The Independent – Straw’s seat is a hot-spot of postal vote fraud claims: In the Lancashire constituency of Blackburn, where the Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw, is defending his 9,249 majority, the vote-rigging allegations have intensified as polling day nears.
“I’ve come from Uzbekistan to Blackburnistan,” says Craig Murray, Britain’s former ambassador to the central Asian republic who is campaigning to unseat the Foreign Secretary. He left the Foreign Office after speaking out against the Government’s use of intelligence obtained by torture.
“This is very much a Labour rotten borough,” he said. “There is a nexus of the police, the authorities and business – if we were in the Soviet Union, you would say mafia.”
The jailing of a Blackburn city councillor – an Asian Muslim representing Labour – for rigging postal votes in the May 2002 local elections has failed to silence the rumour mill. Voters in the Muslim community, which makes up almost a quarter of the electorate, say now they are being strong-armed by mosque leaders and councillors to vote Labour. The number of postal votes registered in Blackburn is 20,000, compared to 7,600 in 2001.