It would be easy to dismiss Nigel Farage’s rant about vote-rigging following Labour’s by-election win in Oldham West as sour grapes. But there may be more to it. The Ukip leader criticised the ballot process, insisting there was “evidence from an impeccable source that today’s postal vote was bent.” He also claimed to see ballot boxes where 99 per cent of the votes were for Labour’s Jim McMahon. “As a veteran of over 30 by-elections I have never seen such a perverse result,” he tweeted furiously. “Serious questions need to be asked.”
Well, you might think that jumping to conclusions is the only exercise I get, but, I’m sorry, I agree with Mr Farage: something is not right about the Oldham result.
The reported figure of 7,115 postal votes cast in the by-election represented 25.6 per cent of the total votes cast. Over a quarter! This was an election that was decided by people who never showed up! It implies a violation of traditional British parliamentary democracy and it must be in the public interest to hold a thorough investigation into the affair.
The whole concept of postal voting on demand, introduced under the Blair government in 2001, needs to be reviewed. The use of a private voting booth to forestall any attempts to buy votes or influence the voter by intimidation is an important requirement of an honest, secret ballot.
Oldham West was already under investigation after the Electoral Commission named it as one of the constituencies alleged to have a “greater risk” of voter fraud. Hmm.
As Farage said: “It means effectively – in some of these seats where people don’t speak English, but they’re signed up to postal votes – effectively the electoral process is now dead.”