With fraud now endemic in many city seats due to postal voting, there is a strong possibility that the results on Thursday will be tainted. Due to the lack of safeguards demanded by the Electoral Commission, all political parties can solicit votes without difficulty and effectively import the communal politics of the third world, disenfranchising marginalised groups like women or the poor. New Labour talked social justice and promoted the opposite.
The Sunday Times identified illegal practices in their undercover exclusive on Labour's activities in Leeds. This confirmed the conclusions of many observers:
Richard Price QC, an expert on electoral law, said: “I look at the situation as like a large bowl of water. Previously there were a couple of holes in it — isolated cases of fraud — but suddenly it has become a colander. It is a completely unnecessary crisis. With postal voting you have abolished the secret ballot, and your investigation is a classic example of this.”
Michael Pinto-Duschinsky, an academic expert on elections, added: “Postal voting on demand is inherently unsatisfactory. The whole system is open to abuse. Secret ballots were introduced in 1872 to stop exactly this sort of problem and we now seem to be going back to the 19th century.”
This will cast a jaundiced light over this week's elections. As Labour has fewer candidates, the temptation to deploy illegal practices and maintain their control over councils may be overwhelming. It could be disastrous for the party if results are out of line with polling expectations and depend upon postal votes.
As a coda, Reid's call for unity in the Labour party will have the opposite effect to that intended. The public will now see Brown's leadership as a coronation, lacking democratic legitimacy at party and national level. Without opposition in the party, how will Brown cope with sharp criticism in the Commons? If there is no polling 'bounce', the Labour MPs will sharpen their teeth over impending electoral suicide. His initial moves, slaughtering Blairites to feed public dissatisfaction, will not tackle the structural causes of maladministration. Throwing Hewitt, Jowell or Blears to us will only feed our taste for the fresh blood of sacrificial Labour incompetents.