I am in Blackburn on the trail of Jack Straw. Yesterday I spoke to several hundred local Muslims at a Blackburn fundraiser for CagePrisoners. I told them very directly that it was no good their salving their consciences by donating, if they then again gave their votes to the man who gave the green light to British cooperation with the extraordinary rendition policy, and who overruled the Foreign Office legal advisers to launch an illegal war in Iraq.
While I was doing that, Jack Straw was committing a lesser but still very important crime. He was “Treating”. Yesterday Straw fed 700 constituents with curry, nan, dessert, tea and coffee at Jan’s Conference Centre at an election rally in Blackburn .
Every political candidate and agent knows that this is illegal. It is a specific criminal offence known as “Treating”. It carries a jail sentence and disqualification for the candidate.
Precisely the same thing happened, at precisely the same venue, at the last general election. I swore out a complaint to the police,but no action was taken.
The extraordinary thing was that, not only was the criminal offence carried out in an open and blatant manner, but this criminal offence was actually aided and abetted by the police. Jack Straw arrived not only with his close protection officers but with escorting police officers who actually guarded the criminal act.
From the Electoral Commission’s Guidance:
A person is guilty of the corrupt practice of treating if they corruptly, directly or
indirectly, either before, during or after an election, give or provide (or pay wholly or
in part the expense of giving or providing) any food, drink, entertainment or provision
in order to corruptly influence any voter to vote or refrain from voting.
I genuinely despair of the deep-seated corruption of this country where a Cabinet minister is enabled repeatedly to break the law in this way.
It is worth noting that an independent candidate, Bushra Irfan, was reported to the police by the returning officer for an internet page that suggested that food would be given at a meeting. Irfan’s campaign apologised and removed the offending page; no food was given. However Jack Straw was able to actually give out seven hundred meals under the noses of the police, with not a word said by the Returning Officer, who by law should now disqualify him. A criminal trial should follow.
I have wriiten widely about the amazing corruption of the electoral process in Blackburn and its corrupt administration by Blackburn Council. I had hoped that this scrutiny might be sufficient to force them to behave more honestly. But theyareso arrogant and bressnecked in their power here, they really don’t give a damn about the law,