Tuesday 8 April 2008

Fun with postal votes

A letter arrived this morning from Richard Tracey, Conservative London Assembly Candidate for Merton & Wandsworth. The usual Tory stuff ("8 years under Ken Livingstone is enough!"), but on the second sheet in the envelope I spied a Wandsworth Council logo.

For a moment I thought the local Conservatives had finally tripped over the propriety line they've been teeting on the edge of for years, but it turned out to be the form for applying for a postal vote. Richard's letter helpfully explains that the "frustrations of work, family commitments, holidays or transport problems [yeah, Ken]" can stop people voting on election day, and urging me to "please do apply for a postal vote today."

The back of the form gives the correct return address, namely Wandsworth town hall. Richard, however, has helpfully provided a pre-paid envelope that will see my form delivered directly to him. His letter doesn't point out the disparity.

The Electoral Commission tells me this is within the letter of the law if not the spirit, a view echoed by the registration office at Wandsworth Town Hall. What is not up for debate is that this tactic is one of those favoured by vote riggers up and down the country, and is just the sort of thing Michael Howard complained about before the 2005 general election.

I called the contact number on Richard's letter and outlined my concerns to the elderly sounding lady who answered.

Old Tory Lady: "I see. Well, thank you for your call."

Primly Stable: "Eh? Aren't you going to explain why you're collecting forms like this?"

OTL: "There's nobody here who can take your call at the moment."

PS: "Well, you're here. What do you think?"

OTL: "Goodbye" [click... brrrr....]

So I called the Conservative Central Office Information Unit to ask what their policy is on postal voting now.

Bright Young Cameroonian Press Officer: "One moment.... [on hold for five minutes]... Thanks for waiting. We're not against postal voting."

PS: "OK, but what about [outlines details of today's letter, fraud concerns, Howard speech etc]. Is David Cameron giving two thumbs up to that?"

BYCPO: "Well, if it's legal then it's alright. You should speak to your local council about it."

PS: "I did. They told me it was within the letter of the law but not the spirit."

BYCPO: "If it's within the letter of the law then there's nothing wrong with it."

PS: "Yeah, but Derek Conway's conduct was within the letter of the law and he still got fired."

BYCPO: "There's a police investigation going on into that because it wasn't within the law"

PS: "Um, actually the police investigation ended last month when they said there was no legal case to answer."

BYCPO: "Do you want to make a complaint?"

PS: "No, I just want to find out if this letter is in line with Conservative party policy."

BYCPO: "Let me put you on hold."

And so I waited. And then I was cut off.

Anyone out there who can shed any light on this one?

Friday 4 April 2008

Watson forces out Blair (1927 vintage)

Cabinet Office minister Tom Watson is best-known for leading the "Balti House Coup" that ultimately led to Tony Blair being forced out of office. But it looks like the Watson clan has previous - BBC Sport takes a look at the Cardiff City team that won the 1927 FA Cup, and notes that left-back Tom Watson snuck into the team after displacing the long-serving Jimmy Blair....