Yet another Tory electoral breach – the SKWAWKBOX needs your help

The SKWAWKBOX has recently covered concerns over the propriety of the Copeland by-election and tactics of threat and impersonation being used by local Tory councillors and activists in Pendle, not too far south.

Now, at the other end of the country the Tories have also been caught breaching another key electoral rule – and one that concerns postal votes, which are also at the centre of concerns in Copeland.

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Surprisingly – to this author at least – electoral rules do allow political parties to invite voters to send postal ballot application forms (not actual completed ballot papers) to party offices rather than to the local authority conducting the election. This would appear to be fraught with the risk of facilitating potential fraudulent applications, but it is currently permitted.

However, political parties are not allowed to encourage voters to do so. In fact, the Postal Vote Code of Conduct instructs them to discourage it by making the official return address.

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However, the Somerset Conservatives website breaches this rule, putting the Tories office as the first address for completed applications and failing to indicate that the local ERO is the preferred destination, let alone providing the Returning Officer’s address:

somerset tories

A local resident wrote to Somerset County Council’s Strategic Manager of Governance and Risk about this breach and received this response:

Thanks for sending a scan of the letter. Having studied the Code of conduct for campaigners in Great Britain and spoken to the Electoral Commission the letter should have the Electoral Services Office as the primary address for return of the form. The letter can include a secondary address.

Clearly this is not the case with the example that you sent through. Campaigners can receive completed forms and should then forward them to the Electoral Registration Officer’s address within two working days of receipt.

In the light of what you have sent through Pat Flaherty as County Returning Officer has raised this formally as an issue with the Conservative Party elections agent to point out what needs to happen under the requirements of the Code.

This may seem like a small ‘technicality’, but it’s in such seemingly-insignificant areas that space for election-tampering can exist – affecting the wellbeing of thousands and even millions of our citizens. And if the Tories are prepared to mis-allocate or completely omit hundreds of thousands of pounds of electoral spending, then they’ll exploit any opportunity to tilt elections their way.

So the SKWAWKBOX needs your help. This writer has checked a few local Tory sites at random but can’t check every such site in the country. If you read this article, please take a few minutes to find your local Conservative website and see what they say about the return of postal vote applications – and if you find any that do not meet the Code of Conduct requirements shown above, put the website URL in the comments of this article, so the any breaches can be exposed and corrected.

Thank you.

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  1. Greenwich & Eltham: correct
    Erith & Thamesmead: no advice
    Bexleyheath: no advice
    Lewisham East: no advice
    Lewisham Deptford: no advice
    Lewisham West & Penge: no advice

    1. Went to each constituency page too, all of them abide by the rules on these pages as well

  2. Stafford Conservative Ass/Jeremy Lefroy MP;

    ”From this site, you can download an application form to vote by post.
    Simply print the form out, complete the details and please return directly Stafford Borough Council – Elections Office or alternatively to the Stafford Conservative Association.


  3. Hi

    Checked Burnley Chorley Lancaster and Fleetwood Hyndburn Morecambe and Lunesdale Pendle Preston Ribble Valley Rossendale and Darwen South Ribble West Lancashire Wyre and Preston North


    All seemed to be in order




  4. the Teflon tories will get away from this regardless of what the LAW says, why are they allowed to still be in power? the country is being destroyed by the tory party .

    WE NEED RID OF THE tories.

  5. I’ve checked West Hull and Hessle, it appears to comply with the rules. Hope this helps.

  6. I have checked Norfolk and East Cambs. All appears to be in order but interestingly the link to Conservative party document on both web sites was no longer available

  7. Amber Valley Conservatives do not appear to have any mention of postal voting and applications.

  8. Results from Freedom of Information requests for the number of times they were downloaded might be interesting to see.

  9. West Devon Conservatives Postal Votes info makes interesting reading. It’s more detailed than your examples. Read right through to the end where some addresses are to Conservative Absent Votes Coordinator. It even says at the bottom that “Overseas votes are done by proxy. We are able to arrange a proxy voter for you to ensure that your vote goes to the Conservatives if you would like us to”. Is that legal?

  10. Telford Conservatives give freepost address on the actual form https://www.telfordconservatives.com/sites/www.telfordconservatives.com/files/pv_application_form.doc but in their marketing leaflet they say “Simply complete the enclosed form overleaf. Once complete the form should be returned to the Electoral Services Department at your local council, you will find their address in the telephone book. Alternatively, if you choose to do so, you are welcome to return it to our office using the freepost envelope provided and we will hand it in on your behalf.

  11. Preseli Pembrokeshire. – Crabb , no mention of postal voting
    Carmarthen west and south Pembrokeshire – advises sending form to LA

  12. Gower constituency, Wales.
    Conservatives site checked This is the most marginal seat in U.K. 20 odd votes in it.
    They renewed their website in February. No mention of postal votes on it currently.
    Will keep an eye on this though.

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