Much has been said and written about the recent Peterborough by-election. Most worrying of all are claims of voting fraud, writes Paul Bristow, Conservative candidate at the by-election.
Other than the birth of my daughter, being the Conservative candidate for my home city has been the highlight of my life. The potential for representing the place that has given me so much was an honour. I hate to see this sullied by reports of criminality.
I shall take my lead from the police and the council. If any impropriety is uncovered it must be investigated with vigour and without hesitation. However, I do accept that my failure to become an MP was simply because not enough people voted for me.
Too many Conservatives voted for the Brexit Party. Despite my promise to vote for the UK to leave the European Union and my campaign work for Vote Leave, it was not enough to persuade people not to make a protest vote. It was as we Conservatives said - vote Brexit get Labour. But that is democracy and together with the national party, I take my share of responsibility for this.
I promise to contact every past Conservative voter in the city and ask what I can do to gain their trust to represent the city I love.
What is clear to me is that we need to restore trust in politics in our city. Whatever the outcomes of police investigations, the Labour Party needs to show leadership and answer some questions.
Tariq Mahmood has been involved in almost every Labour campaign in the city since his conviction for electoral fraud, and has become a symbol of electoral malpractice in our city. Will Labour leaders in our city act?
. Will our MP Lisa Forbes, Cllr Shaz Nawaz (leader of the Labour Group), and Cllr Shabina Qayyum (whose result in East Ward in 2019 was predicted by Tariq Mahmood very accurately on social media), promise not to use Tariq Mahmood in any future Labour campaign? This includes informal canvassing and collection of postal votes. Make that promise now.
. Will Labour make a guarantee not to intimidate Conservatives and other party activists while they campaign?
. Will Labour supporting landlords make a promise not to use their position to intimidate their tenants to vote and support the Labour Party?
This shouldn’t be a big deal. Everyone knows (and Facebook shows) Cllr Shaz Nawaz is a close friend of Tariq Mahmood, but personal friendships can and should survive local politics.
I am confident if Labour make these promises, it will go a long way to restoring trust in local politics.
Sometimes I am labelled as being naive by fellow Conservatives by believing all who enter politics in our city have Peterborough’s best interests at heart. I still believe this. There is more that unites us than divides us.
Labour obviously has a big role in local politics - but for the good of Peterborough it should be without Tariq Mahmood and his associates. Even if they are sitting councillors. Be part of the solution - not the problem. It’s time for us all to come together and restore trust in local democracy.