MP blasts ‘shambles’ Tower Hamlets election and calls for wider inquiry

Chaos outside the election count in Limehouse on May 23 Photo: David Mirzoeff

Chaos outside the election count in Limehouse on May 23 Photo: David Mirzoeff - Credit: Archant

EXCLUSIVE: Jim Fitzpatrick MP has blasted the elections in Tower Hamlets as a “shambles” and a “national embarrassment” and called for a wide-reaching inquiry into what went wrong.

Jim Fitzpatrick MP

Jim Fitzpatrick MP - Credit: Jim Fitzpatrick's office

Yesterday, the council released a statement blaming high turnout and close recounts for delays to the election results, which were still being counted five days after polls closed.

A review was launched by the Electoral Commission to focus on the election count but not allegations of voter intimidation at polling stations, which have seen 20 complaints made to the council.

Now the Poplar and Limehouse MP has said there is “no excuse” for the chaotic vote count, calling on the Electoral Commission to broaden its review to include these allegations.

Speaking to the Advertiser, Mr Fitzpatrick said: “The whole thing was a shambles. There is no excuse for what happened.

“We are a national embarrassment, and everybody, and I include myself in this, everybody involved should feel thoroughly ashamed.

“If this was the first time that would be one thing. But it’s election after election after election.”

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Tower Hamlets Council has defended its running of the elections, citing its tough new election protocol formed with the Electoral Commission and the police.

But Mr Fitzpatrick said this failed to improve the elections, saying: “It was not only not any better than last time, it was worse.”

He also challenged the terms of the Electoral Commission’s review, saying it must include allegations of canvassers intimidating voters at polling stations.

“People want them to look at what happened inside the polling station and outside the polling station. Not an examination that’s not going to look at the whole picture,” he said.

An Electoral Commission spokeswoman said its review was only into “what happened in Tower Hamlets, why the count took so long, and issues around the count”, but urged people to contact the police to report any voter intimidation.

Tower Hamlets returning officer John Williams said: “I welcome the [Electoral Commission] review as an opportunity to examine arrangements for the election count.

“While the count took longer than expected, the primary objective was to ensure that the result was seen as fair and accurate by the residents of Tower Hamlets.”

The council added: “No significant complaints had been received until after the elections about issues at polling stations, but following publicity this week the council has received approximately 20 complaints which are currently being investigated.”