Voters could need ID at Peterborough elections under pilot welcomed by MP

Peterborough voters will need formal identification to take part in elections if the city council agrees to a trial in 2018.

Wednesday, 28th December 2016, 4:20 pm
Updated Thursday, 29th December 2016, 3:12 pm
Stewart Jackson MP

Peterborough is one of 18 council areas considered most at risk of electoral fraud which have been invited to pilot the scheme.

Under the trial, voters at local elections could be forced to show photo ID or a bill before being able to choose their candidate.

MP for Peterborough Stewart Jackson has welcomed the news. He wrote in his Peterborough Telegraph column: “This is long overdue and the city has been associated for too long with nefarious and criminal electoral practices and this must end so that our elections are clean and fair.

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“This also means challenging ‘clan’ or ‘community’ voting in the Pakistani community – something that offends British concepts of fair play, integrity and transparency – and many in that community are weary of.”

Peterborough was blighted with electoral fraud problems in 2004. Former Tory Mayor of Peterborough Raja Akhtar, and ex-Labour mayor Mohammed Choudhary, were jailed in 2008 for interfering with postal votes in Central Ward during the city council elections.

Former Labour official Tariq Mahood, former Labour party candidate Maqbool Hussein, former Conservative councillor Abdul Razaq and former Conservative election candidate Mohammed Khaliq were also jailed for the same offence following a police investigation which cost £1 million.

Current Labour group leader Cllr Mohammed Jamil, member for Central Ward, disagrees with members of his party nationally who believe the pilot will make it harder for the poorest to vote.

Responding to Mr Jackson’s comments about the Pakistani community, he said: “It’s typical Stewart Jackson scaremongering. I know in this city we had problems back in 2004, but nothing has ever come out since.

“This community is tarnished every year.

“If you look at people who are convicted across the country it’s all people. And I would not say Central Ward is more at risk than Park, Bretton, or Ravensthorpe.

“I welcome this policy. It gives the community an opportunity to reassure voters and to breathe and prove we do not do this.”

The pilot is among recommendations contained in a report by former cabinet minister Sir Eric Pickles which was commissioned amid concerns about electoral fraud.

The council will now decide whether to agree to the trial. A spokesman said: “We remain committed to ensuring that residents can vote freely in elections without fear or intimidation. The Electoral Commission has previously commended our work, in partnership with Cambridgeshire police, to deter electoral fraud.

“We therefore look forward to receiving more information from government about the pilot scheme proposed for local elections in 2018.”

A police spokesperson said it “welcomed measures that can be put in place to ensure voting is honest and fair.”