New information deepens doubts over #Copeland by-election


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:

  1. 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
  2. As the BBC’s Tom Bateman observed around 3am, the voting trays were still empty
  3. 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:
    postal votes bagged.png
    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.
  4. 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
  5. 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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  1. The more information that comes to light, the dodgier this ‘result’ looks!

  2. Another point unconnected with this, perhaps not, though. Those Tory leaflets in Stoke lying about Ruth Smeeth & Stoke’s other MP having voted against Article 50 invocation-they hadn’t. I read somewhere the same was happening in Tory leaflets here vide local MP’s John Woodcock & the Workington MP-again lies about how they voted.
    If this is the case, remember Phil Woolas in 2010-is there a different breach of election law by slandering other people’s MP’s?

    Especially as these leaflets were signed by Theresa May???

      1. @Rachael_Swindon mentions the Stoke letter on 17th; tweet was from laboureoin if that’s any help. Will try & remember where I saw about the same going out in Copeland.

      2. Thank you! The Stoke one is pretty common currency now, but if you can find anything about similar happening in Copeland it would be major.

  3. The more the Tory party get away with, the bolder they become it seems.

    That’s not to say that the other two big players are not cast from the same mould.

    In pursuing #ToryExpensesFraud Channel 4 news have noticed how all three parties are extremely backwards in coming forward when invited into the studio to explain themselves.

    After all, it’s only those smaller parties with no chance of bucking FPTP that are genuinely hit by alleged fraudulent behaviour.

    Guilty consciences?

  4. Just to clarify – at the 2015 GE returning officers had about a fortnight to return Form K which deals with postal ballots, so the absence of that information on Copeland today should be no surprise to Applied, the supposed experts in the field.

  5. So far as I can ascertain the polling information in the public domain so far for the Copeland and Stoke elections is the same – votes per candidate, electorate, rejected ballots and turnout percentage.If one result is of concern is not the other also of concern?

  6. If there was a problem, then surely Labour would have picked this up on the night through their ballot box sampling and subsequently complained. If you think this is true why not ask Andrew Gwynne MP who ran the Labour campaign in Copeland: https://andrewgwynne.co.uk/2017/01/05/gwynne-to-lead-copeland-fight-for-labour/

    This was his Tweet the next day: https://twitter.com/GwynneMP/status/835120380759126017 which hardly looks like he though the vote was rigged.

    Why not email him here to get the full detail on the count? https://andrewgwynne.co.uk/contact-me/

  7. I referred to the BBC presenter’s surprise at the absence of ballot papers in the main hall in a comment to an earlier Shwawkbox article.

    I am pleased to see it being followed up.

    My experience of observing envelopes containing postal ballots was that they were opened and verified prior to the count.

    They were then sorted into bundles at the actual count.

    I never recall seeing large envelopes filled with postal ballot papers left lying around at the count at one in the morning.

    They could have been counted while waiting for ballot boxes to come in from some of the more remote polling stations.

    There really are a number of very odd aspects to the way in which this count was organised.

    Having looked at http://copeland.moderngov.co.uk/mgMemberIndex.aspx?FN=PARTY&VW=LIST&PIC=0, I see that the local Copeland Borough Council is Labour-controlled.

    Did they set out deliberately to lose the by-election?

    Is this what John McDonnell meant when he talked about a soft coup?

  8. I’ve just seen a tweet to say that Peter Lillys electoral services company Idox were in charge of the count. That’s not at all suspicious.

    1. “Peter Lillys (sic) electoral services company”

      Mr Lilley is a non exec director of Idox who owns 0.15% of the Company, and is paid £35k pa. So you’re right it’s not suspicious at all. (Is there actually any evidence that Idox were involved in Copeland?)

  9. There has to be an investigation! Recount or something this is a disgrace and how the MSM portray Jeremy Corbyn is an insult to the British public and their intelligence!

  10. If this evidence that you are gathering is so compelling, presumably you are in touch with the authorities and passing this all on to them? If not then I can’t really see the point of posting about this, other than to set hares running.

    1. It’s hardly your decision whether or when it becomes a firm enough case to report. Nobody knows yet whether the evidence is ‘compelling’, nor do the articles claim it is – they raise concerns and highlight the causes.

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