Yet Another Scandal

Labour is expected to lose and lose big in the local elections this week. There has been much speculation about whether the Prime Minister would plan his depature from office for just before or after the elections to absorb some of the media attention away from the results.

And with Labour in bad shape, now is not the time to find out that The Sunday Times planted an undercover reporter amongst Labour campaigners in Leeds.

Keith Wakefield, the leader of the Labour group on Leeds city council, told party canvassers to help voters, many of whom were elderly, to complete their postal ballots. Student activists, including an undercover reporter, were then told by another councillor to take away the postal voting forms, hide them as they left people’s homes and only post them later if they were for Labour.

The councillor, Graham Hyde, admitted, in a secretly tape-recorded meeting, that he thought the instructions to collect the postal votes were “illegal”. Hyde, a parliamentary aide to a former Labour whip, warned the student activists that after collecting votes: “Don’t get caught with any on you. We are not supposed to collect them.” He even joked about flushing postal ballots down the lavatory if they were for the Liberal Democrats.

Scandals are not uncommon in any political party or political system. Why is it, however, that, Watergate – the notable exception – aside, electoral scandals seem to always involve the liberal end of the spectrum, whether Democrats in the US or Labour in the UK? This is even true historically. In 1888, when the Republicans were the liberals, they brought in voters to Indiana and paid them to vote Republican.

Why is it that parties that claim to be parties of the people never trust the people to do their job?


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