Last weekend, the SKWAWKBOX published concerns raised by a firm of electoral analysts about the apparent unlawfulness of the conduct of the Copeland by-election last week – and subsequently, video footage in which a BBC reporter (pictured above) talked about the ‘unusual’ handling of the trays used for ballot papers and separate footage in which BBC Question Time host David Dimbleby announced that Labour had held Copeland then quickly retracted it.
As a result of those articles, further information has come forward from eyewitnesses and others that only serves to deepen concerns over the validity of the result. Remember that BBC reporter Tom Bateman has already been shown observing that trays which would normally be stacked with votes were empty, so the information below becomes extremely significant:
- As Sky News reported at two minutes to midnight, the number of postal votes was already known:
The figure of 9,000 is broadly in line with that reported for the 2015 by-election, in spite of what is later confirmed as the lower turnout in 2017
- As the BBC’s Tom Bateman observed around 3am, the voting trays were still empty
- An eyewitness at the scene reports that reports were circulating that Labour were ahead – until ‘boxes of postal votes arrived‘ at 1am.
Sky’s Boadle knew at least roughly how many postal votes had been cast before midnight and pictures were taken earlier in the evening of paper bags of postal votes waiting to be counted, as this photograph from a Daily Express page covering the by-election showed:
So why were boxes of postal votes arriving at 1am – long after Dimbleby and others were reporting a Labour hold?
These late-arriving votes are extremely unlikely to be postal votes handed in at polling stations on the day – in the 2015 General Election, the total number of postal votes handed in was just 157 – such votes are counted and recorded separately, so the exact figure is known for 2015.
But, significantly, not yet for 2017.
- The number of postal votes – indicated approximately by Sky’s Tom Boadle above – was about the same as the number returned in the 2015 General Election, which had a significantly higher turnout (2015 63.8% v 51.4% 2017). Even though postal vote ‘turnout’ might hold up better at a by-election than in-person votes, in the context of the ‘unusual’ behaviour commented on by Bateman, it’s a cause for concern that merits investigation
- The SKWAWKBOX has been advised that IDOX, an electoral services company of which senior Tory MP Peter Lilley is a director, ran the election on behalf of the local authority. The SKWAWKBOX contacted IDOX today, but a spokeswoman advised she was not permitted to confirm and only the local authority could do so
A further key point is the absence of statutory information that ought to be provided about the ballots issued, returned, rejected etc.
Some readers of the initial article have asked for clarification of this point, so here is a screenshot of just a few of the 50 or so columns of information that were provided in the 2015 General Election for Copeland and other seats:
Many of these pieces of information are, currently, absent from the 2017 by-election return and, according to electoral analysts Applied IF, those that have been provided cannot be fully reconciled as the law requires.
So, we now have a situation in which:
- BBC and other announcers said Labour had held Copeland; others report it as ‘too close to call’
- the BBC reporter on the scene commented on the ‘unusual’ emptiness of the ballot trays and absence from view of the cast, counted ballots
- a figure of 9,000 was given for the total number of postal votes before midnight on election day
- postal votes were photographed in bags already at the venue waiting to be counted.
- over an hour later, at 1am, large quantites of supposed postal votes in boxes turn up at the venue to be counted
- just after 3am on the 24th, Tory candidate Trudy Harrison is announced the winner of the Copeland by-election by just a whisker below 7 full percentage points, or 2,147 votes out of just over 31,000, which is not really ‘too close to call’, let alone a ‘Labour hold’
Applied IF‘s full analysis of the results is still in progress and their report will be published here when available, but the additional information and testimony that has been provided by those who have read the previous articles have done nothing to dispel concerns over the reliability of the Copeland result last week.
In fact, they do the opposite and intensify them.
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