UKIP’s battle to challenge Labour in Wythenshawe and Sale East is turning nasty. Farage has written to Jenny Watson, chair of the Electoral Commission, complaining that the current system of postal voting is biased in favour of UKIP’s opponents. He argues:
“I do not think democracy is being well served and fear that the voting process is now actually undermining the ability of constituents to hear and weigh-up the alternatives being offered in a considered fashion.
The problem is most acute when it comes to parliamentary by-elections. Our recent experience is that where the Labour Party is responsible for moving the writ, it has taken to condensing a campaign into the shortest legally-permitted time frame.
This means postal votes arrive in households within a few days of candidates being selected – often well before the mid-point in a campaign. In our experience people, for their own convenience, fill out and send off their postal votes swiftly…
So in practice in by-elections up to half the total turnout may have already voted by the halfway point in a campaign.
That cannot be healthy for democracy. Clearly it is also a development that biases the outcome in favour of the incumbent rather than parties, such as my own, that seek to place fresh alternatives before the electorate.”
He is also unhappy about electoral fraud and “intimidatory” tactics used by Labour doorsteppers.
“Very recently concerns have also been expressed to me about the work of an organisation called the Trade Union and Labour Party Liaison Organisation which has allegedly been transferring the addresses of postal vote applicants that trade unions have processed directly onto the Labour Party computer system.
I am also hugely concerned about the growing practice whereby canvassers representing the Labour Party arrive on doorsteps a very short time after the delivery of postal votes, offering to collect them. Such actions in my view can only be construed as mildly intimidatory, especially where the voters concerned are from vulnerable groups.”
One week to go…