On Sunday I brought you news of alleged postal vote harvesting by Ken Livingstone’s backers in Tower Hamlets. Bengali voters in the borough’s Spitalfields ward told me how their postal voting papers were collected by workers for Gulam Robbani, a Ken-supporting candidate in a council byelection in Spitalfields on Thursday. This practice – which allows candidates to fill in their own votes on blank ballot papers, or destroy already-completed ballot papers which do not favour them – is prohibited by the Electoral Commission.
Now I learn that a gentleman called Shahidul Islam, of Hanbury Street, visited a Spitalfields polling station in Thursday’s election. There’s only one problem: Shahidul Islam is currently in prison awaiting trial on charges of murder. And no, though remand prisoners can apply to vote, he hasn’t done so.
Another voter from Chicksands House has also voted in person. This voter is said by three sources to be dead – another person says, however, that he is merely seriously ill, which is why I’m not naming him. Whatever his state of health, he is certainly in no condition to get down to the polling station.
I’ve spent the day looking at turnout figures in some of Spitalfields’ more postal-vote-heavy blocks and I hope to bring you the results of my inquiries tomorrow. Overall turnout in the ward last Thursday was 31 per cent – suspiciously high for a council byelection. The last time they had a council byelection in Tower Hamlets – also in Spitalfields, as it happens, eighteen months ago – turnout was less than 17 per cent.
The postal vote papers have already gone out in Tower Hamlets for next week’s Boris v Ken mayoral election. With the latest poll suggesting a very close race, the implications of what appears to be happening in the borough are frightening.