Having been caught red-handed indulging in the crime of treating – supplying free food and drink to voters to influence their vote – Jack Straw is planning to do it again this evening.
Treating is a criminal offence for which the maximum sentence is a year in prison. As a corrupt electoral practice, it also carries disbarment for life from both the House of Commons and House of Lords.
Straw has already flagrantly broken this law in an election rally at Jan’s Conference Centre on 25 April. Several hundred Blackburn Muslims were given free meals at a vote Jack Straw rally.
Blackburn police have told me this morning that they now have dealt with this by merely issuing a formal warning to Jack Straw’s election agent not to do it again. That is completely insufficient when Straw did exactly the same thing, at the same venue, with the same main speakers and the same food, five years ago, and was then given an official warning not to do it again.
It is beyond argument that nobody but a New Labour minister in a rotten borough like Blackburn would be able blatantly and repeatedly to flaunt the law of the land in this way without any consequences. I am now putting in a formal complaint to the IPCC about Blackburn Police.
Straw is however frantic as it looks increasingly unlikely he will hold his seat. A Gujerati constituent of Straw explained to me this morning that, in their culture, if they eat your food they are morally obliged to vote for you. He jokingly compared it to “tasting the salt” in the days of the Raj. A large gathering of Gujerati voters has therefore been organised by New Labour for this evening, at Lord Adam “Postman” Patel’s factory on Randall Street, where Straw will address the assembled diners. The plan is that, by issuing invitations by word of mouth through the Gujerati community, and holding the meeting on private premises with food provided by Lord Patel, they can get round the treating laws.
In fact this does not wash at all. The treating law says the candidate’s campaign may not “directly or indirectly” provide food and drink, while Lord Postman Patel, a New Labour enforcer ennobled for his creative approach to the organisation of postal votes, can scarcely claim not to be part of the campaign. He was on the stage making “vote Jack Straw” speeches in the treating spectaculars at Jan’s Conference Centre both last week and in 2005.
I have so far 16 volunteers from inside the Gujerati community who will infiltrate the event and let me know if treating has taken place, and gather evidence. This is interesting, because my friend who told me that eating the meal more or less obliges you to support the candidate, tells me also that it would be a great scandal and lose votes for Straw to invite all these people for a meal, and then just give the speeches instead.
Why is Straw so frantic? My mole tells me that New Labour’s canvass returns for Audley Ward show Straw in third place. This is normally his second strongest ward.