOTING” sounds like in Peterborough

Spectators Gallery sign in Peterborough Town Hall showing the way up four flights of stairs
Spectators Gallery sign in Peterborough Town Hall showing the way up four flights of stairs

Last night I arrived at Council too late to catch the whole debate on the council’s plan to make a £1.2M annual saving by cutting the services it currently provides to Peterborough’s children.

But I was in time for the recorded vote.   Our local newspaper has already published this story but has not (so far) provided a list of who voted which way.  I suppose this information will eventually be published in the council’s very own minutes, but who ever reads those?

So, since several people have asked for a breakdown, here are my gleanings  from the Spectators Gallery:

CON    Arculus, Nick    ABSTAIN    West
CON    Casey, Graham    ABSTAIN    Orton Longueville
CON    Lee, Matthew    ABSTAIN    Fletton
CON    Maqbool, Yasmeen    ABSTAIN    West
CON    Simons, George    ABSTAIN    Paston
CON    Sanders, David    name heard but unable to hear response    Eye & Thorney
CON    Allen, Sue     name not heard    Orton Waterville
CON    Cereste Marco    name not heard    Stanground Central
CON    McKean, Dale    name not heard    Eye & Thorney
CON    Walsh, Irene    name not heard    Stanground Central
CON    Dalton, Matthew    NOT VOTING    West
CON    Day, Sue    NOT VOTING    Paston
CON    Elsey, Gavin    NOT VOTING    Orton Waterville
CON    Fitzgerald, Wayne    NOT VOTING    Bretton North
CON    Goodwin, Janet    NOT VOTING    Orton Longueville
CON    Harper, Chris    NOT VOTING    Stanground East
CON    Hiller, Peter    NOT VOTING    Northborough
CON    Holdich, John (OBE)    NOT VOTING    Ghinton & Wittering
CON    Kreling, Pam    NOT VOTING    Park
CON    Lamb, Diane    NOT VOTING    Glinton & Wittering
CON    Nadeem, Mohammed    NOT VOTING    Central
CON    Nawaz, Gul    NOT VOTING    Ravensthorpe
CON    North, Nigel    NOT VOTING    Orton with Hampton
CON    Peach, John    NOT VOTING    Park
CON    Rush, Brian    NOT VOTING    Stanground Central
CON    Scott, Sheila    NOT VOTING    Orton with Hampton
CON    Seaton, David    NOT VOTING    Orton with Hampton
CON    Serluca, Lucia    NOT VOTING    Fletton
CON    Stokes, June    NOT VOTING    Orton Waterville
CON    Thacker, Paula    NOT VOTING    Werrington South
CON    Todd, Marion    NOT VOTING    East
CON     Over, David    NOT VOTING    Barnack
LAB    Forbes, Lisa    FOR    Orton Longueville
LAB    Jamil, Mohammed    FOR    Central
LAB    Johnson, Jo    FOR    East
LAB    Khan, Nazim (MBE)    FOR    Central
LAB    Knowles, John    FOR    Paston
LAB    Martin, Stuart    FOR    Bretton North
LAB    Shabbir, Nabil    FOR    East
LAB    Shearman, John    FOR    Park
LAB    Thulbourn, Nick    FOR    Fletton & Woodston
LAB    Murphy, Ed    FOR    Ravensthorpe
LAB    Sylvester, Ann    FOR    Bretton North
LD    Fower, Darren    FOR    Werrington South
LD    Sandford, Nick    FOR    Walton
LD    Shaheed, Asif    FOR    Walton
LD    Davidson, Julia    name heard but unable to hear response    Werrington South
PIF    Miners, Adrian    declared interest, so unable to vote    Dogsthorpe
PIF    Ash, Christopher    FOR    Dogsthorpe                                                                      PIF    Fletcher, Michael     FOR    Bretton South
PIF    Fox, John    FOR    Werrington North
PIF    Fox, Judith    FOR    Werrington North
PIF    Harrington, David    FOR    Newborough
PIF    Saltmarsh, Christabel    FOR    Dogsthorpe
PIF    Sharp, Keith    FOR    North
PIF    Swift, Charles (OBE)    FOR “but confused”    North
PIF    Lane, Stephen    name not heard    Werrington North

I found it very difficult indeed to pick up the voices of the Conservative councillors last night.  It was a very muffled vote.  I was unaware that “NOT VOTING” was an available option.  I wonder whether or not the Conservatives on the council understand what “ABSTAIN” means?  If they do, then why did they choose to say “NOT VOTING”?  The Chair announced that 23 people voted FOR and that 29 people abstained and that nobody voted against the motion.

I haven’t caught everyone’s response so I know there are errors and some omissions in this list.  Please feel free to correct or explain these if you can (comments are open).  The sound system available to councillors is so bad that many struggle to make it work properly.   People in a meeting may feel confident to signal their vote to the chair, especially if their views are already very well known.

According to the newspaper “a motion to defer closing the centres so that alternative proposals can be considered was carried following a vote and the issue will now be decided at the next meeting of the council’s cabinet.”  But the motion, as I understand it, was proposed by Cllr John Shearman (LAB) and he made a point, immediately prior to the vote, that the motion was to “recommend that Cabinet defer any decision until alternative proposals are proposed, considered and consulted on.”

Well done Peterborough’s opposition.  Last night “spectators” had the pleasure of witnessing over a quarter of Peterborough’s councillors actually holding the executive to account.  I have never seen this before.

This is what it looked like to another observer: http://parkfarmneighbourhoodwatch.blogspot.co.uk/2014/01/childrens-centres-first-for.html

Here is a photo of the opposition standing up to demand a recorded vote:  http://terry-harris.photoshelter.com/gallery-image/Full-Council-Childrens-Centre-Closures/G0000xzhmtuMp.a4/I0000UNVajRUjfiU

But the big question now is will Cabinet pay any attention at all to the wishes of Council when it meets on Monday at 10am?