Labour investigates vote-rigging claims

Enquiry launched as Blair ally's daughter battles to be chosen to fight safe seat

The Labour Party is to investigate claims of voting irregularities in a controversial candidate selection process that could see the daughter of one of Tony Blair’s closest allies handed a safe seat.

Georgia Gould, 22, the daughter of one of the architects of New Labour, Philip Gould, hopes to beat seven other women shortlisted to represent the party in the safe seat of Erith and Thamesmead in south-east London.

But the selection process has developed into a bitter row over the tactics used by Ms Gould’s campaign team. About a third of local party members have registered to vote by post, leading to allegations that those behind Ms Gould’s campaign have been distributing postal vote forms pre-filled with voters’ names, addresses and telephone numbers to make it easier.

John Austin, the Labour MP who is stepping down from the constituency at the next election, has asked the party’s general secretary, Ray Collins, to investigate the claims. He is also furious that prominent Blairite figures, including Alastair Campbell, have been backing Ms Gould’s campaign.

Controversy over the race escalated last night when the party called off today’s vote after finding one of its ballot boxes had been tampered with. An investigation is now underway. No suspects have been named.

A spokesman for the party said: “At 6.45pm this evening it was discovered that the seal on a ballot box containing previously received ballot papers for the selection of Labour's parliamentary candidate for Erith and Thamesmead was broken.”

Labour rules are clear on voting by mail, declaring that postal ballots “shall only be granted to those who are unable to attend [in person] – not to those who choose not to attend”.

They also state that interference in the voting process is banned. “No shortlisted nominee or any person acting on behalf of a nominee should benefit from interference in the process of applications for, or the issue and return of, postal votes,” they state, adding interference “may lead to the disqualification of the nominee concerned”.

A spokesman for the party said the complaint would be taken “very seriously” but added that its initial queries suggested that the total number of postal votes did not look to be “unduly high”.

Ms Gould has close ties with New Labour. Her father was a key figure in reshaping the party along with Lord Mandelson, and she works part-time for Mr Blair’s Faith Foundation. Her likely selection in Erith and Thamesmead, a largely working-class area where Labour has a majority of 11,500, has been described as a New Labour “stitch-up” by some local activists and the central party has even wrested control of the contest. Ms Gould is unable to comment because of party protocol.

Her potential selection, despite her father’s close links to Mr Blair, is not the only constituency battle causing disquiet within the party. A senior Labour figure told The Independent yesterday that the use of postal ballots had to be looked at across the country after similar concerns were raised about the selection of another friend of Mr Blair in Calder Valley, Yorkshire.

Steph Booth, the stepmother of Mr Blair’s wife, Cherie, was chosen after receiving a large number of postal votes despite losing the ballot among those who voted in person after listening to the candidates. There is no suggestion of vote-rigging in this instance.

Peter Kenyon, a member of Labour’s governing National Executive Committee, said he had concerns about the number of postal votes being cast. “There are signs that the use of postal votes has moved on from the way the rules state they should be used,” he said. “We need to have a look at [this].”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksNow available in paperback
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £60,000

£25000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Care Workers Required - The London Borough of Bromley

£15000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This homecare agency is based in Beckenh...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executives - OTE £50,000

£25000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you passionate about Custom...

Day In a Page

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton: The power dynamics of the two first families

Jeb Bush vs Hillary Clinton

Karen Tumulty explores the power dynamics of the two first families
Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley with a hotbed of technology start-ups

Stockholm is rivalling Silicon Valley

The Swedish capital is home to two of the most popular video games in the world, as well as thousands of technology start-ups worth hundreds of millions of pounds – and it's all happened since 2009
Did Japanese workers really get their symbols mixed up and display Santa on a crucifix?

Crucified Santa: Urban myth refuses to die

The story goes that Japanese store workers created a life-size effigy of a smiling "Father Kurisumasu" attached to a facsimile of Our Lord's final instrument of torture
Jennifer Saunders and Kate Moss join David Walliams on set for TV adaptation of The Boy in the Dress

The Boy in the Dress: On set with the stars

Walliams' story about a boy who goes to school in a dress will be shown this Christmas
La Famille Bélier is being touted as this year's Amelie - so why are many in the deaf community outraged by it?

Deaf community outraged by La Famille Bélier

The new film tells the story of a deaf-mute farming family and is being touted as this year's Amelie
10 best high-end laptops

10 best high-end laptops

From lightweight and zippy devices to gaming beasts, we test the latest in top-spec portable computers
Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

Michael Carberry: ‘After such a tough time, I’m not sure I will stay in the game’

The batsman has grown disillusioned after England’s Ashes debacle and allegations linking him to the Pietersen affair
Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

Susie Wolff: A driving force in battle for equality behind the wheel

The Williams driver has had plenty of doubters, but hopes she will be judged by her ability in the cockpit
Adam Gemili interview: 'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

'No abs Adam' plans to muscle in on Usain Bolt's turf

After a year touched by tragedy, Adam Gemili wants to become the sixth Briton to run a sub-10sec 100m
Calls for a military mental health 'quality mark'

Homeless Veterans campaign

Expert calls for military mental health 'quality mark'
Racton Man: Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman

Meet Racton Man

Analysis shows famous skeleton was a 6ft Bronze Age superman
Garden Bridge: St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters

Garden Bridge

St Paul’s adds to £175m project’s troubled waters
Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament: An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel

Stuff your own Christmas mouse ornament

An evening class in taxidermy with a festive feel
Joint Enterprise: The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice

Joint Enterprise

The legal doctrine which critics say has caused hundreds of miscarriages of justice
Freud and Eros: Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum: Objects of Desire

Freud and Eros

Love, Lust and Longing at the Freud Museum