Friday, 9 April 2010

British democracy: no better than Uzbekistan's

Postal ballot-rigging, partisan officials, censorship of candidates … no independent observer could call our elections free and fair.

 By Craig Murray, former ambassador to Uzbekistan

[ ...]
The returning officer is almost always the chief executive officer of the local authority.
The problem is that, de facto, those chief executives are party-political appointments. Particularly in the long-term New Labour rotten boroughs of the north, local government appointments are a New Labour nexus. Bluntly put, the New Labour council of a northern town is almost never going to appoint a Tory chief executive.

[ ...]
 ...  I do not accept local authority chief executives as genuinely independent returning officers.

I will continue to use Blackburn as an illustration, because I have an intimate knowledge, having stood there in 2005. An independent candidate standing against Jack Straw in the coming election, Bushra Irfan, has already been told by the local election office that she will not be able to exercise her right to place her own seals on the ballot boxes, as the hasp only has room for the council's seals.

She has just erected an election banner on her own property. Within hours, council officials arrived to dismantle it on the grounds that it did not have planning permission. This ignores the fact that election advertising for a "pending election" is specifically exempted from need for planning permission. But aside from that, one wonders whether other planning issues in Blackburn draw the same instant hit-squad response from the council?

[ ... ]

So, there we have British elections today: an unfair electoral system, censorship of candidates' electoral addresses, little real political choice for voters, widespread postal ballot-rigging and elections administered by partisan council officials in a corrupt political climate.

Don't be surprised if New Labour do that little bit better, when the votes are counted, than you might expect. As Joseph Stalin said, it is not who votes that counts, but who counts the votes.

So are British elections still free and fair? If this were a foreign election I was observing, I have no doubt that my answer would be no.

It may be in the Guardian, but it's well worth going to read it all (plus comments)



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