Brexit Party challenge over Peterborough by-election result a ‘desperate attempt to make excuses for defeat’ says Labour
The Brexit Party’s claims that vote-rigging may have played a role in Labour’s slim victory in the Peterborough by-election have been branded a “desperate attempt” to excuse a defeat.
Labour described the allegations as “nonsense” after Nigel Farage’s party held a press conference on Monday calling for an inquiry into claims of impropriety.
The Brexit Party’s Mike Greene finished in second place in the June 6 poll which Lisa Forbes won by 683 votes.
Brexit Party chairman Richard Tice said there had been numerous “rumours” including of “vote-rigging”, and claimed there is evidence that convicted electoral fraudster Tariq Mahmood had acted as an agent for Labour, which the party has continually denied.
Cambridgeshire police has said no offences were revealed in respect to one allegation of bribery and two relating to postal votes during its ongoing investigation into the by-election.
Two more allegations - one of a breach of the privacy of the vote and one of the burning of ballots - are still being investigated.
A Labour spokeswoman defended the party’s campaign as having “fully complied” with laws and regulations.
Addressing the claims, she said: “This is nonsense. This person was not an agent for the Labour Party and was not involved in the running of Labour’s campaign in any way.
“This is a desperate attempt by the Brexit Party to make excuses for their defeat. Labour won the Peterborough by-election fairly and squarely.”
There was also confusion over what the Brexit Party wanted from the petition under the Representation of the People Act 1983, which is expected to be lodged at the High Court later this week.
It said it would request a “full investigation” of any allegations, but the Electoral Commission said the request would have to be a challenge of the election result, while any allegations of criminality are for police to investigate.
Mr Mahmood, who was jailed in 2008 for postal vote interference, again denied being involved in Labour’s campaign and said he had been to every election count for the past 30 years, and not just this one.
He told the Peterborough Telegraph: “These are total smears and hear-say. They’re smearing everyone and have no right to do it.”
Mr Farage told Monday’s press conference that postal votes are “open to corruption, to intimidation, to bribery, to abuse on a whole number of levels”.
He called for an overhaul of the current system which should allow wheelchair users and overseas services personnel to keep the right.
“If you say it’s sour grapes, you can say it, but actually it is time for change and my ambition would be that, by the next general election, to get rid of the current postal vote system,” he said.