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Fury over Tory group leader almost losing his Tower Hamlets council seat in voting mix-up

PUBLISHED: 19:24 11 May 2018 | UPDATED: 18:16 15 May 2018

Checking every ballot paper carefully in Tower Hamlets election for mayor. Picture: Kios/LBTH

Checking every ballot paper carefully in Tower Hamlets election for mayor. Picture: Kios/LBTH

LBTH

Allegations of council election staff “making up the rules” during the Tower Hamlets local election count which almost cost the Tory opposition leader his seat are being sent to the Electoral Commission.

Peter Golds who is challenging Tower Hamlets council election  procedures that almost cost him his Isle of Dogs seat. Picture: Mike Brooke Peter Golds who is challenging Tower Hamlets council election procedures that almost cost him his Isle of Dogs seat. Picture: Mike Brooke

A formal complaint is being lodged by Peter Golds, who was targeted by a vicious anti-Semitic Twitter campaign to unseat him by Labour activists on the Isle of Dogs.

The tally for his Island Gardens ward had to be recounted because of confusion by staff, Cllr Golds claims.

Other parties defeated in last Thursday’s Labour landslide which has left only three opposition councillors out of 45 are also complaining of election confusion.

Making sure ballot boxes haven't been tampered with in Tower Hamlets elections. Photo: Mike Brooke Making sure ballot boxes haven't been tampered with in Tower Hamlets elections. Photo: Mike Brooke

Cllr Golds was visibly alarmed watching the tally, saying later that council staff were “not sufficiently trained and making up procedures” on the spot.

“I was originally told I was fourth and hadn’t been re-elected,” he told the East London Advertiser. “But a proper recheck showed I was second and I retained the seat.”

Candidates were told there would be two separate teams counting the vote for mayor and then the votes for the council, he says in his letter to Tower Hamlets chief executive Will Tuckley. But he found some staff were undertaking both counts which started 12 hours apart.

Returning officer Will Tuckley... ready to declare Tower Hamlets election results. Photo: Mike Brooke Returning officer Will Tuckley... ready to declare Tower Hamlets election results. Photo: Mike Brooke

The anomaly in the votes was identified and the returning officer addressed the issue, the council said later. The revised Island Gardens vote was shown to the candidates and agreed before the declaration.

Cllr Golds quoted a text he received about “incompetence” at a polling station when the official told people that only one vote was allowed, which was going on for the first hour at least—nearly all wards were voting for more than one councillor.

A similar situation in reverse was uncovered by an Advertiser investigation at the count for the neighbouring Canary Wharf ward.

Two candidates who were not elected were told that their ballot papers showing only one vote would be discounted because there were two council places to vote for. Both candidates out of the 12 had many single votes cast for them. One of them running as an independent, Natasha Bolter, found there was no tray provided for her ballot papers, unlike party candidates, until she challenged the voting officer who then provided one.

Party agents for Aspire counted 5,000 votes at the five Whitechapel polling stations, but found another 1,000 votes ha turned up when the counting started at the ExCel centre. None of their candidates got in.

A similar disparity of ballot papers emerged when People’s Alliance agents saw the returns at the ExCel count. All but one Alliance candidates also lost at the polls.

Returning Officer Will Tuckley said in a statement to the Advertiser: “We would like to shorten the time taken to complete our counts In future—but it’s imperative this doesn’t happen at the expense of accuracy.

“It’s important that every stage was carefully completed, at a time when we have introduced robust measures to prevent fraud.”

Cllr Golds, who just scraped in by a handful of votes at Island Gardens, also complains of polling stations marred by rival party canvassers “forcing themselves on voters as they approached”.

It seemed to mirror the intimidation in the corrupt 2014 local election that returned Lutfur Rahman and his now-banned party to power, which later led to his ban from office as mayor.

Cllr Golds’ letter to the Election Commission is also going to the Met Police which is currently investigating allegations from 2014.

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