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Break-ins, flashbacks and ballot boxes

News of forced entry in the Leader of the Labour Party’s office in the Palace of Westminster reminded me of the infamous ballot box and voting paper tampering during the Erith and Thamesmead prospective parliamentary candidate selection in 2009.

Leader, Ed Miliband was reported earlier today by the Press Association, picked up by the Huffington Post here as being ‘deeply concerned’. Quite rightly so too.

…a senior Labour source said the motivation behind the break-in remained to be established and that it was still unclear if anything had been taken. We do not know whether anything was taken. We do not know the motivation for this crime,…but we are deeply concerned that this can take place within Palace of Westminster.”

Before the moment passes Ed and his aides might care to think back to the events surrounding that notorious ballot box incident in Labour Party HQ in Victoria Street. In that instance, the London regional office seized control of a prospective parliamentary candidate selection from Erith and Thamesmead constituency party, in controversial circumstances.  A former general secretary Margaret McDonagh was actively promoting the candidacy of Georgia Gould. The ballot box for postal ballots was transported to Victoria Street for ‘safe-keeping’. Mysteriously, the seal on the box was broken inside head office. (For the avoidance of doubt, I am not suggesting any link between that former general secretary and the need to void all previously cast postal ballots.)

In this instance there was an investigation, including DNA sampling. The identity of the tamperer is known. But the Labour Party machine decided to take no action, and the NEC proved itself to be powerless. So an event involving a complete breach of trust between paid staff and lay members remains an open sore inside this self-proclaimed ‘democratic socialist party’ of ours.

Nor should the lessons of that ballot box crime be lost in the context of the power struggle ongoing between the Leader’s office, Labour Party staff and the new general secretary. The perpetrators of repeated offences against party democracy are still in the employment of the Labour Party – in the Leader’s office, and Labour Party HQ. No more crocodile tears, please.

For a brief dispassionate overview of the Erith & Thamesmead selection, this is how the BBC reported it.

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