Despite the certainty of massive postal ballot fraud on his behalf again, Jack Straw is particularly worried about losing his Blackburn seat this time. The reason is that well over half of Straw’s votes come from the Muslim Blackburn community. And this time, a credible and impressive candidate from within that community has emerged to run as an independent.
Bushra Irfan held an opening campaign preparation meeting at which entry was limited by ticket because of the fire limit, but all 200 seats were enthusiastically filled by community leaders. Straw cannot rely on a herd of Muslim voters this time.
But he can still rely on the corruption of his rotten borough. One of the great failings of the British electoral system is that the Returning Officer is the Council chief executive and in Labour authorities that is a highly politicised post. There was a time when you could rely on honesty in public life: that is not true now, and certainly not where New Labour are concerned.
Bushra Irfan has erected a large election poster in her own garden of her own property. Within three hours, several men from Blackburn council arrived to take it down on the grounds Bushra did not have planning permission to erect a hoarding.
What speed, and what an incredibly efficient council!
Election advertising is in fact exempt from planning permission regulations as class E of schedule 1 of The Town and Country Planning (Control of Advertisements) (England) Regulations 2007 which exempts:
An advertisement relating specifically to a pending Parliamentary, European Parliamentary or local government election or a referendum under the Political Parties, Elections and Referendums Act 2000(a).
However that won’t stop Blackburn Council, which has no concern at all for the law when it comes to organising Jack Straw election victories. I still recall their blank refusal to allow me the use of public rooms for election meetings when I stood against Jack Straw.
I pointed out to the council electoral administrators that not only did candidates have a right to public rooms for meetings, but the returning officer had a legal obligation to maintain a register of such rooms in state schools and community centres, and to make the list available to candidates at any reasonable time. The council simply replied “We don’t do that in Blackburn”.
When I telephoned the Electoral Commission to complain, they said enforcement of the law was the job of the local returning officer. When I told them that it was the returning officer I wished to complain about, they said there was no way to do that.